| 2013 Summer | story by EMILY MULLIGAN | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
Pat Slabaugh has been with Douglas County Bank since 1983, the past 10 years as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Being COO consists of providing overall administration of bank activities, assisting in bank functions and overseeing all departments, such as lending, retail and even maintenance.
“My responsibility is to manage the bank on a day-to-day basis in all of those areas and to make sure that the department heads follow the policies and procedures of the bank,” Slabaugh says.
He says that managing a bank is not all about putting the square pegs in the square holes – although that is critical in banking.
“I believe that businesses take on the personality and the belief system of the people at the top,” Slabaugh explains. “It’s like the GM of a sports team: The players play how they are coached and mentored, and fundamentals are important.”
Slabaugh has adopted some guiding philosophies to help him manage effectively and efficiently – the goals of all good managers.
First, he always likes to make sure that he has “the right people in the right seat on the bus, no matter who is driving.” He wants his employees to be working to their strengths, both as people and as bankers. He is always evaluating his departments and making sure that employees at all levels are set up to succeed.
Second, he says, “I am a big believer in common sense.” He understands that he can’t be everything to everybody, both inside and outside of the bank. So he wants his employees to use their common sense to make good decisions and understand their role in the organization.
Third, as both a banker and a manager, “I don’t like surprises.” Slabaugh says that he would much rather know about the potential for a crisis and then have it not pan out, than to be blindsided by something that may have been preventable.
“If there’s an issue, tell me about it. Let’s sit down and hash it out. As a banker, friend or mentor, things can be done,” he says.
Slabaugh emphasizes that communication is a high priority for both employee and customer relationships in the banking industry.
“Your relationship with your banker should be no different than your relationship with your doctor, attorney or accountant,” he says. “If you can’t have a conversation with them about what is happening, then you need a new banker.”
That communication and those relationships have been especially important as the economy has changed and experienced a downturn in the past few years. As head of lending, Slabaugh has had many discussions with both current and potential customers about what the downturn means for interest rates, loans and business plans.
He said that 2013 has brought some of the better news he had seen in a while for residential real estate.
“The real estate market is improving on the residential side for sure,” he says. “Inventory is lower, so houses are selling, and there is still a lot of refinancing happening.”
Slabaugh says the downside of the lower inventory is that there are not enough newer houses being built to fulfill that demand. He hopes that this summer there will be an increase in home building.
He said that commercial real estate has been a little slower than residential to respond to the economic recovery.
“But in Lawrence, we have the South Lawrence Trafficway, the new rec center, the new hotel downtown, and the city developing the former Farmland site,” he says. “Those types of things are going to really be beneficial in Lawrence. It will trickle down through contractors and bring new people to Lawrence who need houses and a bank.”
Although Slabaugh does not yet have any plans to retire, he said that as the COO, he wants to set a permanent tone in the culture of the bank.
“My goal as COO is that I want the bank to continue running when I’m gone exactly as it was when I was here,” he says. “I hope they’ll be able to carry on just like if I were here. I will have played my part in the success of Douglas County Bank.” ■