Staying positive Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2009

In most years, Stan Kryder would set an annual budget and business plan and stick to it for the whole year, but now things are a little different for the president and CEO of Midtown Bank & Trust Co.

“We’ve gone to a much more dynamic and shorter-term review of our budget, where we literally, once a quarter, sit down with our board of directors and review it and make changes to our business plan once a quarter because the market is much more dynamic right now,” Kryder says.

Given the changes in the economy, this different approach to running his bank, which had $212.6 million in total assets at the end of 2008, is helping him ride out the storm. And while he rides, he’s trying to keep his 34 employees upbeat and positive about the future, as well.

Smart Business spoke with Kryder about how to build for the future while today seems bleak.

Keep people positive. It’s really getting people to focus on the things in their business and their personal lives that they can control and to really work on those.

Each day, there are certain core principles in each company that a company is really good at or that they can control, so focus on those things and separate out those that you get inundated with but that you truly cannot control.

Each of us may have periods, whether it’s on a daily basis or it’s at some point each week, where you’re dealing with a difficult business situation or difficult economic situation, and you do that privately, but when you go out of your office, you transition to a coach and cheerleader to be positive and create new opportunities and new business and really separate those negative things that are still having to go on. Everybody needs more positive reinforcement in the difficult times than they do in the good times. It’s playing that role of the coach and cheerleader to keep people upbeat.

Sometimes it’s stepping out of our role as a traditional leader and, in some cases, improvising and trying to find fun ways to motivate people. Everybody has a different way of doing that but try to find a way to keep people upbeat and maybe try some nontraditional ways of motivating people — some fun games and fun contests. Anything that helps add some spirit and novelty to whatever your business is.

The leader puts him or herself out there and sets the example of trying to model whatever the behavior is as opposed to just asking other people to do it. In a case of sales, if I’m a sales leader and I’m asking other people to do it, then I want to model that behavior, too, and be bringing in new accounts to be modeling right behavior as opposed to asking other people to do it. If people see that and you can have success in a difficult time like we’re all in right now, then it truly says, ‘Wow, things are tough, but there are things we can do that’s positive.’ It’s the little things that then begin to add up.

Look for new opportunities. Today, we’re all struggling in our businesses to survive the economic downturn but also to look for trends and changes in our respective businesses so that when the recession is over, you’re better positioned to grow and build your business than if you remain static. As difficult as the operating environment is for everyone right now, it’s a great time to find those niches and opportunities for growth.

There are a lot of different ways to do that depending on your business. For a number of them, we can all take a bunker mentality, where we stay inside our company and just hold down the fort until the recession or the storm is over. Instead, it’s a great opportunity to go out and prospect for new business, to consider new products and new lines of business, and do some thoughtful kind of strategic planning, even though everybody’s business is down because, at some point, the market will turn, and you want to look for those opportunities to expand your business and grow your revenue. Now’s a good time to do that while business may be slow.

Some of that is just brainstorming and market intelligence. What are people seeing in the market? What are your prospective customers asking you for? What are they struggling with in their businesses? If we can solve what they’re struggling with, what would that look like? What products and services do we need to create that would help small-business people in particular with the things they’re struggling with?

It’s really spending a lot of time in their offices or their plants — whatever the case may be — learning what challenges they have in their businesses, and in doing that, you have to truly understand their business and spend a lot of time in their shop. If you do that and you bring that knowledge back, then you can better equip your business to again figure out the products and services that that customer needs. You’ve got to go on-site and walk and learn the business. You want to learn about their customers and what their customers are looking for right now, what kinds of things they’re having to do to satisfy their customers — is it a slightly different product? Slightly less expensive product? What adjustments are they having to make and what things are they struggling with?

Prioritize the ones that keep coming up the most reoccurring and the loudest, and focus on those the fastest so we can have more positive impact to our customer. It’s like anything else, to get the feedback and synthesize it and prioritize it, turn it into a product or service and get it back out to those customers as quick as you can.

How to reach: Midtown Bank & Trust Co., (404) 969-4400 or www.midtownbank.biz