Alpine Bank business classes aim to boost growth, profitability | SteamboatToday.com

Alpine Bank business classes aim to boost growth, profitability

Frances Hohl For Steamboat Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Alpine Bank's idea to boost small business owners who bank with their company had a much more profound effect than anyone ever imagined. So much so, that all 12 of the Yampa Valley businesses who participated in the EDGE Business Development Series, plan on continuing to meet with each other in the future.

The series of classes were offered free to new owners or businesses that found themselves in a growth phase. EDGE stands for Energize Develop and Grow Entrepreneurs.

"I'd tell anyone with an opportunity to do something like this, do it, but check your ego at the door and learn what you may have been missing," said John Kuhn, owner of Steamboat Coffee Company.

"Steve (Muntean) challenged me on a few things and got me to hire a new person," Kuhn said about facilitator and leadership developer Stephen Muntean, who ran the eight-month program for Alpine Bank.

"The class came right at the same time my thoughts were shifting and my role as owner began to change," said Jake Drury of Drury Construction. "I wanted to see, not just how to be competitive and set myself apart, but I had dreams of creating a different experience for construction. This class aligned those things with strategy and proven tangible ideas."

Muntean, who owns Muntean Leadership Group with his wife, Diane, focused on eight topics in the eight months.

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"We talked about becoming effective leaders and how to coach and develop employees and build team effectiveness," said Muntean. "I gave them a framework. We talked about strategy and coming up with goals, not just tomorrow, but two to three years down the road."

All the business owners interviewed agreed the classes gave them tangible ways of developing and expanding their business plans, but it was much more.

"I think the dynamic of the different businesses all together, confidentially sharing failures and successes – what works and what doesn't – allowed a fantastic environment to evaluate your business and ways of doing things," said Glen Traylor, owner of Ski Butlers.

"The team environment and topics of discussion help you remember to think about things,” Traylor added. “Sometimes we need people to pull us back and think things through a little better."

Steamboat Coffee's Kuhn warned the EDGE classes didn't magically help his business just by attending.

"We had homework. I put forth the work like everyone else did. If I had sat like a bump on a log, it wouldn't have been the same," Kuhn said.

 

Why would Alpine Bank fund a series of classes that would normally cost a business up to $5,000 if they wanted to hire a management consultant?

"When the customers are successful, the bank is successful," said Alpine Bank President Adonna Allen. "High tide floats all boats."

Allen said the bank profited from the same business guidance right after the recession when they hired Muntean's management company.

"We got him (Muntean) involved at the tail-end of the recession,” Allen said. “We had worked on problem loans for so long, and we needed to know how to grow the bank again."

Geoff Coon of Coon Electric was one of the bank customers to take the eight-month class.

"It exceeded my expectations. I actually learned some methods that allowed me to improve my business," Coon said. "There was nothing wrong with my business. I have a good business, but it's really allowing me to go to another level."

The feedback on the EDGE program was so positive, the bank is considering sponsoring another session for more clients.

In the meantime, EDGE's Class of 2017 has bonded so deeply that they consider each other an informal "board of directors."

"It was great to see the common struggles that we all have. We developed a camaraderie," Coon said.

Drury agreed.

"It's good to share your struggles,” Drury said. “You're really blessed that you're not alone in your thoughts. I wasn't counting on that. How we forged relationships with this class … it's an extension of this small community we have, and it's really great."