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August 19
Intern Spotlight: Joshua Jordal

​Recently, I had the experience of job shadowing two of GreenStone’s financial services officers. I spent the day in the Lapeer branch with Marty Kasperski who focuses on agricultural customers, and Sandy Arnold, who assists customers with their country home and vacant land financing needs. The experience was eye-opening in terms of how GreenStone does business with their customers.

Interning in the credit department, I do not have involvement with the customers. I am a number cruncher, and as one credit analyst recently put it, sometimes it may mean being a “dream crusher” when those numbers don't work out. 

I felt in order to get a holistic view of GreenStone, I needed to see the other side of the business. Sales are what drive any business and I was interested to see what differentiated GreenStone from the competition. I can confidently say I found my answer.   

When people hear the word “sales,” an image that first comes to mind is the pushy salesman we have all experienced. Honestly, I had the same mindset when I asked to job shadow in one of the branch locations. GreenStone prides itself on being a relationship lender and not that pushy salesman we all envision. 

GreenStone’s mindset can be described like a field that is planted. The field has to be tended to make it grow into a fruitful crop. The financial services officer plants the seed with their customers and then, like any good farmer, they have to tend to the field in order for it to grow while managing the ups and downs of the growing season. It is the same with any customer relationship. It takes time and diligence to build the relationship and produce a fruitful crop that not only benefits GreenStone, but the customer as well.

The financial services officers are referred to as relationship managers and this title fits them perfectly. Their job is to bring in money through completing deals for loans, but as I described above it, it is so much more than only that. At GreenStone, it is about managing the relationship to ensure financial security for GreenStone and also for the customer. To put it simply, if our customers thrive, GreenStone thrives as well. We are all in this together. 

Making sure, through relationship management, our customers prosper is priority number one. The main thing I learned is managing customer relationships is, and will always be, the focus and key to GreenStone’s success. 


About the author: 

Joshua Jordal​ is a credit intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

August 13
Getting the Most from Your Relationship with Your Lender

As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News

By: Richard Wilson

Webster defines a relationship as “the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc. talk to, behave toward and deal with each other.” To get the most from your relationship with your lender, both parties must determine what is the most professional and efficient way to conduct business.

It has been said in real estate, the three most important things are location, location and location. With relationships, it is communication, communication and communication. Today, we have more ways to communicate than probably any point in history, but that does not necessarily make it any simpler. I can scan documents and email them to a customer, but that may not be communicating in the fashion they prefer; it is important that I know the way my customer likes to communicate. As humans, it is also still vitally important we do not forget to communicate in person. Strong, lasting relationships are built on time spent together, and I do not see that changing, no matter what technology comes down the pike.

The second part of a relationship is how we behave toward each other.  Behavior between a borrower and lender is certainly a two way street, which is how a relationship should function.  As a borrower, you have expectations of how your lender should behave and conduct his or herself.  The Boy Scout Law comes to mind and the first three rules always apply.  They are to behave in a trustworthy, loyal and helpful fashion at all times.  Trustworthy means that the relationship is handled in the strictest confidence, loyalty is a loan company that stands with you through thick and thin, and helpful is the lender that goes above and beyond your expectations simply because you are valued.

From a lenders perspective, a trustworthy customer ranks the highest on the list. The most effective way to maximize your trust with a lender is accurate and timely financial records. This includes financial, profit and loss statements and tax returns. Many farmers today use accounting or CPA firms, and helping your lender establish a strong relationship with these individuals is also critical. This will allow the lender to process loan requests and provide financial assistance in a time frame that meets both parties’ needs.

How we deal with each other is the last variable in the relationship equation.  This is a function of time, or in other words, the length of the relationship.  The initial phase of relationships tend to move a slower as you learn about each other and your business practices. This can sometimes cause frustration, but this beginning part of the relationship is where the foundation is being laid for all future dealings. As the relationship matures and the comfort levels between borrower and lender increase, the lender is better able to serve the borrower’s needs. Yes, time and comfort do not lessen the need to continue working closely together. A level of mutual respect is, in my opinion, the “high water mark” between the borrower and lender.

The most rewarding part of being a financial services officer has been the business relationships that I have developed over the years. There is no substitute for a warm smile and a firm handshake when you meet a customer at their home or office knowing they are relying on you to help them solve a problem. Successful relationships take time and nurturing for which there is no substitute. Lastly, remember to always tell your financial professional what you are thinking, because credit training did not teach us how to read minds.

 

About the author:

Richard Wilson is a financial services officer in GreenStone's Monroe branch.

 

July 28
Intern Spotlight: Adam Boes

​Last week, I attended the Ag Expo at Michigan State University and it was a great experience. I had the opportunity to meet fellow GreenStone employees from other branches and interact with some of our customers. In our booth, we had Plinko and attendees could play to win an array of fun prizes. To participate, all they had to do was answer one question pertaining to agriculture. I was in charge of running the game and it was a great way to attract people to our booth along with educating the public on the ag industry. Also, watching the kids’ faces light up when they discovered the color-changing cup they won went from green to blue, was priceless!

Ag Expo is an important event for GreenStone to attend. It is not about how many new customers we receive or to purely generate business. It lets people know who GreenStone is, our willingness to assist whenever they may need us down the road and establish a personal bond with attendees. While spending the day at the expo, I was able to work behind the scenes and observe a side of GreenStone I would not have had the opportunity to otherwise. As an intern, it was a great way to become more familiar with the type of interaction GreenStone staff has with prospects and current customers!

About the author:

Adam Boes is a capital markets intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

July 16
Dollars and Sense: Financial Help for Young, Beginning and Small Farms

As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News

By: Tim McTigue

With the significant capital costs, starting a career in farming can be challenging.  Beyond the expense of acquiring the land and equipment, the cost of operating a farm until harvest can be overwhelming.  For these reasons, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) created the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loan Program.  The program helps provide young farmers with the means to start a career in production agriculture.

If you are a farmer, producer or harvester of agricultural products and fall under one of the categories below, you may be eligible for this program:

  • Young – 35 year of age or younger
  • Beginning – 10 years or less owning a farm
  • Small – generating less than $250,000 in annual gross sales

Either directly through FSA or through agriculture lenders like GreenStone Farm Credit Services, young, beginning and small farmers are able to secure financing with flexible underwriting standards on agricultural loans.  The fees are typically more favorable and the advance rates on collateral are more aggressive.  The loans can be used for equipment, operating expenses and land.  The lender works cooperatively with FSA to help the borrower start out on sound footing.

FSA also has special loan programs to assist socially disadvantaged (SDA) and beginning farmers to purchase farms with a down payment as low as 5 percent.  FSA will typically lend up to 45 percent of the lower of the purchase price or appraised value of the farm – not to exceed $300,000.  The remaining balance may be obtained from an agriculture lender that will work with FSA to secure the loan.  The amortization of the farm loan is typically for 30 years and the rate is usually locked in for the full duration of the loan.

For more information on the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loan Program or other FSA programs, you can call your local FSA office, visit their website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/, or speak with your local lender like GreenStone.

About the author:

Tim McTigue is a regional vice president of sales and customer relations based in GreenStone's Berrien Springs branch.

July 10
Intern Spotlight: Juana Lopez

​My family and I came to the U.S. in search of better opportunities, just like any other immigrant. Although I was only a child, I had many dreams that I wanted to accomplish. I did not realize the path to achieve my goals would be extremely tough and sometimes it seemed as though the journey would be impossible. Without the assistance of the Michigan State University College (MSU) Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), I would not be where I am today.

CAMP is a federally funded program that helps students from migrant and seasonal farm working background to succeed in their first year of college. Every year at MSU, CAMP recruits approximately 60 students and provides support to complete their respective degree. For the first year, CAMP supports the students with all of their financial and emotional needs. One of the biggest advantages of this program is they are able to facilitate in-state tuition for their out-of-state students. A migrant background does not allow one to have a settled home because constant travel to various states for their parents’ work is necessary. For this reason, CAMP students are offered the in-state tuition rate.

Before I was accepted into the program, my family and I used to migrate every year from Florida to North Carolina and Michigan for the harvest of blueberries and strawberries. With my background qualifying me for the CAMP program,  all my expenses from tuition to books were paid for during my first year at MSU and the assistance did not stop there. Due to my GPA status, I was rewarded with a stipend at end of my first and second semesters and I also received assistance with books and advice whenever I needed it after the completion of my freshman year. In addition, even though I am about to graduate, CAMP is still helping with my search for internships and jobs.

I learned about the internship opportunities at GreenStone through one of my CAMP mentors, Rudy Ramos. He encouraged me to apply for the Training and Development intern position that was available and I am glad I did! So far, this experience has given me the chance to meet many great people and also learn about the other opportunities available within the Farm Credit System. Also through this internship, I have been exposed to all the positive effects farm credit institutions have on agriculture and those who depend on it for a living.

About the author:

Juana Lopez is a training and development intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

July 08
Make Way for the Youth Moo-vement!

​By: Yvonne Fleis

Summertime in northern Mich. means sun, fun at the lake and of course the annual fair. Anytime now, we will begin hearing the jingle “Going to the fair, going to the fair, going to the Northwestern Michigan Fair!” signaling that it is once again time for our fair! While the 4-H kids are training with their livestock projects, GreenStone is planning the second annual Youth Moo-vement!

GreenStone’s Traverse City location has decided to take on a role in the surrounding communities to raise agriculture awareness among the youth by getting involved in the local fairs. 2013 marked our first Youth Moo-vement event with the Northwestern Michigan Fair. The contest required entrants to submit a short essay discussing one of the following topics:

  1. How has 4-H impacted your life?
  2. What have you learned from raising a project animal?
  3. What does agriculture mean to you and why did you choose to get involved in agriculture?

Participating 4-H students have the chance to win a junior beer steer, which would be brought back to the fair the following year as the project entry. The number of quality essays we received was incredible; some went the extra mile to include pictures and even a video submission! The essays were extremely well done and at the 2013 4-H awards banquet, we decided to give out two awards to the deserving entries. First place went to the junior beef (which will be brought back to the 2014 fair) and second place received $200 to go towards the participant’s 2014 project animal. Throughout this past year, we have received regular updates from the first place winner to show the progress with her steer. We are excited to see her steer - Boo - compete in market and showmanship in the 2014 Northwestern Michigan Fair!

So whether you are looking for an eventful day out with the family, an elephant ear or just a ride on the Ferris wheel, visit your local fair. Be sure to ask the 4-H students to tell you about their projects. I think it is safe to say they will be happy to chat about their experience, and maybe even educate you on the 4-H program, their steer or the ag industry!

About the author:

Yvonne Fleis is a tax accountant in GreenStone's Traverse City branch.

July 02
Dollars and Sense: Estate and Succession Planning

​As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News

By: Kelly Tobin

There are many reasons for business owners to develop estate and succession plans. A good plan will allow for competent asset management if the business owner should become incapacitated or die by outlining the manner and timing of asset distributions, this will provide a smooth transfer of assets, manage income and estate taxes, educate the business owner’s beneficiaries, and much more.

It is natural to take life for granted without taking time to think about the possibility of death or becoming incapacitated. Nevertheless, you owe it to yourself and your family to plan how your property will be used after your death. A good plan will answer the following questions:

  • Who will care for your minor children or aging parents?
  • Will the family business continue?
  • If you own real estate, does your family wish to keep it and will they have the financial resources to do so?
  • Will your spouse be able to live comfortably after your death?
  • Will estate taxes consume your family’s security?
  • Are there other federal, state, or local taxes, or other expenses, that should concern you

Estate and succession planning is a set of steps for effective management, enjoyment, and disposition of your property at the least possible cost, both in life and at death. Making a will is a crucial part, but the planning doesn’t stop there. It involves a review of your property ownership, insurance needs and your family business structure. The planning task can be simplified into five basic steps:

  1. Begin the dialogue with your beneficiaries
  2. Develop your objectives
  3. Compile information
  4. Seek professional advice necessary to implement a plan
  5. Update documents as situations change

During this process, it is common to worry that professional advice will be too costly. However, by taking initiative on the first three steps in this process prior to the first meeting with your chosen professionals, you can reduce the expense. Time is valuable for attorneys, tax professionals, and other experts needed to develop a successful plan. Conduct family discussions, set clear objectives, and compile information these professionals will need before employing them.

Many estate and succession plans never get written because death is a sensitive subject. Another problem involves the dynamics of family businesses. Nurturing family values often conflict with the hard decisions necessary to operate a successful business, such as selecting which child will be the future financial manager of the business. Using a third-party consultant to identify and document the skills of each child can mitigate this issue. A good way to start dialogue is to have the entire family attend a community estate and succession planning seminar.

An estate and succession plan should evaluate the need to form a living trust, which will avoid probate court and keep the transfer of assets a private matter since probate estates are public information. The type of entities used to operate the business is also an important issue. The attributes of partnerships, LLC’s, corporations and trusts need to be evaluated to determine the best entities to accomplish your objectives. Selling and/or gifting strategies also need to be considered to ensure the senior generation has a comfortable retirement and the new generation has the resources necessary to continue operating a successful business.

Many people understand the importance of a good estate and succession plan. Getting started is the hardest, yet most important step, so do not procrastinate. Do yourself a favor and get started now!

About the Author:

Kelly Tobin is a senior tax accountant/tax services product manager in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

June 30
Spending Time on the Shores of Lake Michigan

By: Luke Bakker

​Recently, I had the opportunity to experience one of Michigan’s greatest resources on the shores of South Haven while fishing on Lake Michigan with Michigan Out of Doors (MOOD) TV. The fishing was superb with both Lake Trout and King Salmon biting relentlessly.

The successful fishing, excellent company of GreenStone customers and staff, along with MOOD host Jimmy Gretzinger, made for an enjoyable day. Our time on the water was filled with networking, exchanging stories and swapping fish tales, which made the experience pretty hard to beat!

Everyone on the boat, including our Captain, was extremely interested in learning how GreenStone serves the agriculture industry and our customers. I always find it exciting to share with others the products and services GreenStone provides and I am honored to be part of such an important industry.

One of the things I enjoy most about working in agriculture is helping my customers achieve success. By working together closely, I am able to provide advice and feedback on important business decisions that have an effect on their overall operation. Whenever working with a customer, I always put the needs of their family and business first and enjoy watching them reach the goals they have set for themselves.

The Michigan out of Doors episode can be view following this link:
http://bit.ly/1qK11sC

About the Author:

Luke Bakker is a financial services officer in GreenStone's Grand Rapids branch.

June 19
Getting Involved: Family Fun at the Farm

By: Melissa Humphrey

I receive great joy from being able to bring people from urban areas together with agriculture and expose them to things they would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience; it is a remarkable feeling. I think it is extremely valuable to show these individuals that farmers care about the land, environment and the safety of the food they produce. Recently, Clinton County, in partnership with Ionia County, hosted the third annual Family Fun at the Farm event at two local farms, Cook Dairy and Sonrise Farms, which I am heavily involved in.

Throughout the year, I work to coordinate all aspects of the event, which includes gathering more than 180 volunteers it takes to have everything run smoothly. One of my favorite things about Family Fun at the Farm is, through generous donations, we are able to offer it completely free to the general public. The day includes everything from a delicious lunch of hot dogs, chips and ice cream to activities such as face painting, bounce houses and so much more.  Watching children’s faces light up as they feed a baby calf a bottle, see cows being milked or have the opportunity to make their own butter, makes all the months of planning and hard work completely worth it!

For me, events such as this are a priority; it is important that agricultural producers get the chance to tell their story and educate those who might not fully understand the daily operations or importance of agriculture in today’s world. As someone that grew up on a dairy farm and continues to promote this remarkable industry today, this event has to be one of my favorite days of the year!

               Family Fun 2.jpg
 
Family Fun .jpg

About the Author: 

Melissa Humphrey is a country living financial services officer in our St. Johns branch.

 

 

June 17
Breakfast on the Farm: A Family Friendly Experience

By: Aaron Classens

Breakfast on the Farm is a family friendly experience that everyone will enjoy. Once you check-in at the registration area, you can grab your farm fresh meal cooked right in front of you and enjoy it in the sunshine while taking in the marvelous sights of a modern agriculture operation.

After you finish eating, there are plenty of great activities to take advantage of. Depending on the farm you are visiting, you may learn how cows are cared for, fed and milked, the process of planting corn, soybeans and wheat, or visit various animals in the petting zoo. You and your family are able to interact with local farmers who are proud to show and tell you what they do to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious food. Some events may even have live music, an inflatable bounce house, face painting and games. Although activities vary by location, there are always plenty of fun and educational opportunities for everyone!

With deep roots in agriculture, GreenStone is a proud supporter of the many of the Breakfast on the Farm events hosted over the summer in Michigan and northeast Wisconsin. Many of our staff also take time to volunteer at the events that take place in the counties they serve.

For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit www.breakfastonthefarm.com to find a Michigan location near you! 

To learn more about the Breakfast on the Farm events in Wisconsin, read "A Reason to Celebrate: June is Dairy Month​" blog posted earlier this month or visit http://bit.ly/2014WIBOTF for more event details.

This is an opportunity that gives you the chance to take a break and relax with your family, while learning about the importance of farming in today’s world. I hope you take the time to experience one this summer!

About the Author:

Aaron Classens is a senior marketing specialist in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

 

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