B. Michael Rauh Jr. | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

B. Michael Rauh Jr.

Background:  

Chelsea Groton Bank is an independent, 162-year-old mutually owned bank headquartered in Groton. It has 15 locations consisting of banking branches and lending centers. Net income rose to $5.5 million last year from $4.7 million in the prior year. Total assets rose to $995 million from $971 million during that time. Chelsea Groton has been over the $1 billion threshold for assets most of this year.

B. Michael Rauh Jr. became president in December 2010, replacing Duncan C. Stoddard, who led the bank for 22 years. Rauh added the CEO title shortly after. Last month, he began a one-year chairmanship of the Connecticut Bankers Association.

The Mistake:

I make lots of mistakes. Everybody does.

Hiring is an area of great concern to me. No institution is perfect in that. The most important thing I’ve learned over time is that it is better to wait for the right person than to compromise your standards and hire someone just to fill a vacancy.

If you hire the right people then you really can’t go wrong. If you hire the wrong people then you’re putting out fires all day long.

Culture is much more important than strategy.

The Lesson:

Hiring helps you strengthen your culture so it’s important that someone be the right cultural fit. Having technical skills doesn’t mean that a person works well with others.

Culture is much more important than strategy. You can overcome a weak strategy with a strong culture.

Fitting a culture means that you’re motivated by the same values. We’re an independent, mutual bank so ours is really a cooperative arrangement. The customers are our shareholders, the real owners of the bank. Thus our culture is one of caring, nurturing and cooperation. Helping our customers grow and building up the community is our business.

We don’t want to set an artificial (financial) growth goal that then becomes our mantra. We’re a service business. It’s all about people and relationships. And hiring is critical to maintaining that.

Other than my direct reports I don’t involve myself deeply in who we hire. I make myself available for counsel. If someone is having a problem choosing between candidates then I’m happy to review things with them. I’m a manager of managers. It’s important to let my managers do their jobs. If I’m doing somebody else’s job then I’m not doing my job.

I’m chief obstacle remover. Sometimes it takes somebody with a big title to remove an obstacle. That’s part of being a leader.

Chelsea Groton Bank is on Facebook at @ChelseaGroton.

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