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Why Women Should Start Saving Money Now

Why Women Should Start Saving Money Now

My friend and fellow girl banker, Shelly Loftin, SVP, Retail Banking, Payments, and Lending at the American Bankers Association is popping up once again as a guest blogger here on the Girl Banker blog. This time, Shelly is sharing her own saving story as the SAVE10 campaign is nearing launch on October 10th. Regardless of your own savings story, take a moment to read what Shelly has to say and educate yourself about the SAVE10 initiative. It could change your life! 

Why Women Should Start Saving Money Now
Girl Bankers, women in business, women everywhere, take note!  The time to save is now.  Right now.  I understand you don’t think you need to, or you don’t feel like you make enough yet, or you have plenty of time.  All of those things may be true, but do yourself a solid favor and start right now, with Save10. What is Save10 you might ask? Save10 is a campaign to empower Arkansas women to save for life and retirement. It is a specific call to action for women to commit to saving at least 10% for retirement.  The campaign officially launches on October 10th, 2019.

Having a solid savings strategy could turn out to be helpful when you least expect it, which is why I am sharing the cliff notes version of my savings story here.   Both of my parents worked hard growing up. My mom was an entrepreneur and my dad was a preacher and teacher.  We were your stereotypical middle class family of four and my parents worked day and night to provide for our family.  They taught us from a young age to save 10%, give 10%, and have faith.  I listened (at least to the “Save 10%” part), and when I became eligible for my first 401(k) as a working teenage teller, I signed up to contribute and never looked back.  It was a minor, seemingly inconsequential moment in my young life that I am now keenly aware of and grateful for.  As an adult, I have come to learn that my parents’ approach to finances was not necessarily common and I am very grateful they shared it with me early on so that I started my career with funding retirement and savings as standard procedure.

This is the point in the story where you expect me to tell you that I am so grateful for that advice because I am now loaded, retired to a charming beach community, sipping umbrella drinks, meditating daily, and bedazzling accessories for fun at age 36, right?  Not exactly. Fast forward 15 years to a girl banker with a career, a husband, two kids, a mortgage, and two pugs.  One random day, my seemingly “charmed” life, where every step was calculated for maximum productivity and potential happiness, turned into a really bad Lifetime movie. When I say bad, I mean the producers at Lifetime likely wouldn’t have believed it. It was unbelievable, painful, awkward, embarrassing, humiliating, shameful, etc.  Any adjective you want to throw at it would stick. The bright spots: my kids, my family, my career, and my savings. Is that shallow?  Quite possibly, but when facing a future that looked completely different than what I had originally planned, the fact that my retirement savings I’d contributed to for my entire working life remained intact gave me both solace and courage.

The support of my family along with the choice to save 10% provided me with the courage to make hard decisions, to handle the consequences of the choices I faced, and the confidence that I was strong enough to survive. I could be a working mom, fully support my family, save money and learn to manage everything on my own.  It’s a work in progress and there are certainly opportunities for improvement, but I remain passionate about saving for retirement and life’s little or big emergencies to this day. Everyone has a story and several chapters that are yet to be written.  Make saving for retirement part of your story as soon as you can.

I share this simplified version of a life story to illustrate the concept that life throws you curve balls, regardless of how well-planned your life might be.  And when it does, you need a financial safety net, and the only person who can provide you with backup plan you can be 100% comfortable with is you.  Accept that now and start saving 10% or whatever percentage you can save for retirement and be proud of yourself for preparing for the future – whatever that future may look like.  You can visit womensfoundationarkansas.org/save10/ for more information and to join the ranks of the financially empowered women currently taking the Save10 challenge.  Be the voice of taking charge and control of your future. Save. Then join the chorus of other women savers here.  You can also join a Facebook group where women share their financial advice, hopes, fears, and successes.

Did you know:

Shelly Loftin
SVP, Retail Banking, Payments, Lending

About Shelly In Her Own Words | I live in a world of branding, banking, and boys. I am a banker who was promoted to a customer then turned ABA team member who believes banking and education should be fun, simple and helpful. I am a mom to two superheroes, ages 7 and 4.  My career started in the nerve center of the bank, the proof department, when I was 15.  I learned to run a sorter, key like a champ and became fascinated with how banking worked. After a few years of keying, balancing and counting zeroes, I held multiple retail roles including teller, customer service representative and financial service representative before I transitioning to the marketing side of banking. For the past 14 years, I have worked on branding, marketing and retail in several positions at various community banks.  Prior to going to the American Bankers Association, I was Chief Administrative Officer at Bear State Bank. Connecting brand, culture and customer experiences across channels is what I love. I am a cultivator of member happiness, passionate about improving the experience banking business, a brand ambassador, training enthusiast, conference concierge, design fanatic, team builder and infographic nerd. Covey facilitator, creative collaborator, culture advocate, professional learner and happiness sharer. I’m forever a Bear, as there are always trails to blaze and pawprints to explore. Oh, and a millennial. Kind of. Solving problems collaboratively is my preferred way to work and I am a strong supporter of communication.

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Building Your Personal Brand

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Building Your Personal Brand

Where I come from, the banking world is a dog-eat-dog place where there are banks on every corner and not enough good bankers to run them all. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase, “We are on the lookout for a new loan assistant if you know anyone,” or “I wish we could find a junior lender that is up and coming in their career but I just don’t think they exist!”.

For reals, to other industries, bankers might seem like a dime a dozen but in this day and time, banks are on the hunt for talented, motivated professionals with good networks, and the drive to succeed. I’ve always heard bankers say, “You can teach anyone banking, but you can’t teach them to have a personality.” That being said, the opportunity door is wide open if you’re interested in a career in banking! (Ladies, high school girls, college women are you listening?)

This is where personal branding can be a game changer for you. Want to stand out from the crowd? Build a personal brand. Want to own public perception of you? Build a personal brand. Want to show future employers what you have to offer? Build a personal brand.

Let’s get started.

Benefits of a Personal Brand | I just recently hosted my first webinar for BankBeat called “The Benefits of A Personal Brand.” The webinar filled up a few days in advance which told me bankers are figuring out that in the changing banking landscape, their social media presence and branding is more and more important. Here’s why:

  • People bank with PEOPLE. That’s right. Consumers build trust for their bank based on the people who work there. So what better way to build that rapport and trust than to develop a brand as a banker who cares for their customers?
  • Visibility in the Market Place. I’m a big fan of making things happen. No sense in waiting around for shit to happen. Make it happen! Building your personal brand gives you visibility in the market place and allows you to stand out in the dense crowd of bankers. Shake that concern of drawing attention to yourself and be visible! It will pay dividends. Trust me.
  • Drive Public Opinion. Why let others determine who you are when you can set the tone yourself? Creating and building your own brand gives you all the power to drive public opinion, whether you intend for it to or not.
  • Builds A Network. Before I launched my blog, I really worked hard on my Twitter presence. I found relevant banking content, posted it regularly, and in turn, started connecting to bankers all over the country. How does that help you as a small community banker? Well, let’s just say having a banking network that doesn’t compete with you on a regular basis is uber helpful. My connections have enabled me to bounce ideas in a safe zone, learn from what is working for them, what is not, and hey, I just love connecting!


Where do I start? |
You might be thinking to yourself, you know, Natalie, all of this sounds great and all, but how in the world do I even begin the process of building my own brand? Easy peasy.

  • Understand your value. You are uniquely made and if you’re reading this article, you likely care about moving ahead in your career. Come to grips with what you bring to the table and bank on it! (See what I did there?)
  • Determine your niche. My niche was a passion for advocating for women in banking and building up young women as future bankers. Your niche might be mortgage lending, or ag banking, or helping small businesses. You may be a whiz at accounting or IT and want to build your brand as one of the best in the biz. Figure out what your “thing” is and build on it.
  • Develop social media skills. This may be where I lose some of you and if so, too bad so sad. This is where things get good. Social media single handedly propelled my personal brand. However, I got trained on how to use it and use it right. (Shout out to Allyson Twiggs Dyer!) Repeat after me, “There are right and very wrong ways to use social media.” Let’s say it again, “There are right and very wrong ways to use social media.” Got it? Good. Content is key, understanding algorithms, learning how to gain followers, and not self destructing by posting something stupid are MAJOR elements in building your brand on social media. You don’t have to be amazing at all of the platforms, but spruce up your profile, pick the platform you like best and the one that will likely have the best following based on your niche, and get some training. It will pay off!
  • Be consistent. I have talked to bankers that want to build a brand on social media and they start off strong and eventually fall off the wagon. If you don’t REALLY want to do this, don’t force it. It just won’t work for you and that’s OK, but, if you are passionate about building a brand, you have to be consistent and post and engage with your followers daily. You must stay involved with your community and continue to tell the story of what you do best. It’s totally fine to not be “on” 100% of the time, just like anything, your brand needs a little TLC often to stay alive.
  • Know your audience. My audience includes women in banking, bankers, bank vendors, etc. Determine your audience, based on your niche, and go after them accordingly. If you are targeting people who need a mortgage loan, engage with realtors, post content that includes info for first time home buyers, tips for applying for a mortgage, etc. Go after the right people.
  • Be authentic. If you are faking it, it will be blatantly obvious and no one will take you seriously. Be real, be you. Show the good, the bad, and the ugly. People love transparency.
  • Be patient. Building your brand takes time and patience. It won’t happen overnight. It took me the better part of two years to build my Twitter presence and the rest is still a work in progress. But stay after it! It will happen!

How will my bank benefit? | I’ve had naysayers mention to me that it all looks like self promotion with no benefit to my bank. Am I looking out for myself and creating future opportunity? 100% yes. Is my bank benefiting also? 100% yes.

  • Employees with strong personal brands bring recognition back to the bank they represent. If you’re the #1 ag lender in your community, your bank is obviously going to reap the benefits. Duh.
  • Your strong personal brand will help set your bank apart from the competition.
  • Your bank receives a high return with little investment. Empowering you to build your brand on social media, allowing you to engage in your community, and being involved in initiatives that draw attention back to the bank don’t really cost that much but likely bring a return back to the bank in the form of increased exposure, new business, and notoriety. Talk about a ROI!
  • People bank with people! Do the math.

You got this! Go build your brand!

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Annual Reviews

the Girl Banker’s Guide to Annual Reviews

I believe there are two types of employees:
Type A: Takes their annual review as an opportunity to reflect on their job performance that year, discuss a solid career path, get good feedback from their immediate supervisor, and make a game plan for their future with company.
Type B: Waits until the last minute to complete their annual review paperwork, sits impatiently through the review waiting to hear the words, “this year, your raise is…”.

I also believe there are two types of managers where annual reviews are concerned:
Type A: Takes their time writing up the review, knowing that as a valued team member, this time is important and a great opportunity to address issues, give praise, etc.
Type B: Fills out said review in less than 3 minutes, giving no additional thought or effort into the whole process, dismissing it as an HR or regulatory requirement.

When it comes to the type of employee, I’m a definite Type A. (I look forward to reviews! Heck, I even get excited about them!) As for managers, I have experienced both… almost extreme opposites.

A number of years ago I found myself very complacent with my career in banking. My annual review was drawing near and I was determined to get answers about my future with the company and I was well prepared to ask hard questions and confess my concerns. I spent an extra long time typing up my portion of the annual review in an effort to give my then boss an opportunity to be as prepared as I was. We scheduled my review early one morning. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I will be late to my own funeral. This particular day, I arrived early, confident that the review was going to be a turning point in my career. My boss showed up late, was obviously frazzled by something that had happened to him that morning (or perhaps he forgot completely about my review), and had failed to read my well prepared portion of the review.

My heart sunk.

I knew the second he walked in the door that I wouldn’t be leaving the meeting feeling satisfied with my career’s direction. Through the remainder of a very awkward, forced review, I attempted to stay focused, expressed my concerns, and asked for feedback. Without giving details, let’s just say that the conversation was very one sided and not so much focused on me as an employee, but on my boss’s career and his daughter’s. I know. Strange.

I easily could have chalked it up to my former boss having a bad morning, but when it came down to it, I was at a cross roads with my career and he wasn’t prepared. Needless to say, I didn’t stay there much longer but certainly learned a valuable lesson as both a direct report and as a manager: take annual reviews seriously!

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your annual review:
PREP | Reviews aren’t usually a surprise, they tend to come around once a year at the same time! If you have goals and aspirations for your career at your company (and I assume you do if you are still reading this post), then be prepared to share them with your supervisor. If your employer provides a questionnaire to complete in advance, take your time with the questions and be ready to discuss. This time is literally set aside to talk about YOU! Make the most of it and be prepared.

KEEP A RUNNING “DONE” LIST | Everyone has a “to-do” list, do you have a “done” list? If you don’t already, get an account with Evernote and download their app and add it to your favorites on your desktop. In 2019, every time you complete a “to-do”, add it to your “done” list on Evernote and marvel over how productive you are at the end of the year. This list will come in handy for your annual review as well!

LISTEN | Reviews should be two sided. Listen intently to the feedback your supervisor is giving you. If it doesn’t align with your expectations for the review, ask questions and get clarification to avoid future issues. Bring your planner or a notepad to take notes so that you can review later.

TAKE CRITICISM AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GROW | If your review doesn’t have any shape or form of constructive criticism, then your manager isn’t doing you or the company any favors. A glowing review only blows rainbows and sunshine up your hiney and doesn’t give you any opportunities to grow as an employee. This happens often from managers who are afraid of hurting feelings or want to avoid confrontation. Take the constructive criticism professionally and ask questions about how you can improve. In other words, don’t be that employee that gets easily offended or upset if you don’t exceed expectations on each evaluation question. If you’re not always learning and striving to improve, don’t be surprised when you don’t move up.

EXPECT YOUR MANAGER’S FULL ATTENTION | Evaluations should be completed one on one with minimal interruption. They aren’t something to laugh off or take lightly. Take them seriously and expect your manager to take them seriously. This is the one time a year (or quarter, depending on your position and company) where you are formally discussing your job performance. If you aren’t happy with how your manager facilitated the review and don’t feel that he or she took it seriously, discuss with your HR Director.

Happy reviewing!

Natalie, the Girl Banker
the Girl Banker’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

the Girl Banker’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

We’ve all made them. We’ve all broken them within 2 weeks (or less) of the new year. New Year’s resolutions are often made to be broken, some sooner rather than later. However, there is something to be said for the refreshing feeling of a new year and new start, especially after the rat race that we make out of the holiday season. Here are some New Year’s resolutions every Girl Banker or woman in business should consider implementing effective January 1.

Self Care | Consider this resolution as me preaching to my own choir because I suck at self care. While you could lump in all of the typical “lose weight” or “exercise more” (or in my case, “exercise at all”) into self care, this resolution should be at the top of your priority list in 2019 because let’s be honest, we all suck at it. If you don’t take care of yourself, how could you be expected to take care of your family or succeed at work? I’m the world’s worst at thinking that self care is equal to being selfish and our culture reinforces that mindset. Plus, I just don’t make it a priority or pass it off as “I don’t have time for that” and therefore, I suffer.

This past year, I took on this blog, more responsibility at work, sold my home and began a home remodel, and then started doing speaking engagements that required travel. I stopped doing any form of exercise, ate plenty of junk food, rarely got enough sleep, and was never hydrated like a should be. As a result, I started having anxiety attacks when I would travel, resulting in even less sleep, more stress, and a less productive mother, wife, and banker. Self care is unique to everyone, but for me in 2019, it’s going to include drinking more water, starting yoga, working from home or the library once a week, and recognizing in advance when I need to take a mental health day and go get a massage. If momma aint’ happy, ain’t nobody happy, am I right?

Purge | I’m a massive fan of cleaning out the clutter and there is no better time to do it than the beginning of the year when you are in the mood clean out all the things! Personally, I feel “lighter”, more organized, and have a better sense that my shit is in line when I purge out things in my life that is taking up too much space. Here are a few ways to purge:

  •  E-PurgeUnsubscribe to all the crap emails, clean out your voicemails, texts, organize your photos by backing them up to an online storage source like Shutterfly or Google Photos, and get rid of the apps you never use that are taking up too much precious storage on your phone.
  • Stuff Purge: Pinterest has a lot of great checklists to help you start the purge with your real things and if you are really into it, you might check out the Kon Mari Method. It’s extreme, but helps you stay focused and before you know it, your clothes, household items, kitchen stuff, and paper will be neatly organized and greatly reduced. (Can I get an amen for figuring out where to put all those school papers the kids bring home?!)
  • People Purge: Yes, you read that right, but I’m not referring to the kind of people purging that hideous movie suggests, but instead, get rid of the toxic people taking up precious space in your life. Stop associating with people that don’t truly add value to your life. Trust me, if you made a list of the people that really matter most, your list will be short. Your circle will be small, but the quality of that circle will be much better than it was when it was big. My mom has always told me that you can count your true friends on one hand. She is right. Drop out of those annoying group texts, UNFOLLOW all the ridiculousness in your social media news feeds including profiles that make you feel bad about yourself like beauty bloggers and celebrities, and only make time for YOUR people. You know who they are.

Track Your Successes | Nothing overwhelms me more than a to-do list and I have a good one going that overlaps from week to week in my Passion Planner and on my Outlook Task List. I find myself looking at my list or adding to it each week and suddenly noticing my heart rate increasing, my mood worsening, and the fear of never getting it all done creeping up on me. This year, I am going to keep a “Done” List where I keep track of all the completed projects, successes, and tasks that I have marked off my to-do list. By doing this, I can tell that overwhelming feeling I get from looking at my to-do list to kiss my ass, plus I can take this list to my boss at my annual review. Win, win!

Here’s wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year. May you have a year full of success, valuable friendships, and fulfilling work. What are your resolutions for 2019?

Why You Need a Passion Planner In Your Life in 2019

Why You Need a Passion Planner In Your Life in 2019

In case you are new to my blog, I have updated last year’s post about my love for my Passion Planner for 2019! Happy planning! 

A new year means so many things- a fresh start, 365 more days to be achieve your goals, and most importantly, a new planner! I’m a “paper” planner kind of gal. You know, the kind where you actually write down appointments, events, to-do’s, etc on paper. You might be thinking, “why use a paper planner when you can use an iPhone or Outlook calendar?” Keep reading!

Full disclosure: I use both. However, there is something fulfilling to me about filling out a planner at the beginning of the year or writing down a week’s worth of to-do’s that simply can’t be replaced by typing appointments into an iPhone.

My love for planners began in college. It was easily my favorite part of a new semester. (Remember when I mentioned in My Girl Banker Story post that I am obsessed with filling things out?) I couldn’t wait to fill in the birthdays of my friends and family and scheduled school assignments and penciled in sorority functions. I’m the same way now with my professional planner and I don’t go anywhere without it.

Over the years, I have experimented with a variety of planners which had their own pros and cons. A few years ago, I had a lovely Erin Condren planner that was leopard print. While I appreciated the fabulousness of the leopard print, it didn’t exactly look super professional in a board meeting or loan committee and usually brought about a few comments from coworkers. Then one day, my pal Allyson Dyer, owner of The Twiggs Group, introduced me to the Passion Planner and I have been a fan ever since. No offense Erin Condren. I am sad I didn’t know about your planners in college or we would have been best of friends.

I recently received my fourth Passion Planner and over the years have convinced several of my friends and coworkers to get one of their own as well. Last year they offered a larger planner as well as a smaller option, giving you the option to buy with dates or without. This year, they made all pre-dated planners the smaller size. Therefore, if you’re a fan of the bigger planner, you have no choice but to go with the undated… which I know pissed a few of my Passion Planner Peeps off. Given the fact that I need every extra minute in my day (ain’t nobody got time to date every day of the year in a planner!) I opted for the smaller, dated option in red, and while everything is clearly much smaller, I’m still a big fan. (Additional disclosure: I was not commissioned in any way by Passion Planner for this post. This is my opinion and my opinion alone. But seriously Passion Planner, we need to chat!)

Here are the reasons I’m passionate about my Passion Planner:

  • Yearly Goal Setting: At the front of the planner there is a section where you can outline Your Passion Roadmap for the year and it even expands to your 3, 5 and 10 year plan. Pro Tip: The end of the year can be so hectic with the holidays and finishing up projects. When I fill mine out, I love to set aside some quiet, alone time, grab a glass of wine, my favorite pen(s), and map out my goals for the upcoming year. It also serves as a tool to refer back to throughout the year to see how you are progressing. 
  • Weekly Personal & Work To-Do List: In my pea-sized brain, a project or task isn’t complete without marking it off a list so I love the weekly to-do lists. Plus, because there are separate columns for personal and work to-do’s,  I can keep all of my lists in one place.
  • Monthly Recap: The Passion Planner is laid out with a full monthly calendar, followed by weekly pages that allow you to schedule based on date and time, and ends the month with a recap. The recap asks questions like, What was the most memorable part of this past month? and Name three things you can improve on this upcoming month and ends with From 1-10, how do you feel overall about this past month? What a great way to evaluate how you spent your time and energy and focus on ways to improve! Some people may want to skip this section or see it as one more thing to add to your to-do list. Take it from me, don’t skip this section! Schedule an appointment to fill it out if you have to! This section actually helped me make a career move after reading back through my notes from the previous year! Fill. It. Out.
  • Mid Year Passion Roadmap: Sometimes its good to take a look mid-year at your goals and see how you have progressed. Perhaps you have strayed or taken a different course. The Your Mid-Year Passion Roadmap gives you a chance to redirect your goals and keep yourself focused through the end of the year.
  • Lots of extra note taking space in the back: This space is why I never leave my home or office without my planner. You can customize this space any way you like and it’s great to keep all of your meeting notes, project ideas, etc. handy all in one place.
  • The amazing weekly quotes: The Passion Planner is stocked full of quotes and are placed on each weekly schedule. I like to highlight my favorite ones so I can go back to them when I need motivation and even share them with my team from time to time.
  • Passion Planner’s Social Media Presence: I love following them on Instagram for ideas on how to spruce up my weekly schedule. They show lots of great photos of other Passion Planner users that have decorated their schedules. Let’s just say my planner won’t likely be making it onto the Passion Planner Instagram account because of it’s creative drawings. But it’s cool to see what others do with theirs.
  • They are philanthropic! For every Passion Planner purchased, they donate one. How nice is that?
  • They are just plain beautiful! They may not be the planner my leopard print dreams are made of but I’m loving my red planner this year and the texture of the cover. You’ll also find they have a more professional presence in the board room than the planner you likely had in college.

Side bar: filling out your planner can be even more fun with good pens, motivational stickers and tape! I get most of my planner accessories at Hobby Lobby. Did I mention how important it is to have good pens? Check these out from Amazon.

Do I have you convinced yet? While you may not get it before 2019, at least get one ordered! Happy planning and Happy New Year from the Girl Banker!

The Remote Girl Banker: How One Community Banker Took Her Work On the Road

The Remote Girl Banker: How One Community Banker Took Her Work On the Road

I’m happy to have fellow girl banker and friend, Molly Carpenter, VP, Marketing and Public Relations of FNBC Bank, as a guest blogger on the Girl Banker blog! Molly has a unique working situation, especially for a banker, in that she works remotely from her community bank. Here is her story! 

I am a fourth-generation community banker who does not live in a community my bank serves. In fact, I don’t live anywhere near a community my bank serves. For the past year, I have been working from my house in Bentonville, Arkansas, an almost four-hour drive from my bank’s headquarters. I spend approximately 70 percent of my time in Bentonville and 30 percent at our bank’s headquarters in Ash Flat.

I had been with the bank about four years when I made the pitch to work remotely in December 2016. I love my job, but I was at a point in my life where I really needed to spread my wings a bit more. It took my boss about six months to finally give me the green light and another six months for my home to sell. I closed in mid-December, and on December 26, 2017, I made the move across the state and kicked off a new fiscal year in a new town and a new working environment.

I think my boss would tell you today he would still much rather have me in the bank every day, but that this hasn’t been as painful as he originally thought. In our early discussions, he realized this was an opportunity to test remote working for future employees and to retain an employee he and the bank were invested in. We live in a very rural part of Arkansas, and recruiting top talent has become increasingly difficult. While customer-facing roles require you to be on site, there are certainly roles that can be designed with more flexibility. I oversee marketing for our 11 branches, so I don’t have to be physically present every day, but I do need to be hands-on part of the time. Through a bit of trial-and-error, we’ve figured out a schedule that works pretty well for both sides.

I enjoy the flexibility working remotely provides for my life. While I try to be available as much as I can during banking hours, sometimes I hop on early so I can wrap up my day earlier. Sometimes I work through lunch so I can get more done and not be at my computer too late. I believe we do our best thinking in clothes that are comfortable, so not having to put on my “banker uniform” each day is also pretty nice. And on a personal note, I’ve been able to create a social life that wasn’t available to me back home.

Molly on location at FNBC’s main office in Ash Flat, Arkansas.

If I told you the last year has been a breeze, I would be lying. There have certainly been lessons learned and I have seen myself transform as a professional and as a woman. I tied a lot of my identity to my role as a community banker. Working remotely, especially in an area where we don’t have a physical presence, I miss out on having a place in the community. I continue to serve on several boards back home, but in Bentonville, I don’t feel like I’m in a position to contribute in a worthwhile way. It was hard for me at first to feel like I was still a true community banker when I wasn’t there every day and I was wearing leggings and sweatshirts, but over time I have embraced more of who I really am as an individual, and not just a community banker.

Perhaps you have a substantial commute to work each day, or you could use some flexibility to help you be a better parent and employee. Maybe it’s as simple as you just need time away from the noise and distractions to get some things done. Or, maybe you’re in executive leadership at a rural community bank and are struggling to attract the quality of hires you need to sustain and grow your organization. If any of these resonate with you, a remote working opportunity is worth discussing and exploring. Remote work can take on many different forms from something similar to my set up or even just a few days a week.

If you decide to start working remotely, even part of the time, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Communicate with your supervisor. My boss and I committed to one another last year that we would have open dialogue about what was working and what wasn’t as we moved forward with this arrangement. We meet regularly and always work in at least a few minutes to discuss how things are going. It’s important for your supervisor to know and be aware of the good and the bad parts of working remotely. It’s equally important for you to know if there’s an area that your supervisor feels is losing attention because you’re not there every day. Often times, just talking it out remedies things on both sides.
  2. Be as flexible and accommodating as you can to your bank and management team. In my situation, my move was entirely personal. I know I have been given an incredible opportunity not afforded to everyone, so if my boss needs me to be in the bank, I’m there.
  3. Be as accessible to your colleagues as you would be when in the office. I’m a community banker and I am one of only 100 employees. If I am unavailable or unreachable for very long, someone is going to notice. I have been asked if I am tempted to watch TV or take naps during the day. Honestly, I’m not. You might be different. You don’t want to become known as the co-worker who is never available or who is unreachable.
  4. Create a routine early on and stick to it. Rolling out of bed at 7:55 a.m. and stumbling to my computer doesn’t feel great to me. While I don’t have to put on a pencil skirt and heels, or have my hair and make-up done at 8 a.m. when I’m working remotely, I still maintain a routine that gets me up and going as early as I would if I were in the bank. I like to get my workout done in the morning, so I found a workout I love (OrangeTheory Fitness!) and make it to as many 6 a.m. classes as I can during the week. I could write an entire post on the importance of exercise and stamina in leadership – maybe one day I will! Even if you are getting up early to have a cup of coffee and read the news, creating some time and space for you to prepare for the work day ahead is important.
  5. Keep your work space away from your living space. My first six months were spent living in a small, one-bedroom apartment. My living room was my office, and that was really tough. I couldn’t ever really leave for the day. Now, my three-bedroom house allows me to have a room that is strictly my office. When I’m not working, I keep the door closed and the lights off. Even if you’re working from home, you still need to be able to walk away from your work at the end of the day.
  6. Take breaks. It’s easy to look down and it see it’s already mid-afternoon and you’ve barely been up for air. I struggled with feeling guilty if I took too much time away from my computer, but have found that it’s really important to my overall well-being. Get out of your house and take a short walk, run an errand or go grab a coffee. Because you’re in a smaller space, you’re naturally going to be moving less than when you’re in the office. It’s important to move around some throughout the day to keep your mind fresh and focused.
  7. Don’t get too lonely. I am a functioning introvert, so I absolutely miss my people. I miss popping into offices throughout the day, catching up over lunch in the break room, and just being out and about in my community. While my fur child Mabel Louise certainly keeps my company, I do crave human interaction. When this happens, get out of the house and find somewhere new to work for the day. Coffee shops are always great, but many urban areas now offer a variety of co-working spaces you can pay to drop into for the day. I will be honest and say I am really bad to not follow this advice, but I know how good I feel when I actually do get out of the house and plug in with a new view.
  8. Prioritize your time. This may happen naturally for you, but I had to be very aware of how I was scheduling my time in the bank. I usually know my travel schedule one to two months in advance, so I do my best to stack my days on-site with as many face-to-face interactions as I can. That may involve project or leadership meetings, or simply having lunch with some of my co-workers. But I strive to not be holed up inside my bank office the entire time I’m in town. Sure, that means travel weeks are a bit less productive from a tangible standpoint, but don’t forget how valuable relationship building and maintaining is for your career.

If I had to do it over again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I am so grateful for what this opportunity has allowed for my career and my personal life. I’m also thankful to work for a community bank and leadership team that recognizes the value I bring to our organization and took a big leap of faith and allowed me to move across the state.

If you are considering making your pitch to work remotely or would like to chat with me or my CEO about how this arrangement has worked for our bank, feel free to reach out to me at mjcarpenter@fnbc.us.

Molly is a fourth generation community banker at FNBC Bank where she is Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. A remote-employee of the North Central Arkansas-based bank, Molly lives and works from home in Bentonville, Arkansas. A proud millennial, she is the youngest member of FNBC’s Senior Leadership Team, chairs the Sharp County Community Foundation, is vice chair of the Spring River Ambulance and Paramedic Service Board, is treasurer of the Spring River Innovation Hub and serves on the Ozarka College Foundation Board. In 2015, she was named one of Arkansas Business’ 20 in their 20s: The New Influentials and one of the Independent Community Bankers of America’s Top 20 Community Banking Influencers on Twitter. She is a proud dog mom to Mabel Louise and doting auntie to James Cole.