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2015 BEST Company to Do Business with in Sonoma County: Redwood Credit Union

Author: Alexandra Russell
May, 2015 Issue

“We always come from a perspective of trying to find a way to say ‘Yes.’” —Brett Martinez

As a perennial BEST Of winner in multiple categories, Redwood Credit Union (RCU) has established itself as an integral part of the communities it serves. This year, it’s been chosen Best Credit Union and Best Place to Work in addition to this category. So what’s the secret to its success?
“This is old-style banking, where you know your banker—you know who to call and they know you as well,” says Sam McHenry, dealer/principal of Accurate Forklift in Santa Rosa, which has been an RCU business member since 2008. “They listen, take the time to understand and are truly interested in my success.”
Founded in 1950, RCU has grown and evolved in-step with the North Bay and now boasts 17 branches across the region and in San Francisco. Its business services department launched in 2004, “to provide the same level of service to businesses as we do for personal accounts,” says Brett Martinez, president/CEO.
RCU currently has 245,000 members, 7,560 of which are business members. “Our main focus is local business with up to $10 million in revenue,” Martinez continues. “We love working with these small businesses and their owners. They play a large part in creating jobs in our communities, and they help make those communities unique.”
Accurate Forklift, a NorthBay biz Top 500 company (number 381 in 2015), moved its accounts to RCU seven years ago after having relationships with several banks (local and national) in its near 40-year history. “John Pavelka was my first contact with RCU. My borrowing requirements are different than a traditional lending model, and these needs aren’t understood by many lending sources,” says McHenry. “I explained to John how my business worked with depreciating assets, fluctuating inventories and a cyclical cash flow. He listened to what I needed and accommodated those needs with an asset-based borrowing line customized for my business.”
“All our staff are trained to listen and learn about our members’ individual needs and to work with them to find solutions,” confirms Martinez. RCU offers a variety of business services, including insurance products, merchant services, payroll processing, investment (including retirement strategies) and auto sales for business and individuals through its RCU Auto Services subsidiary.
“We offer a variety of business loans, including commercial real estate loans, term loans, credit cards, lines of credit and 7a and 504 SBA [Small Business Administration] loans,” says Martinez. “We’ve been a leading small business lender in the North Bay since we introduced SBA lending in 2008.
“We’ve used SBA loan programs to help businesses restructure their balance sheets, consolidate debt and provide financing for future growth. We’re also an SBA preferred lender, which gives us the ability to quickly and efficiently find solutions for members seeking an SBA loan.”
RCU has a variety of lending programs and products in place to help members find the loan that best fits their needs and situation. “We always come from a perspective of trying to find a way to say ‘Yes,’” says Martinez. “In some situations, we partner with agencies like SAFE-BIDCO, the local Small Business Development Center or SCORE to determine additional options.”
Michael Griffo, owner of Griffo Distillery in Petaluma, part of the North Bay’s growing artisan spirits community, “started with RCU right away. We had startup capital but needed an SBA loan. We could have gone with a larger bank, but I like supporting local. I met with Jason Ehn, and he was really personable and helpful.
“The group of people we’ve been working with are great—easy to work with and genuinely interested in what we’re doing. I feel like RCU is excited to support small local businesses without sacrificing its requirements. [The business division] goes out of its way to make sure we get what we need in a way that works for both us and them.”
When asked directly: “Would you recommend RCU to other businesses?” both McHenry and Griffo answer with an emphatic “Yes!” They’re not alone.
We grow our business services through a combination of existing members, branch activity, professional networks and referrals,” says Martinez. “Around 70 percent of our new business is from referrals, which tells us that our business members are satisfied with the service they receive from RCU.
I’m proud of the positive feedback we receive from our business members,” he continues. “They’re happy to work with a local lender that’s looking out for their best interests. We receive a lot of positive feedback, but that doesn’t mean we ever stop trying to do even better. We’re constantly looking to our members for ways we can improve our service.”


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