This week, Laurie Levin, a Business Banking Consultant with U.S. Bank--Supporting business owners through consultation & education to make empowered decisions with their finances.
She lives in Forestville, CA, nestled amongst the tall redwoods on the banks of the Russian River with her wife Corinne, their Frenchie Jupiter Jones, and professional mouser Gracie May Jones.
She is driven to educate business owners, giving them direct access to a business banker they can trust to meet them where they are and understand where they are headed before making recommendations.
She values well-being, community involvement, personal growth, adventure & abundance, and aligns her personal and professional goals with these core values.
Her career in financial services began in 2004, and today she has her dream role with a company she is proud to be a part of every single day.
When she is not working, you will find her clipped into her Peloton ( Leaderboard Name #LezziOnApelli), puttering around in her food or flower gardens, or snuggling her 2 sweet grandbabies - living her best life!
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How did you get into the financial services industry?
Debra is my sister. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with her community.
Pause for a moment. Let me address those who are starting or managed to continue their businesses during a pandemic and all that accompanied this event. Children out of school, buildings closed, a whole new world of PPE when showing properties… and it just keeps going on and on. What I thought could be a couple of weeks has forever changed our lives. You are fierce, I commend you for staying committed to your path and being here to gain fellowship and support along the way. Now, how did I get into banking?
While working in a chiropractic office, I met a patient who was an insurance agent. She asked me if I would consider meeting with her managing partner and talking about a career change. I had no interest until she mentioned I could work my own schedule and have unlimited earning potential. As a single mom with small children, this was extremely attractive to me. I knew I was intelligent with a great work ethic, and yet somehow I believed that there was security in an hourly wage-earning job that I couldn’t get elsewhere. I took the leap and landed as a Life/Health/Long Term Care insurance agent who worked primarily with Seniors (who just so happened to want to see their insurance agent while my children were at school). I studied for and earned my Securities license 6 & 63 in the first few years and my business took off. I felt successful and inspired. Life handed me a tragic loss and the only way I knew to adapt was to change my scenery and move...500 miles from the place I had called home for 14 years. That move proved to be extremely difficult on my business with a lack of technology, seeing existing clients was halted, and building new clients in a saturated market was more difficult than I could manage in an already emotionally painful time. A dear elementary school friend had worked in banking and suggested I take what I knew and moved to a bank. I was sure I knew nothing about banking and wouldn’t be able to do the job (imposter syndrome was a frequent visitor in my headspace). Another leap, return to hourly wages and over a decade later here we sit, chatting about my career path. I was completely an accidental banker and extra grateful for the company I represent.
What are some of the key reasons it can be important to develop a relationship with a business banker?
Knowing your business banker gives you a partner in your business who can help you navigate the path you want to follow. It is key to develop a relationship so you are not simply opening accounts and adding the 5 products recommended for every business that walks through the door...you must speak up for yourself and your business. Share your vision. Tell your banker where you are, everything about your debts and dreams, and keep them updated when you need to adapt accordingly. If we know what is currently happening and whether you want to grow, if you are delighted to remain at the stage you have arrived, or considering succession planning, we are here to support you. We can help you understand how ending the co-mingling of your business and personal funds can free up your headspace for focus on your passion. There is no business too small for a business banker!
We love stories around here… What is your favorite client story?
Hot mess hairdresser (those are her words)
I met her when I walked into a large retailer that had a salon tucked inside. I needed a cut and color and was new to the area. We hit it off immediately, laughing and chatting like old friends. Over the years of visits to her chair, I often wondered about her personal story. I didn’t want to intrude and tell her I was a business banker. I actually thought I may be imposing when the reality was, she needed me more than either of us knew. I asked her how she liked her job and what was next. She said she always wanted her own salon and that “It just wasn’t possible for someone like her”. I was speechless. Like her? What does that even mean? Was she not talented enough, cause I was letting her TOUCH MY HAIR!!! I asked her about the “what if” it was possible. What would her salon look like? The decor? The chair? The music & beverage options? What other services would her salon offer? We continued the conversation over the following months and while her credit was in need of repair and lending wasn’t an option, what WAS an option was creating a plan. We knew it would take longer than a day a week a month, but we had a plan and she had a partner. Eventually, the excitement shifted to her more than me, and I am happy to report she did open her own salon. And now? Who do you think was her first call when we were sheltered in place? When personal services were completely halted? Her banker. She FaceTimed me bawling and looking like she needed a hairbrush. First things first, I suggested she get herself dressed, hair brushed, and a fresh face, and breathe. We can do this, she is not alone. Together we brainstormed plans to keep her afloat. Could she sell products to clients? Brand hats to cover growing out roots? A hotline to call when you feel like you HAVE to cut bangs? She made it. That woman who believed she couldn’t, could and did.
In addition to the advantages you have shared… You mentioned another amazing perk of partnering with a business banker… REFERRALS! How can working with a business banker help me grow my referral resources?
Every business owner is a human, with human needs. In my experience, clients ask me for referrals to trusted professionals, even those who are well outside of my line of business. How many dentists have I been asked for? Countless.
For RE, we know what’s happening with our clients. We know when they are downsizing, upsizing, or “right-sizing” their spaces. When they need to move their parents closer, their children have gone to college or started families of their own. We know when they want to buy a new building for their business. We don’t want to send them to someone we don’t know, and while of course, we need to give them choices, get on that list!
Tell me more about how recent stimulus/relief acts affected business lending for both start-up and established businesses?
Since this chat will be viewed time and again, it’s important to state that what is said today could be different in a week or a month from now. That said, I direct every client that comes to me with these questions to two sources that are available to all businesses at no cost and are across the U.S.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). These government organizations are available to you for support that banks cannot provide due to regulatory restrictions. Ever apply for a loan and not know what to put on the app? That PPP loan application was an eye-opener for many businesses who believed they would never need lending. Bankers could not provide assistance with completing the application. They could not help business owners determine what supporting docs were acceptable until the SBA released a list that could be referenced. We couldn’t even let business owners know if the docs they submitted were what were asked for- like is this the right report you need for my income and expenses? Who could help? The SBDC. They held virtual workshops and are still holding weekly PPP & EIDL with other grant calls to help businesses navigate forever-changing waters. LInks for both in your area will be included from our host.
Final words of wisdom you would like to share?
Surround yourself with experts. Get a Business Banker and a bookkeeper to set you up. Utilize software that is user-friendly and can grow with your business’s changing needs. Use an EA/Tax Preparer or CPA. Protect your assets with insurance. No business is too small for these services. You deserve to be surrounded by pros!
What is the best way for people to connect with you and start this journey?
Business Banking Development Consultant
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