Jim Lally on Making Professional Friendships
Founder and CEO
Coffee Lunch Coffee
President & CEO
Enterprise Financial Services Corp
In our pilot episode, Jim Lally, President and CEO of Enterprise Financial Services Corp, joins host Alana Muller to recount his professional journey in the banking industry. Join Jim as he shares how to create and nurture business relationships while developing a personal network of connections. “You've got to be intentional (about making connections) because natural interactions are occurring less often. So, therefore, you have to carve out time in your day and do it in a way that's meaningful.”
Alana Muller: Welcome to Enterprising, a podcast from Enterprise Bank and Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an Entrepreneurial Executive Leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank and Trust thank you for tuning into another episode.
Well, listeners, welcome to our inaugural episode of Enterprising Podcast, brought to you by Enterprise Bank and Trust. I am absolutely delighted to be with you all today. This has been a long time in the planning. And to kick things off, we went with a celebrity so I am just thrilled to introduce the President and CEO of Enterprise Financial Services Corporation and my friend, Jim Lally. Jim, welcome to Enterprising.
Jim Lally: How are you? Thank you so much for this.
Alana Muller: I'm doing well. Well, what fun to have you as our very first guest and nobody understands Enterprise or the good work that the organization does better than you do so I'm just thrilled to have you. And with that, I'd love to get started. What I want to do is I want you to share with our listeners just a little bit about who you are, your role at the bank and your background.
Jim Lally: Sure. I've been with the bank 18 years. It is hard to believe because it's almost as if you've just blinked and we were getting this thing started. I came into the story about halfway through. I always say the hard work was really done at Enterprise that first 15 years and I've had the pleasure now of leading the organization since 2017. My role as the CEO of the company really is that of doing a lot of listening, listening to our associates, to our communities and our clients and taking those hints and taking those ideas and putting them into action to serve that constituency as well as we can. And ultimately, we believe if you do that then the shareholders are certainly taken care of. From a day-to-day perspective, I bob and weave between serving those three pillars so that we can affect great results for the fourth. It's sales, it's coaching, it's listening, it's hugging, all those things, and I truly can't wait in the morning for my eyes to pop open and the feet to hit the ground and do this again.
I spent the last three days with some dear friends and they said, "Did you imagine it to be this way?" and I said, "Yes, but not in banking." I imagined what I would do and what I do every day to be this, which is be passionate and work with people and solve problems and use an analytical way of doing things, but I never imagined it would be in banking. Now that I am, I can't imagine ever being not in banking, which is kind of interesting because I don't think any six year old says, "That's what I want to do in life," but I think it's one of the most wonderful professions to be in.
Alana Muller: Yeah. Well, I love how you talked about your constituency as kind of knowing your audience and understanding who your client base is, including not just customers of the bank, but the associates of the organization, the shareholders, prospects, the community at large. And as you know, the focus of our podcast is really all about creating and nurturing business relationships. One of the things that I love about Enterprise is that the bank has kind of... It's put a stake in the ground saying that it wants to ensure that it develops relationships that lasts. Can you talk a little bit about that and what you see not only from your own behavior and what you foster though, in the rest of the associates?
Jim Lally: Yeah. I believe this, that the success of an organization is about the deep relationships. It's hard to say that you're 100% non-transactional. Well, you're never going to be that way, but the closer you can be in our industry of being non-transactional, the more successful you're going to be, so you have to build long lasting relationships. I think about it this way. It's got to be two ways. It's got to be two way. You have to certainly give initially, but you also have to receive and you have to be honest with yourself in that relationship if you're constantly giving, giving, giving and not taking. And if you can do that and find ways to connect, it's a long, beautiful relationship you have with a company, a family, a COI. We have a senior leader in our company and she refers to relationships in our industry as professional friendships and I think that might be one of the best clear ways to describe how we think about relationships.
If you can really make it analogous to some of your deepest personal friendships and how you built them over time and how they ebb and flow and sometimes you feel bad because you haven't quite called them with good news or bad news, but yet you find a way to come back to them and that's how I think about relationships in business.
Alana Muller: I love that, that mutually beneficial bi-directional nature that you're describing and I have witnessed that from so many of the associates of Enterprise, so I applaud you and the organization for really making that a priority. I think when these relationships can be mutually beneficial, not only do people want to keep coming back, because as you said, they're friends. These are relationships that matter, that are meaningful, so I really appreciate that as your guideposts. As CEO, I know that you're serving lots of different constituencies, as you described, but I know that so many of your years were spent specifically with clients and prospects. Can you talk a little bit about what specific approaches that you've found to be the most effective so that not only could you grow, but you could also nurture and serve your network?
Jim Lally: Yeah. I think the key, first of all, in creating a really good network is being consistent to your brand within a brand. What I mean by that is why do people come to you? What is it that you provide a group of people that others may not? What problems are you solving? What we've tried to do and what I've tried to do is make sure that my COIs don't say just call Jim because he's in banking, but call Jim because he can solve a specific need and here's an example of what he's done for somebody else I know. You can't be afraid to at times to bang your own drum and remind people what you do well and maybe if I could say better than the masses and it's okay that you're not this generalist to all, but there's probably somebody in your organization who too is a specialist that you can bring along, such that now you start weaving these skillsets together.
That maybe as an organization you are a group that can solve for all. But specifically for yourself, it's about what is your personal brand within the brand? We really coach that. We really coach that
Alana Muller: Keeping with that thread, do you find that you're bringing various associates with you to either go on sales calls or talking to clients or even to other associates and adjudicate, maybe even an example where you've seen... The way you described the weaving is just so evocative and I understand. It's like you're bringing somebody along who has some knowledge that may be a value to the person you're talking with. Do you have an example that you can share with our listeners?
Jim Lally: Absolutely. You imagine five years ago when I'm asked to do this job, this role and really do a 180 from what I was doing... You were right, my career prior to that was serving clients, working with families daily and what have you. One thing I said to our board was, "I'm honored to to do this, but it has to be such that 30 to 40% of my time still is with clients, is still with prospects, is still revenue generating because that's a skill set that we can't lose in the organization." Then you ask yourself what happens to the other 60% of your relationships and revenue creating, what have you, so that you have to bring others along and then you basically are a sponsor for that individual into your network.
A perfect example is there's plenty of relationship managers or team leads today who on a day-to-day basis take care of those families that I took care of for so many years and probably do it better than I could. But at times, at times when there's the big issue or the big question or the big decision, I'll get brought back in and not because they can't answer, but, again, it's lending my brand to the overall solution.
Alana Muller: Well, I think you're also talking about trust, right? You've established these relationships. What I like to say when I'm thinking through relationship building through networking that I hope that it's not just a one and done transaction, that this is a series of touch points over time, that we continue to come back together and that trust is established and I think that's what you're describing. You may have initially launched the relationship on behalf of Enterprise Bank, but you've brought in other associates, others of your colleagues to participate in those relationships. And in so many ways, you're basically making it better for the client.
Jim Lally: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Alana Muller: That's great. Talk to me a little bit about your own personal network. How do you manage it? Are there particular activities that bring you into contact with connections? I know we're kind of in a unique world right now, right? I call it the hybrid world where we're half in the office, half not. Some folks would prefer to be in an office full-time, others would prefer to work from home full-time. How are you actively managing your network so that you have what I call collisions, the opportunity to interact with others?
Jim Lally: You've got to be intentional. There's no question about it because you're right, the natural interactions are occurring less often. Whether you run into somebody at a trade show, run into somebody at a conference, run into somebody even at the grocery store, things of that nature, that those are happening less. So therefore, you have to carve out time in your day and do it in a way that's meaningful. It can be, "Hey, I was thinking about you," with an article, a forward on or even good old fashioned put it in the mail. Who doesn't love to receive a handwritten note in the mail? You have to be very intentional and carve time out to do that. The other thing too, though, and I saw this early in my career where people for whom I worked didn't keep their network diverse. Their network aged with them.
I really try to make sure that it's multi-generational, multicultural things of that nature, because it keeps you fresh. It keeps you interesting. I was just at an event with many very, very bright 29 to 35 year old professionals and a couple of things came forth. Number one, our country's in really good hands. We've got a great... The youth is great in this country, but I said to a few, I said, "Why don't we make this a regular event? Host a coffee, host a dinner with no agenda and let's just talk," and I think those are the things that we forget about as we create these networks that it doesn't have to be CEO to CEO, it can be Jim to Rhonda, Jim to Brian and that's how you create these networks because you just never know.
That's why what I do too is you have what I call the A circle, the B circle and the C circle, but they change over time. They change over time based upon how you might change and based upon your roles and based upon your interests and things of that nature, so it has to be active and deliberate.
Alana Muller: Talk a little bit more about it, the A circle, the B circle, the C circle. So the A circle, are those sort of your top priority connections, people you already know, people you'd like to know? When you think about that... And I like how you're saying that it changes over time based on your own personal set of circumstances, but talk a little bit more about how you identify who goes into each circle.
Jim Lally: The A circle is somebody that is going to take your call as soon as it pops up. It's almost as if you're driving home and you just need to connect and you hit it and you get him or her on the phone. It's a one ring pickup. You're not going to voicemail, hope that they call you back. Whether it's 50 or 100 people, however big your network can be, these are individuals that that you're just checking in or you have a favor or you're not sure if their dot connects to another dot, but it's a good place to start. So you pick up the phone, you hit it and they pick up on one ring. "How are you doing? How are the kids? How was your golf game last week? Oh, by the way, do you know?" "No, I don't know, but I know someone who does know."
So all of a sudden, they said, "Do you know Joe Smith?" "Well, yeah. Well I do, but he's in the C circle." So now all of a sudden, the guy in the A can pull you to the C real quick to get you where you need to be. Those are the things that you have to understand that... LinkedIn, I think it's a great tool, but it's a lazy tool. The real tool is pick up the phone and asking because that A circle wants to help. The A circle wants to be influential. The A circle wants to make sure that you're winning. They're on your team. They understand. They want to be a part of it, so you have to use them appropriately. That A circle wants to help and you don't want them to do the heavy lifting for you, just connect me. I'll call them and I'll say, "Hey, Peter said to give you a call, so I'm going to give you a call."
Alana Muller: Well, and you hit the nail on the head. I mean, people like to help. We love to help each other when given the opportunity. I've always found it interesting. People are often very fearful of making that call, sending that email, reaching out in some way, shape or form. And yet, when they do, they're often shocked at how receptive others are to bringing them in, to actually taking that call, to doing whatever it is that they need assistance with. I think that's great. And the way you're talking about those connections between your A, B and C circles makes perfect sense. It's that these are linkages that occur, whether they're they're loose connections or tighter connections, and obviously that's serves you well in your career.
Jim Lally: You get to be as old as I am and you have many, many connections and many friends out there, so it helps. It helps.
Alana Muller: I like that. See, we get better with age. That's the answer. That's the answer.
Jim Lally: The other thing too... I'll just mention this. I would encourage people to think about this too that there's many cities and geographies that are easier than others to break through, so I would encourage people too that when you get that call, when you may be in that C circle to somebody, that you do help with that connect because you never know. I'll tell you just a quick story. There was a gentleman who moved to St. Louis from Cleveland years ago. He walks around St. Louis even today, this was about 20 years ago, and he tells a story. I don't remember about Jim Lally taking his call and helping him out so greatly. Now mind you, I didn't get him a job or anything. I just took his call and sat down, but he's one of my biggest fans in town and I can't tell you how many people say "Jim," I won't use the person's name, but, "He spoke so highly of you," and I said, "That's great." Now, mind you, I didn't do anything other than sit down with him probably three or four times over coffee and try to connect A to C.
Alana Muller: Well, you felt that it was a simple thing for you, but the value on the back end was just immense for the individual. You made him feel important. You made him feel listened to. You helped to address a need that he had, so I just think that's great. What a great example of a true networking connection. Before we close out here, I've got to ask you to sort of a pie in the sky question and it's this, if you could meet one person, anybody, anybody, anybody, and preferably in the nonfiction world, but anybody on earth, who would it be and why? What would you want to talk with them about?
Jim Lally: There's so many, but I'll tell you what where we are in our world today. What I'd like to do is spend one hour with the United States Senate and I would encourage them to spend some time not worrying about getting reelected and to really focus on the strategic plan for our country. And not to get political, I don't get political, but I think it's such an important job. And if they just thought about the long-term strategic plan for us, the things we're going through would be taken care of easily. I thought a lot about that because they may be some of the most influential connectors we have in our country. Just to spend an hour with them and really get to their soul and their heart to move this country forward, I think, would be really cool.
Alana Muller: Oh, you don't know how much I love that response. I couldn't agree more with you. We elect these officials to be our voice and it would be really nice if that was the job that actually they did, that they actually... they took that seriously. I just absolutely love that answer, so thank you. Jim. What a privilege it's been to talk with you and to get your perspective on networking, on creating a nurturing relationships that last, something that Enterprise Bank and Trust does in spades every single day. And with you at the helm, I know that the organization will continue to do that for many, many generations to come, so I thank you. I want to direct our listeners. If people want to learn more about enterprise bank, where would you suggest that they go?
Jim Lally: Well, the best place that goes our website, www.enterprisebank.com.
Alana Muller: You got it. That's excellent. Jim, thank you so much. To all of our listeners today, thank you so much for tuning in, again, to our inaugural episode of Enterprising Podcast and I'll be delighted to talk with you again soon.
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