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Last Update: Monday September 20, 2021

Key Idea: Build Lasting Relationships

Joe Kreutz  tried to retire but investors came to him with a pile of  money to start a  new bank.  Quickly he was up and running  with a team of people he had worked with for years.

Key Question:


Build relationships with talented people who will stick with you even when you start something new.  Joe had long-standing relationships with people who had worked for him in other banks so it was easy for him get off to a fast start when he started a new bank. On this program, you've learned that if you have a good idea, the most important ingredient to success in business is people

Q: What does the phrase "success breeds success" mean to you?

A: People who accomplish one goal are likely to accomplish the next goal they set. Joe had already proved that he has what it takes to run a bank.  Also, success builds confidence and this quality is absolutely essential for a small business owner. If you don't have confidence that your idea will succeed, you will not attract employees or customers.

Sometimes confidence appears as arrogance to others. Gerhard Von der Rhur told us that a business owner needs a strong ego, not a big ego. He said that a person with a big ego is arrogant and doesn't see the value of others, whereas a person with a strong ego has deep belief that he can accomplish the task at hand. A strong ego is attractive to others while a big ego is off-putting.

Why did Joe depend so much on former employees?

The people part of a business is the most difficult because it is the most mysterious and unpredictable. People are complicated and during a job interview, it is impossible to know if a person is going to fit into your organization and if that person is will meet your expectations.   Founder of Ferrer Brokers, Leonor Ferrer, says to hire attitude, not skill. In another episode, Wanda Brice said her best strategy is simply to hire nice people.

Attitudes and personalities are hard to evaluate quickly, so Joe hired all of the people he had worked with in the past who had already proven themselves. This saved him time and helped reduce his risk.

Think about it

What are you doing now to build relationships you can depend upon later?  If you wanted to start a new company, do you know now what people you would recruit to help you launch it?

Clip from: County Commerce Bank

Ventura California:  Meet Joe Kreutz; he  is the founder, CEO and President of County Commerce Bank.   He has been in banking for over 30 years.  Just prior to  starting this bank,  he was a president of a savings and loan. To start the bank of his dreams, he put  his neck on the line and  "skin in the game."  

He was determined to make this bank special.

Most community banks were gobbled up back in the '90s.  With 170 local investors, they opened for business in February 2003 and the impact on the community was immediate.  This was truly a place where everybody got to know your name.

Be sure to click on the tabs above for the transcript and case study guide.

County Commerce Bank

Joseph Kreutz, President & CEO

2400 E. Gonzales Road
Ventura, CA 93036
805 485 7600

Visit our web site:

Office: 805 485 7600

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

Build Lasting Relationships

JOE KREUTZ:  At County Commerce Bank, we’re a traditional bank.  We’re a community bank that focuses on small and mid-size business products.  We offer all of the typical banking products that you’ll get at any large or regional bank.  But we tend to cater to small businesses and helping them achieve.

HATTIE:(Voiceover)Joe Kreutz is a founder the CEO and President of County Commerce Bank in Ventura California.

JOE:  I’ve been in banking for 30 years.  I was president of a savings and loan I the 70s and 80s then I started my own mortgage banking company. I put a lot of capital into this bank and I was able to form it along with the management team into the type of bank that we wanted and move it in the direction that we felt would be successful.

My management team and I had worked together at another bank.  We saw a need for a community bank in Ventura.  There were no community banks left because they had all been either merged or acquired during the late 90s. We decided to get together and start County Commerce Bank and with about 170 investors from the community and started the bank and it’s done very well since our opening in February 2002.

We did a business plan. We thought it would take two and a half to three years to become profitable and we blew our plan out of the water and became profitable in 9 months and that is well ahead of the industry standard of about 30 months to become profitable for a bank.

Getting investors was easy.  In fact we had an oversubscription,
The difference between a large bank, a regional bank and a community bank is we can cater our products and services more to the individual and small business.

We have businesses everyday we work with that have trouble working with larger banks. Either they were turned down there were problems too many frustrations.  One of the things that really works for the community and our bank is the people who work here are from the community.  Most of our management team has grown up here.  Our employees are from the community.  We understand the community and we understand the local businesses. So we can take those additional risks that the large banks aren’t willing to take and maybe we don’t even consider them a risk where a larger bank would.   We know the people, we know their business and are willing to work with them to supply them the assets they need to grown their businesses.

HATTIE:(Voiceover) Joe and Executive Vice President David Brubaker are on the go visiting customers.  Here at Data Prose the leadership brags on the building expansion and new equipment they were able to purchase with a loan from County Commerce Bank.

JOE:  We don’t make money hand over fist. We supply a good service to the community.  We employee people and we’re very involved in the community.  We give a lot of money back to the community.

As a small bank we only gross about $3 million a year and with that we have to pay all of our overhead and hopefully get a return for our investors. So I think we fall into the category of being a small business just like the deli or the shoe store.  We’re not a big business.  We have to make due with a limited amount of resources just like they do.

People think, oh gee, you’re an $85 million dollar bank in assets but that doesn’t mean we have $85 million dollars. That means we have a lot of people’s money on deposit.  We borrow that money and then we loan it out and hopefully we can make a little bit of income on that. If we can get 1% return on those deposits we’re doing pretty good. We feel comfortable with that.  Most banks make 1% or less return on assets.

We know our customers we know their families and we understand their business so that’s somebody you want to do business with.  That’s why we are involved in the community and we’re involved with people and when you do that they want to be involved with you.

We have 22 employees and 50% have all worked together for over 10 years and 20% have worked together for almost 30 years.  We have a long term history of working together and we have very low turnover.

Attitude does matter. An attitude is projected from the top down in any business. I’m no different. I get frustrated when things don’t go right. Or we’re not achieving the goals that we set. But I look right away at myself and say, "You need to change things.  You need to learn from what’s going on and try and come up with a solution."  

I tell my employees that I’m learning everyday.  I’m trying to be a better boss and they know that.  Even after being a boss for 30 years I tell them that every day I am learning how to be a better boss and to do my job better and I expect that they are doing the same thing.   Yes I do respect everybody around me. And when you quit respecting everybody around you as a business owner I think you’re doomed for failure.

As for the future, we’re looking at expanding. We currently have a 13,000 square foot building being built in Oxnard.  So even though I’ve retired twice I’m looking forward to a future with this bank and the people that I work with.

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