Best Life Podcast | Altra Federal Credit Union
Best Life Podcast | Altra Federal Credit Union
Episode 4: Business Banking
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It is an understatement to say that Covid has had an effect on many current businesses and employers in variety of ways, many not exactly positive…but it’s also worth noting that the pandemic has also led to a boom in new businesses being created. A recent study has shown that more than 4.4 million businesses were created in 2020. Tony Beyer speaks with two of Altra Federal Credit Union’s Business Banking Relationship Managers — Emily Medvecky and Walt Smanski — to learn what new business owners need to know to get off to a successful start and how Altra can help.

Transcript

(Tony)

Hello and welcome to the Best Life Podcast where we here at Altra are helping you live your best life. I’m Tony Beyer and we’re so glad to have you here with us today…and yes, we’re talking about the pandemic again and how it has many of us spending more time at home. Whether it be that people are working from home, it could be that hours have been reduced at work or even jobs being eliminated. The pandemic definitely has people looking for opportunities to make a little extra money, or perhaps go into business for themselves. In fact, a recent study by researchers at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. That’s a mouthful, and it’s full of people that know a lot more about this stuff than I do, found that Americans started 4.4 million businesses last year, which was a 24% increase from the year before. So, if you’re interested in starting a business, or perhaps a side hustle, you’re definitely not alone…and this is the podcast for you, because here with me today are two experts from Altra’s Business Banking Department. We have Emily Medvecky from our Clarksville, TN market. Hi Emily.

(Emily)

Hi, thanks for having me!

(Tony)

and we also have Walt Smanski who works with businesses here in La Crosse, WI. Welcome Walt!

(Walt)

Hello, glad to be here!

(Tony)

Again, thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with us today. We really appreciate it and at the top of the show we were talking about the pandemic and I was curious what you both have seen this past year in terms of business and how that is affected our members.

(Emily)

I think over the last year, year and a half you know we do work with a lot of different types of businesses. Certainly, the retail industry, the hospitality industry has suffered greatly. We’ve seen, and we continue to see some investment from our federal government come into these businesses and hopefully that’s going to sustain them and keep them going until, you know we’re fully opened back up, but I just think overall, from my perspective, the grit and determination of a lot of these business owners to, you know, continue doing their passion and doing what they love. It’s been inspirational and I know it’s helped me and it helps a lot of our relationship managers you know, continue doing what we can to help them out as well.

(Tony)

…and Walt, how has your experience been with the pandemic with those businesses and business owners that you work with?

(Walt)

Yeah, that’s been really eye opening. Like Emily mentioned, there’s been a lot of different types of businesses, and I’d say even just the phase that businesses in we’ve seen a whole gambit of that as well too where there are businesses that have actually done better than they’ve ever done…you know, during this last year and a half and they’ve got different challenges than a business who maybe is really hurting. I mean, yeah, lot of hospitality, restaurants…they’ve been really suffering, but instead of people spending money on those types of places, they’re going to other places which has caused different in supply chain strain and things and difficulty getting inventory in some cases and so it’s been really interesting and the pandemic has definitely not affected all businesses the same to be sure and you know whether it’s you know, tremendous growth, you know that comes with some problems if you’re not ready to handle it and so we think that be able to really help businesses in all those different phases as well with whatever their cash flow or capital needs may be.

(Tony)

That’s great that we’ve been able to provide that help to businesses, and that’s an interesting point that not all businesses have struggled during the pandemic. Some have even boomed, and Walt, talking about keeping businesses afloat and helping them financially, how much was Altra involved with the Small Business Administration? You know those SBA loans that were provided to small businesses last year.

(Walt)

In 2020 alone, I know we did over $33 million of SBA PPP loan volume, which was a program that the SBA offered a course that we helped out to do, and Emily and I were certainly involved a lot in those ones, including you know, working a lot of weekend, staying up overnight couple times, but we’re really happy to know that that much money went out into our communities you know where markets are here. That really help business owners stay afloat and be able to keep their employees paid and stuff. And a lot of people are going to be happy when this is all over and were included in those two, but I think there’s a lot of good that came out of this too.

(Tony)

I agree that it’s good to know that we can take away a couple of positives from all of this, and I know we can’t wait to get back to normal, or maybe some sort of new normal going forward when all this ends, but at the top of the show I did mention that there are a lot of new businesses that were started last year during Covid, and Emily, what are some things a new business owner or someone thinking about starting a business you know before seeing someone like yourself, someone like Walt, when it comes to getting financing for their business?

(Emily)

I get that question quite often and my response for that usually is along the lines of, you know, just tell me in a written format what you would spend half an hour or so telling me about your business. I need to know a lot, but I need to know it in a concise format and I really need to know it from your consumers’ perspective. You know it’s the who, what, when, where, why, how, all of those questions about your business and it needs to also include your financial projections and usually in a three year format. So what I mean by that is I need to know your sales, your cost of goods sold, your expenses, and I need to know that usually in year one projected out by the month and then consecutive years following for at least three years. And of course, you know, we’re not looking for exact figures. We know that these are estimates, but they do need to have some thought put into them. Both financial projections aren’t usually the most fun part for entrepreneurs, especially people who are creative minded, but they are arguably the most important part and they’re the part I flip to first. But yeah, a good business plan is going to be a guidebook, you know, to your business. It should reflect your well-laid thoughts out there in a readable format again, that any reader should be able to understand and follow.

(Tony)

That’s great information for new business owners, and again, we’re speaking with Emily Medvecky, who’s a Relationship Manager for Altra in Clarksville, TN, and we also have on the line Walt Smanski, who’s also relationship manager in our Business Banking Department here in La Crosse for Altra, now, what if someone has an idea for a business but they have no idea where to start or if they have questions on how to put together a business plan like Emily was talking about, what are some resources or places aspiring entrepreneurs should go to get some help starting their business?

(Emily)

I say don’t try to invent the wheel. There’s a lot of good resources out there, Sba.gov has some formats for you. You can Google business plans, they come in all shapes and sizes. The Small Business Development Center, which I think there’s one in all of our markets, they are really good resource. They’re free for their services provided to you and they can help you with establishing that.

(Walt)

Yeah, I’m glad we talked about the SBDC too because yeah a lot of times if somebody comes in to talk to me here and there in the very early phase, you know that’s the first person I refer them to is our local SBDC here and they take him through what I like to kind of consider a business planning boot camp and you know I think what happens oftentimes is that people will go to ours that’s at our University, University of Wisconsin La Crosse here and they might go and sit down with one of their people and chat with them about it and starting this process of building a business plan and maybe during the course of building a business plan, that individual realizes that, hey, this really might not be for me is that there’s a lot more to it and I thought, you know, it’s not quite as simple as running a lemonade stand. You know, the best time to decide you’re not going to do something like that is during that part of the phase much more so than after they’ve gotten a loan and maybe have employees and then realize I don’t really know what I’m doing here. It’s not for everybody and if it’s not for you, the best time determined that is through that business planning process, which I think does a really good job of really educating and enlightening people to what this is really going to be like.

(Tony)

It’s awesome to know that there are some great resources available for business owners in addition to everybody at Altra in our Business Banking Department, and that’s a good point Walt that owning a business can be a risk and it’s not for everybody…and now, thanks to you, I’m thirsty for some lemonade as well! So, here’s a question I like to ask every episode and I’ll ask it to you both, and Emily, I’ll start with you, what’s something in your business banking career that has surprised you or change your way of thinking about business?

(Emily)

Sure, I’m shocked easily. I, you know, I’ve been doing, I’ve been in business banking for a little over 15 years now, but I’d have to say when I started in banking and business banking, we saw very few entrepreneurs. It felt like an exclusive class of people that were entrepreneurial, but now the Internet is developed more, you know, there’s online marketing and selling platforms. I love to see how people use their talents and their passions to create really an even to earn money doing it. You know, I was taught never to go into business for yourself because, you know, with a hobby that you enjoy doing. You know, they said if you’re going to do something, don’t make it something that you really enjoy doing, and I thought that’s hilarious, but it’s really because your talent isn’t in the hobby. And not making a living doing that hobby, right? So I think that’s changed because the accessibility people have to tools, marketing, a customer base. Now, you know people love supporting their local economy. They love to know that their dollars or staying local, and you know, I certainly hope that continues to develop, but it just surprises me now that shift has come from, you know, maybe you shouldn’t go into business for yourself doing something you love to, hey, you can go into business for yourself doing something you love and here are the tools that can keep you going and doing that.

(Tony)

That’s great and I know someone much smarter than myself once said, “If you do something you love, you never work a day in your life,” right? Excellent and Walt, has anything blown your mind or changed your way of thinking in your career working with businesses?

(Walt)

Boy, yeah, as far as things that were surprising to me, you know it’s a continually changing and challenging environment that we work with I think, and there’s been businesses that we’ve seen that have started up and thought they’d be great and they have really not and there’s businesses that we thought would start small and have really blown up tremendously and are, you know, on to multiple phases and different parts of their new businesses as well and so the thing, I guess that really surprised me that stand out to me is that if well nurtured, really any business idea can turn something successful as long as the owners are really fully engaged  in it and had a real big vision for the future. Businesses that seem like they’re more shortsighted, or the ones that seem like they don’t last as long, but you know the businesses that do seem like they have a greater purpose. They really, truly or solving a problem or the differences that seem like they do better.

(Tony)

Yeah, that makes perfect sense that businesses that have a plan and have people that are all in are the ones that are more likely to be successful. Now if a business wanted to contact Altra for their business banking needs and see how we can help, how would they go about doing that?

(Emily)

So, Altra.org is the best place to start. We’ve got a business tab, it’s got a lot of great information, including our contact information, so just picking up the phone, calling us, stopping in. I’m at our Madison Street Branch here in Clarksville or by email. But yeah, I would direct them to our website first and let them kind of look through that just because it’s really a great, great website with a lot of information on it and they can read our success stories and see some videos there.

(Tony)

Excellent, that’s great information Emily, and of course we have people that work with businesses in the Tyler. TX area and also in our Rochester, MN market as well, and Walt, how would businesses contact you or others in the Business Banking Department at Altra here in the La Crosse area?

(Walt)

Much the same way, altra.org will have all of our direct contact information as well and most of us that are in the business area here work out of our Losey Blvd office and so it always feels stop on by. You can chat with anyone of us about things. One thing that I know I love doing, and I think Emily probably does as well, to is being able to go off site and see the businesses in their natural environment, so to speak. But you know, I really do enjoy being able to go out to different places and see what their operations look like, and you get to walk around their production area or whatever it may be, and that’s one of the things I like the most. I think about what I do is really getting to have that relationship with our borrowers and things to see what their life looks like more from their own perspective.

(Tony)

Absolutely. Well, we’re right about at the end of our time, I could talk to you both all day, but we really do appreciate both of you taking the time to help our Members learn more about what it takes to start a successful business and how Altra can help and thanks again for being on the podcast!

(Walt)

Yeah, no problem.

(Emily)

Thanks guys, bye

(Tony)

That was Emily Medvecky in Clarksville, TN and Walt Smanski in La Crosse Wisconsin, both are Relationship Managers in the Business Banking Department with Altra.

Well that’s going to do it for this episode of the Best Life Podcast presented by Altra Federal Credit Union. We appreciate you taking a moment to learn how you can live your best life. If you have a question or a topic you’d like us to cover, shoot me an email at [email protected]…and who knows… it may even make it into a future episode.

Don’t forget to follow to the Best Life Podcast pretty much wherever you get your podcasts or find it on our website at altra.org. Thanks again, be well, and we’ll talk to you again soon!