News & Politics

Starting Your Own Business

Thinking of starting your own business? Here are four tips you can take to the bank.

Shaza Andersen was chief operating officer of Century National Bank by the time she was 32. Six years later, in 2004, she opened her own bank—the first chartered in DC. WashingtonFirst Bank went public last year and has grown to more than $1 billion in assets. Here’s how Andersen has taken her company so far in nine years.

Photograph by Stephen Voss.

1. Build Relationships

“When we sold Century National, I thought I’d take a bit of a break. I was home for not even a month before I started getting calls from customers saying, ‘What bank did you join? We want to move with you.’ Relationships are a core component in all aspects of life, and building a business is no different.”

2. Find Your Mentor

“My CEO at the time, Joe Bracewell [the current WashingtonFirst chairman], was the one who encouraged me to start a bank. Having a mentor or somebody you can run ideas by or get advice from is important. You may take their advice, you may not. But it’s important to know the different aspects of making a decision.”

3. Look Beyond Your In-Box

“It’s easy to come into your office and just do whatever’s on your desk and not think of what you’re trying to accomplish this month or this quarter or this year. I don’t want to be Bank of America and be in all 50 states, but I want to be the premier bank right here. Never lose sight of your big picture.”

4. Stay Positive

“I was 24 when I got my first position as a manager. Everybody I managed was older than me. I remember one of the head tellers was kind of grumpy, and she said, ‘There’s no way you’re happy every day.’ And I said, ‘I don’t have anything to be grumpy about.’ It’s a way of living life. You could complain all day long or you could say, ‘How can I make it better?’ ”