Local business owner, Drew Linn, shares what to look for when selecting a bank
When you’re in the business of solving other people’s problems, it’s important to have a financial partner who can do the same for your company. That’s just one of many lessons Drew Linn, owner of Alabama-based Southland Transportation, has discovered during his more than 40 years as a business owner based in West Alabama and Birmingham.
The son of a coal miner, Linn’s humble beginnings served as a springboard to big success. Along the way, he’s learned what it takes to create and run a successful business, how to problem-solve, strategies for maintaining a healthy cash flow, and the qualities to look for in a financial partnership.
As Linn reflects on the journey that led him to this point, he’s grateful for having seized the opportunities that came his way, including getting a job at International Trucks when he was 18, buying his first dealership in Tuscaloosa just over 10 years later, followed by a string of building, buying and acquiring. It’s important to do something that’s needed and adds value: “You know that old saying, ‘If you got it, a truck brought it.’”
As an International truck dealer, Linn helps customers buy, rent, lease and service new and used trucks and trailers. His booming operation includes facilities throughout Alabama that house trucks, trailers, parts and services departments, leasing divisions, a body shop, and more. He even sells school buses and offers mobile service. Basically, Linn orchestrates everything related to the equipment side of transportation.
Cash flow matters
To keep cash flow at an optimum, he relies on West Alabama Bank for his equipment financing needs—a need that can amount to several million dollars at a time. Since the banking team is local, they’re flexible enough to create a lending solution that accommodates Linn’s specialized financing requests. Trust is important, too. “They are steeped in integrity,” Linn says. “They’ve got quality people who solve problems. And they do it so easily.”
The bank’s responsiveness and competitive rates have been a tremendous help to Linn, especially since the equipment side of the transportation business involves so many big-ticket items. In his rented lease fleet alone, he has nearly 600 pieces, each one averaging $90,000 to $130,000. Having expensive equipment requires him to borrow a lot of money, and in a way that fits his business model.
Communication is key
He recommends business owners work with a financing partner who is willing to take the time to listen and communicate well. Linn has partnered with West Alabama Bank for years because the local bank understands his business and is able to create a different type of loan that is customized to his needs. It’s more than banking, it’s solving problems; and for Linn that’s made all the difference.
“Money is a commodity, let’s just call it like it is,” he says. “The difference is in the people and their skills to communicate and their ability to be there when you need them.”
Perhaps his greatest piece of advice for business owners is to love what you do. He certainly does. “This industry isn’t going anywhere,” he adds. “It’s just a matter if you want to put your heart into it and solve people’s problems. That’s really what we do. And if you enjoy doing that, it’s the right place to be.”
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