Barbara Gibbs celebrates 50 years with Century National Bank
June 1, 2017
In an organization that values personal relationships, Barb relishes each and every year
It wasn’t the way Barb Gibbs would have chosen to start her career: wet and bedraggled. On the way to interview for what would be her first job after high school, Barb was soaked by a rainstorm after stepping off the bus in downtown Zanesville.
But her appearance mattered little to Mutual Federal Savings and Loan manager Bill Phillips. He and Retail Operations manager Mary Catherine Dinan hired her on the spot, and it was the only interview Barb would ever need.
That was 1967. Fifty years later, Barb still can’t imagine working anywhere but Mutual Federal, which later changed its name to Century National Bank after it joined the Park National Family of Community Banks.
Barb graduated from Zanesville High School – 20th in her class of 500 – on a Sunday and came to work the next day for $1.10 an hour. Other than time off to have her two kids, Shawn and Lesley, she can count on one hand the number of days she missed work. That dedication paid off. She began as Dinan’s personal assistant and worked her way up to senior vice president of Retail Operations.
Why go anywhere else, Barb says, when the opportunities at Century were boundless for anyone willing to put in the effort.
“They’ve always been so good to me here,” Barb said. “Century and Park National are just great places to work. I think you realize that the longer you stay. They’re very caring people. Just like they care for their customers, they care for their associates.”
Culture encourages loyalty
Tom Lyall, the current chairman of Century’s board who is approaching his own 50-year anniversary with the bank, said he is certain other banks have tried to woo Barb away, though she has never talked about it.
“She’s just a loyal person,” he said. “Unless the bank really messes up, she’s going to be here. And even if we mess up totally, she’ll give us a first chance and a second chance and a third chance.”
Lyall also thinks the bank’s culture has something to do with why Barb stayed so long.
“I thought of an analogy of how we approach our people. We’re kind of like New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick,” he said. “He can take his team and beat you. He can take your team and beat you because he puts people in places where he utilizes their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses. And I think we try to do that.
“The key is to give them responsibility but then give them some autonomy and authority to make decisions and run it like it’s theirs. That’s what people are looking for. They don’t want less responsibility, they want more, they want to grow, and they want to make more money and move forward.”
Barb did, taking her passion for her work to become one of the most sought-after leaders in the organization for her knowledgeable guidance, her skill in managing any situation and her expertise in deftly handling complex projects. Short of being president, which she never desired, Barb reached the top of her field and earned the respect of everyone she worked with.
Century, though, was more than just a career journey. The closeness and feeling of family were always present. Barb cherishes the relationships she has formed with her colleagues and her clients. Those feelings have always been mutual as Barb is one of those rare people who gets along with everyone. A telltale sign: Clients she served as a teller and head teller for nine years early in her career still come to her for their needs decades later. Even though she’s no longer in a client-facing role, she always makes time for them.
“A lot of people don’t get along with their boss, but I can’t say that about Barb,” said Christy Robinson, a member of the Cash Management team who has reported to Barb for 27 of her 30 years at Century. Robinson is one of 15 female associates Barb oversees who lovingly refer to themselves as Barb’s Babes. “She’s been a good mentor, and she’s very patient. She always has time for you. She’s famous for taking a negative customer experience and turning it into a positive.
“I’m going to hate to see it when she does finally retire. I feel like we’re family. We’ve seen our kids grow up together. I’ll probably be bawling when she leaves.”
Humble and treasured
Robinson won’t be alone. Century president and CEO Pat Nash expects to shed many tears on Barb’s last day. Yes, Barb has value as an associate, he said. Any sales call you wanted to close, you took Barb with you.
“It made you feel like you were taking your ‘A’ team,” he said.
Nash recalled Century was hoping to get the business of seven school districts, which would amount to tens of millions of dollars in deposits. The bank signed five of them because of Barb’s presentation skills and how she handled herself.
“Barb is one of those folks who doesn’t fail very often,” Nash said. “We have a great reputation at the bank. A lot of it is because of her. We have really good services to offer, so it’s not like we’re going out with one hand tied behind our back, but she still delivered and presented it just the right way. Anyone who goes out on a call with her, I guarantee those folks are better and they have learned.”
Barb’s value, though, extends well beyond her vast knowledge and skills, which she honed learning as much as she could from people who were doing jobs she thought she might like to do. When those people left those positions, Barb was ready to move in and trusted to lead.
Many people describe her essential influence as “just being Barb.” She is a servant manager, as Lyall likes to call it – a combination of honest, straightforward and “very caring.”
“She just seems to elevate herself without any effort whatsoever,” Lyall said. “If she goes and joins the United Way, in three or four years without asking for it, she’ll be president.”
Barb’s accessible personality is rooted in her humble upbringing. Her father worked, but the family lived paycheck to paycheck, often relying on food pantries and their church’s charity. Her mother stayed home to raise Barb and her seven siblings – David, Becki, Jackie, Kathy, Ricky, Danny and John.
There was a week when Barb stayed home from school to take care of the kids while her mom was in the hospital from having John, the youngest. Barb’s home economics teacher was so upset, until she learned Barb was getting a real-life experience with the curriculum.
“I became one of her favorites,” Barb said. “My childhood was a lot different than some were. We had to learn to do for ourselves.”
That independent streak influenced Barb’s management style in an unusual way. She always found it hard to delegate work to others. Barb didn’t believe in having someone do something she wouldn’t do herself.
“You never worked for Barb, you worked with her,” Lyall said. “Her leadership style was ‘we’re going to do this together.’ She never lectured. She let you do things, and if you failed, she’d help you and was always there to answer questions.”
Barb is a direct reflection of Century National’s caretaking and mentoring style. When Century joined Park National, the two banks cooperated easily because their cultures were so similar.
Barb said Park was as strong an advocate for the client as she was. It’s why she never left for a big bank.
“Those banks are sort of like the IRS – this is who you can talk to and you either accept it or leave,” she said. “That’s not our approach here. We try to listen to our customers and sometimes we learn from it, that sometimes there are changes we need to make. But that’s what I like about community banking.
“I’ve had to deal with big banks, and sometimes the person you’re talking to on the other end, you can tell they don’t like their job. It’s just a job. They’re not enjoying what they’re doing, and I sense very little of that at Century and Park. Just about everybody I talk to seems to enjoy what they’re doing.”
Hard to leave
Barb is already semi-retired, working two days a week as Century prepares for her eventual departure. She said it’s hard to give up even some of what she loves doing most: Talking with and helping people, whether they be a coworker or client.
Barb’s sister, Becki Morehead, retired in December 2016 after 34 years at the bank. Now it’s Barb’s turn.
“I’ve learned a lot from the people I’ve worked with. I’ve grown a lot in 50 years,” said Barb, whose longevity in marriage – 46 years to Dennis – nearly matches the span she’s worked. “They keep saying, ‘Do you want to have a retirement party?’ I say no, I’m not ready yet. I think that will be a difficult day for me.”
Barb expects to continue her service in the community, maintaining her long-time associations with United Way, the Helen Purcell assisted living facility, Rotary and Goodwill Industries.
There’s no point in giving Barb a gold watch. Even in retirement, Nash and Lyall expect to see her hanging around a place everyone considers a second home and around people who will always consider her family.
“We just hope she gets what she deserves,” Nash said. “When people usually say that, they don’t say it in a positive way. But I definitely mean that in a positive way for Barb. She definitely deserves the best years to come.”