X. Family Divided
The next few weeks rocked along with banking as usual. The month of June was fast approaching. It was Friday and Steve always liked Fridays. It meant his week was over.
Occasionally he would come in on Saturday but for the most part, he left it to the supervisors to handle the weekends. He loved his time with Sandra and his kids when they were in town.
Steve was active with his banking responsibilities and staying on top of all that was going on with Sherry’s help. Junior was not necessarily trying to push thorough any questionable loans.
They were running pretty much status quo. The ratio of incoming funds measured by the loans being extended were holding firm. Most new business was coming from everyday people wanting to buy new cars; look at financing a new home or a remodeling project for their existing home.
There was a rumor that Home ReSources was looking at Lebanon. Steve knew that the discussion of tax incentives would come up with the banking requirements to land the account.
His past experience in that area had been beneficial with many new businesses coming in to town. Steve had a great working relationship with the City Council.
Steve was still concerned with the inventory loans from those businesses who normally by this time had submitted their requests. Junior had not mentioned any progress there.
The day of the transfer of Sam’s stock, Junior had said that he would try to find out what the mill was doing. He was going to meet with Carl Estes.
The next morning prior to opening the doors, Steve announced Sam’s leaving. Adding to the excitement of the retirement party for Sam on Friday, Steve had forgotten to check in with Junior regarding the meeting with Carl the day before.
Steve thought, “And Junior forgot to inform me what he found out from Carl. Oh, well, he was probably as pre-occupied as I was and it slipped his mind.”
He thought, “I will make a mental note to myself to talk with him about it Monday when we have our briefing again. I need to see something soon.”
Steve left the bank and began the drive home thinking, “I am looking forward to a quite relaxing weekend at home with Sandra. I might even grill some hotdogs and steaks tomorrow afternoon.”
“Sandra and I love to grill steaks. Yep, that’s a plan. I had better call Sandra and make sure she has steaks on hand,” he thought as he pulled over to use his cell phone to call her.
Steve took his cell phone and pushed his favorite list that had Sandra’s number at the top. He pressed her name and the phone started ringing.
“Well … well … well, who is calling me on my private, personal, cell phone? Some néer-do-well or some big banker?” Sandra answered laughing.
“Boy that’s a stretch,” came back Steve. “From a nothing to a something in one piercing leap. I have to check out your iPhone history to see who you have been talking too.”
“Say look,” he went on, “I want to grill some steaks tomorrow afternoon for us. Do you have any steaks on hand?”
Sandra answered, “No, if you remember, we ate the last steaks we had on Tuesday. Remember, you came home just dying for a steak and I grilled them myself outside for you. What’s going on with you? Are you on some kind of a steak-diet or steak-craving?”
“No, I just thought getting out tomorrow afternoon would be a good idea. While I am there, I can do the steaks for dinner,” responded Steve.
Sandra thought, “That’s a wonderful idea. I will not have to cook and I can just sit back and relax as Steve does all the clean-up as well.”
“He’s good at that especially when he does the cooking.” She exclaimed to him, “Well, that’s a good idea. Stop at the Joe’s Butcher Shop and tell him you want the steaks that I always order. He will know what we need.”
“Oh, and get a double order,” Sandra instructed. “It will not hurt to have some on hand should we have guest or something.”
Steve’s mind immediately went to what Sandra was thinking. He knew she always had something up her sleeve and asked, “You got something on your mind? Have you invited someone over already?”
“No, Steve, I just want to have some steaks in the freezer in the event someone does come over or you decide you want steak again anytime soon,” laughed answered Sandra.
She was trying to be coy with him and it was not working she thought, “He always thinks that I am inviting folks over. Course he might be right. I do invite people over to play ‘chicken foot’, ‘42’, or to watch the Aggies play. Especially when John is playing.”
Steve said, “I will go by Joe’s and get the steaks. You want anything else while I am there.”
“Well you like that breakfast ham. He has that and it would not hurt to get some. I can keep it in the freezer until we need it,” replied Sandra.
Steve agreed and hung up the phone. He pulled off the parking lot and began the drive home. He acknowledged, “I do like that breakfast ham. It is so thick and you really know you are biting into something. Not like the turkey bacon Sandra always tries to pan off on me.”
Steve’s thoughts were interrupted by what he saw on Junior’s lot. He exclaimed aloud, “They are moving a double-wide on Junior’s lot. What’s that for? You can’t run a daycare center out of a double-wide trailer.”
“Maybe it’s a construction office trailer? No, they are too finished on the building to be bringing a double-wide for the construction crew now. Maybe they needed one in the beginning, but not now,” Steve surmised.
Steve pulled over again and called Sandra again. “Hey, they are bringing in a double-wide trailer on Junior’s lot. Any ideas what it’s for? You haven’t heard anything have you?”
Sandra listened intently to Steve’s concerns. She knew that with every passing day, he was becoming more and more concerned with the construction on Junior’s lot.
She said, “No, I don’t know what he is doing. June has not mentioned any thing to me period about the lot or the daycare facility.”
“Well, I have some other things to go over with him Monday morning at the briefing and I will ask him about that also. I will stop at Joe’s and get the steaks and then be on home.”
Steve mentioned, “You know the Aggies have their spring scrimmage game tonight. It will be the Maroon team verses the White team. John plays for the starting Maroon team. We can watch that.”
“I am interested in who they are going to finally wind up with at quarterback. Nothing has worked for Sumlin since Johnny Manzeil left,” Steve stated.
He said, “With all of his quarterback recruits bailing out on him, who knows who he will come up with nest? The alumni aren’t going to give him all the time in the world to come up with something or someone.”
“OK, we will worry about the Aggies when you get home. Just be careful driving home. You should not be talking on your cell phone while you are driving anyway,” exclaimed Sandra.
“Well for your information, I pulled over in a parking lot. I have been sitting still all the time I have been talking to you, Miss Smarty pants,” came back Steve.
“It’s about time you started listening to me. You know they talk about how accidents happen when people are talking or texting while driving,” responded Sandra. “Just keep it safe. See you at home”
“Now she tells me. When she gets through giving me instructions, then she wants me off the phone,” Steve laughed to himself as he pulled into the parking lot down the street at Joe’s Butcher Shop.
Monday came too quick. “Where did the weekend go? I was leaving the bank to go home and now I am driving back to the bank and the only thing that has changed is the day of the week,” admitted Steve.
“Somewhere I lost 2 days,” thought Steve as he pulled into his parking spot at the bank. He got out of his car and entered the bank through his side-entrance to his office.
There Sherry was holding a cup of coffee for him. Every morning she had his coffee ready.
Steve wondered, “How about the days when I don’t come in until noon or never and she does not know I am not coming in. What does she do with my coffee then?”
He asked her, “Sherry, what if I did not come in. What would you do with my coffee?”
“I’d drink it,” she answered. “I like my coffee the same way you do.”
“Well that was simple enough,” he thought, why did I not think of that?”
Getting to the business of banking, he instructed Sherry to make sure Junior was in this morning. “I have several things I want to go over with him and only he can answer them.”
Steve already had Sherry’s response before she spoke. “I know what she is going to say before she says it,” thought Steve.
“Will do,” she replied. Looking at the expression on Steve’s face.
“I knew it!” Steve smiled to himself. I got her pegged.
Steve went into his office and started to sit down at his desk when he saw Junior coming through the door. He had a real troubled look on his face and immediately Steve knew something was up with him. He went right by Sherry without even speaking to her.
Junior said, “You need to sit down, Uncle Steve. I have got some very important news for you.” Steve sat down and took a sip of his coffee.
Junior blurted out, “Uncle Steve, I’m leaving the bank. And I am leaving the bank this morning. I have already cleared out my desk.”
“What,” exclaimed Steve jumping up, “what do you mean you are leaving the bank? Has something happened to you and June or is it Sam and Joan. Have I done something? What has brought this on and why so suddenly?”
Junior replied, “No, it has nothing to do with either June, Dad, Mom, or you. It is a decision I made on my own. I will give you the big picture, but afterward I am walking out the door and in all probability never to return.”
Junior continued, “Uncle Steve, I have started my own bank on my lot. It is not a daycare center; it is a new bank here in Lebanon. I know you are not going to like it, but it is a done deal.”
He concluded, “I have the approval from the Banking Commission. The double-wide on the lot is going to serve as a temporary operating building until the new building is completed.”
Finishing, “You are just going to have to think of me as you wish – it is a done thing. I am gone. You close out my account anyway you want and I will understand.”
Junior had not sat down and as he finished he turned and started toward the door. “Junior … Junior,” Steve called after him, but Junior continued to walk out of the office.
“The least you could do is tell me why, Junior?” Steve shouted. Junior continued to walk and left by the side-door.
Sherry came in to see what had happened. “Junior just left the bank and is not coming back,” answered Steve.
“I don’t know what has happened or why. He would not tell me. He said something about starting a new bank here in Lebanon and that it will be on his lot where everyone thought was going to be a child daycare center,” a totally disturbed Steve wanted answers.
Steve concluded, “Junior was misleading us from the very beginning. I have got to get to the bottom of this. Call Sam and get him on the line for me,” shouted Steve.
Sherry practically ran to her desk. She had not ever seen Steve this upset. She dialed Sam’s number, but no answer. She tried Joan’s number thinking she could tell her where Sam might be. Again there was no answer.
To make sure she covered all the bases, she tried calling June and again no answer. It was obvious no one wanted to talk to Steve about what was going on.
“Steve, I have tried everybody – Sam, Joan, and even June. Either they are away from their phones or they are not answering,” Sherry explained.
“That’s OK for now, Sherry,” it was beginning to sink in with Steve what had happened. The why’s and the who’s he didn’t know, but the misleading; the sale of Sam’s stock; all of this is far to coincidental.
Steve was determined to find out. He told Sherry, “Close Junior’s door and don’t tell anyone about this just yet. I don’t want anyone to see that Junior is gone from his office.”
“Is Carolyn here?” he asked. Maybe she will know something.
Sherry said, “Let me look.” She went back to her desk where she could see Junior’s desk and Carolyn was not there. Nor was she in the break room.
Susie came out of the rest room at that moment, Sherry asked her, “Is Carolyn in there? Susie replied, NO.”
At that point, Sherry went back in to Steve’s office and told him that Carolyn was gone also. “If Junior indeed has started a bank then it would make sense to take Carolyn with him.”
“I assume her desk is cleaned out as well.” Sherry had not noticed but said she would check it out.
She went immediately to look. She came back and reported, “Yes, everything is gone.”
“OK, I am not seeing anyone until this starts to make sense to me. I have got some phone calls to make,” exclaimed Steve.
Sherry closed his door and went to her desk. She was shaking. The news had hit so quickly and it was a tremendous shock to Steve.
Steve sat down at his desk. “Is this why the inventory loans were not coming in,” he thought. “I bet Junior has got them swayed to his side and is going to take them to his bank.”
“What time is it – 9:30 – hmm … I am going to give them until 10:00 and then I am going to call each one of them,” Steve was furious.
He shouted to Sherry, “Get me Donald Sanders with the State Banking Commission in Knoxville on the phone. He has to know something.”
“I’m calling right now,” responded Sherry. “Line 1 Steve.”
Steve picked up his pone, “Donald, Steve Johnson in Lebanon …”
Before he could go any further, Donald came back, “Steve, good to hear from you. Say, how is that new bank working out in Lebanon?”
Steve responded, “How is it working out?” Steve repeated his question, “What do you mean how is it working out?”
Trying to control his emotions, “Donald, since when do I not get a heads up for any banking changes being made in Lebanon? When was all this done?”
Donald was taken back, “You mean you did not know? I thought Junior Johnson was your right hand man and he would have kept you informed.”
Donald was apologetic, “Gosh, Steve, I would have sent you an email or a note or something to let you know if I thought anything was amiss, but Junior led me to believe that you were on board with this new bank.”
Donald further explained, “He was going to be on one side of the town and you would be one the other. I even thought there might be connections between the two of you since both of you are so well known to the banking community in Lebanon.”
Steve shouted, “Well, that is not true. Junior just came in this morning and announced that he is leaving.”
Steve’s anger was showing, “No notice. He might as well told me that I could take it and stick it where the sun don’t shine.”
“Wow, Steve, I did not know. If we had known there might be bad blood, we might have given it more thought. But it has been approved now and the auditors are set up to watch his operation for the next 6 months. Assuming everything is above board, he get his final approval by the end of the year,” lamented Donald.
He continued, “I can tell you right now had he told me that there was anything going on between the two of you, we would have looked into this thing much more diligently. We were led to believe that you were on board and that it was fine with you.”
“Well,” started Steve, “I did not know anything nor did I suspect anything. I have gone by his property many times but he had assured me it was going to be a child daycare center and I bought into it.”
Steve settling down, “Look y’all did what you were supposed to do. I am not going to bore you with the details, but know that I cannot hold you accountable for my being misled. I got duped.”
“Look,” replied Donald, “Is there anything you want us to do? We could maybe ride him harder than normal to make sure he complies with the full banking authority and call his hand at every move.”
Steve lamented, “No, after all Junior is family and even if I disagree with his methods, I do not want to see his success or failure being laid at my door.”
He exclaimed, “You and I both know banking is not a walk in the park. He will not need any more outside pressure than he will get under normal circumstances.”
He finished, “Look, thank you Donald for the information. You have a great day.”
Donald came back, “Keep me posted on what goes on with him, Steve. If I need, I can send in more auditors to be assured he stays on track.”
Donald replied, “I don’t like being misled any more than you do and we don’t need rogue bankers in Tennessee. This upsets me tremendously.”
Steve replied, “Will do, Donald. Thanks.”
Steve hung up the phone. “Yeah, I will keep you informed,“ he laughingly sneered to himself. He thought, “If there is anything banking does not need, is bank auditors watching every move you make.”
Steve was getting hot again, “And further we do not need bureaucrats who sit in their ivory towers in Knoxville not doing their job. Someone should have come to Lebanon and verify what was going one before they granted the approval.”
“No thank you Mr. Commissioner,” Steve concluded to himself, “You will not be hearing from me.”
Steve needed to call the accounts about the inventory loans. He wanted to get a feeling of what had transpired obviously behind his back.
But before he wanted to do that, he needed to get his thoughts on how to approach it. He thought, “If I go in with guns blazing and they are working with Junior; that will spell disaster for me ever getting them back.”
Further, “If I approach them from the position of how many years we have helped them in the past even when it was risky, they will just brush that off to the business and that we both prospered in the process.”
“No,” he thought, “I need to talk with them as if I do not know anything and jest wondering how things are going. Let them know that we have set up the funds from the clearing banks in Nashville when they get ready and go from there.”
“Surely if they have made other arrangements with Junior, then I will be able to get some wind of it from them. The one company that is going to need the greatest help is going to be the lumber mill. I will start with them,” contemplated Steve.
Sherry, “Call Carl at the lumber mill. I want to talk to him first.”
“OK, I have him on speed dial,” she answered. “Again pick up line 1.”
“Carl, this is Steve, how goes it on this great big beautiful morning? Be a great day to skip out of the bank and try to get in a few holes at the club don’t you think?”
Carl replied, “Yeah, but I have got far too much to look at today to get away. Maybe another day.”
Steve responded, “Yeah, I am faced with the same prospect here. Just wishful thinking when you see these pretty days.”
“Say,” explained Steve, “I have set up the funds with the clearing house in Nashville to cover your inventory loans this year and was wondering when we might get together to finalize them.”
“There it was,” thought Steve, “Straight to the point. Now I will see if he will be truthful with me and tell me what he and Junior are doing if anything.”
“Steve, I don’t think we will need those loans this year, but I am planning on buying two more big forklifts to use here on the ground that I could use your help on if you wanted,” answered Carl.
Steve questioned, “You can make it this year during the winter without building the inventory right now? Y’all must be doing great out there.”
He was digging in to get Carl to open up, “That is great. This is the first year you have been in that position. Things must really be going well.”
Carl came back, “Well no, Steve, we are still going to need the inventory loans, but we are getting them from another source.”
“You are getting them from another source?” Steve asked without showing his surprise. “You’re going out of town for your financing now?”
He continued, “What … did you find a cheaper interest rate or better terms? You know we set these loans on a straight payout at the end of the term without any monthly payments?”
“And I know it can’t be our interest rates. I see the monthly banking reports. We have some of the lowest rates in the country,” countered Steve.
“What gives, Carl,” Steve asked, “is there a new sheriff in town or are you going out of town to get these loans?”
Before Carl could answer, Steve continued, “You know, I can make some adjustments to accommodate your needs. It would have to be within reason of course.”
Steve really set the trap for Carl, “I know more and more banks are setting up branches throughout the state without having facilities established. I am not looking at anything like that am I?”
“No, Steve, look you have been great to us over the years and we appreciate everything you have done for the mill. You have had our back every time there was a need.”
Then Carl opened up, “But Junior handled our account for you. Now Junior has started his own bank as I am sure you know.”
Carl explained, “Junior has been working on this for quite a while. “I know the two of you have talked about how to handle our business.”
Explaining, “He wants to be more on the professional level where with you, he claimed he was on a mom and pop level. He has some new ideas we want to pursue.”
Carl concluded, “Not that you were not professional – you always came through for us – it is just that he has made a presentation that is quite favorable to us this year. You can understand that. Business is business you know.”
Further Carl detailed, “For example, he is issuing stock to some of us to help him get started. He has also got a new concept in banking that we find attractive.”
Carl declared, “Look, I can give you the two forklifts when we buy them and I can give him the inventory loan. We want to keep a good relationship with both of you.”
Steve had one more question, “Carl, if he is giving you stock, does that mean that you are going to be serving with him on his board?”
Carl answered, “Yes that is one of the options we have also. Now I know that I serve with you on your board and I don’t think it would be ethical for me to be on the board with the two banks in town, so I can – with your concurrence – submit my resignation for your board. That way there will not be a conflict of interest.”
Steve stated, “Yeah, you got that right. It would not be right to serve on both boards at the same time. Have your secretary draw up a letter of resignation. Email it to me and I will present it to the board at the next meeting.”
Steve finished, “Carl, we are going to miss you and your expertise. I don’t look forward to board meetings without your smiling face.”
Steve taking the high road, “Look, I understand, business is business, and you have to go where the grass might be greener. Just know one thing I am here and if you ever want to come back, we will welcome you with open arms.”
“Your mill is important to this town and to the labor market here. Whatever I can do to help I will do. And let me know when those loans come up for the forklifts. Have a great day, and thank you,” ended Steve.
Steve hung up the phone. He thought, “Yep, Junior has done it. That is why I am not getting the inventory loans this year. Not only that, he is giving stock options for those who are helping him get started. I’m not real sure he can do that legally, but I am not going to call his hand on it.”
Steve knew the score, “It will do no good for me to call the others on their business loans as I will get the same answer – that is if they are candid with me. Otherwise, they will try to cover up what is happening.”
His mind continued to wonder what their next move they might make, “I will just wait to see what they do with their bank accounts.”
“I will get Sherry to alert me if they come in to close out the accounts and I will talk to them then. If and when it happens, the action will no longer be under the guise of deception but be out in the open with them making their move publicly,” calculated Steve.
Steve decided that he needed to think this through. He told Sherry, “I am going to talk with Warner. I want to be on solid ground with whatever I do and he can help me move in the right direction.”
He needed help understanding what is happening, “We are going to have to take some action with the board and he can tell me how to go about handling this problem.”
“Junior is still on the board and will need to be officially removed. He had just gotten on the board with his stock and his position,” considered Steve.
He further instructed, “Don’t inform the staff here at the bank that Junior has left and don’t release any information to the press or anyone else about his leaving.”
Steve explained, “I will clear what to do with Warner and we will go from there. Get the tech people to forward Junior’s calls to your desk since Carolyn is obviously gone with him.”
Explaining to Sherry, he said, “I’m going to call Sandra from the car on my cell phone and inform her about Junior in case she was going to call Joan or June.”
“Probably be best today to keep all of us separated. For the time being anyway,” he contemplated.
“Here at the bank – tell anyone who calls for Junior – that he is out for the day. Call Warner, and tell him I am on my way over to see him and that I need to see him immediately.” With that, Steve left the office to go to Warner’s office.
On the way to Warner’s office, Steve purposely drove by Junior’s property. The double-wide trailer was being set up with astro-turf and greenery landscaping to cover the wheels.
The parking lot was being configured to accommodate customer parking while the construction of the main building was being completed. He was definitely setting up for business.
The outside construction work was practically completed which meant that most of the work was now being done inside. Construction always goes fast on the outside, but when they move inside it seems to slow down considerably.
They were installing a new sign on the double-wide. Junior’s new bank would be called the New Age Bank of Lebanon.
Steve slowed as he drove by. He said to himself, “There was the Ray Miller’s new Ford pickup – one of those pickups all decked out with fuel tanks on the side. Mean looking machine if I say so myself.”
He also noticed, “David Leland’s pickup was the one with the curtains on the back window. It was the only pickup in Lebanon with curtains on the back window.”
There was one car that was a mystery to Steve, “The last car I do not recognize, but I do recognize the two gentlemen standing outside the car. They were Clyde Bonner’s bodyguards.”
This concerned him; I hope that does not mean Junior is getting involved with him. And of course, Junior’s car was parked over by the new construction.
“Wait a minute, there is Sam’s car parked behind the end of the double-wide. I can just barely make it out,” Steve declared.
Steve was furious, “So, I guess the non-compete clause does not mean much to Sam. I will have to talk with Warner about that.”
That will mean a breakup of the family if I have to file suit to stop him, but then Capitol Bank made me put that as a requirement of the loan agreement to buy Sam out,” recounted Steve. “And as they say, business is business.”
Junior has a large part of the business community involved with him already. Steve said to himself, “I can see easily a tremendous amount of revenue going down the tube with the people in that meeting not counting Clyde Bonner. That will offset the savings I was supposed to get from Sam leaving.”
Further, he calculated, “The loss of the ratio from their checking accounts verses the loan factors of these companies will offset what might have been saved by Junior’s leaving. With the loss of business through his startup; I will not save a thing on Sam or Junior leaving.”
Steve reflected, “That means that I will have to make the loan payments from my own account. I definitely will discuss it with Warner to find out what to do about Sam’s involvement.”
Steve picked up his iPhone and called Sandra. This time he was going to talk driving. “Morning babe,” Sandra cheerfully answered the phone.
“Sandra, I have some bad news to tell you. Junior announced he was leaving the bank this morning and he is starting his own bank on his property that we thought was going to be a child daycare center,” announced Steve.
He went further, “I just drove by there and he has Ray Miller, David Leland, Carl Estes, and Clyde Bonner in some kind of a meeting. Guess who else? Sam is there.”
Arriving at Warner’s office, he stated, “I can’t talk to you right now as I am coming up on Warner’s office. You might not want to attempt to talk to Joan or June today. It could get ugly. I will get back with you as soon as I can. Love you!”
Sandra was shocked. She and Steve had gone out of their way to make the transition smooth. Steve was willing to count John and Sarah as one to match out Junior on the stock.
They had given Sam a retirement package that was not even necessary. It was something they had wanted to do.
“Now this is how they repay us,” she thought. “Yeah, you better believe it – this is not the day for me to talk to Joan or June.”
Sandra busied herself with her work knowing that Steve would give her all the details when he could. “Wow, this is something.” she thought. It was beginning to sink in.
As a woman, her thoughts went to, “Family time together? Holidays, Christmas, and birthdays – all the things we used to do together. John and Sarah coming in from school – what would it mean to them?”
“Well,” she thought, “it is going to be a new day in Lebanon and we will have to figure a way to make it work. After all we are family.”
“When Steve can tell me, I will let John and Sarah know what is going on,” Sandra could not help saying. “Wow!”
Steve pulled up to Warner’s office and got out. He went immediately to Warner’s office bypassing all the other junior lawyers in the front part of the building. He saw Mary, the Notary Public that had been in his office and waved to her as he went by.
When he got to the back of the building and Warner’s office, Sue, his secretary, waved him on by and said, “Mr. Warner is expecting you.”
“Steve … Steve come on in,” exclaimed Warner. “Come right in here and have a seat. “Sue get Mr. Johnson a drink – Steve, water, coffee, soft drink?”
Steve responded, “Black coffee will do.” He was fuming over what had happened.
Warner called out to Sue, “Two black coffees, Sue, and thank you.” He continued, “I was told that you needed to see me immediately. What is going on?”
Sue came in with the coffee and handed one to Steve and the other to Warner. She left the room.
Steve recounted the events of the morning, “Junior came in this morning and announced that he is leaving the bank immediately. No notice, no reason, and then said he was starting a new bank and just stormed out the office while I was calling after him.”
Steve was trying to maintain his composure. He was enraged inside, “He is starting a new bank here in Lebanon and I just drove by his double-wide trailer that he is going to use as a temporary office until the new building gets completed.”
He recounted to Warner, “You know the building – the one we were told that was going to be a child daycare center – well it is going to be the New Age Bank of Lebanon. He is having a meeting there right now with Ray Miller, Carl Estes, David Leland, and Clyde Bonner”
Expressing his anger even further he asked, “Guess who else – Sam is there. So much for a non-compete clause.”
Warner started, “Well, I guess if Junior wants to start a new bank, there is no way to stop that. But Sam; with him that is a different story.”
He explained, “We have him on a non-compete clause that he cannot enter into another banking venture for 5 years within 500 miles of Lebanon.”
“But,” Warner explained, “You know what any lawyer is going to tell him is that he can loan his money to Junior for any purpose that Junior wants to use it.”
Continuing, “For example, you know that you can loan money to John or Sarah for any reason yourself. Well this would be the same thing.”
“If Sam is not actually going into the banking business with Junior, but loaning money to his son, we would not have a leg to stand on. That’s the sticky part of a non-compete clause. It does not necessarily work with family.”
Warner did explain, “If we were to find out that he is going to be on the board or getting stock in the new bank, we could rein that in, but as for loaning Junior money to help get the bank off the ground, we can’t stop that.”
Steve exclaimed, “Warner, my concern is not so much Sam – he is family. It is Junior. I am not interested in taking either of them down personally.”
Steve explained, “I even understand that he is giving stock to these business men to get their business. That is highly unethical in the world of banking, but I am not going to be the one to point that out.”
Continuing, “If the banking commission comes in and finds out what he is doing. And they want to say something, then that is between him and them. I am not involved.”
Steve stated, “My concern is Junior and Sam and the family. If there is any way to keep this family together, I have got to find it and live with it. After all, Sam is my brother and Junior is my brother’s son, not to mention Joan, June, Sandra and John and Sarah.”
“What I need is advice on how to move forward. Can you tell me what Dad would have done if this had happened to him,” asked Steve.
Steve appealed to Warner for an answer, “Warner, you are a trusted friend. I know you have put marriages back together before. What I need is help keeping my family together.”
Warner explained, “Steve, three things have got to happen to make this work. First and foremost, I want you to talk with Pastor Wilson and explain what is happening here.”
He continued, “He sees all of you almost every Sunday. He might be able to give spiritual advice that everyone can listen and take heed to.”
“Second,” Warner continued, “I want you to take the high road. You can get in the gutter if you want but that will serve no one. Taking the high road will not mean that Sam, Junior or any of the family members are going to do the same, but you have to force yourself to do it.”
Concluding, Warner stated, “Lastly, go back to your bank and work your tail off. Walter did not build that bank by just sitting in his office.”
He looked Steve in the eye and said, “He hustled and busted his rear end for everything he got. You will have to do the same. There is going to be enough business in Lebanon for two banks to make it.”
He said look at everything, “There is nothing wrong with finding out what Junior is doing. Check his marketing techniques and measure it against your marketing.”
Explore the community again, “It could be that your demographics might be totally different from his. You will keep and grow your clientele while he will with a totally different brand of folks.”
“That’s my advice,” finished Warner, “take it for what it is worth. It could be a start of a new bank for you as well – having to move out without family.”
“OK, then that is what I will do,” said Steve. “Can you make up a press release with these thoughts in mind that we can put out on Junior’s leaving? Don’t promote his new bank, but that he is leaving to pursue other endeavors.”
“People will find out soon enough. If you can get that to my office this afternoon, I can release it tomorrow,” said Steve.
“And one more thing,” stated Steve, “I need to reevaluate the board at the bank and remove those that will be serving with Junior at his bank. We can present it at an emergency meeting as soon as we get the forms signed.””
“Done,” proclaimed Warner. “I’ll have the forms filled out and to your bank along with the press release this afternoon. Give me a list of those you want to remove and I will contact them and get their signatures.”
Steve appreciated Warner and his advice, “Look thank you for seeing me on such short notice, but if you remember, I used to be able to go to Dad with these problems but Dad is gone now. I needed to run some of this stuff by someone for an objective approach. You have been a great help and hank you.” Steve let himself out and drove back to the bank.
Back in his office, he called to Sherry, “Sherry, I want to see Jody Carmichael, the loan officer under Junior. He has a good feel for what we do here. See if you can get him in here if he is not with a customer.”
Again, Sherry with the, “Will do!” Always ready to go.
Jody came in right away. Steve invited him to sit down. “Jody, I am going to tell you something that will be between you and me and you and me only. Junior has left the bank. He resigned as of this morning. Not only has he quit, but he is opening a new bank here in Lebanon called the New Age Bank of Lebanon. Don’t tell anyone about this as we will put out a press release tomorrow.”
Steve went further, “Second, I want you to take over his responsibilities. Not as the Executive Vice President of Loan Development but as the Director of Loan Development.”
“You have been with us now for 5 years. I have noticed your work and you have done an excellent job. I will name you in an inner office memo tomorrow as our new Director of Loan Development.”
Explaining, Steve said, “The first thing I want you to do is to get up to speed on all the accounts that Junior was working. We do not want to miss a step in their activity.”
Further, “Then, I want you to get up to speed on the business accounts that we are going to lose with Junior’s leaving. Already he is taking the lumber mill account although we are supposed to still get part of their business just not as much.”
Steve further informed Jody, “Carl Estes told me this morning that they will be buying two more forklifts for the mill and those things run close to a quarter million each so we definitely want to hold him to that promise.”
Further to Jody, “He is going to be on Junior’s Board of Directors but he also sees the hand writing on the wall that it is not good to put all your eggs in one basket. So press him, but don’t push him away.”
He concluded, “Just ‘ride the horse’ that it is better to do business with two banks and have both of them in your corner than with just one. He’ll go for it.”
Steve continued, “Ray Miller with the Ford dealership and David Leland with the poultry processing plant are in the same boat. I have not talked with them but it is quite obvious that Junior has made a deal with them.”
Finishing, “He is using bank stock to lure their accounts to him. Go through the rest of our bank accounts that are in this class and start making regular contact with them.”
Changing the subject, “Now to the administrative portion of your department – find one or two of your loan officers that you feel would like to move up. Get them on board to help you with this task.”
Steve instructed, “When you have them established, I will make them Loan Managers. When we get everything working, I will move you to Vice President of Loan Developments.”
Steve was optimistic he could work with Jody, “You can do this Jody and I look forward to working with you on all of these loan projects. I see you as the future loan officer for this bank.”
“Now one last project I want you to do. It will sound a little underhanded, but it is studying the markets that we serve to better make our services available to all. This is from senior citizen depositors down to new businesses coming into town.”
He laid out his idea, “I want you to get a friend that is not part of our bank to go to the New Age Bank of Lebanon when they get in their new building and have everything set up. Have that person set up an account with them.”
Continuing, “We want that person give us a perspective of what they are doing that we do not do. We can learn from our competition even if it is from an young upstart man like Junior.”
Steve stated, “I am sure they will have a Grand Opening and invite the public to come in to see their new facilities. Some of the things they will be doing, we might want to watch.”
“Your friend can watch what they are doing,” explained Steve. “We then can see if we want to match theos programs while keeping up with what we do.”
He finished, “I know this is a lot without you having time to think about it. But I want to know – are you up for the job?”
“Mr. Johnson,” Jody began, “I would love to do this and I can handle everything you have described. It might take a little time, but I am a quick learner so you will find out soon enough. I will not let you down.”
“Good,” said Steve, “that is what I wanted to hear. You will notice an increase in your check on the 15th and thereafter.”
Ending, Steve added, “Two last things, one, I want you to start calling me Steve as we are going to be working closely together. My Dad was Mr. Johnson.”
Stating, “And second, I want you to move into Junior’s office. Not today, but tomorrow after the inner office memo is distributed. Now go getter’ done!”
“Yes sir, Mr. Johnson … err I mean Steve. That might take a little getting used to Steve.” Jody smiled and left the office.
Steve was feeling better about things now that pieces were beginning to fall into place. Jody had shown great talent for making loans and getting new business and it was time to move him up even if Junior had stayed with the bank.
With the changes taking place, Steve needed to go home and spend time with Sandra. He always found solace with her when the family was evolving. She gave meaning to everything surrounding him.
Steve knew that she would have a thousand questions – first about the family. Then she would eventually get around to the bank.
“Sherry, I am going home to spend time with Sandra so if something comes up that you need me, call me on my cell phone,” he instructed.
“Hold it … hold it … here it comes,” he thought, but Sherry did not respond.
“What … why did you not say ‘will do’ Sherry? You always say ‘will do’; you better not tell me you are leaving to. I can take Junior leaving much easier than I could take you leaving,” commented Steve.
Sherry laughed, “I knew you were expecting it so I wanted to see what you would do if I did not say it. So here it is … WILL DO!”
Steve grabbed his briefcase. He was still laughing as he walked out the side door of his office. But it was a nervous laugh.
Steve left the office and drove home to Sandra. He knew that her mind would be racing with all kinds of scenarios about what might have happened. It would be best to give it to her straight and then as a family they could work on it.
“And as a family, it meant all of them. I am not going to let what Junior has done disrupt this family more than it has to.”
He thought, “Warner gave me some very good advice and one of the things I want to talk with Sandra about is calling a family meeting at the home place with Sam, Joan, Junior and June. I can get her advice on when it might be appropriate.”
“Everyone needs to know that we should be above letting petty differences divide us. Competition – yes – everything is fair in love and war. Family … no.”
Steve continued in this mindset, “And the community needs to know that we as a family are not falling apart. We might be dividing but we are in harmony as a family with the changes.”
He arrived home and drove in the driveway up to the front sidewalk. “Might as well get this over with,” he thought.
Sandra had been waiting for him and watching out the kitchen window. She saw him drive up and when he got out of the car, he did not seem as disgruntled as she expected. He was pretty much normal.
“Hmm …,” she wondered out loud, “… this is going to be interesting.” She quickly poured him a cup of coffee and shouted that she was in the kitchen as he came through the door.
Steve dropped his briefcase on the table near the front door and went into the kitchen. Seeing the coffee cup; he sat down at the kitchen bar, took of a sip of coffee,” and asked. “You mean you are not going to ask me how my day went.”
Smiling wryly, Steve watched as she began to fidget on the kitchen floor. “You better watch out, you will rub a hole in the floor dancing around like that.”
“Steve, I can’t stand this any longer; what happened? I am going to hit you if you don’t tell me what happened,” Sandra wanted desperately to know.
“Well,” started Steve, “there is not much to tell. Junior came into my office this morning as he always does for what I thought was our Monday morning briefing. He informed me he was resigning the bank.”
Steve explained, “He said he knew that I would not like it. And that I was not going to like what he was going to do either.”
Continuing, Steve said, “He then informed me he was starting a new bank instead of the child daycare center we all thought was being built on his lot. And further – that is the way it is going to be and he turned and left. I called after him, but he would not stop.”
“I had Sherry call the State Banking Commission for me to get the official details from them,” explained Steve.
He lamented, “Sherry got the Executive Director of the commission on the phone. Donald Sanders verified that it was true, but they thought it was with my blessing.”
Steve explained, “Junior had convinced them that I was aware of what he was doing. He told them since he would be on the north end of town, and I was on the south end, we had agreed there would be little competition for the general public.”
Steve further explained that Junior had gone behind his back for the inventory loans. “I knew that the inventory loans had not come in yet. And that was Junior’s primary responsibility at this time of the year.”
Steve stated, “I called Carl Estes at the lumber mill. He told me that they are going with Junior on their inventory loan this year. I knew at that point it would be useless to call the others.”
Continuing, “Carl did say that he would be glad to share his business with us and that he was going to purchase two new forklifts for the mill. That could be in the neighborhood of half a million dollars in loans there.”
Steve further explained, “Carl further said that Junior was going to provide them stock at a deflated start-up value from the initial stock offering to serve on the board with him.”
“To which I informed him nicely that it would be a conflict of interest for him to serve on the board of two different banks in the same town. He agreed and is sending a letter resigning from my board,” stated Steve.
Steve said, “I kept it on the up and up without my guns blazing. I informed him that should there be any changes, we would welcome him back wholeheartedly.”
He concluded, “We hung up on a very favorable note. I think that I can count on him to at least curb Junior to some degree that we are not going to be fighting him on this.”
I think,” went on Steve, “He will also share with Ray Miller and David Leland the content of our conversation which should go a long way with them that we are not harboring any ill feelings with them, Sam, or Junior over this as well.”
Now to Sandra and Steve’s take, “Which brings me to this point; I met with Warner. I wanted to be sure I stayed on solid legal ground through all of this.”
“Since Junior was just put on our board he will be dismissed – not with anger or malice – but as a matter conflict of interest. Junior will not care and the others will understand.”
He again continued, “Warner is going to draw up the papers and have the men sign off on their resignation from the board. They will be presented to the board at the next regular meeting in the middle of June.”
Steve explained how much Warner helped, “He gave me some very good advice. He said, first, to talk to Pastor Wilson and let him know what is going on.”
Steve moved on the next point, “Second, take the high road and stay out of the gutter. Everyone can get dirty but only the diligent can stay clean.”
Lastly, Warner said, “Go back to the bank and work my you know what off. He said Dad built that bank through the sweat of his brow and I would have to do the same. Work as if nothing had happened and make decisions based on our need right now.”
“One last thing,” Steve just remembered, “I went by the new bank location on the way to Warner’s office and guess who was there? Of course, Carl, Ray, and David were there … Sam was there also.”
Explaining, Steve said, “Evidently, Sam is not going to let this stock thing go. He probably feels he can do more with the money I paid him than he could ever do with the stock.”
Warner’s advice on the non-compete, ““Warner said we could pursue it, but he would not recommend it. Sam could easily just lend the money to Junior for whatever purpose Junior wanted to use it the same if we loaned money to John or Sarah.”
Finally, “I tend to agree not to push that. Guess who else was there?”
Sandra shook her head as if to say, “I don’t know. Who?”
“Clyde Bonner that’s who. Can you believe that Junior would want to do business with Clyde Bonner?”
Informing Sandra, “He had to pay off a large settlement to the feed mill companies in Alabama over the cheating his drivers – per his instructions – were doing with the grain.”
Steve further explained, “The FBI got involved as it was interstate commerce, and he was on his way to a long prison sentence until the grain companies agreed to a settlement.”
“They let him off with a short sentence with time served plus 5 years probation. But before the settlement, he had already made millions on the sale of the grain that he had not purchased,” he elaborated.
Steve said the mills calculated, “The settlement was a small amount compared to what Bonner got from the revenue off the sale of that grain. The feed mill companies wanted it settled, however, and they took a loss to just get something from him. Going to prison, they would not have gotten anything.”
Explaining, “It is not a good move for Junior to include him His money is not worth it even though he does have a boat load of cash.”
He concluded, “As far as going forward with the business of the bank, I have moved Jody Carmichael up to Director of Loan Developments. He has been with the bank for five years,”
Steve commented, “He has worked in conjunction with Junior so he should be able to handle it. I am going to give him a couple more assistants to get the job done.”
Steve explained, “I want Jody out beating the bushes for new commercial accounts. You have heard the rumor that we are getting a new Home ReSources store.”
“Well it is not a rumor,” declared Steve. “They have purchased the lot next to Wal-Mart and should start construction next month. I want that business.”
“Well it sound like another wonderful day in the neighborhood,” hummed Sandra out loud. “Can it get any more interesting,” she thought.
“Yeah, this year has really been and is shaping up like a very unusual year,” responded Steve. “Makes you wonder what can happen next.”
Steve continued, “Now we have got to figure out what to do about the family. According to Warner we should take the high road there too. I am going to meet with Pastor Wilson and tell him what has happened and that we as a family are not going to let this divide us at home or in the church.”
Steve commented, “I do not want the church being faced with a position of having to choose sides. We are just two families in the banking business.
“Much like two families competing from car dealerships. How you like a GM product or you like a Ford product should not change how you live as a family,” responded Steve.
Alluding to the pastor, “Maybe if Pastor Wilson has opportunity to talk to Sam, he will convey our thoughts on the subject. It should help to ease the pain.”
“As for you, my dear,” Steve concluded, “You will probably have to face some ridicule from Joan or June. Just let it roll off as if it did not happen.”
He said, “They are prone to have ill thoughts about us anyway, and this will give them cause to make nasty comments if they so desire. We are going to have to keep them off that stool and let them know we are still family and we need to stick together.”
Further, stated Steve, “We need to let them know that we wish Junior and Sam the best. It is our wish that it works out for them.”
He replied, “They are starting from scratch and we have an established bank. That is some comfort for us and still a sticky point for them until they get their feet on the ground. That is assuming they can do that with people like Clyde Bonner.”
He ended, “We will probably be going after the same business from time to time, but that should not separate us as a family. What are your thoughts?”
Sandra had an opened water bottle that she had gotten when she gave Steve his coffee. She picked it up from the counter top and took a swallow giving her mind time to comprehend all that she had heard.
Steve now uneasy began to squirm, “What say you?” He waited patiently for her to speak.
Sandra took another drink and started, “First, I agree that we need to let Pastor Wilson know what is going on and the way we look at it as a family and as members of the church. Warner is right on track with that.”
She replied, “Second, that high road thing is going to be difficult. Joan and I work so many different causes along with June. People do not always see us as separate individuals, but instead the Johnsons.”
“This will call for a certain amount of expected division between Joan and me for sure. But it can be done,” she agreed.
Sandra continued, “She has never been one to handle any type of adversity. Usually she goes off without thinking about what she is doing or saying at the moment.”
Explaining, “For example if she presents something at a meeting and I present another idea – that is certainly not going to be nice, I can assure you. The best thing I can do is to make sure that I get on committees where we do not necessarily work together but maybe work on the same project.”
Continuing, Sandra related about June, “June is not a problem, she is going to see this as her husband moving on up in the world and he deserves it regardless what he had to say or do to get it. She will be very blunt on that point and not care what others think.”
“As for me, I don’t see a problem,” said Sandra, “I can work with them without feeling any hostility toward them. As you say, they re family and we will have to work doubly hard to keep everyone together now.”
She explained, “Getting together for holidays and birthdays – that might change. They will develop their friends; and we – ours. We might not necessarily get together as much as we have in the past.”
Concluding, “For public events at church, city affairs, things like that; there will not be a problem at all for me. As you say, if comments are made; I will just let it roll off my back as if it never happened.”
Sandra asked, “Have you attempted to talk with Sam since Junior made his announcement? What are his feelings?”
Steve replied, “I had Sherry try to call him right after Junior left. I wanted to know more about what he was doing at that point, but he did not pick up his cell. He knew what was going on.”
Steve commented, “Now that we have it out in the open, I am going to let it sink in for a couple of days and then try to call him again. We might run into each other by then somewhere.”
He expressed a concern, “Can’t let it go too long as time itself will begin to create a wall between us. Then that will be something else we would have to work with.”
Concluding, Steve said, “Well that is where we are and you know as much as I know. The rest we will just have to deal with as it unfolds. You have anything for lunch? All this running around has made me hungry.”
“Oh yeah, I knew you would come to tell me what was going on without eating. I have some food ready in the frig,” stated Sandra, “you want tea, water or soda to drink? I made tuna fish – your favorite sandwich.”
Steve looked gleefully at Sandra and said, “That’s great, I will just have soda with the sandwich. You do have fresh tomatoes for the sandwich and lettuce?”
“I have it all including potato chips. Move over to the table and I will serve it there,” directed Sandra.
Steve and Sandra enjoyed their tuna fish together talking about the future with Sam, Joan, Junior and June. They discussed various ways of being cordial with each other. It would not be a small task to do especially with Joan.
After lunch, Steve felt he had just done a month’s work in one morning. He was literally drained from all that had happened. He told Sandra, he was going to sit back in his recliner and take a short nap.
Sandra took his phone and made sure he would not be disturbed. She – knowing Steve – knew it would not be a short nap and after all this, he needed his rest.