By Paul Rudersdorf (pictured right), River Valley Bank
I moved to Wausau 20 years ago without knowing anyone, and soon began wondering how I would begin the process of connecting to my new community. Working at a bank with the challenge of developing small business relationships was not new to me, but knocking on doors cold calling was not a technique I wanted to rely on. In my first few years, I became involved in the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce as an Ambassador, member of the Small Business Committee, and an advisor to the entrepreneurial program. How the Chamber helped me was similar to the benefits realized by their members. I became involved, got to know a lot of people, and started creating opportunities to meet potential customers--all things of interest to any small business owner.
Small business is the engine that propels us. Every small business owner realizes that their customers pay their bills, and to sustain loyal customers, the need for happy employees and solutions to a myriad of problems is never-ending. The Chamber is the catalyst that brings businesses together, allows for a sharing of ideas, and fosters communication about topics important to success. By recognizing business success during Small Business Week, the importance of small business to our region is celebrated. This awareness reminds us that without thriving small enterprises, our options and opportunities are limited.
As bankers, we are inclined to have an aversion to risk. Over the years, I have come to appreciate the persistence and perseverance of the small business owner, their willingness to risk everything, and to put their entire financial well-being at stake. I admire these traits, largely because I don’t have them (that is why I am a banker). The Chamber exists to recognize these attributes, to help the business manage risk in a strategic way, develop partnerships, educate, and grow ideas. In Marathon County, we are lucky to have the Chamber as a business resource.
At River Valley Bank, we are committed to the success of small business. Because this focus is much of what we stand for, our attention to serving this segment is always top of mind. The relationship between owner and banker is about communication, trust, and advice. With a combination of the programs available through the Small Business Administration 7A, Wisconsin Business Development 504, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), we have closed $100mil in government loans since 2009. More importantly, we have helped small business owners realize their dreams.
Collaboration increases our chances of success. The Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce has been the centerpiece to allow business to grow and serve our communities. For this we are thankful.