Be the teacher

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Books never sit long on Tom McAuliffe’s shelves.

“I love reading a good book and then giving it away,” says the chairman and CEO of Commerce National Bank and CNBC Bancorp.

He’s always reading three to four books at one time, and he’s given away hundreds. Sometimes he even buys extra copies of a book he particularly favors just so he can pass them out.

For example, a box of the October 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine sits in his office so he can hand one to any visitor who brings up the topic of change, that issue’s focus.

“It’s important to realize change is inevitable,” McAuliffe says.

That’s just one message he wants to spread. He invests time and money — about $200,000 a year — toward educating his customers, who are, themselves, business owners.

He hired Lou Pritchett, author of “Stop Paddling and Start Rocking the Boat,” as the keynote speaker for a “Partnering for Change” seminar he held for clients last fall. Other topics have included “How to Stop Fraud in Your Business” and “How to Build Your Own Board of Directors.” McAuliffe also holds a yearly economic forecast seminar.

“Clients love this stuff,” McAuliffe says. “They love to come to learn and grow.

“There’s a need for continuing education and continuing your networking contacts,” says Darla King, president of King Business Interiors Inc. and a client of Commerce National Bank. “It’s a great way to do it.”

In addition to the seminars, McAuliffe uses other education tactics:

* Every other month, he produces a newsletter for clients. It includes an economic piece by Jim Newton, an economic consultant and the Columbus Center director for the Keller Graduate School of Management, as well as a list of key contacts at the bank on issues of interest to customers. One of those is fraud protection. Hardly a month goes by, McAuliffe says, when a client doesn’t report a problem such as a bookkeeper stealing money.

* He subscribes to “Business Digest,” a weekly fax sent to clients addressing issues such as economic and business news on subjects such as health care, e-commerce and personnel.

“We think education is an important part of our job,” McAuliffe says. “We’re more than just a place where you get money. You get information, education, resources.”

He sees his education of customers as a marketing tactic that differentiates Commerce National Bank from its competition.

“One of the things I do at the end of most of these seminars,” McAuliffe says, “is ask people to help us grow the bank and think about what clients they can send to us.” How to reach: Tom McAuliffe, Commerce National Bank, 848-8700 or [email protected]

Joan Slattery Wall ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.