Catering to customers by catering to employees

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When James "Chip" Mahan founded Live Oak Bank a decade ago, he declared that its mission was "to treat every customer like they are the only customer in the bank."

His plan to get there? Establish a culture where employees come first.

That has made Live Oak a mainstay on the Best Banks to Work For list.

The $3.4 billion-asset Live Oak, one of the nation's leading Small Business Administration lenders, targets certain types of borrowers, including veterinarians, funeral homes, dentists and small-town pharmacies. The Wilmington, N.C.-based bank offers perks such as 100% paid health care and an on-site gym, dog park and restaurant where employees can eat or just pick up dinner to take home.

Mahan believes that employees who have many of their needs outside of work taken care of by Live Oak will be better able to serve customers.

“If you are confident in your ability to take care of your family and yourself, you are more than willing to go the extra step for a customer when it matters most," Mahan said.

The CEO also teaches a course on the bank's culture, history and values as part of the Live Oak U continuing education program.

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Employees are celebrated for exceptional service, such as a banker willing to take a call at 10 p.m. on the East Coast to help a customer on the West Coast close on a much-needed business loan. Recognition, such as a night out complete with dinner and a driver provided by the bank, shows employees their work does not go unnoticed.

"We have created a special place where our team loves what they do and that drives the success of our bank, and the customers we serve every day," Mahan said. "You don't often hear companies describe love as one of their founding tenets, but we do. It's how we've built a culture of success and we know it will continue to grow."

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