Barbour Learned Early Lesson

June 22, 2004
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HOLLAND — He's never forgotten the advice he received early in his career from a very successful client.

As a young commercial lender in Lansing, Patrick Barbour was told by the owner of a photo developing company that the three keys to running a successful business are: Have a very good lawyer, a very good accountant and a very good banker who will each help you along the way.

Nearly 30 years later, the 51-year-old Barbour continues to follow that simple philosophy as a vice president of corporate banking at Huntington Bank in Holland.

"It gets re-affirmed on a daily basis," Barbour said of the perspective his client offered years ago.

He sees his role as not just a banker but as an adviser to clients who can help them steer clear of trouble or work their way through a tough situation and find the right direction. He also helps clients strike a balance in how much they work in the business and on their business.

"Our phrase (at Huntington) is we want to be an essential partner. They (customers) look for that little extra support or help or perspective," said Barbour, whose approach and success helped earn him recognition this spring from the U.S. Small Business Administration in Michigan.

Barbour, one of nine commercial lenders working out of Huntington Bank's Holland lending office that covers from south of town and up to Grand Haven, was named the SBA's Financial Services Advocate of the Year in April, an award he says he was "surprised and honored" to receive.

Barbour started his career in banking shortly after graduating from Michigan State University in 1977 with a degree in business. Facing a tough job market, and wanting to become a commercial loan officer, he took a position as a teller at a Michigan National Bank office in Lansing in order to get a foot in the door.

At Michigan National, he quickly applied and was accepted into the bank's commercial training program, which led him to become a credit analyst in Troy, a northern suburb of Detroit.

After a decade in the business, Barbour decided to move on to something new. He and his wife, Mary Lou, moved to Petoskey, where together they ran a historic inn and he became part owner of a banking consulting firm, which he ran for several years before returning to the banking industry full time.

The experience of running his own businesses gave Barbour a far greater appreciation for the life of an entrepreneur and the challenges and demands small business owners face every day. The experience in Petoskey, he said, is reflected in how he deals with clients today.

"They always receive my higher respect because of the position they're in. Being a business owner, you deserve a high level of respect," Barbour said. "I understand their challenges and I understand their opportunities. It gave me a very unique perspective. Without having that experience, you don't know what it's like."

After a decade as an inn owner and consultant for financial institutions and independent businesses, Barbour and his family were ready for another move, having grown weary of the long hours it took to run the inn in the summer.

The next opportunity came from a client, Chuck Stoddard, CEO of the former Grand Bank in Grand Rapids, for whom Barbour had done consulting work and helped develop a system to measure credit quality.

Barbour accepted Stoddard's offer to join Grand Bank as vice president of business development in 1996.

Two years later, he moved over to Huntington Bank as a vice president of corporate banking, a position that returned him to what he enjoys most about banking — dealing with customers one on one and using his analytical skills, common sense and instincts in evaluating a client's needs.

At Huntington, Barbour's lending portfolio has grown three-fold in six years and he's a member of the bank's Summit Club, which identifies the top 1.5 percent of lenders.

In corporate banking, he works with business clients having sales of $10 million or more per year, handling commercial loans that typically range from $3 million to $10 million.

Working as a commercial banker had always been in Barbour's career plans. Like his father, who was an attorney, Barbour wanted a career where he could use his talents helping people and offering counsel.

That desire to help businesses extends into the community, where Barbour helped set up the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce technology roundtable, which he chairs. He also volunteers for the Small Business Development and Technology Center in Grand Rapids.

"I really wanted to do something in a career where I thought I could help people, and I've always enjoyed business. Being able to help people with their business has been a personally very rewarding situation," he said.    

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