But as the venture grew and nine employees were hired, the couple realized that the time had come to start outsourcing the ever-growing, complex functions. Enter $435 million Sunmark Federal Credit Union. The Kingras had been members of the Latham, N.Y.-based financial institution for some time. However, there were other providers in the area competing for the small business needs. It was a combination of things that ultimately sold the couple to bank at Sunmark.
"It was the convenience of the locations, we liked the commercial banking features, and it was one-stop banking," Mrs. Kingra said. "The people are knowledgeable. If I have a question, I'm not put on hold. Every bit of time we have to run the business helps us."
Sunmark launched its commercial lending division nearly six years ago. When Commercial Relationship Manager Jay Singh was hired shortly after that, one of his goals was to expand the credit union into business deposits, merchant services and payroll services. By 2004, members had access to a full suite and in 2007, Sunmark partnered with Clifton Park, N.Y.-based GTM Payroll Services Inc. for payroll management.
"Our lending people were here. What we try to do is gradually expose [business members] to all aspects of banking," Singh said.
The credit union has received 42 referrals for payroll services and secured 18 relationships, Singh said. Through an alliance with East Commerce Solutions, Sunmark's merchant service program has garnered 185 referrals and closed on 86 since the partnership formed. Singh said he has helped several other credit unions partner with ECS.
With much focus on business lending, payroll services are still viable even as some small businesses are laying off employees. Singh said Sunmark's members crave one-stop shopping and fast turnarounds. Given time crunches, they make it a habit of visiting members on their terms and in their shops. It's what business owners prefer, Singh pointed out. In the beginning of the relationship with GTM, some modifications were made to ensure referrals were channeled properly. It also helped to have a sales person who championed follow-ups. Michael Maddalone, GTM territory manager, wears that hat, Singh said.
"He's the guy I depend on. I can text or e-mail him any time and I will get a response right away," Singh said.
Mrs. Kingra said because they have three businesses that are intertwined, having someone else manage payroll helps ensure timely and accurate reports. Merchant services, workers compensation and disability form processing are just a few of the relationships Sunmark manages.
"It just makes things simpler and more consistent," Mrs. Kingra said.
Sunmark earns a fee for each referral, Singh said, adding in no way is payroll services a way for the credit union to earn a bounty of revenue. The goal is to get commercial members to sign on with other services tailored for them. And, with businesses ranging from restaurants, insurance companies to veterinary hospitals and doctor practices, many with less than 10 employees, the window is wide open to serve all of their financial needs.
Sowing entrepreneurial relationship seeds starts in the local college community. This year will mark the third time Sunmark has helped sponsor the U-Start Business Incubator Lunch and Learn, a program affiliated with Union College that provides support to
promising entrepreneurs looking to commercialize their ideas in Schenectady County. Sunmark had a mixer with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last year and is discussing a possible partnership with the University of Albany.
"The capitol region [here] is flush with educational opportunities. We're always looking to touch base in some way," said Rich Meddaugh, public relations specialist at Sunmark.
Singh said developing and maintaining relationships even with aspiring small business owners are remembered.
"People are running away from big banks. There's turnover at banks and businesses don't like changes. What separates us is the Sunmark people who take the time because, quite frankly, you can go any place and get the same products and services."