If you ask Laurie Smith about her business, you’ll hear about her family, and vice versa. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
When her father, Ed Arshem, and his business partners founded TLC Advantage, a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in the mid-90s, Laurie Smith could not have imagined the journey that was awaiting her. Following a college internship working alongside her father, she moved back to Sioux Falls after graduating and started working full-time for TLC. It was also through her work that she met her husband Les, VP of Finance at RAS, an affiliate of TLC. Once her father retired in 2016, Laurie then became President & CEO.
Looking back over a quarter of a century working in the PPO business, Laurie has witnessed many changes. And when the pandemic hit – like many organizations – TLC moved to working remotely. She realized that moving to a remote environment also highlighted the need to become more automated with the company’s banking needs while still feeling connected and taken care of. “Throughout all my years with TLC, the one constant has been our focus on providing best-in-class customer service and on developing strong business relationships. I found that relationship with American Bank & Trust and Julie Nelson,” she said.
Laurie moved both her business and personal banking to American Bank and Trust and credits that strong relationship for a successful transition. “Julie has been instrumental in making that change seamless. She bent over backward to make the transition easy and made sure that everything could be accomplished with minimal impact to my work schedule. She also worked directly with my staff to get their questions answered and bring all systems operational with little downtime.”
Now, after converting to a ‘work from home’ model and finding the right banking partner, Laurie says that family mentality, the value of relationships, and surrounding yourself with the right people have been more important than ever. “While I miss face-to-face time with my team, we have adapted and continue to enjoy regularly scheduled ‘coffee talks’ that give us a chance to connect through virtual meetings that help us build relationships that extend beyond work priorities. I feel fortunate to have an amazing group of people to work with and know that TLC would not enjoy the success that it does without their hard work and talent.” It was important to Laurie that her banking partner share those same values she had cultivated in her own business, and she’s confident she made the right choice. “American Bank and Trust treat customers like family, often sending a card or cupcake tokens to celebrate a birthday, or by just checking in to see how you’re doing.” And that ‘family mindset’ means a lot. Laurie and Les have two children – Ian (17) and Ella (13), and a dog, Lucy. “Julie has fostered a connection with our family that has become more than just a banking relationship, now it is a friendship – a family,” said Smith.