Ron Weaver started his first bank account at age 13 with Fulton Bank. At age 35, the opportunity suddenly arose to buy a majority share in the business where he was an account executive. He had no experience as a CEO, but Fulton Bank knew him and his work ethic.
Fulton financed the deal, and in the six years since, Fulton has been there as Weaver bought out his partners, expanded services, and grew the business.
“It’s been pretty cool to know that what I was doing with Fulton at 13 is what I am doing at 40,” says Weaver.
Today, Weaver is President/CEO of Apex Advertising, Lancaster, a leading distributor of promotional products and e-store platforms. His association began there when he was just out of college, with a job offer from a family friend, Frank Rauch, who founded the business in 1991. Weaver admits he had no clue what he was doing, but before long, he was a top sales rep.
The business story becomes personal at the time when Weaver and his wife suddenly lost their first child at 38 weeks in 2014. Rauch was the first person to visit them when they returned home, and soon, Weaver returned the gesture, when Rauch was diagnosed with brain cancer a year later. For two years, Weaver handled Rauch’s biggest account and would regularly visit him and his family.
One day, a potential buyer for Apex walked into the building for a look-around.
“It kind of ruffled my feathers,” Weaver admits. Shortly afterward, he visited Rauch to discuss what was going on. After finding out Rauch needed to sell his ownership due to his health, Weaver asked “Do you want me to buy Apex and continue what you started?”
When Rauch said yes, Weaver approached Fulton Bank, where he knew the then-president, Phil Wenger, as a longtime client of his mother’s, a hair stylist, and whose yard Weaver mulched as a teenager.
“Here’s the deal,” Weaver told the Fulton commercial bankers he met. “I have no clue how I’m going to do this. I’m going to get you some paperwork and hopefully we can figure this out.”
Weaver and the partners already in the business also approached the big bank that had done Apex’s banking for 15+ years. Ultimately, I left these meetings thinking there was not a solid partnership in place to support our company and what we ultimately would need in the future. It felt like Apex was a number in their system, not a partner, said Weaver.
Returning to Fulton Bank, the deal was approved. Weaver believes it wasn’t because of his experience as a CEO – he had none – but because of the trust Fulton Bank and Phil Wenger showed in him.
“The first day I started, all our accounts left the other bank, and everything went to Fulton,” Weaver says. “We pulled the plug completely. That started this relationship.”
Weaver bought into the business in September 2017, and Rauch passed away three months later, after a courageous battle. In the six years since, Apex has grown from a $14-million, 38-employee enterprise in four states to $30.6 million, with 69 employees in eight states.
Fulton has been a partner at every step. Around 2019, Weaver had the idea to expand Apex’s specialty in e-stores to include fulfillment and kitting solutions for its clients. Expansion enabled fast and flexible response to any client need, from compiling branded gift bags and corporate swag boxes to preparing kits for any purpose.
The move was timely. COVID sent fulfillment skyrocketing, as clients reinforced the sense of being a team by sending branded product kits to their quarantined associates.
During the pandemic, other companies in the promotional products industry laid off more than half of their workforces, but Apex Advertising resisted the trend.
“We take a lot of pride in our staff,” Weaver says. “We take a lot of pride in being a family business. We didn’t lay off one person the entire time through COVID. We took it on the chin. We rested on our value of, ‘This will pass.’ And it did. By the end of the year, our sales volume soared, and our teams were extremely busy”.
As pandemic issues eased, Weaver had opportunities to buy out his partners. Fulton Bank financed one of them, “and made it extremely easy.”
“We built so much rapport with Fulton that they said, ‘Sounds good. Tell us what you need,’” Weaver recalls.
Recently, Fulton Bank increased Apex’s line of credit during the final buyout of Apex’s ownership group under Rauch.
“They did that just to be a good partner to us,” he adds. “They care. They value me, Apex, and our overall relationship. They’ve always had our back through what our risk is. The risk paid off.”
Weaver also appreciates Fulton Bank’s commitment to the community, which Apex Advertising shares by, among other things, giving employees two days off annually for volunteer work. In 2021, Apex celebrated its 30th anniversary with “30 in 30”, performing 30 acts of kindness in one year. Employees did everything from cooking meals for veterans to donating 400 poinsettias to every resident at a local nursing home.
“I very much appreciate that Fulton Bank is in the community,” Weaver says. “They care about the community. They care about their employees.”
When he looks back, Weaver knows that his suggestion of buying the business to Rauch was simply “being there for him and his family, like he was there for my family”. My initial question to Frank about buying into Apex wasn’t about business and opportunity. It was truly about being a friend. You want to be there for the people you care about in really bad times.”
The same spirit of personal support and mutual trust infuses the relationship with Fulton Bank. Even when he first approached them about buying into the business that he loves, he may have talked more like a salesperson than a business owner, but they understood what he was trying to do.
“I’ve never looked at our relationship with Fulton as simply a business transaction,” Weaver says. “It’s a partnership. Nothing’s really complicated with them. They’re listeners.”
Fulton Bank brands its relationships with trust. Learn more about B2B banking solutions today.
Fulton Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Fulton Bank is not affiliated with Apex Advertising, Inc.