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5 Things I’ve Learned Since Founding the Bank in 2005

Article by Jerry Baack, Founder and CEO of Bridgewater Bank

In 2005, I had a vision to build an entrepreneurial bank that would offer a simple platform where answers came quickly, opportunities were plentiful, and the environment was positive and optimistic. I envisioned a bank where clients would notice a difference, where people would be challenged to grow both professionally and personally, and where team members would be appreciated for sharing their skills and rewarded for a job well done.

When I took the risk to invest everything into my vision, I never imagined all the ways I would be impacted or the level of success we would see. Building Bridgewater from the ground up has taught me a lot, and I am still learning every day.

People often ask me what advice I have for fellow entrepreneurs, so here are 5 things I’ve learned since 2005: 

1. Build Strong Relationships and Expand Your Network

They say that your network is your net worth, and I have found this to be true. Relationships are the lifeblood of any successful business, so value those around you and cultivate a strong network. Bridgewater was built through an extensive network of entrepreneurs who were not only willing to invest but who would also become the Bank’s clients and promoters. Most of my earliest clients started out as friends; likewise, many of my clients now have also become my friends. Whether with clients, employees, or others, real relationships built on trust and mutual understanding stand out.

2. Believe in Yourself and Your Vision 

It may sound cliché, but believing in yourself and your vision will guide you through the ups and downs of being a business owner – through the long hours, sleepless nights, and even shut doors. Starting a business is a journey, so just keep pushing ahead. Don’t let “can’t” be a word in your vocabulary. When obstacles arise, put your head down, get to work, and plow through them.

3. Surround Yourself with the Right People

How do you know who the “right people” are? Well, you must first recognize your own strengths and then surround yourself with people who have strengths in areas you don’t. Choose people who share your values and vision. Most importantly, once you have the right people around you, get out of the way and let them do what you hired them to do! It is important to trust your team and not micromanage them.

4. Focus on the Future; Learn from the Past 

When building a business, things don’t always go according to plan. That’s just a fact of life as an entrepreneur. When you face setbacks, it’s crucial to remember you can’t change the past, so don’t get stuck in it either. Instead, learn from your experiences and move on, applying what you’ve learned. Keep looking ahead and working towards your goal.

5. Leverage a Powerful Business Model 

An effective business model makes strides in bringing an entrepreneur’s vision to life. When we first started using the Entrepreneurial Operating System in 2010, we never could have imagined the powerful impact it would have on our Bridgewater. From keeping our vision at the forefront of everything we do to providing transparency, accountability, and efficiency, it has served as a trusty guide for our team and maximized the Bank’s success. EOS is made for entrepreneurs, and it’s a highly effective way to take your business to the next level.

Overall, entrepreneurship comes down to being willing to take a risk. After 18 years, 250+ employees, 7 branches, a modern HQ, $4.6 billion in assets (as of September 30, 2023), and an IPO, I sure am glad I took the risk and pursued my vision. Entrepreneurship is both a thrill and a challenge. It’s a winding ride filled with setbacks and successes. If you have a vision you truly believe in, go out there and make it happen.