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Bob Schick Believes in a People-First Philosophy

The ever-humble Bob Schick is receiving the Ralph Springstead Service Above Self award this month from the Geneva Rotary Club, and he says his goal is to “create an atmosphere where people want to be.”

It’s Bob’s personal philosophy of “people first” that permeates his passionate involvement with numerous organizations throughout the Finger Lakes region.

You may know Bob as the Chairman of the Board and past CEO of Lyons National Bank (LNB), a company he’s worked at for nearly 30 years. Or you may know Bob from one of his many volunteer roles at the Boy Scouts of America, Seneca Waterways Council Trust, Keuka College, Smith Opera House, Lyons Community Health Initiative, Happiness House Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Independent Bankers Association of NY, NY Bankers Association Retirement System, Lyons Industrial Development Agency, Finger Lakes Community College Foundation or the Geneva Scholarship Association.

We can all also thank Bob for his role in making Lyons National Bank the lead sponsor of the YEA! program in the Finger Lakes.

Giving Back

Bob says that his drive to give back to his community started way back when he was a kid growing up in the inner city of Buffalo, NY. “My father passed away when I was very young. I was a kid at-risk and I had a lot of opportunities to make some bad choices. It was the nuns of St. Joseph and the Boy Scouts that kept me on track.”

Bob wanted to show appreciation for all the support he got as a child by paying it forward. That philosophy of paying it forward drove his community support as well as his approach to his leadership at LNB too. “I always felt that banks kind of thought upside down. The shareholders were first, then the customers, and then the employees. That never felt right to me.”

So he flipped that idea on its head and started by showing LNB’s employees how much they were valued.

“Have you ever noticed that people used to say, ‘I’m going to the grocery store, running some errands and I have to go to the bank’? I didn’t want our bank to be a ‘have to’. I wanted people to be pleased to walk in.”

He focused on making the banking experience at the branches welcoming. “As soon as you walk in the door of one of our branches, everyone looks up and says hello and they portray a feeling to those customers of ‘wow, I feel welcome to be here!’,” Bob says. “That’s what distinguishes us. It’s the people inside that make the bank.”

In 2013, Bob repelled down 21 stories of a Downtown Rochester building in support of the Boy Scouts of America

Why the Finger Lakes

After moving to Geneva in the early ’90s, it didn’t take long for Bob to fall in love with the Finger Lakes. “I love Buffalo, but when I first made this move, it didn’t take long for me to experience the seasons of the Finger Lakes to realize that this is a remarkable place.”

He’s nearing retirement now and does plan to spend some time in Florida, but it’s clear that Bob has made the Finger Lakes his home.

When remarking on what makes the Finger Lakes so great for business, it’s no surprise that it comes back to the people for Bob.

“Telling stories about the people of the Finger Lakes – that’s the way to really promote the region.”

He says that the stories told by LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal help attract great businesses to the area. “It’s these local efforts that show that Geneva, Canandaigua, Waterloo, Seneca Falls – they all have positives.”

Bob serves as a member of the LOCATE. Finger Lakes Board of Directors and Lyons National Bank (LNB) was previously profiled by LOCATE Finger Lakes in the article Investing in People and Communities Pays Dividends for Lyons National Bank.

Inspired to Make an Impact

While Bob’s drive to give back was heavily influenced by his childhood in Buffalo, he also notes Seedway founder, Carl Fribolin, made a big impact on his life in the Finger Lakes. “He was philanthropic and very involved in the community.”

According to the Hobart and William Smith Colleges website where Carl has a brief page on receiving the President’s Medal, Carl graduated from Cornell University in 1940. He founded the seed-growing and distribution business, Seedway, in 1963. Carl sold the business to Agway, Inc. in 1987. Throughout his life, Carl was known for being instrumental in both revitalizing land and sustaining the arts in the Finger Lakes.

Bob remembers his first encounter with Carl fondly. The attorney that helped Bob close on his house on South Main Street in Geneva had been asking him to join the Board of Directors of the Smith Opera House for weeks. But Bob said, “I kept putting her off saying I didn’t have time.”

That’s when Carl got involved.

“Carl knocked on my door one day and I welcomed him in but I had never met him before. He said, ‘Let’s go over to the Smith Opera House.’ He took me through the building and showed me the updates that were needed there. He said, ‘We need people like you on the board to make this happen’.”

Three meetings later, Bob was the President of the Board of Directors.

With a chuckle, he blames Carl. “Carl had a magnetic personality and when he set his mind to something, it was going to get done. I admired that. That’s why I got on board with him.”

Bob stayed on the Smith Opera House Board for 10-12 years. Carl then got Bob involved in the Boy Scouts. Then Keuka College. Bob says, “Carl could get people involved like that because he did it himself and he was the kind of guy you wanted to follow.”

Strong Leadership

Bob will be 73 next month and he jokes that LNB has an unwritten rule that once you’re 75, you’ve got to retire. He says he’s going to slow down a bit. “I never wanted to leave this bank, but it’s in great hands, and I plan to take a little time for myself.”

Bob admires his LNB colleagues. He says, “The board of directors of this bank is the best collection of men and women with a collective vision that I’ve ever worked with.”

He says the board is smart enough to know ‘nose in, hands out,’ a concept that is meant to clarify a board’s responsibility to ask insightful questions to the company leadership but to stay out of the management of the business. “For myself and Thomas Kime, who is now President and CEO of LNB, the board is a great guiding light. I don’t know how many other banks or businesses are lucky enough to have such a dedicated group.”

Speaking of dedicated, it’s hard to find a person more humbly dedicated to service than Bob. Join us in celebrating Bob and his years of service to the Finger Lakes community at the Geneva Rotary Garden Party on Thursday, May 12, at the historic Rose Hill Mansion where Bob will receive the well-deserved Ralph Springstead Service Above Self award.

Maureen Ballatori is a LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal contributing writer and a member of the organization’s board of directors. She is founder and CEO of 29 Design Studio, a creative agency for food, beverage and agriculture brands. Ballatori also owns Port 100 Cowork and Metro Collective which helps Upstate NY shared space operators activate their workspaces.