If you’re looking for Melissa Duke, she’s guiding business owners with her best tough love (hint: get your taxes done!) and in her spare time she’s fishing—or ATVing, hiking, camping and exploring. With a passion for math, a love of adventure, and a heart for giving back, Melissa’s more than just a banker—she’s a multi-talent who knows how to help clients merge their passion with a healthy bottom line.
What led you to a career in banking?
I started out as a math teacher, and while studying I fell in love with history and political science, too, so I didn’t see this coming. But after graduation I got offered a manager’s position at the bank, so I thought I’d still teach, and still teach math—only do it through banking.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I love working with entrepreneurs. They are so excited and passionate about what they are doing, and helping them see their dreams come to fruition is what I like the most. They are so excited, they put so many hours in--it’s more than their livelihood, it’s their life. As a math person, I like the numbers part, too, but it’s amazing helping them see something they didn’t see.
I had a business owner who was expanding his business and building a bigger facility. I had him approved for a loan and a line of credit. He said, “I didn’t need a line of credit.” I told him, hey, you have it for six months, let me know if you don’t want it. He came back to me and said, “how did you know I’d need a line of credit?” I knew his space, inventory and receivables were growing, and that he’d need some short term working capital. One of the hardest thing on a business is to grow, and to do that all out of pocket.
I had another customer whose credit line wasn’t going up and down as much as it should, and I asked him to why he didn’t pay it down more often. He said it was because he was always going back to it and tapping it anyway, so why pay it down? I told him if you paid down your line for only one week a month, even if it went back up again, that’s 3 months of interest each year he’d save—about $10,000. He started doing that and that savings went directly into his bottom line.
What do you wish small business owners knew?
Well, you’ve got some owners who know how to run the operations, or someone who knows how to run the finance, but they don’t know how to do the other. So if finance isn’t your thing, you’ve got to get the right person in there to help control your cost and inventory.
One thing I wish people thought more about is when they pay their taxes. There’s a client I have that owns and manages 300 properties and already have their 2018 taxes done. This is great! I wish people would file on time, it would make our lives so much easier.
If I know how their last 12 months look, they are already planning for 2019 and be using good information. We have to go by tax returns. If you don’t file until, say, September (because you can), it means everything we’re looking at is 18 months old. It helps your borrowing ability. If you owe $10,000 in taxes, you’re messing with your payables. Pay it and be done and move on.
What would it surprise people to know you spend time thinking about?
I have a pretty good relationship with my clients, and they know me! They know if I’m not at work, I’m thinking about being outdoors.
What does that do for you?
It helps me clear the cobwebs. Hiking, ATVing... you’re so focused. It just clears my head.
Where do you like to go?
We have some property down in Owen County, or we take our camper into Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. I’d just like to see as much as the country as I can. We try to get to all the National Parks. That’s on my life list—to check off all the parks.
Do you have a favorite National Park?
Grand Tetons is my favorite so far. Just the serenity of that place! It’s very undeveloped, very quiet. The pictures don’t do it justice—the blue skies, the mountains, the lakes... no picture captures it.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in banking?
I’d be a DNR officer, or I always said my total dream job is to be a philanthropist. I’m active with Habitat for Humanity and the Sertoma Club of Greenwood (Sertoma stands for service to mankind). We do one huge fundraiser a year, WAMM Fest, that draws 7000 people... it’s wine, art, music and microbrews. One hundred percent of the money goes back to the community. We give to Girls Inc., Youth Connections, Parks and Rec, the fire department, CASA, Christmas Angels... it’s a lot. Last year was our 10th year and we’ve raised over $700,000. Our weekly meetings are meeting with organizations and writing them checks—and I’m the treasurer, so I get to hand out the checks. It’s a good time.