PATRICK GIDEON ~ Topeka Business Hall of Fame
David Vincent | Photographer
Patrick Gideon never felt like he had to fly away to prove himself. In fact, he has been with one company for his entire career— Silver Lake Bank.
INVESTING IN A FUTURE
Gideon was only 10 years old when his father purchased the principal share of the bank in 1968, but being 10 didn’t stop him from working in the family business.
“In our household, everyone had a job,” Gideon said. “I became a janitor at 10 because dad told me I couldn’t be a teller until I was 16.”
He went off to get his business degree at the University of Kansas because that was what was expected of him at the time, but he always knew he would come back to Topeka. Having grown up in the banking business, Gideon was fascinated by finance and intrigued with the idea of helping other people realize their dreams. He also felt drawn to the difference that a small community bank in Kansas could make in his hometown, as evidenced by the way his father, Clarence Gideon, conducted business.
“My dad always taught me to look people in the eye, give a firm handshake and do what I say I am going to do,” Gideon said.
BANKING ON CHARACTER
As president of a bank whose roots were planted in the agricultural lending market, Gideon’s father often made lending decisions based on the character of the farmer, even if on paper it looked like too much of a risk.
Even though changes in the banking industry over the past decade have eliminated the ability for banks to lend money with just a simple handshake, small community banks still have the freedom to take some risks that big national banks either can’t or won’t.
“It still comes down to character in this business,” Gideon said. "I don’t loan on properties or buildings. I loan on people.”
For example, while national financial institutions would not even consider loaning a customer money for something out of the norm, such as a “Shouse” (a combination shop and house), Gideon says Silver Lake Bank lenders listen to what the customer wants to do and try to figure out a solution that is best for the customer.
Sometimes doing what is best for the customer is as simple as calling them by name when they come into the bank. Other times it means updating technology to offer digital alternatives for those customers who want to do all of their banking from their smart phones. And sometimes, doing what is right means having to steer a client away from a lending decision that might not be best for the customer, even if it would benefit the bank.
“There is a reason we have been in business for 110 years,” Gideon said. “Our customers trust us to help them make those financial decisions because they know we will always shoot straight.”
LENDING SOME ADVICE
With hindsight being 20/20, Gideon says he would have some advice for his 25-year- old self. First, he would tell himself to take better notes about his experiences and the people he has met during his time at the bank. His dad always told him to keep note cards and write down everything he could about his customers—who they are, their community connections, family members, etc.—but at the time, Gideon didn’t see the value in that type of information, so he didn’t follow through.
“I didn’t think my dad knew what he was talking about,” Gideon said. “Now I wish I had done that.”
Second, Gideon says he would tell himself to be a better listener.
“I should have listened more to my father, to my coworkers, to people I looked up to in business,” Gideon said, “because you don’t know what you don’t know. And as a young man, there was a lot I didn’t know.”
With one of his sons now working at the Silver Lake Bank branch in Lawrence, Gideon says he hopes to pass on some of the lessons he has learned in his more than 30 years in the banking business. One of those lessons is the importance of being involved in your community. Gideon has served with Midland Care, United Way of Greater Topeka and the American Diabetes Association. He is one of the founding members of the Topeka Independent Business Association and is a graduate of Leadership Kansas.
Another lesson Gideon would share is to lead by example.
“Don’t ask your employees to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do. Show up every day and create the best possible work environment for others. Be a good listener, but also be a good follower. Add value to everything you do and work your tail off.”