Jerry Swanson sits in his office overlooking the parking lot of Stribling Equipment and gazes into the future, which is just across the highway. A new facility will double the space for his John Deere heavy equipment dealership.
Business is thriving. But Swanson wants to make sure his employees, many of whom have been with him for decades, thrive as well. Before, Swanson saw good workers with comfortable salaries struggle to make ends meet, while others entering the workforce were quickly overwhelmed by routine money matters.
“What people don’t realize is that their financial life and their personal life are one and the same,” Swanson said. “Unfortunately, people grow up with perceptions that don’t meet reality.”
Kelly Tucker, a Regions Relationship Manager based in Jackson, Mississippi, knew how to help.
“Jerry Swanson is the patriarch of the company,” Tucker explained. “In 2017 he asked how we could help his employees, because a lot of the work their human resources team does is filled with calling and emailing 600-plus workers needing help with financial issues.”
Tucker pulled in LoRose Hunter, a Financial Wellness Coordinator to craft a curriculum that would serve the employees at Stribling and its sister company, Empire Truck Sales. In turn, Hunter worked with Stribling Vice President of Administration Brian Clegg to provide classes for all employees across the businesses’ six-state footprint.
“Jerry made it mandatory for his people,” Tucker said. “We were very specific, with a very consistent schedule. The branch network and the financial wellness coaches would go to the locations and make the presentation at the same time.”
In markets Regions doesn’t serve, live webinars provided the coaching. Recorded webinars provided a backup for workers who missed classes due to conflicting schedules.
The regional teamwork led to a year-long financial education program that concluded in early December with a graduation ceremony at the Jackson headquarters.
Brien Craig, Stribling’s Finance and Insurance Manager, watched the classes impact his co-workers.
“It’s very important stuff that people need to know, yet most people didn’t know going in,” Craig said. “And it’s important for the workplace. If they can manage their money they can manage their life.”
Stribling/Empire’s Inventory Control Administrator, Tiffany Whittington, was reared by a banker mom.
“I’ve been with Regions since I was a senior in high school,” Whittington said. “A lot of this stuff was stuff my parents taught me all my life, yet these courses still helped me save money for the future. The courses were great – especially for someone just entering the workforce.”
And that’s exactly what Swanson was looking for.
“Actually, it went better than even I expected,” Swanson said. “When employees come away from each session talking about nuggets they picked up that day, you know it’s a success.”
While LoRose Hunter has taken on new responsibilities at Regions, she returned for the graduation ceremony to share the moment with Stribling employees and Tucker and her Regions’ team.
“What impressed me most throughout it all was how the hourly and shop people came in with the managers, and they all learned together,” Hunter said. “That was important to Mr. Swanson, that everyone was in this together. As a result, everyone came in here with the same commitment.”
At a recent regional business conference, Swanson shared the Regions Next Step Program with a counterpart CEO in a bordering state. At Swanson’s urging, the CEO contacted Regions and instituted a financial education class for his employees.
“I’d say 40 percent of our workforce has been significantly impacted by Regions’ financial education,” Swanson said. “And probably another 20 percent has been helped a good bit. This is a life-saver. Before you get too far in the ditch, here’s a way to get out. That’s what Regions provided.”
Regions provides financial education at no cost. For more information, visits regions.com/NextStep.