Bankers Advertising Articles

Perseverance Pays Off: Building the Future on Lessons from the Past

July 1, 2009

The nation hasn’t seen any dust bowls or massive migrations of unemployed workers this year, but the stagnant economy has drawn contant comparisons to the Great Depression of the 1930s. While the jury is still out on whether the comparisons hold water, Bankers Advertising Company has the luxury of hindsight and the history to prove we know what it takes to come out of a recession relatively unscathed. Bankers Advertising Company Chairman, Bill Bywater, MAS shares our stories and strategies for survival, along with some advice for businesses that are suffering through their first economic setback.

During the depression, Bankers Advertising was known as Bankers Advertising & Supply Co. The company was supplying leather passbook covers and printing checks for local financial instituions when the nation’s worst financial crisis erupted in 1929. “In our hometown we had five banks, and they all closed,” says Chairman Bill Bywater, MAS. New banks didn’t come into the area in 1934.

Bywater noted an interesting fact, “one bank in a nearby country town of maybe 70 people survived, and today it is the largest bank in the state.”

Of course, when those banks – customers of Bankers Advertising – went under, finished calendar advertising orders left without customers. “Those were packed orders and they all went to the city dump,” Bywater shares.

The lost business was tough to make up with no banks around, but Bywater’s great-grandfather, Bankers founder Willis Mercer, was determined to pay his employees and keep business coming in. “He had some bonds and he took them to Cedar Rapids and discounted them to make the payroll.”

Addtionally, Bankers dropped the “& Supply” from its name and operations and focused solely on promotional products. This move, combined with employee-focused efforts, eventually resulted in some pretty remarkable displays of loyalty.

“We have customers who were buying calendar advertising before the Depression who are still buying from us today,” he says. Chief among these are Stanley Bank of Columbia, Kansas, and Cumberland Insurance of Richmond, New Jersey.

“The loyalty means so much, then and now. When they’ve got confidence in our company, products and people, it means so much.” Bywater says. And today’s staff is showing this same confidence in the company, helping keep Bankers stable in the current recession.

For younger firms who want to know the secret to such loyalty and longevity, Bywater admits his advice is well-worn. “It’s overused, but I’d say to stay focused and learn what’s important,” he says. “Stay focused on what you want to accomplish and make sure everyone is on the same page.”

Used with permission from PPB (Promotional Products Business) July Issue by Jen Alexander McCall.

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