The Hive Five Podcast
5 Key Takeaways from Sean Kouplen
1. We need to strive for balance.
2. It’s all about the team
3. Hire really good people and let them do their job
4. Get up earlier
5. Be principled
In this episode of the Hive Five, we are honored to be talking with Sean Kouplen, the chairman and CEO of Regent Bank, headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In this episode, Sean tells us the story of how he purchased Regent Bank in the midst of the economic downturn and still led the bank to success. He also discusses his love for business, strategy, training employees, and developing peope. It is very inspiring and encouraging to hear about Sean’s mission and how he runs his business.
Sean grew up on a farm in a small town in Oklahoma. However, going into ranching didn’t make much sense for him. So, he went to school at Oklahoma State University and just by happenstance ended up getting talked into a banking internship with MidFirst Bank. This opened up a previously unnoticed door into finance and he was able to turn that internship into multiple jobs with a variety of community banks around the state. At just thirty-four years old, he was given the opportunity to purchase Regent Bank. Sean was able to raise $15.5 million of other people’s money to buy it, and he did.
It couldn’t have been a worse time to buy a bank. In the same month of 2008 that he finalized the purchase, the economy went into a freefall. The bank had already been struggling, but was now at a huge risk of going under. However, they received a capital injection from a government program and were able to shore up their balance sheets and get things turned around. Sean talks about the stress that came during this tumultuous period and how he eventually overcame it. It is a very valuable lesson and encouraging story of how they started with a struggle, but by not giving up, have grown it to a major financial institution.
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Thanks for listening today. My name is Keegan with bright blue. Were insurance quotes. Just don’t sting. We also have Katherine Parker on, but I don’t know exactly where she is. I know she’s at a family reunion somewhere at the beach and probably doesn’t have much time for us, but hopefully she’ll pop on at some point today. We are really excited to sit down with Sean Copeland, the chairman and CEO of [inaudible] Regent Bank, headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sean has been a bank president or equivalent in different banks across Oklahoma since he was 23. He’s written multiple books, serves on multiple boards and is very active in his community and his church. In fact, he just got back a couple of weeks ago from a mission trip to South America, which I heard was life changing and phenomenal. Thanks so much for taking time for us today, Shawn. Michael. Sean, tell us a little bit about what you do. Well, I’ve. I’ve
been very, very fortunate in my career. I mean, there is no question about it. I grew up on a farm in beggs, Oklahoma just south of Tulsa, about 25 miles and honestly thought that’s what I would do for the rest of my life and it didn’t work out that way. Um, and so I ended up really by happenstance in the banking business and just briefly, here’s how I ended up in banking. So my dad and I kind of decided that going into ranching probably didn’t make sense at the time for a variety of reasons. And so I’m, I’m, I’m headed back to Osu to school. I have a board of regents dinner to attend on Tuesday evenings. This is a Sunday we decide. Tuesday evening I attended board of regents dinner and our university president Jim Halligan and invited me to attend and it was him and myself and a five.
We have five members of the board of regions. And so we’re at dinner and I know Dr. Halligan is just trying to make conversation and he says, Michelle, and I’ve been meaning to ask you, what are you going to do when you graduate from college? I have no idea, I had no idea, a none. And so I’m like, oh my gosh, I can’t say that. I don’t know. And so I looked down and I thought, man, I need to come up with something quickly. And the gentleman sitting to my left had a name plate that said Bruce Benbrook, Stock Exchange Bank, Woodward, Oklahoma. And so I thought, well, that sounds good. So I said, uh, you know, I’ve actually been thinking about going into banking and all of everybody at the table was, I know we had no idea. And I said, Oh yeah. I said, it’s a very recent decision, which is true.
It was about 10 seconds recent. That’s true because they asked me a bunch of banking questions I make up the answers to and as we’re leaving Dr. Halligan literally changes my whole life when he says, uh, you know, Sean, I have a good friend that owns a bank in Oklahoma City. Maybe I can help you get an internship in banking. I didn’t know you were interested in going into banking. And so he helped me get an internship at mid first bank in Oklahoma City and the rest is history. I ended up working there, going back to work there after school, worked in a variety of community banks. And then at the age of 34 had the opportunity to purchase a regent bank. What made you fall in love with banking? Because you definitely did not love banking when you decided. I really didn’t know anything about it.
My, my mom had been a bank teller and had worked at a bank. So I knew I knew that part, but yeah, I wasn’t, it just wasn’t anything I had ever even considered. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about a career period until that moment. Really what continues to draw me to banking and did at the beginning was the perfect match between a numbers. I really like numbers. I and I really liked people. And so in this business you get to do analysis. And even in my current role, you know, obviously we’re dealing with our balance sheet and P and l and investor money and all those types of things. Uh, but, but really the fact that when done right, we are partners for our clients, we, we both want them to do well, you know, I mean, the better they do, the better we do and I just love that.
I love having a whole bunch of business partners and best friends running all over the place and you’re in banking but, but you also have lots of other things that you enjoy doing to in business as well. Right. And you and your wife were kind of partners in crime, is that, is that right? You are. So she is an executive with an oil and gas firm here in Tulsa. So she’s been very, very successful. She’s definitely the more impressive of the copeland paints on the podcast. I’ll get no more views and then, and we’ve made a number of other investments over the years and we just love business. We love, I really do. I love strategy, I love, um, I love, I love employees, happy employees and we, we just really enjoy it. That’s great. So you bought Regent Bank about 10 years ago and the 2008, which is really the same year of the economic downturn.
Right? Right. So I want to hear a little bit about the struggles because I can. I can only imagine that there was a, it wasn’t the easiest route. Well, can you were an entrepreneur so you understand this, but let me tell you when I say that you cannot buy a bank and a worst time. And we purchased Regent Bank. I truly am not exaggerating if you look at a hundred years of economic data, okay? And you look at the one moment, that was probably the worst time. It was April the first of 2008. This is no joke. And here’s why. Up until April, the first of 2008, the GDP was positive. There were some rumblings that the economy was softening, but there wasn’t nothing, a material. And we buy the bank immediately. The GDP turns negative literally that month. That is the mind that the GDP turns negative and begins to.
The economy goes into a massive free fall, uh, due to the mortgage debacle. And many, many other things, but it was needless to say, it was very, very difficult. We had, we had probably six months where we thought, this is going to skip Oklahoma, you know, Oklahoma’s insulated. We’re going to be okay. Everything’s gonna be fine. And then by the fall of 2008, it became really obvious that a home was going to struggle to, as were we, the bank we bought was all ready a troubled bank. It was under a memorandum of understanding from our regulator. They had already had challenges, but that was always kind of my specialty was going in and helping turn, uh, organizations around. But I had never done it in an economy like this. So by the spring of 2009, uh, it, it a very, very rough. So what did you do this, this is worse than just starting a business on your own from zero.
And then saying, well, there’s bad economy. So I stopped or whatever. I mean, you purchased something really magnified. The pressure was the fact that I had gone out and raised a 15 and a half million dollars of other people’s money as well as everything. We had a to purchase this bank. And so, um, when loans began to go back and we begin to lose money, the stress was a very, very significant and honestly, when we reached the spring of 2009, I was really having a struggle to function. I mean, I really, the everyday seemed to get worse than the day before I, I know all of the biblical passages about not worrying, but the reality was I just couldn’t help it. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. It was really a very difficult and I had some advice from a very good friend of mine, a Gordon greer.
Around that same time, he was really my mentor and he told me about his experiences in the eighties and had difficult it had been and that he had learned that all you can do is your best. The only thing that you can do is your best when you get up in the morning. He said he would look in his mirror and tell himself a gordon who will do the best you can do today, and he said he would go out into the world and both of us had the same experience where every day was very, very challenging and he said that he would come back home and look back in that same mirror and say, did you do your best? And if the answer was yes, that is all you can do, you can’t, you couldn’t control. He couldn’t control interest rates, oil prices, I can control the stock market going from 14,000 to 6,000.
And so that advice a really propelled me through and got me to where I thought, well, I can do that. I can do my best everyday. I, it may not be able to control the outcome, but I will do my best. And, and it was, it was a tremendous blessing. We had a really miraculous capital injection, uh, that would take another podcast to explain, but it was truly miraculous at $3,000,000 capital injection when that was exactly what we needed. And it came through a government program. Interestingly enough, called the capital purchase program, um, and once that came in, uh, in February of [inaudible] nine, that really shored up our balance sheet and we were able to get things turned around. Wow, that’s amazing. I can, I can only imagine as lot to tell the story about it now than ever, but it was a very remarkable time in my life. Well, and I, I would assume that you, you don’t look at anything the same. No, I really don’t know, honestly from a, from a personal perspective, I, I learned that I don’t have near as much control as I thought that I did. Um, you know, I learned that there is know God is in control of our life and our business and we really turned it over to him and uh, thankfully the result has been a 51 percent annualized growth for the next 10 years and a million awards and we look a whole lot smarter now back in those days. And we just feel very, very blessed. Got An amazing team
shine. It’s hard for a lot of people, even even for me, you know, with, with starting another business and from, from ground zero and I sometimes I wonder like what, what the heck am I doing? I had a growing business, why did I sell it? But it’s, you know, it was an opportunity and that, that we had and we took it, you know, we had the option to take it or not, but it’s really difficult for a lot of people to look at the success, let’s say of a regent bank and, and think that it just happened overnight and not consider the, the struggles that you all went through and you know, a time where you may have not been regent bank. And so what do you say to that?
You know, I think that I’m, the number one trait that I have learned from successful leaders and entrepreneurs is perseverance and it, it really is that simple. I mean, what you see is that everyone goes through challenges and everybody that you on, I look at and we admire. They have been through times when it just didn’t look like they were gonna. Make it and some, uh, persevere and some don’t. And so, you know, the first thing I would say is you just cannot give up. And I know I sound like Winston Churchill at his graduation speech, but it is the truth. I mean it many, many days. Uh, I did. I want to give up and honestly the main reason I didn’t was because I had no other option. No other choice, right? Uh, so, uh, you know, I think that’s very important. The two I think that many times we put pressure on ourselves.
That is not a real. I mean, the fact is most organizations and most people run into challenges in their life. If you are chasing your dream and it doesn’t work out for whatever reason and you have done the best you can do, there is no shame in that. They’re the only shame is when you quit and give up. And so I think it’s important to also keep things into perspective. There are a lot more important things in this world. Then you know, our P and l and our balance sheet and our stock price at the end of the year and I just, I think we need to focus on now
involved in the community quite a bit and also a nonprofit’s. Tell us a little bit about what, what your passion is and in that area,
you know, I’ve always been drawn to nonprofit organizations. There are so many wonderful ones that do such a good job. The ones that I’m involved in, I’m an elder at our church, a South Pointe Church. I’m chairman of two boards, uh, Osu Tulsa as well as a hospitality house here in Tulsa and it’s, it’s almost like Ronald Mcdonald House, but for people of all, with patients of all ages. So we provide affordable housing in prayer for those people. I’m on the board of a metaphor than salvation army and the Osu Foundation. Um, and you know, I just think that, number one, it adds variety to live. Selfishly. It adds variety. So if all you’re doing is coming to work and going home, come to work, go home and come to work and go home, that’s very important if you have, if you have a family to spend time with that family. I also think it’s important to have variety in life to where you’re contributing in a number of ways.
Number two, I just think, you know, to whom much is given, much is expected and um, I don’t think, uh, I could engage conscience, not give back to the community in some way and in a number three, to be honest with you, I made, I made great relationships this way. They’re pure, we’re not. Nope, it’s not. I’m not a cold call on him to try to beg for their banks and we’re just a really, really good friends and many of my best relationships have occurred because of involvement and nonprofits. So you’re, you’re blessed more than you bless others for sure.
So how do you do that? You know, one of the struggles that I have in and going out and being involved, you know, we’ve got the work and that takes almost all your time anyways. And then you’ve got your family at home and you’re thinking, oh my gosh, I just got to, I got to go home so I can see my kids. So how do you balance all of that? And I know your kids are a little bit older than mine right now, but how do you balance all of that? Do you bring them with you so they can experience the same things that you are or how do you spend time with your family even when you’re doing all of those things?
Well, clearly when you can bring them with you. I was just able to take my daughter on this mission trip to Brazil and it was life changing for both of us. That is ideal. Sometimes things occur during the day. They’re in schools. That’s obviously. Um, and so, you know, I think my answer from personal experience would be the priorities are family first in, in the order of what you just mentioned, a work second and a community activities third. So, so we, we cannot compromise our family. Uh, we cannot. And what happens is you go through seasons in life, you know, I mean there were, and in all honesty when I was your age and I had younger kids, I was too involved and it jeopardize my marriage and that it was not good. That was not a good idea. Now my wife is also very involved. Our kids are a little bit older, they have activities in their own and so it makes a lot more sense and so the, the, the uh, giving back and the community is wonderful, but it has to fit within the confines of a spending time with your family and providing for your family. So that would be, that would be my answer. And each person just has to figure that out. What that right balance is for themselves. Right.
Catherine, I see that you’re on.
Hi, good. I’m great. I’m actually so I apologize for joining a little late. Yeah, I’m sending y’all good beach vibe. Well, Sean, I think that everything that you’ve said so far is so valid and I love that you have a little bit different than some of the other entrepreneurs that we’ve heard from because I mean just just giving my feedback here, compromising your family. I mean that is. I agree. That’s just the one thing that you cannot do, which is so great for people like, like our team and brought me in being able to work remote, you know, nobody has to make those sacrifices, so I love that bit. Okay.
That’s awesome that they realize that particularly when you’re starting a business, it’s a significant stressor and it’s a significant commitment, but there is, and I did have, I, I’ve always had that. My wife has always been super supportive, but there is a limit to where you can take that to where the person begins to feel neglected. And again, that is not a mistake that I would recommend to any of your listeners.
Well, and personally it’s extremely encouraging and also, you know, I struggle with that daily and you know, I, I think I actually struggled with it more, uh, over these over these last weeks and I’ve come to a point where, you know, in the all of this just
doesn’t matter. Well it doesn’t matter if you’re alone when you’re sitting by a computer and the why for packed up and headed to her mother’s house. That is, that definitely puts things into perspective. So yeah, I just, I think we’ve become so hyperfocused on our professional goals and I think achievement is great. I think setting goals is great. I think it motivates a, so I think it’s very, very important, but I just don’t think you can do it at the risk of your, of what’s most important to you, uh, in your life.
Sean, I know you’ve talked a little bit about community involvement, but how would you say that being an entrepreneur and having your own business, how does that help you serve others? Because I know that you get to make some really make or break decisions in the baking industry and you know, you help people achieve things that, that they didn’t think were possible without the Lens. And so
imagine part of somebody else’s vision. Um, my motivation has really taken a, it’s really evolved over time when, when we first began, um, the motivation was survival, which you guys going to a then it really then it really became about the numbers. I really wanted to be the best financially I needed to bring the numbers through for our shareholders, you know, and that type of thing, you know, and then it became about the clients. I really became passionately involved with our clients and helping them and we work with them in so many other ways. You are right, the funding is one aspect, but a lot of people can do that. We work with them, you know, in strategy and in people and then, you know, bringing them things that we’ve learned from a business owner perspective. And so that was really, really any, is really, really fun for me.
And interestingly now, you know, my, um, uh, kind of glow when motivation really comes from the development of our employees. Um, you know, we started out with three people here in Tulsa, a 40 people a bank, why now we haven’t got it here in Tulsa and about a hundred and five bank wide. And I just love, I meet with every employee after they’ve been here 90 days. And I love talking with them and hearing them say that they haven’t, uh, felt love I’m ever at an employer like they feel here, but also maybe even ever then what they felt here. I mean, I had an individual tell me last week and in their 90 day meeting that they had never felt love in their life like they felt, I’m at this company. And so that is very, very meaningful to me. And so that’s really what drives me now is I want us to be a continued to grow and be successful so that we can continue to enrich the lives of our employees. I think that’s what Kinda makes me tick. Definitely.
It’s an, it’s an, it’s an amazing group of people. And everybody wants to do, that’s not accurate. We’ve just been very, very blessed to track at wonderful. Just to kind of a magical, a very caring group of people. But I think it’s important to know that these things evolve over time. I mean if I had come straight out of the, out of the blocks when we bought the bank and we were about to go under and I’m, I’m focused on employee perks and benefits and culture, you know, we probably wouldn’t be around and so there’s kind of a time and a season I am learning for everything. And you just, you just kind of an evolution and growth that takes place throughout your life cycle, both as a leader and as a business.
We want to hear your five key takeaways for all of our listeners today. Whether that’s as a leader, as an entrepreneur, as somebody in the banking industry,
somebody who’s looking for a good company to work for, but I think my top five would be number one is I think. I think we need to strive for balance. There are seasons of life where you don’t have it quite so much. You’ve got to put an emphasis here or there, but I do think our goal, whether it’s, whether it’s physical, mental and spiritual balance or whether it’s family and work balance, I think that should always be our goal and the they train wrecks that I have seen are when people completely lose that balance and they may be extremely successful at work and lose their families or vice versa. And so I think that’s number one. Number two is I have learned that it’s all about the team. Um, I think leaders get a little bit too much credit and I think behind every ceo who’s paper is, his picture’s plastered all over the Internet and the paper, uh, are hundreds of really great people that are really doing the work each and every day.
So as a leader, I think you’ve got to focus on others more than yourself. Three, hire really good people and let them do their job. Um, I had a friend tell me once that you can either grow or you can control, but you cannot do both. You can’t control and grow, and so, uh, I think we’ve done a pretty good job here putting great people in, in their spots and letting them run and use their common sense and it’s really remarkable what people can do whenever you give him the authority to do it, um, for, as kind of a random one, but it is, get up earlier. Many of the, uh, challenges that I have had a in my life. I have been solved by getting up earlier. Um, I want to exercise but I don’t have time. Get up earlier. I want to have a quiet time and in a prayer or meditation, get up earlier. Uh, I’ve, I’m not organized when I get to work. I don’t know. I feel behind from the time I get here. Get up earlier. Don’t tell my wife that there are many. There really can be solved by your year from now. Again, here’s my disclaimer. Hey, when I had little kids and they weren’t sleeping through the night, that this was a lot harder to do, we were getting up earlier.
I probably wouldn’t, but I do think generally speaking, for most of us, that is a, that is a practice and a habit that can make a huge, huge amount of difference.
I’m going to go ahead and tell you one of the things that I do not, not to get too detailed here, but a lot of times you can just shift your, shift your hours. And so I still get the same. I get up at 4:00 every morning, 3:57 to be exact, so I have three minutes, right? So, so, but, but I just moved going to bed earlier. I mean instead of sitting there watching the late night news and zone and you know, dozing off and the recliner, I just get into bed and a little bit earlier I get the same sleep. Man I am. I’ve already gotten a day’s work in a or prayer or exercise or whatever. You know, by the time most people get up and it’s a disadvantage. I’m telling you, it’s, it’s really.
Um, and then the last one is to be principled. Let me give you two examples of this really quickly. And this is what I feel very, very strongly about. Um, the big change at Regent Bank occurred when we adopted as an executive team, a set of core values and those were based upon our best employees. We just looked at our very best employees and what made him great and nat is how we develop these core values, which you can find on our website. Well, we stacked hands and said, okay, our commitment to each other is that if any employee cannot live by these core values, they will get one morning and then they will be asked to go to another place of employment. And we have had to do that several times over the years. But it is remarkable when you get an organization that is all behind this set of values, uh, what they can accomplish.
And then the second example I would give is about two years ago, a faith is obviously very important to me. And I began to get a very clear feeling that I needed to start a devotional for our team. And um, I came to mind my executives and said, you know, guys, I’m really feeling like I need to start a devotional for them. And they said, that’s crazy, we’re going to get sued, you can’t do that. I worked at a place that tried that and you know, that guy got sued. And so I thought, well maybe not, but the, but the feeling just didn’t go away. And so, uh, uh, we stuck to our principles and started this devotional. Well, the devotional has now grown from really seven people that first day around the boardroom table to over 10,000 in some days, 12,000 nationally in over 27 states callers from over 27 states. So I think it’s very important that as, as the leaders of our homes, you know, leaders at our schools, leaders at our, of our community, that we, that we live by a set of principles that we will not go beyond no matter what.
Well, Sean, we know you have taken a lot of time with us today and I want about three more podcast with you. We always do in, in true fashion as we always get you to say yes to another podcast. Um, so, so that everyone can do that and he’s shaking his head right now. We’ll do another podcast for sure. How do people get ahold of you if, if they want to be a part of that devotion. If they want to learn more about regent bank, if they, if they want to learn about all the other things you’re doing. Also, I mean we, I know that you have multiple videos on there that you share with the whole community of followers and everything else about your employee engagement and the community that you strive for there and your principles. There are the best ways to find out.
Yeah, I think everything is available on our website is Regent Bank, r e g e n t dot b a n k, and if you go to the resources tab, you will see that daily devotional. You’ll see region elevate, which is the videos that we do. You’ll see a number of business business programs that anybody can participate in a right there. And if you look under the contact us menu, you can find my contact information as well.
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