Business Plan to Succeed

Atlantic Coast Bank’s Ginger Brelsford

By Robert Kaye

My immediate customers are my employees.
Would-be new business owners really need to have a true, well thought out business plan.

Ginger Brelsford serves as the Director of Retail and Marketing, and is Senior Vice President of Atlantic Coast Bank’s Deerwood branch office. Smartly dressed in a stylish and tasteful “power colors” ensemble, black skirt, fashionable white blouse and a well-tailored, royal red jacket, —she immediately imbues an attitude of professionalism. An avid runner and former owner of a woman’s fitness center, her energy and drive are evident from the start. Ms. Brelsford’s dynamic personality, along with her thoughtful and articulate answers, proves her to be insightful and highly informative, ― whether discussing her multifaceted managerial responsibilities at Atlantic Coast Bank, or how would-be entrepreneurs should prepare themselves when seeking financial assistance to start their dream business.

Entrepreneurs Anchor: Please tell us about your background and responsibilities at Atlantic Coast Bank.

Ginger Brelsford: I’ve been in banking a little over that, I was in retail management stores in the mall, and things of that nature. ’ll be honest with you, originally when I looked at banking, I thought, “Wow! This looks like fun, the hours, Monday through Friday, all the holidays off, …” things of that nature. But once I grew in my career and became more established within it, what I really began to enjoy was the ability to influence relationships whether they’re internal or external.

EA: Who are your clientele?

GB: My immediate customers are my employees, some of whom are managers.
One of my primary jobs is to teach them how to build successful relationships with the bank’s customers. That’s my focus. How to acquire, retain and expand relationships. That’s always kind of been the core of how I think and lead my team, whether it’swith one of their own employees or if it’s with an external customer. I enjoy that part of it, developing people, whether inside or outside the bank. To do my very best to help my staff excel, whether that’s the type of loan, the type of account customers need, or internally, how to be a good manager by fostering and retaining good employees. I like having that balance, what has kept me in banking all these years by affording me the ability to do that.

EA: Who are some members of your team?

GB: At this financial institution, I manage all the managers, all the financial member managers. The branch managers report to me, I have a commercial banker that reports to me, I also have a marketing coordinator who reports to me. I also have some SILO-type positions, one who manages our prime time accounts and the other our “Seaboard Sam” account, those are for our retired folks or customers over a certain age, she manages that entire club account and also reports to me. Indirectly, all of the branch employees report to me, which includes the tellers as well. My job, at the end of the day, is to ensure we’re expanding our business. In other words, they brought me in to grow the bank. That’s why I’m here. The gentleman that recruited me is a consultant here, and he worked with me in my former position at First Guaranty Bank, where I was the Retail Bank Director I’m a “deposit girl,” so my job is to show folks how to grow deposits, how to manage to them, how to retain them, how to bring them in for our internal customers that we already have from an expansion standpoint, but also to acquire new deposits. So that’s the reason they brought me in, to make this retail platform even more marketable.

EA: What are important steps perspective business owners should do before they approach your bank for a loan?

GB: They need to have a business plan projects out for at least five years or even more. I’d encourage them to get with a business partner, an accountant, an attorney or other professionals with experience to help them develop this. New business owners really need to have a true, well thought out business plan. It needs to be something they can manage to and forecast out, something that they’ve carefully thought through and articulated on paper. It doesn’t have to be as detailed as a MBA’s spreadsheet ― mine wasn’t when I started my in Atlanta but it does need to serve as their model and something concrete they can manage to. They can’t just walk in and request a $200 to $20,000 loan, whatever it is. So have a plan, because if you don’t have a plan, then you’re just hoping you’ll build it and they’ll come, but as we all know that doesn’t usually work. 🙂

Also, being smart about managing their budget and capital that they’ve allotted, and really sticking to that plan is so important. That’s just a huge mistake I’ve seen businesses fail because they’ve stepped away from the plan. They feel the need, because they have money sitting there, they have aloan, so they may think, “Oh, I just obtained this loan for $200,000 so I’ll go spend another $30k on marketing.” No, don’t do that! Those funds are there to get you through the next five years. Be smart about how you spend and don’t spend that money “No, let’s pay this loan down and do some other types of less expensive yet more creative ways of marketing. Perhaps they can take advantage of less expensive networking events, like the one’s we’re now doing with some of our business clients.”

EA: other advice you’d give to would-be entrepreneurs?

GB: Hope fully they already have access to some money from a capital standpoint. You can’t go into business without having some funds in your pocket. That’s a big mistake many make when they come in seeking a business loan. They may say, “Well, I’ve had these jobs, and I was very successful in them.” Those things do matter, of course. Especially if they’ve done very well in their life and careers, then they should be able to use some portion of whatever nest egg they may have as part of their collateral. So really that all the way through, coming in and being open-minded about what may be some of our mutual options For example, while we may not be able give someone the full amount of the loan they’re requesting on the front end, we may be able to come up with different avenues for funding. There may a line of credit or, although I’m not a SBA specialist we do SBA here. Being open to that, being able to sit down and with a commercial banker that knows all the details to assess the all the right questions.

Because a lot of times would-be entrepreneurs come in thinking they have the answers, but we can’t help them necessarily with everything they’re wanting. However, we may be able to find another type of option that will still enable them to get some type of funding from us. And if not from us, we’ll sometimes recommend them to someone we know at another banking institution.

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