by Shawn Rhodes
Early experiences often have the biggest impact, in life and in business. For Jim Donatelli, market president for St. Petersburg/Clearwater with Regions Bank and chair of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, a childhood experience permanently shaped him – and his business.“I grew up in Western Pennsylvania when the steel mills died,” Jim said. “I saw what happened when those leaders became complacent and comfortable. Jobs disappeared; families were separated and scattered across the country. I never wanted to see that happen again to the community I lived in.”
In the last 4 years, he’s fulfilled that promise to himself and his community in St. Petersburg, Fla. When he arrived in Pinellas County, he faced a situation many businesses struggle with – differentiation in a saturated marketplace. Failure might mean those branch employees would suffer what Jim did as a child; having to leave the bank and find work in another community.
Jim was determined to keep the promise he made to himself.
“When I arrived in St. Petersburg, I knew this was a special place,” Jim said. “Folks here are doing things to move us forward not just today but 20 years down the road.”
Knowing the area had potential, Jim began making Regions Bank more successful. According to Jim, the way to start turning any organization around is get teammates to buy into a vision and having them realize they’re going to succeed or fail on their own.
“To be successful, people have to be aligned and moving toward a common goal,” Jim said. “If they can’t align, it might not be the employees – you may not have the right leadership team in place.”
Jim’s strategy focused on educating employees and customers about Regions Bank’s values.
“We wanted folks to understand the values we had at a national level, but also be able to connect to those values in their day-to-day lives. That takes regular interaction between us and our customers,” Jim said. “Today, they can talk about their local bankers and Regions Bank in their local community.”
Jim believes values aren’t just for large companies – he’s a firm advocate for every business developing them no matter their size.
“You could be running a small coffee shop and still have great values,” Jim said. He continued, “Leaders have to know who their customer is, who they want to go after, what kind of environment they want to create for customers … all those are values you can proactively build instead of waiting for them to happen.”
And turn it around he has. Today, Jim manages 325 people in 36 offices and has experienced annualized growth rates at Regions Bank that prove what he’s doing works.
What’s next for Jim? In the future, he’s interested in developing leaders who can operate without him.
“I’m building people up to make decisions on their own, developing the next generation of leaders,” Jim said. He added, “Everything I’m doing is trying to move the needle of my organization, my people and the community forward.”
Simply stated, Jim believes that business and community are not only linked, but inseparable. Making time to lead 36 offices and chair the chamber of commerce, his guidance to business leaders in the Tampa Bay Area is to get involved:
“Committed and successful people always find time to improve their community. Our businesses can only be as strong as the communities we serve.”
Being out in the community is an important part of Jim Donatelli’s job when he’s not on duty.
“When I’m out on the weekend in a t-shirt and an outdated pair of cargo shorts and flip flops, I’ll go into hardware stores and watch what people pay with,” Jim said. He added, “The more green cards I see coming out (Regions Bank’s debit and credit cards), the more I know we’re being successful.”
What can you do when you’re off-duty in St. Petersburg to build your business? Jim recommends asking the following of yourselves:
– Where are people using products and services like yours?
– Ask: What makes mine different/better?
– Who’s the market you see using products/services like yours? Where are they in St. Petersburg?
- How can you re-target your differentiator to capture those clients?