Walking into a bank is a unique experience.
The noise, or lack of it, uncomfortable furniture, and the drab colors state exactly what the business is for and pique no interest in the customer. However, some banks are stepping things up. Now the lights, the colors, and even the teller pods advertise accessibility and a renewed zest for customer service. Especially with the addition of digital software, the banking experience has been completely revitalized. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, accurately describes the effort that people behind the scenes put into this change.
Built out of many different people and jobs that work together like a well oiled machine, The Element Group is so much more than a bunch of gears. It is an organism. One that lives and breathes with a passion to create and serve each client to its maximum potential. Determination and heart describe all of the people here at Element. No more so than the founders Nate Baldasaro and William Foley, two men who truly believe in the slogan, Every bit matters.
A project at Element is not just a project. Its a customer experience. Hands on from the get go, a project through Element is a new and unique experience. Throughout the design process, the team gets to personally know each and everyone working on the project and ensures that the spirit and intent of the project stays throughout the entire design and construction process. It’s more than just a business deal, it’s a relationship. This stems from the idea that it’s a culmination of the small things that make a difference.
8 years later, the Element Group has implemented customer service, innovation, and heart, resulting in many successful projects with rave reviews.
I sat down with one of our founders, Nate, to discuss the company, its origins, and visions for the future in a two part blog.
Hi Nate, lets start with the first question! What makes element different from others? Explain the trust aspect, how listening and collaborating the way that the element group does is different than the rushed and money making basis of other companies, how the priorities are different
Nate: Well I think there is two answers to that, One is we have all been doing this for quite awhile, we don’t ever want to be considered a vendor to our customers or future customers. We want this to be a partnership. And if you are a good partner, you are looking out for them just as much as you are looking out for us. Part of our job derives from the word element, which by one of the definitions, means an environment naturally suited to, or associated with an individual, so we are always trying to make sure that whatever customer it is that their environment represents them and puts their employees, customers and or members at ease and feel great in the space. The ultimate goal that we try to achieve is great partnerships. When we do these projects, invariably there are mistakes and there is a long term thing so we want to be able to resolve any issues, but also understand their brand and the way that they do business. As the partnership progresses, we want to get to know them better and better and eventually, at least the hope is, to eventually think like them. The tagline every bit matters, at the end of the day really came about with the understanding that we are really selling a commodity. These banks and credit unions are really all selling the same products, pretty much all have the same services, and pretty much the same rates. So none of that stuff is really a differentiator for them. So we have to find almost little things that they can do differently or more unique or just deliver consistent results that separates them from the competition. So invariably there are small little things that make a big difference. That’s what we try to do with them, and that’s what we try to do as a company as well for ourselves and for our people.
What pushed you to start The Element Group? (THE ROOTS)
- The first idea
- The first meeting
- The first designs
Nate: Well after Brand Partners closed, we worked for another company for a short period of time. We realized that we wanted to do things differently, the way we wanted to do them and we had ideas that we thought were best for the customers and would work well for us, so that’s where we started in 2010, this idea of building our own company, again the word Element and the tagline that every bit matters kinda came from that. We, like most entrepreneurs, felt that we could do better and after seeing other peoples work and deciding what we liked and didn’t like and decided to jump in. So we came up with the idea, wrote a business plan, we got a private investor and January 4, 2011 we were up and running as The Element Group working to implement ways that we thought were a better way to do business. Obviously the goal when you are new is to obviously survive and do work that hopefully, people understand. Ideally follow the vision, like it and approve of it as well as the work that we do here, and as a result ask us to do more.
So who approached who? Could you describe for me what you would call the first meeting?
I think it was pretty mutual. We would just sit around thinking how we could do this differently, really, how we could do it ourselves. It started out as conversations and kinda snowballed from there. All of a sudden we came to the conclusion that we could really do this, let’s put a plan together. Once we had a plan we fortunate enough to find a private investor who believed in what we were doing. We thought we could get a loan from the bank, but chances were that we would not be able to.
Once you really started the company, who were the first people that you hired and how have they contributed?
Well we had myself and William and Bill Bauer on the West Coast, kinda all in sales operations, we were working with Jeff Ferris in architecture and design and Greg Cole and a few other contracted people. But our first official employee was Caleigh Pollard. She was fresh out of school and literally walked up the stairs of our office, with resume in hand. We were all kind of shocked, but called her right back and it was William (as I was out of the office at the time)who offered her a one week job to test out her capabilities and give her a shot. We gave her a project to work on and she has been with us ever since. It was great that she had the fortitude to walk in and that we decided to give a chance, she has been fantastic. A great asset to the company.
However it sets the tone for future employees, as they have to have a certain skill set, but if they aren’t nice people or believe in the vision that we believe in then either we don’t hire hire them, or they weed themselves out. We aren’t a massive company and everyone has to work together to ultimately deliver this package to a customer. One way to get fired quickly (this hasn’t happened yet) is to be rude to a customer and not take care of them.
Stay tuned for the rest of the interview!!
Interview conducted and written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group
Special thanks to Nate Baldasaro