The Heart of Banking – and Business – Should Be Relationships
running-a-business | Read Time: 3 minutes
By Alison Murray, President, TSG Hardware & Bath | Published: November 2023
Every relationship, no matter where you find it, is unique. And relationships are at the core of every enterprise, whether that’s a business, a friend, or a banking partner. TSG Plumbing is comprised of three business entities — Simon’s Hardware & Bath, Hardware Designs Inc., and Central Plumbing — with focuses on wholesale plumbing and heating and luxury residential architectural hardware and bathroom fixtures, fittings and furnishings. We’ve worked over the last several years to combine these businesses into one, while maintaining what makes each business unique. Recently, all that work has culminated in our new banking relationship with WSFS.
Keeping the Focus Local, with Room to Grow
Our industry is busy consolidating into larger and larger mega-corporations, but that’s simply not TSG. For us, it’s about expertise in-market with that small business feel and access for our customers. We want to provide the best product, price, and — crucially — service in a way that allows us to keep growing, beat our competition, and build long-term, repeat relationships with trade professionals in our Metro markets.
Our goal as we’ve grown is to prioritize each business’ strong suit and to retain the experienced, expert staff at each location. For Simon’s Hardware, that meant ensuring we valued and respected their longevity and reputation (the company has been a New York City establishment since 1908); for Hardware Design, it meant honing in on their knack for providing customers with luxury and personalized service; and with Central Plumbing, we focused on maintaining long-term customer relationships while expanding our product selection. These relationships help customers fill the void left behind by faceless, big-box stores.
What we saw as we continued to grow was that having a separate bank for each business was unsustainable for the future we envisioned for TSG, so we started looking for a new banking partner that could meet our needs. We looked for a bank that could not only consolidate our separate finances into one, but that could also provide us with loan facilities capable of helping us grow our entire enterprise organically. WSFS stepped up to the table and proceeded to exceed all our expectations.
What to Look for in Your Banking Partner
So, what made WSFS stand out from the crowd, particularly to a business with a home base outside their typical geographic service area? A reminder that banking partners can be more than just transactional — they are human. Here are some questions we asked ourselves, and that we encourage other businesses to ask as well:
- Is your banking partner willing to take a risk, no matter the economic climate, and look outside the box?
WSFS was willing to take a risk on a smaller, quality partner at a time when most larger banks hesitate to lend to commercial partners due to high interest rates and high risk. TSG has a proven track record, but we were still unsure we would be able to find a bank willing to work with our needs. Not only did WSFS create a complete package for us, they did so in a way that met our needs in a thoughtful way — one that looks to the future, not just the past or present.
- Does your bank value personal relationships?
One of the most striking things about WSFS for us was their persistent interest in who we are and the business we do every day. TSG’s relationship team from WSFS’ Middle Market group, including Jim Gise (Division Manager), Connor Breslin (Relationship Manager) and Nancy Colombo (Portfolio Manager) came to New York to get to know us better. They were willing to get on a bus, tour each and every TSG showroom and warehouse, and make sure we knew they really cared. There was legitimate interest in us, and it was engaging knowing that our banking partner would be invested in what we do and the market we serve.
- Are they willing to learn and grow with you?
Our ambition here at TSG Plumbing is to grow within the tri-state metropolitan market in a way that honors our unique businesses and best serves our customers. Those ambitions have been matched by the interest and engagement the WSFS team has demonstrated in a relatively short period. Although it’s a new relationship, it’s one that has plenty of room to grow.
While some banks are only interested in numbers, it’s worthwhile to look for a relationship that goes beyond typical transactions to human relationships. The level of interest and involvement banking partners are willing to put forth in your business can go a long way in securing your long-term success.
About Author – Alison Murray
Alison is one of the founding shareholders of a private equity group, Trade Supply Group, that owns and operates a portfolio of building material distribution companies as well as a specialty medical design-build firm, a manufacturing company, and the commercial real estate underpinning all these businesses.
In the last 20 years, Alison has had day-to-day leadership and operating responsibility for Trade Supply Group’s Hardware & Bath Division. In addition to her responsibilities at TSG, Alison also is an active director on two corporate boards as well as a condominium board in NYC.
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