Albuquerque Business First
recently hosted a roundtable discussion at our Main Branch on the Plaza in Santa Fe to discuss doing business in the City Different. Dolores Overton, Market President
for Santa Fe and Los Alamos, was joined by leadership from Steady Networks, with offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and moderator ABF Publisher and President Candace Beeke, to discuss the current and potential business climate in Santa Fe.
Below are excerpts from the conversation. The full transcript is here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do and your connection to Santa Fe.
My family and I moved to Santa Fe seven years ago for a job opportunity. We’d been coming to Santa Fe since the mid-’90s and always loved the beauty, the tradition, and the history. I have always been in banking and joined First National 1870 about a year ago as the market president for Santa Fe and Los Alamos.
I am honored to be a part of an institution that has played such an important role in the community since 1870. Over the last few years, the bank has been enhancing our services across personal and commercial banking, wealth management and our Guardian Mortgage home loan division, and all these areas are teams that I collaborate with in Santa Fe. This means I do a lot of strategic planning and business development, as well as spend a good deal of time being out in the community representing the bank.
There is something about Santa Fe . . . . we’re a lot more than the plaza and state capital infrastructure. People know us for our world class art and restaurants, and that’s great, but there is definitely business activity here too. The people are friendly and it has a warm feel. For me, it simply feels like ‘home’.
What is unique about doing business in Santa Fe?
I think it’s important for businesses to have diversification in what they are doing due to the market size in Santa Fe. When we talk to businesspeople, we always encourage them to find complementary services that they can add to their business plans to provide an additional source of customers and revenue. Rather than be a niche provider, I find it really helps to be a “jack-of-all trades.”
We’ll ask, if this isn’t working, what’s your fallback? How can you diversify and find more customers? How will you capitalize on what’s happening in the market? We emphasize to businesses to really do your homework. Who are your competitors? There are a lot of people that move here because they want to live in Santa Fe and will start businesses without really knowing the competitive landscape. So, you’ll find more of the same type businesses may already be here as competition than what you had anticipated.
Do you see Santa Fe growing?
I do think Santa Fe is growing. And the reason I say that is because of the conversations we’ve been having with existing customers looking to expand, and prospective customers who are coming into Santa Fe—not just from Albuquerque—but coming in and reviewing some of the opportunities that might be here. What we see the most are Santa Fe-based customers looking to expand right here. There are enough local opportunities available for growth that they don’t need to look down the road to Albuquerque.
Can you tell me a little bit about how the bank fosters growth in Santa Fe with the business clients that you have
For all customers, prospective and existing, it’s about us understanding their business and understanding their goals and objectives.
It’s not our goal, it’s theirs. It’s not our objective, it’s theirs. It’s trying to understand what they want to accomplish and how we can help them get there. We do a lot of listening; we ask a lot of questions. We will sometimes do the ‘what ifs’. What if that isn’t going to happen? Because often customers will come in and say “I have an idea and this is what I need.” But by asking questions, we figure out together what they want to accomplish and then work back to identify the solution they need to reach their end goal.
Our job is really to be that resource to the customer and make sure we understand what they want to accomplish and then as the resource, as the advisor, we provide a solution via a product. We never lead with product because that’s the worst way to start any kind of relationship.
So, it’s really just growing with the customer, having multiple conversations and building rapport, building trust, and being able to deliver on their goals, and do what you said you were going to do.
That’s when you become a trusted advisor, and that’s what we’re trying to do. It is not a transaction. We’re looking at building the relationship. So, the solution might be a conventional loan or a cash-management product or a combination. It’s establishing ourselves as subject matter experts on the financing side to help them build their business and then working as a partner because then we have the same goal.
That customer has the knowledge and expertise in whatever it is that they’re providing or they’re doing. We have our expertise and we come together to meet a goal. We’re called relationship managers. We’re not called loan officers. We’re relationship managers because it’s not always about a loan.
What advice would you have for companies that are new to Santa Fe working to develop their business and find new clients?
Networking and being involved in the community is really important in Santa Fe and one of the best ways to do it is getting involved with a nonprofit. We have a lot of great nonprofits that serve many different interests, so you can find something that speaks to you. It’s also taking the time to be involved in community events, being out and about, and starting conversations with people. Then asking the individuals that you have good relations with for introductions. An introduction from a trusted individual carries a lot of weight here.