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Customer Wise: Enduring downturns pays off in pride

Michelle Di Gangi
Small Business Banking

I know I speak for all of our business bankers when I say that we’re constantly inspired by — and in awe of — our small business clients. So much so, that we’d like to start sharing on our blog what we hear from them in this ongoing series called “Customer Wise” — whether it’s advice, lessons learned, or an interesting market perspective.

Mike Bryant and Iris Weng look at business items on laptop computer.

Mike Bryant with Iris Weng, the controller/accounting assistant at ARSI.

To kick things off and mark National Small Business Week this year, we’ve asked five of Bank of the West’s business banking clients to share insights and tips for anyone starting a business now.

In today’s Q&A we hear from Mike Bryant, president of ARSI Corporation, a concrete refractory business in Orange, California. I get the sense Mike really tells it like it is, and I appreciate his candor — especially when it comes to surviving downturns and learning from them.

Q: Think back to when you started your business. What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

A: I wish someone told me how difficult it was to obtain a credit line. That was probably the hardest thing about starting our business, or maintaining it. I knew you needed a business plan — most everybody asks you to have a five-year business plan. But, I wasn’t aware that most bankers want you to have a three-year track record.

Based on your experience starting and running a business, what advice would you give someone starting a business today?

I would certainly be interviewing banks way ahead of time and finding those that are serious about helping and partnering with you to help grow your business — and get it off the ground. You know in the beginning you really need some type of capital to get it started. If you need the money and don’t have it, gosh, it’s very stressful.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your business?

I have two of my sons working for the business, and I’m pretty proud of that. And we made it through a couple of severe downturns and a bad partner relationship. We’ve been through some troubled times and survived — and actually came out on the other side in pretty good shape.

Would you do it again (why or why not)?

Oh sure. The independence of being able to — as much as anyone can — control your own destiny, there’s a lot to be said for that. There’s a lot of reward — maybe not all monetary; but there’s a lot of positive things that occur.

For example, we’re able to contribute a little more to charitable things that really are worthwhile. And it’s nice to not be so concerned about growing old and not being able to pay for your own way.

You can learn more about Mike’s company at the ARSI Corporation site

Mike Bryant, smiling in his office.

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