Small businesses are in Debra Yeager’s wheelhouse.
As an assistant vice president for U.S. Bank’s southwest Missouri region, she manages its small-business banking group.
“I recognized a long time ago that these small businesses are the engine that makes our community run,” Yeager says. “However, the banking industry has not always recognized their potential.”
Yeager was promoted in May, and she now leads the small-business banking relationship managers who work with U.S. Bank’s more than 30 southwest Missouri branches.
Although mom-and-pop businesses might be small, they make up a significant portion of companies in Springfield. Having worked in banking for nearly 35 years, she’s seen small businesses come and go.
“If they are given the wrong advice or steered the wrong way, they can lose more than their business,” she says. “They can lose their homes, their retirement and their children’s education.”
Yeager leans on her experience to make sound recommendations. But one of the most difficult things she has to do sometimes is say no to a loan request.
“I try never to simply say no, but rather ‘not yet’ or ‘not that way,’” she says.
Some of her most long-standing client relationships actually started out with a “not yet.”
“Taking the time to discuss with them what they need to do or where they need to be financially to get the yes they are looking for,” she says, “is the most rewarding part of my job.”
As the way of doing business has changed over the years for her clients, the banking industry has worked to meet those transitioning needs.
“When I started 35 years ago, there were just a handful of products and solutions – not a lot of choices,” she says. “Now there’s a plethora of ways to help them.”
As the fifth-largest commercial bank in the world, Yeager says U.S. Bank is able to do more than just loan money. She is in a position to help business owners with such services as invoicing and collections to payroll and fraud protection.
“We literally focus on every aspect of their money that comes through their business, to see if there’s a way we can support, enhance and ease our customer,” she says. “We have unlimited resources on the types of products and technology that we can offer them.”
Yeager spends much of her time out of the office, meeting busy clients at their businesses, to save them time.
“Often they can’t leave so you go to them,” she says of her small-business customers.
She also spends a fourth of her time at networking events, including Rotary Club of North Springfield, Queen City Sertoma Club, Business Network International and as an ambassador for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. She maintains regular contact with her clients and monitors news publications for updates on them as well.
She says some of her client relationships have extended to a second generation.
“It’s a relationship, not a transaction,” Yeager says.
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