|Pictured: Jessica Lehman: First Financial Bank, Kala Jenkins: COE Isom, & Angie Treptow: Farm Credit Services of America|
| All I can say is Wow! Lately, during the Top Producer Summit in Chicago, I had the opportunity to moderate a financial services panel during the EWA (Executive Women in Agriculture) track of the event. Banking and accounting are not my area of expertise, but the women I talked with during the panel were rockstars of agri-finance and made my job of keeping the audience engaged simple and even fun.
Despite a few laughs, the panelists brought serious content and a message for women and younger members of the operation –get involved. Not just by showing up to the annual bank or tax meetings and not just by arbitrarily signing on the loan, but by really being active in the meetings, taking your own initiative to learn more and ask about what you don’t understand and by encouraging and coaching other key (emerging) leaders in the business to take an active role, too.
My takeaways were many, but there were a few that I thought were important to share:
1. Be in the right relationship with the right banker. In other words, if the relationship doesn’t fit because you’ve outgrown the bank or the person doesn’t understand your operation, you don’t have to stick it out.
2. But, give a good lender the chance to fix things. Sometimes good relationships go bad or just go astray. The panelists all agreed that women especially should speak out and ask about ways to change it. Perhaps it’s a personnel change that is needed or maybe there just needs to be a candid conversation to make an adjustment.
3. Realize, self-advocacy and education are your role. While our panelists were all ‘aggies’, they acknowledge that with fewer banks being located in rural areas, you may (already) find yourself looking at a banker who doesn’t inherently understand your business. Women can be uniquely positioned to provide advocacy for the operation and critical education about aspects of the business. Caution: Talk is fine but where women can really shine is in organization – documentation is critical to making the point and getting the financing you need.
So, I want to give a big thanks to these three for their commitment to the industry and for offering solid advice.
ACT Like a Pro out there!