Many bank directors with education backgrounds that range from teaching to nursing will relate to Rebecca Yarbrough, travel and customer service director at First Georgia Banking Company in Cornelia, Georgia.
“My mother often laments about how much they, my parents, spent on my college education — one that I studied music,” Yarbrough said with a laugh.
Yarbrough’s mother had a certain picture in mind for her daughter, who has sung and competed since she was 6 years old, performed in front of prominent politicians and is still renowned for her ability to sing well the most difficult of songs, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
That picture has changed, but Yarbrough agreed that today she has the best of gigs. Her job consists of holiday shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York City; visits with the famed ducks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee; and spa treatments at a five-star luxury resort, the Greenbrier in West Virginia — all with her bank’s First Class Adventure Club in tow.
“But, I do sing in the church choir,” Yarbrough added.
The career choice began when job possibilities in music seemed slim. “At the time, budget cuts were being made even in music education, and I realized I had thoroughly enjoyed working at a bank during college. So, as they say, another door opened,” she said.
Eventually, Yarbrough’s banking success in customer service led to an offer to start a travel club.
“Five years ago, my boss, who evidently thought that customer service and leading a travel club go hand in hand, suggested I start our club. I was thrilled. The adventure and challenge was so exciting,” said Yarbrough.
“I wasn’t worried at all, as my boss was right: Leading a travel club, you’re going above and beyond to make sure your customers are happy and having a good time. Now, that’s truly the best definition of customer service,” she said.
Yarbrough has recruited more than 450 club members, who simply need to bank at First Georgia Banking Company to qualify.
“We have a fairly loose policy, and we often have grandchildren and nonmembers aboard on our trips,” she said. “Our travel club is the best of marketing tools, and my philosophy is that if you don’t bank with me but you travel with me, chances are you’ll bring an account to me at one point.
“Like a garden, it takes time to cultivate, and nothing blooms overnight. But eventually, it happens.”
Yarbrough’s marketing tools also include her bimonthly newsletter that includes a trip registration form. If customers take advantage of registering with that mail-in form, they win a free lunch. Club members are also given a Rewards Card, and when they have participated in 10 of any of the First Class Adventure Club events, they receive $10 off the next event.
“We are also offering a new incentive program for members who recommend that a friend open an account with us. If that friend does open an account, we’ll give the member a specified amount of money — we call it Lucky Loot,” Yarbrough said.
Besides travel, these adventurers enjoy nearly a dozen annual get-togethers, from a chocolate fair with chocolate fountains “accompanied by everything you can possibly imagine dipping,” to a birthday party that celebrates everyone’s big day, to a Mad Hatter’s Luncheon where wild and crazy hats are mandatory.
Yarbrough, a computer wizard, also takes advantage of her technical skills to help market her trips. A slide presentation with enticing pictures of upcoming destinations continually rolls on a large television screen during all luncheon events.
“I prepare the presentation with PowerPoint on my laptop, and while that television may be running quietly in the corner of the room, I can’t stress how much that visually seeing a destination has increased our signups,” Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough explained that her group particularly enjoys domestic motorcoach trips, and she has partnered with a tour operator/chartered bus company to ensure that every trip is a go.
“I tell my fellow travel directors that if you’re having a tough time filling the bus, so are those bus companies. It’s a win-win situation, and this company is not only fantastic, but our guests have the opportunity to meet new friends,” she said.
On day trips, the club often travels with another chartered bus company that just so happens to be owned and operated by Yarbrough’s husband, Charlie. Although Charlie does not receive preferential treatment and submits a bid like his competitors, Yarbrough admitted, “When he’s there, it’s really nice to have him.”
Passion for life on and off the job
After banking hours, Yarbrough sits on a district board for the Republican Party, and she is running for county commissioner later this year. She is passionate about her political activism and often quotes Beverly LaHaye, a Christian writer: “A servant is someone who finds joy in seeing others excel.”
“That’s what our leaders are supposed to do without a personal agenda. I have two small children, and I want them to have a bright future,” she said.
In addition, Yarbrough is chairman of the Northeast Georgia Walk for the March of Dimes, an event that is close to her heart, because one of her daughters, Gracie, was born six weeks premature. “The March of Dimes has been essential in neonatal research, and if it was not for the March of Dimes, Gracie might not be here today,” she said.
Whether Yarbrough is enjoying a Broadway production at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta with the First Class Adventure Club, planning her campaign for county commissioner or leading a March of Dimes walkathon, she explained, her joy, like LaHaye’s, comes from watching others.
“I have developed some unique friendships that are worth more than any paycheck,” she said. “At the bank, our slogan is ‘Join us on our next adventure.’ That’s really my philosophy for life. Join and help others on life’s adventures.”
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