How to be Two Places at Once

Posted August 2 2018 in #PeopleFirst

Late spring is a hectic time for farmers. Crops are being planted, weather is unpredictable, and every decision has a huge impact on the success — or failure — of the harvest that year. On this particular week in the Grafton, North Dakota region, a storm was slated to hit over the weekend, bringing welcome rain to the fields. To prepare, farmers needed everything to be planted before the rains hit.

In St. Thomas, potato farmer Pete* was working around the clock to get everything planted before the storm. In the midst of his preparation, he realized he needed to make a phone call.

The phone rang at Choice Financial in Grafton.

“Hello?” Business and Agriculture Banker, Andrew Peterson, answered.

“It’s Pete,” the farmer said. “I just don’t think I’ll be able to make it in today.”

Pete explained that with the rain forecast, it was all-hands-on-deck at the farm. He knew he had loan payments due, and Pete wasn’t about to miss the deadline. In fact, he had the checks prepared and waiting to be delivered.

“When it comes to planting, you have to get it done when the conditions are right.”

It was just a matter of getting to the bank. But Pete knew the 20-minute drive there and back would be costly.

Andrew Peterson, also a potato farmer, knew it too.

“If you miss rain on the wrong day, the economic impact can be thousands of dollars lost on the farm — hundreds of dollars lost per acre,” he said. “It’s not something you can afford to risk. When it comes to planting, you have to get it done when the conditions are right.”

This is why, when he got Pete’s phone call, Andrew responded without hesitation.

“Don’t worry! I’ll come to you.”

Andrew knows Pete well; he’s a family friend and has been a Choice customer for over 20 years. He could tell that Pete was feeling the stress of having too much to do, and not enough time to do it. He also knew Pete wanted things done right. He wanted to make his payments on time — and he also wanted to get planting done on time.

“I knew it was more important for him to keep planting than to run in and make payments,” Andrew said.

So off he went to the potato farm in St. Thomas, where Pete and a small team were hustling to finish planting. Andrew pulled up just as Pete had stopped to fill the planter. He was relieved to see Andrew.

“Thanks so much for doing this,” he said.

He mentioned to Andrew that he might have to come to town later — he had a bill payment due and needed to get Canadian money for an upcoming trip. Andrew waved his hand.

“I’ll take care of it,” he said.

Again, the relief washed over Pete’s face. He handed over the checks and explained the details, then headed back out to finish planting.

“It was about a 60 second conversation,” Andrew said. “Didn’t even interrupt his day.”

“We should benefit our customers, not hinder them,” Andrew said. “It’s about doing anything we can do to make their lives easier.”

While Pete kept the planter rolling, Andrew deposited the loan payments, stopped by another business and paid Pete’s bill, and exchanged Pete’s money for Canadian dollars to deliver back to Pete later that night.

Morgan Smestad, a Loan Assistant in Grafton, noticed Andrew exchanging the money and could see he was doing something above and beyond his normal duties.

“It’s not normal for the ag bankers to exchange money,” she said. “Not every ag business banker would do it. Not every bank would do it. But I think our guys here in Grafton do a lot more than most guys do at a bank,” she went on. “They don’t hesitate to do more.”

She explained that Andrew still farms himself, in addition to working as a full-time banker. He has plenty on his plate. And yet he still jumped to help Pete when he saw it was the right thing to do.

“We should benefit our customers, not hinder them,” Andrew said. “It’s about doing anything we can do to make their lives easier.”

Thanks to Andrew’s help, Pete was able to complete the planting for his farm in time for the rain, saving hundreds — potentially thousands — of dollars.

Know when to ask for help, and know when to offer it.

*Name changed to respect customer privacy.

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