Q1: What made you decide to start a bank?
A: The decision to start a bank was in part opportunistic. I had chosen to leave a larger bank upon consolidation and had become firmly committed to the need for a local business focused bank to provide family-owned businesses in the region with a committed and experienced alternative to the growing number of financial institutions neither commercially focused nor headquartered close to their clients. Like all entrepreneurs, I combined a passion with a purpose at the time of a competitive opening in a market.
Q2: What was the hardest thing you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur?
A: My hardest experience as an entrepreneur was starting with nothing – no capital, no clients, no locations. It is a rush of reality that all formerly successful entrepreneurs inside a larger company experience when they leave that nest. It is a time of great uncertainty and significant risk. Asking others to join you on that early journey is an awesome responsibility.
Q3: What was the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur?
A: The list is too long, but all the rewards for me revolve around three things: Creation - of the names, logos, products, and teams; Impact - making a difference for employees, customers, communities, and investors; Relevance - achieving sustainability.
Q4: What was the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?
A: The best piece of advice I ever received was to go for it - believe. The worst piece of advice (which I did not take) was to lead with emotion rather than hard facts.
Q5: Looking back, what would you have changed on your road to success?
A: While my journey through entrepreneurship has brought many successes, it also had painful moments and failures. I am a firm believer that our path forward is completely dependent on the setbacks and failures. They allow us to be better risk-takers. They provide us with a roadmap of how to be better in general. And they make us much more empathetic along the way.
Q6: Why are entrepreneurs so important to our city/community?
A: Entrepreneurs are a major source of new ideas, whether that be products or delivery models; they are job-creators and seek out similarly innovative thinkers. They show the path to managing risk vs. reward at an exponential level. And because they are often so dependent on specific local or virtual communities, they focus on enriching those communities that are their lifeblood. They are sincerely invaluable.
Q7: Who are the types of individuals that should make up an entrepreneur’s sounding board?
A: It truly takes a village to sustainably launch a successful new business. In addition to traditional advisors, you need trustworthy accountants, attorneys, technology platforms. Every successful entrepreneur needs some devil’s advocates too; those who will honestly tell you what may not work so that you really can fix it even if it is not yet broken because at the end of the day, that’s what distinguishes entrepreneurs - they fix it even if it is NOT broken.
Q8: What advice would you give an upcoming entrepreneur today? Are there things a Baltimore entrepreneur should leverage that entrepreneurs in other markets don’t have the opportunity to leverage?
A: My best piece of advice for entrepreneurs is to leverage your connections. Baltimore is intensely relationship-oriented, from neighborhoods to school associations to grassroots organizations. Those relationships form the best kind of networks for capital raising, awareness raining, client introductions, advisory sounding boards. They provide a stronger basis of trust. This relationship orientation is one of the primary reasons why we initially looked north to Baltimore when we started Howard Bank.