Service Above Self
By Claire C. Benoit, President & Chief Executive Officer of Rayne Building & Loan Association
I was an accountant by trade and always happy to be buried in papers and numbers. When I first joined Rayne Building and Loan, my role as a Controller was pretty straightforward. As with most community bankers, new duties got added to my mix pretty quickly, and over time the job was much more than I ever anticipated. It just wasn’t in me to say “no” to a task, I always loved a challenge. We are a small institution and everyone wears multiple hats.
Luckily, my boss noticed that I was willing to do whatever was needed to get the job done, and gave me positive feedback for it. Through my actions, I proved to him that I was dedicated to helping our organization move forward. This meant occasionally forgoing a son’s sporting event and even working on maternity leave from home. My boys weren’t always happy that I had to miss some occasion, but I hope they learned, as I did from my parents, that serving others—whether it be my family, my community, or my bank—was critically important to our future. It was a sacrifice at times, but I believed it was part of my job as senior management.
After several years, I was asked to step in as President. I turned it down the first time. Timing is everything, and I felt that I could not give it the attention it deserved. I had young children at home and was torn between both roles. I believed that I needed to be willing to be the first person in the bank and the last one to leave. It was just not the right time in my life to take on that role. Fortunately, a second opportunity presented itself, and I was asked again to become President. I took the leap. I had more experience and felt better prepared, my children were a little older and this was truly the right time.
The struggle of moving from co-worker to boss was not easy. But in my desire to serve the bank and the employees better, I learned I had to leave my comfort zone of papers and numbers and grow to take on things I had never done before. I learned firsthand what Virginia Rometty, chief executive officer of IBM, said, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” I knew it wasn’t just about me, but about everyone else.
If I had a conversation with my younger self, I would say we should always do our best at every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem to you or others. Be aware and set a good example for those around you. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know—it can be your greatest strength. When you take those leaps of faith in your younger career, it helps you experience more and do things differently in the future.
I’ve always loved Rotary’s international motto, “Service Above Self.” It is such a simple, yet powerful phrase. Rotarians look for ways to get involved and demonstrate the strength of their commitment in the service they render to their club, to their community, and to people throughout the world. I think these same words and actions can apply for all of us and is what community banking is all about.