The Path of Business
Jeremy Prins, a business development manager at ConsumersCU, discusses his journey to the credit union, working with the community and learning when it’s time to step aside and manage your business. Listen now!
00:07 Lynn Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home. Welcome in, everyone. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. And we have our podcast today that is featuring a little bit of business, a little bit of pleasure. Jeremy Prins is our Business Development Manager here with Consumers, and I’ll tell you what. He is a good guy to know in town. Welcome, Jeremy.
00:26 Jeremy Prins: Hey, thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
00:27 LJJ: I’ll tell you, I’m very excited to learn a little bit about you but also about the way that Consumers focuses on business partnerships, which is a little bit different, isn’t it?
00:40 JP: Yeah, it is. Yeah, absolutely. We try to be much more of a resource for our business members than just a transaction and just one service. We want to get involved, and you know that better than anybody that we get involved.
01:00 LJJ: Feet on the ground.
01:00 JP: Absolutely.
01:01 LJJ: So Jeremy, how did you start into business banking? What’s your background?
01:05 JP: So without trying to make this too long, I got into banking after college. My brother was in banking, and I actually had sat down with him in his office, and he’s a branch manager. And he sat me down, he said, “Jeremy, this is what you’re going to do. You’re graduating college, you’re going to be a teller for six months. After six months, you’re going to apply to be a personal banker. Then from there, you’ll be there for a year, then an assistant manager and then a manager.” And I’m like, “Wow.”
01:31 LJJ: The road map.
01:32 JP: I’m like, “Yeah, this sounds crazy, but okay, this looks like fun.” Fast forward, four, five years…
01:38 LJJ: Now, what did you graduate in?
01:41 JP: Business, it was a… I graduated from Calvin College here in town, and I’m a graduate with a Business degree and just kind of had a focus in finance. They didn’t really have a Finance major at the time, so it was always a passion of mine. Yeah, so fast forward five years and it kind of worked out exactly like he said. And so, yeah.
02:02 LJJ: Okay, how often do you hear that?
02:05 JP: Not very often, and I thank the guy to this day that he kind of laid it out for me. And so yeah, so I worked, fast forward, was a branch manager in a small town south of Holland, and was looking to come back to Grand Rapids, and this company called Consumers Credit Union came calling and they’re like, “We need somebody to just serve businesses where we’re going to open this brand new marketing, Grand Rapids, and it’s going to be great, we’re going to have several offices.” And that absolutely attracted me. One, I’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit. And so, the idea to start, be a part of a brand-new market was really cool. But then also, I’ve really developed a passion for serving businesses, and so for that to be the sole part of what I do, was great. And then third, I just fell in love with our culture here, and just the member first, the servant leadership culture that we have. It just all clicked. It was meant to be, it truly was a godsend. So that’s how I dove into the commercial side of things.
03:09 LJJ: It’s really interesting when you look back at what your path was, you say culture for Consumers, the mentorship that you had at the beginning must have really been a key component of that.
03:22 JP: It was. I’ve always had fantastic mentors along the way, and I think… I heard this statement from, I think it was from Dave Ramsey who… I’m sure I’ve heard it from someone else, but the difference between you now and you five years from now is the books you read and the people you meet. And for me, I read some, I try to and I should read more but for me it’s always been about the people I meet. And so that’s where mentors come in along the way and that’s where I truly have gained the knowledge and that’s where the passion for business comes and my passion here at Consumers in what I do is from the people I meet. The stories I get to hear all across the board, it doesn’t matter what kind of business it is, whether it’s an 80-year-old guy still running a finishing company, a plating company, which can sound boring, but I talk to him for two hours and still hear his passion to the 26-year-old running an e-commerce company that’s blowing up. And literally, everything in between is awesome. I love it and hearing those stories is what… That’s what gets me up in the morning. Sure.
04:34 LJJ: When you mentioned stories, and I think that that’s one of the things that I would say in a heartbeat is what differentiates us, the fact that we listen to the stories of a business owner, many times business owners look at, they’re starting with their own pocketbook.
04:52 JP: Yep.
04:52 LJJ: And one, do they get to the level of really being able to reach out to Consumers and say, “I now need a little bit of help. I’m growing.”
05:04 JP: Yep. Yeah, I think businesses, they reach out to us at all stages. Sometimes it is upfront, kind of at that first stage, and it doesn’t always mean we can help them along every stage, but I think the difference here is that we take the time to sit down, listen to them, and if we’re not there yet to be a fit from a lending standpoint, we have resources that are. We usually are able to come in and help when they’ve got maybe a year or two of established business, and they’ve got some revenue coming in and they’re looking to grow with a line of credit or purchase some new equipment or building, whatever it is. We definitely can step in and help, but if whatever reason it’s not quite in a position for us to be able to help, one thing that I pride myself in and ourselves here, and we have the latitude to do this, is to just to seek out other answers for them. And so, I work with companies like GROW in Grand Rapids that offer micro loans to start-ups up to $50,000. There’s an organization called Opportunity Fund through the State of Michigan that can go up to $250,000 for these sort of situations.
06:18 JP: And then beyond that, there are other lenders and other type of financing even beyond what we can do, where we can help. So obviously, we want to help everybody in some sense, but I don’t like saying no at all. In commercial lending, unfortunately, you do have to say no sometimes but rather than just saying no, we try to partner with them, find a different solution, and then eventually, they’ll come back and work with us, and it’s always appreciated.
06:46 LJJ: So, when you’re out in Michigan, we cover all of Michigan, and now you’re reaching out across Michigan for business lending and business assistance with services and deposits, and such, when you look back, is there one or two that stick out that help you think, “This is why I do what I do?”
07:08 JP: Yeah. Last year, we helped a woman buy, acquire the family business, and so it was long-standing wonderful family business and she had the opportunity to take it over, buy it from the siblings and continue and keep it in the family. It was a complicated transaction, we used multiple different lending products, so we used the SBA for one piece of the deal. There was some real estate involved. We did that conventionally, but we had to get creative there as well with the down payment and several things, and without getting way too far into the weeds. It was complicated, it took some time, we had to pivot a couple of different times based on some hurdles that came up. But in the end, we got it done. She is running the family business, she’s extending that legacy that her dad and then her mom for a long time had, and she’s ecstatic. Every time we talk, she’s overjoyed and she doesn’t need to be grateful. It certainly wasn’t me; I was just a very small part of that and the team was. But every time I speak to her, she’s just overjoyed at what Consumers was able to do and able to help her with, and she’s just pumped, she’s running the family business and it’s staying in the name, and she’s energized. That truly is just a joy to say, I had at a small part in keeping that going.
08:39 LJJ: You made the dream come true.
08:41 JP: Yeah. Yep. Yeah, I did. So it was great, very rewarding.
08:45 LJJ: So tell me a little bit about Jeremy who… You’ve got your business hat on, now let’s put on your hat in town, your family hat.
08:53 JP: Ooh, okay. Myself, personally?
08:57 LJJ: Yeah.
08:57 JP: Yeah, I guess I am a…
09:00 LJJ: Don’t be shy, Jeremy.
09:01 JP: I am a loving husband and father. I have two kids, 4 and 2 years old, and they are fantastic, they’re absolutely fantastic. We’re certainly in the thick of things with little kids right now, and they take up a lot of time and energy, but they are an absolute blast. And I have an amazing wife who is a business owner, and a phenomenal business owner, who actually it works really well in this business because she operates with her sisters, three tanning salons called Island Heat, and they’re based out of Kalamazoo. And so, I’ve learned an incredible amount from her and what she’s done in her business…
09:45 LJJ: That helps you.
09:45 JP: Yeah, and it helps me, it helps me relate to business owners. I think I can… You kind of see the walls come down when they say, “Yeah, I understand the family business. I understand what it means to plan for taxes and have to pay taxes,” and you can just kind of see that wall come down, and say, “You know what? I can get on your level.” But then on the flip side, too, again, because I’m meeting and speaking with business owners every day, there’s advice that I can give to her and hopefully help her out, when she comes across an issue or this or that. I can say, “Well, hey, I’ve heard it done this way. Maybe try this,” and I’ve been able to kind of help along the way. So, yes, we’ve got a great relationship there. And so, when we go out on dates and things, it’s like, we talk business, which seems weird. Of course, we talk about the kids, but honestly, our passion together is business. We love watching Shark Tank. We love that stuff and it’s a passion that we’ve developed.
10:43 LJJ: Well, and you know, you mentioned that passion about business and business relationships, and one of the things that comes to mind where you just mentioned, when you run into a stumbling block as a business owner, the outreach that can happen to be able to get over that stumbling block. Do you see sometimes, maybe one or two things, that just… Oh my gosh, this keeps happening in the sense of a business owner might not realize, oops, this is something I need to know about as they grow? Because I know you really are a confident to business owners. Is there a growth level where all of a sudden there’s different complications that come into running a business?
11:28 JP: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the big ones is, a lot of business owners start, and they’re very much involved in the business. They wear lots of hats and they’re a project manager, they’re managing projects, managing clients themselves, and they’re a part of it, but then as they grow, suddenly, they have to learn how to step out of the business and be a manager or and work on the business instead of in the business. And I think that is one of the hardest transitions there is, because one, you’ve been that face, you’ve been the person that those clients keep coming back for, and now you’re going to step back and allow someone else to step in because you have to manage the company, you have to have that strategic vision. It’s something, again, my wife went through it with her company. So yeah, one, you’ve got to give up control of the clients. But then also, yeah, you’ve got to then become a manager and now you’re managing people versus necessarily manage the business and that craft that you know. And so, kind of…
12:35 LJJ: Which was the passion you started.
12:36 JP: Right. Right. And so, some people don’t always react that well to it, it’s like, “Well, I didn’t get into this business to manage people.” Others say, “You know what, okay, if I’m going to do this, and I want to grow, and this is where I want to get to, I have to learn how to do that, I have to learn how to delegate,” which is one of the hardest things, but that’s where we can come in and really be a resource. And that’s another area that I love to be. Honestly, I get just as much happiness out of providing a loan or a business account, a business solution for somebody as when I can refer you to somebody and say, “You know what, hey, you can outsource this IT stuff, and we know some great IT companies that will come in, we’ve worked with them, they’re going to put your mind at ease, you don’t have to worry about that.” Or people are outsourcing HR functions, or… “Hey, here’s a good CPA who can come in once a week or twice a month, whatever it is, and handle those books for you so you don’t have to do that, you don’t want to be doing that. You are today, but you need to be focused on the growth, you need to be focused on hiring, not on these things.” So that’s the biggest thing I’ve seen as companies, as they try to grow, is just finding the ways to delegate. And so, yeah, again, I just love to be that resource and come in and just have that Rolodex of people and say, “You need to call this person or that person.”
14:03 LJJ: You’re a connector.
14:04 JP: Yup.
14:04 LJJ: You’re a connector.
14:05 JP: Absolutely.
14:06 LJJ: Alright, real quickly. We are from finance to fitness here, Money, I’m Home. Can you share with us a tip that you received that you think really brings to light how important it is to have that balance of finance, fitness, family in your life?
14:23 JP: I think it’s a law of diminishing returns. I have met so many business owners, especially just in the last five years of being with consumers. And yes, there are some that are working 70-80 hours a week, but I’ve also met so many that have just a wonderful work-life balance. Not only do they have it, they provide it for their employees too and they’re so happy. You know, they have flexible schedules, they provide flexible schedules, they’re taking time to… Yeah, to get home and be in charge of soccer practice or whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re having that balance and they’re just so successful. I’ve seen it. So, when others come and say, “Oh, no, I got to work 78 hours a week to get this done,” that’s not always the case. And so, not only can you have, I think, true happiness with a good balance, you can also be very successful.
15:25 LJJ: Great. Jeremy Prins, thank you so much for joining us.
15:28 JP: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
15:29 LJJ: Money, I’m Home with Consumers Credit Union.