Meet Becky Zoellner, Cash Management Specialist

 

ZoellnerBecky

Get to know Becky Zoellner, one of our Cash Management Specialists. At Merchants, we offer a variety of Cash Management services to help businesses improve efficiency, security and more. Our options include tools for collection, disbursement, security and management.

When did you start your banking career?

Becky: I started my banking career in 2009. When I started in banking, I did not plan on it being my career.  However, it wasn’t even a year and I realized I had a passion for working with customers on each of their unique financial situations that brought them into the bank.

What do you like most about your job?

Becky: Every business is very unique.  My favorite part of my job is working with my customers to understand their business. I want to understand where they’re looking to grow and figuring out their strengths and weaknesses and developing a cash flow plan that fits their specific needs. In addition to learning about my customers’ businesses, I enjoy sharing my knowledge of cash management.  You don’t need to be an expert in cash management, that’s my job, but I want you to feel comfortable and have a good understanding of solutions available to help meet your business goals.  

Can you help businesses assess which cash management services make sense for them? How does this process work?

Becky: Absolutely.  I like to talk to owners and managers, preferably within their work environment.  I want to learn about the business and its processes.  What works well?  Where are the struggles?  From there, we can talk about cash management services that can help along with putting together a plan of how to implement them. 

What does community banking mean to you?

Becky: Community bankers take the time to get to know you and your business.  As a community, we’re all working together towards being the best for ourselves and all those around us. I was drawn to a community bank because I firmly believe in having strong, service-oriented values. The most important thing for me is to be able to give customers my best service and that of my team of co-workers.

What are some of the biggest benefits to a business using Cash Management services?

Becky: With cash management services, you get control and understanding of your account activity. The various products and services help with maximizing cash flow and monitoring for fraudulent activity. 

What are your tips for wrapping up your fiscal year?

Becky: Use a trusted expert. My expertise is cash management, your expertise is in your industry and a CPA has expertise in tax law. We have experts so that we know these very important business functions are done correctly. Also, early on, write your financial goals for the next year down! Many individuals and businesses forget that step, but it is so important. After you have your goals defined, writing down a concrete plan to reach those goals is just as important. As the year goes on, set aside time to analyze your progress and see if any adjustments need to be made and what needs to be done to reach those goals.

What do you do to work with businesses around year end?

Becky: Year end is a good time to think about successes and where there are opportunities for improvement.  I’m generally busy meeting with businesses on how to obtain their goals for the following year. Questions I usually ask are:

  • Do you want your staff to be more efficient with their time?  Remote deposit capture will allow your staff to make deposits right at their desk.
  • Are you looking to improve cash flow?  Processing receivables and payables through ACH will provide a better handle on when funds are crediting and debiting your account.
  • What are you doing to ensure your business isn’t faced with the consequences of fraud?  Let’s talk about how our online banking can assist with separation of duties and how ACH Filters and Positive Pay can assist you with daily activity monitoring. And the list goes on.

If you could snap your fingers and own your own business, what would you want it to be?

Becky: I would love to be a travel consultant because I would assume it would require me to travel more!

What’s your favorite thing about supporting local business?

Becky: I love that local businesses genuinely care about their customers’ experience, and that makes it feel like you’re supporting a friend.  Who doesn’t love that?    

 

If you are interested in finding out how your business could benefit from cash management services, contact one of our Cash Management Specialists.

 

Some Cash Management services may have fees that apply.

Meet Annette Bleninger, Cash Management Officer, CTP

BleningerAnnette

Get to know Annette Bleninger, one of our Cash Management Specialists. At Merchants, we offer a variety of Cash Management services to help businesses improve efficiency, security and more. Our options include tools for collection, disbursement, security and management.

When did you start your banking career?

Annette: I started almost 20 years ago as a Teller. I moved to new accounts and eventually became a Branch Manager. Then I moved to Cash Management, and I’ve been in this field for about 15 years.

What do you like most about your job?

Annette: I really like the variety and the opportunity to meet with business owners and learn about their business.

Can you help my business assess which Cash Management services make sense for us? How does this process work?

Annette: During our first meeting, I like to talk about what your business is currently doing…what works, doesn’t, and what you want to achieve. Then I come back with my recommendations of products and services that would be a good fit to help achieve your goals. I don’t work to sell all of our products and services to every client. I want to make sure I recommend only the most effective and efficient processes for your unique business.

What does community banking mean to you?

Annette: To me, it means being small enough to know each customer and take care of them, but large enough to have the products and services they need. We can provide what you need, but we aren’t the big bank that just considers you a number.

What are some of the biggest benefits to a business using Cash Management services?

Annette: I always like to discuss the top three benefits: save time, save money, and efficiency. Every business is looking to do these things, and we can help with that. There are so many different products and we can figure out which ones would be most beneficial for your business together.

What are your tips for wrapping up your fiscal year?

Annette: Use year-end as a good time to look at the users of your products, such as online banking or payment functions, and determine what updates need to be made. You can use a checklist:

  • Are your users still employed with you?
  • Do they all need access to that product?
  • Is there anyone new that will need access?
  • Are payment limits correct?

Throughout the year, keep track of which users are added, and note any questions or situations you’d like to address. One of the most important things you can do is hire trustworthy people to run things, and keep up to date with core functions and technology. 

If you could snap your fingers and own your own business, what would you want it to be?

Annette: I’ve always thought it would be very interesting to be a travel agent. It may be a dying industry, but it would be so neat to know about all kinds of places.

What are some of your favorite small businesses and why do you like to shop local?

Annette: There are so many cool businesses. When my husband and I go out to eat, we like to go to local restaurants and quaint shops in the old downtown of Hastings. Another benefit of having strong community roots is having these unique places to visit!

If you are interested in finding out how your business could benefit from cash management services, contact one of our Cash Management Specialists.

 

Some Cash Management services may have fees that apply.

Industry Snapshot: Food Manufacturing & Wholesale

FoodManufacturing-Blog

Get the industry data and financing solutions to make 2018 a success.

In each edition of our Business eNewsletter this year, we’ll be highlighting a different industry to bring you useful data and research. In our January edition, we’re providing a snapshot of food manufacturing and wholesale – an industry we’re proud to serve through both our bank and leasing company.

As a seasonal industry, your food wholesale or manufacturing business may have ended the year on a busy note. But, how optimistic should you feel about 2018?

Here are the latest industry indicators, including data on growth opportunities and potential challenges. Plus, learn how our experienced team of Commercial Banking advisors can help you prepare for another successful year.

2018 Food Manufacturing & Wholesale Forecast

While food manufacturers and wholesalers will face challenges due to the rising cost of fuel and commodity prices, both areas should expect growth in the coming years.

This is no surprise to Shawn Sackman, Merchants Bank Commercial & Ag Lender in Onalaska, “[t]he businesses we serve have always done an outstanding job of meeting customer demands, while still being innovative in a tight industry.”

Predicted Growth between 2017 and 2021

Growth for your industry depends on both food consumption and population growth.

So, what do the numbers say? According to data from Hoovers and First Research:

  • Revenue for US food manufacturers is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 4%, based on changes in physical volume and unit prices.
Food manufacturing growth graph

From Hoover’s/D&B subsidiary First Research. Revenue (in current dollars) for US food manufacturers is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 4% between 2017 and 2021, based on changes in physical volume and unit prices. Data Published: September 2017.

  • Domestic demand for food, an indicator for food wholesalers, is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 3%.
Food wholesalers growth trend graph

From Hoover’s/D&B subsidiary First Research. Domestic demand for food, an indicator for wholesalers, is forecast to grow at an annual compounded rate of 3% between 2017 and 2021. Data Published: September 2017.

Key Industry Indicators

In addition, these indicators provide a more comprehensive picture. This data can help you determine areas of potential progress or risk for the coming months and years depending on your specific products.

Food Demand:

  • US retail sales for food and beverage stores increased 2.2% in the first ten months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
  • Total US wholesale sales of nondurable goods rose 4.7% in September 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
  • US retail sales for food services and drinking places increased 2.8% in the first ten months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Food Distribution: US tourism spending for food services and drinking places increased 3.2% in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Food Manufacturing Demand: US nondurable goods manufacturers’ shipments of food products rose 5.3% year-to-date in September 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Product Values: The consumer price index for food rose 1.3% in October 2017 compared to the same month in 2016.

Industry Competition

Several large companies, including Sysco, McLane, Nestle S.A. and COFCO, dominate the industry when it comes to sales and output. But, small businesses still make up 68% of food manufacturing* in the United States.

As a small sausage producer in La Crosse, WI, Bakalars Sausage Company has seen many changes to the industry in their 53 years of business. “Over the past several years, the industry has gotten tighter with smaller producers getting out of the business,” said Mike Bakalars, Owner. “I’m proud to say that we’re one of the survivors and through a lot of hard work our business has doubled over the past 15 years.”

So how can you differentiate yourself from other businesses in the industry? According to Hoover’s research, here are your best opportunities to stand out in a competitive market:

Product Mix – Food manufacturers typically have one or two extremely successful products or brands, in addition to a mix of specialty items. Identify which of your products constantly produces income and which products may become less popular as consumer tastes change.

For Bakalars, this means a mix of 35 different products overall, including the Schweigert sausage brand and specialty products. “We were fortunate to acquire Schweigerts several years ago. As the official hot dog of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings, it’s been a very stable product line for us while we continue to produce other specialty sausage with smaller demand,” said Mike.

Competing with Chain Distribution – Larger companies, like Wal-Mart, have benefitted from owning the entire process from purchasing to operations. Small wholesalers should consider the cost and time-saving benefits of controlling the entire production process. For example, Bakalars produces, packages and ships their entire product line from their headquarters in La Crosse, WI.

How Merchants Bank Can Help

As a community bank, we work hard to help local businesses – like Bakalars – succeed with the expertise and financial resources you need. We believe that when businesses in our communities thrive, everyone benefits. Merchants is proud to serve many in the food industry from producers to manufacturers to wholesalers, across our footprint.

“We’ve had a longtime partnership with Merchants – since 2003. Their bankers understand how our industry works, and so they understand the banking services we need to be successful,” said Mike Bakalars. “As an industry, we can be seasonal, so they have helped us with understanding and meeting our cash flow needs.”

In addition traditional financing in the form of business loans and lines of credit, we also offer services in the areas of cash management and security.

“In order to make the most of your accounts receivable and payable, we help your company understand how various types of transactions function – which is especially important in the food industry. Each transaction type is unique,” said Becky Herrmann, Cash Management Specialist at Merchants Bank in Onalaska. “Another key is knowing how to protect your funds with the best monitoring and management tools. Our Cash Management team is here to advise you on the solutions that fit your business and answer your questions.”

To learn more about how our Commercial Bankers and Cash Management Specialists can work with your business, contact your local expert.

Additional Resources:

 

*https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-markets-prices/processing-marketing/manufacturing.aspx

** You will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.

Gina Miller Joins Merchants Bank as Vice President and Commercial Banker

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Gina Miller, Commercial Banker

Gina Miller has joined Merchants Bank as a Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Shawn Sackman, Senior Lending Officer and Senior Vice President for Merchants Bank’s Southeast Region.

“We are excited to have Gina join our team,” Sackman said. “With her experience, ability and connections, as well as our increased presence in the La Crosse area, we know she will contribute to our continued growth.”

Miller had been with the Wells Fargo organization for the past 17 years, most recently as a Business Relationship Manager/Commercial Banker.

“Merchants is a great match for me because it is a community bank that is built on and values the relationships with its customers,” Miller said. “Building and maintaining those relationships has been my goal throughout my career, and I look forward to continuing that career with Merchants as it gains more market share in our area.”

Miller is a graduate of Viterbo University. She is active in the community. She is a member of the Coulee Region Young Professionals, a member of the Women’s Alliance of La Crosse, and a participant in the Chamber of Commerce’s La Crosse Area Community Leadership Program.

Onalaska is one of the fastest growing of all 21 Merchants’ locations. In 2016, Merchants reported record income of $14,154,891. The Onalaska location was one of the leaders in productivity, with nearly $2.2 million in net income.

In addition to Onalaska, Merchants has Minnesota locations in La Crescent, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has an additional Wisconsin location in Eau Claire. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Loans are subject to approval. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Should My Business Pay Employees Through Direct Deposit?

Merchants Bank, direct deposit

In 2014, 77% of business payment fraud occurred in the form of paper checks.* Did you know that you can help prevent fraud and provide a benefit to your employees by implementing one simple solution? The answer is direct deposit.

What is direct deposit? Direct deposit of payroll is the electronic transfer and deposit of employees’ net pay to their bank accounts anywhere in the U.S. through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system. You, or your payroll processor, provide the Bank with your employees’ net pay information. Then we process your payroll file and deposit your employees’ paychecks into their bank account(s).

Many of our customers find it easier and quicker to generate ACH files using Merchants Online Banking. Your employees’ net pay is deposited automatically into their account(s) at the opening of bank business on pay day and is immediately available as cash. Your account is debited for the total net pay amount. It’s that easy.

Can direct deposit save my business time and money? Simply put, yes. Here’s how:

  • Spend less time on payroll by no longer needing to write/print, sign, fold and deliver checks
  • Stop re-issuing lost or stolen checks, which could also be a source for identity theft
  • Stop spending money on stop payment fees for lost or stolen checks
  • Stop spending money to print checks

According to Paychex, direct deposit can save a business anywhere from $2.87 to $3.15 per check.** Depending on the size of your business, this could amount to thousands of dollars each year.

How can direct deposit benefit my employees? While providing direct deposit is a benefit to your business, it is also a service many employees have come to expect. Employees appreciate the convenience that comes with direct deposit, including:

  • Immediate access to funds on payday without having to run to the bank to cash a check
  • Ability to direct funds into the account(s) of their preference by dollar amount or percentage
  • Protection from fraud by eliminating the possibility of a stolen or lost check with their personal information

To get started with direct deposit for your business, contact your local Merchants Bank.

Are you unsure about how to set up a payroll system for your business? Read this article from the SBA and then talk to one of our local Cash Management experts.

*http://www.afponline.org/pub/res/research/PaymentsFraud_InfoGraphic.html

**http://www.paychex.com/articles/payroll-taxes/benefits-of-direct-deposit-to-employees-and-employers

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Would You Increase Your Holiday Sales if You Could?

Business Gift Cards

For the past eight years, gift cards have been the number one most wanted holiday wish list item, according to the National Retail Foundation. In addition, 62% of shoppers say they would like to receive a gift card.* The popularity of gift cards has steadily increased since 2003 and spending on gift cards reached more than $31 billion in 2014.*

Still not sure if gift cards are right for your business? Here are some incredible statistics:

  • 83% Total spending on gift cards has increased by 83% since 2003.**
  • $23 – On average, consumers spend $23 more than the original value of the gift card at a store. **
  • 3x more – On average, consumers visit a store three or more times to spend the balance of a gift card.**

BusinessGiftCards

Watch Now: Mike Swanson, Senior Consumer Banker and Branch Manager in Lakeville, explains how personalized business gift cards can benefit your business.

Offering gift cards is not only what your customers want, but it’s easy with Merchants Bank! Through our partnership with Valutec, you can begin offering personalized gift cards at your business in as little as 10 days. Simply speak to our Credit Card department by calling (507) 457-1160 or (800) 944-6285 to get started.

*https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/holiday-shoppers-spend-more-31-billion-gift-cards-this-year-according-nrf
** firstdata.com.

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SBA Loans: Frequently Asked Questions

Merchants Bank Small Business Loans, Commerical Lenders

Are you thinking about starting a small business? Have you heard about the Small Business Administration and the loan programs it offers? You might be wondering if an SBA loan is right for you or simply how SBA loans work. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about SBA loans

1. What is an SBA loan?

While the Small Business administration oversees a number of loan programs, the SBA does not lend money itself. When you apply for an SBA loan, you’ll work with a local bank to receive financing for your project and a portion of the loan is guaranteed by the SBA.

SBA Loan programs include:

  • 7(a) Loan Program – The most common general small business loan offered by the SBA.
  • Microloan Program – Small, short-term small business loans.
  • Real Estate & Equipment Loans or CDC/504 Loan Program – Loans for real estate and equipment.
  • Disaster Loans – Low interest loans to repair or replace items damaged in a disaster.

Learn more about these SBA loan programs and eligibility on the SBA website.

2. Should I apply for an SBA loan or traditional bank loan?

Which loan is right for your business depends on a number of factors. First, you’ll want to know which SBA loan programs you may or may not qualify for. In addition, you’ll want to compare the SBA loan programs versus a traditional commercial loan. While an SBA loan might not be a fit for every business, it may provide certain benefits over traditional loans, in certain situations, including:

  • Longer terms
  • Lower down payments
  • Increased cash flow
  • Flexible repayment options

As an SBA Preferred Lender, Merchants Bank has experience helping businesses choose between SBA and traditional commercial loans. Your local Merchants Bank Commercial Banker can guide you through our options to find the right loan program for you.

Use SBA’s Online Loans and Grants Search Tool to begin research which government financial programs may help your business.

3. What information do I need to complete my loan application?

Educating yourself on the SBA loan processing and knowing what information you need for the application can save you a lot of time. Use these resources to prepare yourself when applying for an SBA loan:

For more information on SBA loans, talk to a Commercial Banker at your local Merchants Bank. We’re proud to be an SBA Preferred Lender.

Subject to credit approval. Equal Housing Lender.

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