A great idea turns into a small business, often out of a dining room or garage. As it grows, it will require a brick-and-mortar location, an online presence, or both.
Sounds simple. But with success, comes questions. Where does the capital come from? What type of store is needed? How many employees will be needed?
PeoplesBank, a Codorus Valley Company, which is expanding from its Glen Rock, York County, roots since 1864, into Lancaster and Dauphin counties and northern Maryland, launched a Connections Center in Lancaster that allows small and medium-sized business owners use a large computer screen to create an individual business plan. The interactive screen lets owners move concepts around to see what works best for them before locking into a plan.
The Lancaster center has been so popular since opening last year, the bank opened one in York and will be opening one in Hunt Valley early next year, according to Craig Kauffman, president and CEO of Codorus Valley Company and PeoplesBank.
The brainchild of Chad Clabaugh, chief retail officer for PeoplesBank, the Connections Center uses a 90-inch computer screen to lay out options for financing whatever a company needs.
Kauffman, who joined the bank in 2018 and took on the role of president Oct. 1, said the Connections Center is a continuation of the organization’s culture of being a community bank.
“Our goal is the client is always first. It’s a value-based model,’ he said.
The bank, with total assets of $2.5 billion, works closely with small to mid-sized businesses to ensure they succeed. It’s a philosophy that allows customers to work with a team they can get to know. And this why the Connections Centers were built. Denise Thompson, manager of the PeoplesBank, 101 N. Queen St., Lancaster, home to the first Connections Center, said she works mostly with limited liability companies.
Clients come into the center and create immediate and longtime goals, and even retirement, she said. “The goals are driven by the client, not us. They create a plan for their business, and we help provide the resources.”
PeoplesBank, which has the second largest market share in York County at 15%, behind M&T, relies on the staff knowing the customers. “We grow by word of mouth,” Kauffman said. “It’s a personal experienced where people know their bankers; it is the crux of what we do.”
The mantra is relationships matter. “It’s important for people to know who handles them, who stays with them in good time and bad,” he said. COVID was a good test for that.
Clients, especially those in the hospitality industry, were in a panic, he said. The bank made sure the loans were processed as quickly as possible instead of sending them to a portal, he said. “Many of our customers are better now because they faced diversity and overcame it. It was amazing to watch. We were there every step of the way.”
Now with the infrastructure bill being passed, Kauffman said many of the bank’s clients will need supplies to meet the new demands. “We work with companies with pretty substantial revenues,” he said. “We grow with them, so we build together.”
Peoples can serve about 80% of its market, he said.
Thompson said the Lancaster branch was built so the center counter area can be moved to create a space for community use. “We will have artists in on First Fridays and small businesses come in and show off their merchandise on Small Business Saturdays,” she said. “This is a way for them to take advantage of the busy Queen Street corridor.”
In addition to a board room, there is a “huddle room” for small gatherings or Zoom meetings.
“Our vision is to become the bank of choice,” Kauffman said. “We believe we can grow, especially in adjacent markets while building stronger teams with the best employees without losing our ability to keep personal connections.”