Local business owner Thom Baker seeks to leave Columbia a gift when he retires. Tucked away in his equipment-lain home office, Thom Baker of...
Assistant vice president, treasury services sales officer, Commerce Bank
Years lived in Columbia:
Tell us about your job:
I am a treasury services officer within Commerce Bank. My division focuses on being a consultant and advisor to our corporate banking, not-for-profit, governmental, and health care clients. I focus on working with the customer to analyze their remittance processing, distribution processes, and reporting and fraud prevention business processes and then identify industry best practices and solutions to recommend and assist them to implement to improve their cash flow, bottom line, and efficiency ratios. I feel very privileged to work in an area of banking that is not otherwise represented in Columbia, and it provides me a great opportunity to get to work with a variety of companies across multiple industries and collaborate with other bankers in the area.
Who is a mentor in your life?
I would have to say my mentor is also the person who has inspired me the most. That would be Teresa Maledy, CEO and chairwoman of Commerce Bank, Central Missouri region. She serves as an example of a person who understands the importance of balancing her personal responsibilities and community commitment while achieving high goals in the competitive business market as a woman.
What are some misconceptions about your job?
Many people who are not familiar with the financial banking industry are confused by the words treasury services, which is part of my job title. When some people hear or read my title, they assume I sell treasury bonds, while others think that I act like a company treasurer or even deal with cash at the bank.
What is the single best thing about your job?
I would say the single best thing about my job is my customers! I love getting to know each and every one of them professionally and personally.
What was the last professional goal you accomplished?
My more recent professional accomplishment was being selected to represent Commerce at the annual AFP convention in Florida at the end of October, but that’s a small accomplishment compared to how proud I was to be selected to the Commerce Leadership Development Program. The selected employees for this special training program were selected from the entire Commerce footprint. This program class of about 20 employees met several days a month for retreats over a period of about six months. We were exposed to training by the most experienced professionals and leaders in the Commerce family. The training included all aspects of the company. At the conclusion of the class, members held private interview meeting with Commerce senior executives. I was very proud that I was able to travel to St. Louis and meet one-on-one with John W. Kemper, president of Commerce Bank.
What motivates you?
I guess I can say what motivates me is my belief in never giving up, a strong sense of determination, confidence in oneself, and the ability to find the positives in each day. I find myself determined to find success in what I do. I believe I was blessed with an inherited gift — the determination and drive to overcome obstacles in my life. I believe some of that trait comes from my grandfathers. My Granddad, Doug, my father’s dad, survived being held almost two years in a Nazi prison camp, and an earlier grandfather served and survived the Revolutionary War and moved his family to Kentucky, only to be killed by Native Americans. My Granddad Buckman was called “the padre” by the other prisoners because he always preached to them to believe in themselves to overcome, to have faith, and to refuse to give up. I believe that life is full of challenges, and success is only achieved through determination and the drive to never give up.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
Honestly, I am not sure what I would be doing if I did not have my job at Commerce Bank. This is my perfect job, and I love it. If I was not doing this job, I would have to find another position where I could be as challenged as I am in my present job, and where I could use my finance, marketing, and social skills. It would have to be a job that I would enjoy as much as I do my present Commerce Bank position.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
I can’t express how proud I was to have been selected as the first recipient of the One Commerce Excellence Award for the Central Missouri region.
What’s your favorite community project?
I think my favorite community projects would have to be volunteering at Parkade Elementary School, our Partner in Education, or volunteering at The Food Bank filling up Buddy Packs! I come from a family that has always been active in charity work and helping others, so helping children has always been my passion.
What is the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?
I believe anyone who wants to be successful in business needs to consider the basic principles we all learned as children: honesty, dependability, and a strong sense of self-motivation. I know we live in a society where many have forgotten those values, but to build the needed long-term lasting relationships with clients, it’s important to achieve a strong comfort and confidence level between you and your customers. It is definitely important to display these traits in order to achieve your important long-term relationships.
What is your favorite business book you’ve ever read and what impact did it have on you?
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is probably my favorite business book I have read. This book reinforces the importance of building meaningful relationships. In my career, building relationships vital to success.
If you had unlimited funds, what is the one specific thing you would do to improve Columbia?
I presently love to help with the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia. I think this organization is outstanding. With unlimited funds, I would be able to provide additional funding for that organization, but I would also be able to build a large facility where the children of Columbia could find all the resources that are so lacking for so many underprivileged children in our community. I would not only offer recreation activities and camps, but also counseling, tutoring, and job skill training for young adults. So many children find themselves lacking the hope and skills they need to find success in the adult world. Perhaps if they could be on a level playing field leaving high school, they wouldn’t turn to crime and despair.
What is one goal you have for 2017 and how do you plan to achieve it?
My goal for 2017 is to grow into more of a leadership or management role within Commerce. One of my goals is to be a mentor for a new employee and help them grow their professional career at Commerce Bank.
What trait do you most want in a co-worker or employee?
I think the most important trait I look for in anyone close to me is honesty, but I feel that they must be both loyal to me and Commerce. I probably do expect a lot of dedication from any co-worker or employee, because that’s the driving force that challenges and motivates me every day.
If you could improve one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I believe I sometimes don’t display enough confidence in others and find myself wanting to do things myself so I’m sure they’re completed the way I want it completed. This flaw causes me to sometimes allow myself to stress too much, work too long, and lose track of what is really important: enjoying the positive good blessings that are around me. I do need to be driven and determined, but I also need to find a point of letting myself let go of work thoughts when I’m on personal time.
What do you do for fun?
I have a variety of things I do for fun. The first might not be called fun for everyone, but I start my mornings at 5:30 a.m. at Columbia Strength & Conditioning with a wonderful group of fun, fit females that enjoy working out as much as I do. This group of ladies empower me every day to be the strong, confident woman that I am today. Encouraged through my gym family, I also have taken a love for yoga and cycling. However, my favorite activity is getting together with my close group of Columbia friends for dinner and wine nights and attending sporting events, as well as traveling throughout the country.