Editor's Note: Each year, the Zachary Chamber of Commerce recognizes outstanding business leaders. This year, the chamber gained 73 new memberships and expanded the awards process to include four new categories and one redefined category. This is the second in a series recognizing the business owners honored in these new categories. The second is the Young Professional Award.
Ben Cavin might not seem like a typical recipient of the Young Professional in Business Award. He is a married father of three, senior vice president of Landmark Bank and an elected City Councilman serving as mayor pro tempore. Time, however, is a commodity, and the young bank manager has used it efficiently and made quick returns on its investment.
Cavin, 34, and his wife, Nicole Cavin, a native of Addis, have a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn.
Cavin, a 2000 graduate of Zachary High School, was the honored recipient of the first Zachary Chamber of Commerce Young Professional Award. Cavin is a respected leader in the same town where he played Little League and marched in the band.
When Cavin graduated from Zachary High in 2000, most would have guessed a career in music was in front of him. He played trumpet in the marching band and other ensembles. His name remains on a plaque in the band room with the top two band members of each year.
College at Northwestern State brought an expansion of his interests, and he started to study business. He later received his master’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University and completed banking school at LSU.
He was recruited out of college and worked in insurance in Seattle and Utah before home called him back. “I realized I didn’t want to knock on doors and sell insurance for the rest of my life, so I came home,” Cavin said.
His start in banking was as a customer. “I walked into Regions Bank to open a checking account and the lady knew my parents because they banked there,” he said.
She asked him what he was doing, and he explained that he had left Utah without a job. She suggested that he apply at that bank, and he did. He spent six years working and learning at Regions and decided that business and banking was a good path and headed to graduate school.
In the middle of his graduate school experience, he was recruited by Landmark Bank. “They wanted someone who knew the community and knew the people,” Cavin said.
The Landmark organization encouraged Cavin to invest two or three years in banking school. “In one way or another, I spent about 10 years of my life post-high school education,” he said, jokingly adding, “I could have been a doctor by now if I had figured out what I wanted to be.”
Cavin got experience in both regional and community banking and has fond regards for his years at the bigger Regions Bank. He loves the art and methods of community banking and the opportunities to give personalized and customized care to his community customers. “When I came to Landmark, the appealing things included my background and that this was my hometown, my community,” he said. “It let me be in a position where I had a little more say or sway in which loans we make or don’t make and even which types of loans.”
“It provided me with a whole new experience of being able to impact people in my community and directing the dollars that the bank invests in the community toward causes that matter to me.”
A bank being heavily involved in the Zachary community is not just a slogan for Cavin. He said that as he has progressed at Landmark Bank, his team has become involved in organizations like the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and the Lane Foundation. “You look at our management team now and we are just a bunch of hometown kids,” Cavin quips. “We grew up and got into banking, but we are serving our community; we are serving our neighbors. The people we see on a daily basis, they are also our customers.”
“It’s something you live,” Cavin said. “I’m a community banker when I’m not on the clock. A lot of the deals I make are made when I run into people at Sammy’s or other restaurants or sports activities.
“It’s a totally different feel to be able to look someone in the eye, shake their hand and have some say over what happens in that relationship and knowing they can trust you to have some impact. They are not just a number or a random person in the crowd.”
“We want to stay small enough to have our customers know that they matter and are not just a number. It’s a very personal experience with us and all community banks.”
Cavin is a banker and a councilman. In Zachary, that might put him at opposing ends of the continued debates over growth and development. Some see growth as a threat to the culture and way of life of the small town. “One thing I had to learn very early on was that everyone is a part of the conversation,” Cavin said. “It was hard for me at first, and my first year was very tough just because of the amount of criticism. In the back of my mind, I was expecting it, but I didn't really know how the criticism was going to play out.”
Cavin said he had to take a step back and see that everyone that’s a part of the conversation — whether they are being negative, positive, for you or against you — wants the same thing. He said he feels everyone wants what’s in the best interest of the city.
Cavin saw his role in a different way at that point. “I decided it’s my job to explain why we are making these decisions and why this is in the best interest of the city even if it doesn’t satisfy the short-term goals that some people may have.”
“It is hard to reconcile the growth — some don’t want to grow or grow a certain way — but at the end of the day, I think it’s a matter of taking a step back, taking a deep breath and focusing on the long-term goal, which is understanding that whether we grow or not is not an option, 'cause if I ever cast a vote against growth period then I’m dooming our city.”
Taylor Watts, executive director of the Zachary Chamber of Commerce, said changes in the business community facilitated the need for a Young Professional Award. “Many of the up-and-coming businesses in Zachary are owned or run by people under 35,” Watts said. “With that being said, people that young and with that much drive should be recognized.”
The criteria included someone 34 or under who has shown business growth and performance, a demonstrated leadership in business and in the community, and community involvement.
“Ben Cavin not only reaches out to his community, but he is also a councilman, he is very involved in the church and in business,” Watts said. “Besides all that, his involvement in the Chamber is unbelievable.”
Being a father of three has caused some changes in Cavin's routine. He said there was a time that he was on every board in every organization possible. As his role at the bank grew, he had to make adjustments. Then, as his family grew, he to make changes to spend more time with his kids and his wife. “Luckily, I have a wonderful wife who lets me do all this,” Cavin said. “I can foresee down the road that some changes are going to have to take place.”
Planning for that very near future centers around Cavin’s immediate team of professionals. “I made sure that I hired people with the same mindset that I had and the same goals and passions that I had,” he said.
The newest member of Cavin’s team is Brandon Noel, a Realtor and fellow City Councilman, who is very active in the community and a former president of the Rotary Club. He has also hired School Board member Brandy Westmoreland and current Rotary Club president Jennifer Boyd who is active in numerous boards and community organizations.
“I made sure that I hired those kind of people on my team,” Cavin said. “What that has allowed me to do is make sure the bank is represented by really good people even though I might have to take a step back a little bit.”
Business is under control so now Cavin can focus on the challenges that children bring. “The first child was a life change, but we had her outnumbered,” he said. “The second child was a life change, but we could still cover it. My son was just born about 10 weeks ago and that has been the biggest life change I’ve ever experienced because they now have us outnumbered.”
Cavin credits his personal support system as well as his business team for his success. In addition to his wife, his parents are close by in Zachary and always willing to lend a hand. In their retired-teacher grandmother, the children have their private tutor, Cavin said.
Cavin is good at crunching the numbers of his challenges and time restraints, but the greater wisdom is gained in his explanation that not all these numbers are equal and he will succeed if he can properly prioritize.
"My top priority is my faith,” Cavin explained. “My faith dictates everything else, therefore, my family is No. 2 — that’s where my focus has to be and there are times when I just have to shut it down and be with my family.”
Those banking numbers always reconcile. “I don’t think it diminishes my other roles, I think it makes me better at my other roles,” Cavin said. “I look at faith and family as my two driving forces, and that makes me want to be the best banker I can possibly be and serve my community the best that I can.”
The plus for the city, as Cavin sees it, is that his priorities and value system help make his decisions on the City Council “the most ethical and moral decisions even if I’m gonna get a little flak.”