Freeport Chamber of Commerce members picked up some sharp knowledge about accessing capital through banking relationships, while the knife throwing prowess of the Great Throwdini provided some unusual entertainment.
Throwdini, a.k.a. the Rev. David Adamovich, holds over 40 world knife-throwing records, as well as a doctorate of education in exercise physiology from Columbia University. His achievements have earned him the Merlin Award from the International Magician’s Society — magic’s equivalent to an Oscar.
At the July 12 luncheon, Throwdini’s lovely assistant Lynn Wheat, wearing red spike heels, fishnet stockings, and a black-and-red leotard, calmly posed with hands high, or in profile, or in a backbend, while heavy metal knives flashed from Throwdini’s hand and stuck into the large wooden board behind her.
The pair performed increasingly hair-raising tricks for the next 15 minutes. At the end, Rachel’s Waterside Grill owner Ivan Sayles answered Throwdini’s call for a volunteer, and stood unflinchingly as the deadly points thudded into the board around his body.
When the laughter and applause subsided, the business began. Two representatives of Valley Bank delivered a talk entitled “Access to Capital and Business Relationships.”
Taking the floor was Alejandra Girón, vice president and business development officer for community lending at New Jersey-based Valley Bank in Jericho.
Valley Bank holds $43 billion in assets, with 200 locations in New York, New Jersey, Alabama, and Florida, including 12 branches on Long Island.
“In the community lending department,” said Girón, “we don’t just look at customers based on where they are right then, such as starting out, or maybe trying to build on what they already have. Instead, we look at their potential. We say, okay, this is your business plan, but where do you want to go? Let me put the right partners and products behind your business so you can grow. Everything is done strategically.”
Girón explained that banks look at a loan customer’s credit, ability to pay, and collateral.
“But if we look at the reality, we know that sometimes small business owners don’t have good credit,” said Girón. “Sometimes they don’t have collateral. Some business owners don’t even have their own house. Maybe they have trouble with the tax returns and the net profit is not there. That is the reality for most of our business owners.”
Girón described strategies that can boost business people into setting up a better customer base, establishing a sound credit record, and then strategizing to find the right loans for their specific circumstance.
“My interest is not only to give out loans,” said Girón. “My interest is to sit down with the customer, figure out what is it that they need, and if I have the products in my arsenal to help them out, I provide those. If I cannot help them at the bank, I will refer them to somebody that can. I’m looking for the relationship, not really for the loan.”
Adrienne Greene, vice president and market manager for Valley Bank in Garden City, asked the luncheon attendees, “Has anyone ever gone to coffee or lunch with your banker? I really like to get to know my customers. I’m the daughter of two small business owners, and I’m the wife of a small business owner, so I absolutely understand what it’s like to turn the lights on and hope the customers walk in, with payroll due at the weekend.”
Spending time with customers is critical, said Greene, in order to understand what direction a business owner dreams of going.
“So, yes, you’re opening the bank account,” she continued. “We’re talking about your dreams and goals: are you looking to buy that building, are you looking to expand, are you looking to franchise? We really want to talk to our customers about aspirations.”
Greene related stories of bringing customers together for their mutual benefit, like the time she connected a retiring dry cleaning businessman with a much younger dry cleaner who wanted to expand. The younger dry cleaner bought the retiree’s business and both were happy.
After further anecdotes of developing relationships with customers and helping them succeed, Greene and Girón fielded questions and suggestions from the 20 business men and women seated around the tables at the Maliblue Restaurant on the Town of Hempstead’s Malibu Beach.
One attendee, Hale Storm, commented, “Freeport has a hidden secret of businesses, and it’s bodegas. The food is fresh, they do volume. That’s a good avenue to research.”
Girón expressed interest in contacting the bodegas.
“We have all the services,” she said. “Payroll, we have everything.”