When you have a strong relationship with someone, the door is wide open for honest dialogue. And instead of skepticism, honesty can be met with trust.
That combination paid off big for John Huff, co-owner of Huff Ice Cream, a family-owned distributor of a wide variety of food products in Sidney, NY, when he leaned on his strong relationship with Jeff Lord—a commercial loan officer at Community Bank, N.A. The two met in 1995 and quickly formed a mutual respect for the work each puts in every day.
“Relationships are very important to us,” John said. “Jeff is the epitome of having a great professional relationship. It doesn’t happen often that you find someone with such similar personality and mindset, values, feelings about work, priorities. We line up.”
In the early 2000s, Jeff was visiting John’s operation for an annual review when, during a routine walk-through of the property, he asked John if he’d ever considered flood insurance. By this time, Huff Ice Cream had been in business for more than 50 years. He’d never had flood insurance, never wished he’d had it because he’d never seen the need, and even his insurance guy had never suggested it.
Still, John trusted that Jeff was looking out for his best interests—nothing more and nothing less—and added the coverage. It was this coverage that ended up preventing losses of over $1 million when floods struck his operation in 2006 and again in 2011.
“If we hadn’t had the flood insurance Jeff suggested, it would’ve been a huge problem,” John said. “There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t think about that and what it meant to our company. He’s not only making sure we make our payments on time, but he’s looking out for the wellbeing of our entire company. He truly is a partner.”
Jeff said he takes great pride in his role in helping Huff Ice Cream grow over the years. Started in 1952 by John’s father, Huff Ice Cream went from being a small ice cream producer and distributor to a major regional distributor of ice cream, sweet and salty snacks, frozen foods and more for major national brands.
“It’s a huge operation, and they do it so, so well,” Jeff said. “They are the epitome of how a great business should operate. We work so well together because we’re not fighting egos, we’re not fighting negativity.”
Both John and Jeff are good at what they do, and that’s important to success. But it’s their strong relationship that makes working together work. And John says he sees that commitment from others at Community Bank, too.
“It goes above and beyond my relationship with Jeff,” he said. “CBNA does such a great job. My father passed away seven years ago, and my mom goes into the Sidney branch where Sharon helps her balance her checkbook every six weeks. It’s rare these days.”
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