Forcht Bank has hit an impressive milestone, reaching $1 billion in assets. While the achievement is a group effort, Terry Forcht is the unmistakable leader of the Forcht Group.
Terry Forcht (pronounced fork) grew up in Louisville’s west end, working in his father’s grocery store. He quickly learned the value of a dollar, devoting most of his time to business. “I was always looking for something to do either at the store or elsewhere. We’d even go out at night and catch crawdads and sell them to fishermen the next day. It just seemed like I always enjoyed working. I’d rather work than do anything else,” says Forcht.
He attended the University of Louisville, holding to that work ethic and graduating in three years. Then it was down on to the University of Miami (Fla.) for his MBA and back to UofL for a law degree.
Terry and his wife, Marion, settled in Whitley County in southeast Kentucky where he taught business at the University of the Cumberlands and practiced tax law. Forcht formed close relationships with his clients that led to successful business partnerships, and he says, “I learned from my father that you have to please the customer and cultivate the friendships that you develop. I focused on the business end and found partners who understood the product.”
His first partner, a doctor, joined with him to start a nursing home in the 1970s when they were hot properties due to changes in health care. Nursing homes led to other ventures.
“I find other opportunities by looking to where a business is spending money,” Forcht said. “As long as you have a base, you can move on to add additional interests.” So nursing homes led to a pharmacy and then a lab services company. In 1972, his path to banking began when he was appointed to the board of directors at Corbin Deposit Bank and Trust. From there, Forcht and a group of investors started their own bank, Tri-County National Bank with $1.5 million in assets. Now, 36 years later, the number of banks and other Forcht businesses has hit 95.
The Forcht Group includes health care, banking, broadcast, real estate, insurance, construction and information technology operations.
But life really hasn’t changed much for the teenager who was catching crawdads at night after a long summer day at the grocery store. While Forcht, a 69-year-old father of one son, three daughters and 11 grandchildren, enjoys walking around his neighborhood or taking a swim in his pool, he would rather be working – even on the weekends. So what’s it like to work for a man who is up at 4 a.m. in the morning and on the phone to members of his management team by 6 a.m.?
“I believe if you are willing to put in long hours, then that sets a trend. It’s like the surveyor – if I start it right, I end it right. If you can get people started in the morning, they will produce through the day,” said Forcht.
A good listener
The billion-dollar man readily admits that he doesn’t know a lot about the services his companies provide, so he spends most of his time listening to the people who do know. “I like to be out there seeing and observing without interfering, and I’ve always made an effort to watch that,” added Forcht.
His role models aren’t the famous entrepreneurs you’d expect.
“I don’t think there was one particular person that I was looking at as a role model, but I learned from several people along the way. At one grocery store there was a guy who knew which customers tipped, and he would always come and help you on the line when he spotted them. Another person I worked with was quick to get on the phone and make contacts after we came up with a new business idea,” Forcht said.
Most of the Forcht Group holdings are here in Kentucky because one of his management concepts is not to let his business interests drift out too far.
“I think the business climate is good in Kentucky, and because of the size, you can go to Frankfort or other places and work on it. Occasionally we may have a business that’s not going anywhere, but we’ve had no major setbacks,” Forcht said.
Under the financial policy Forcht follows, he tries to have a very short repayment schedule on every business loan so he doesn’t put his holdings in a difficult position. “I think if you can do that and build up your equities inside your businesses, then the growth continues. We are diversified, so no single situation causes us a major problem. And we like to start businesses instead of buy them.”
So now that the Forcht Bank has hit the $1 billion mark, is it time to sit back and enjoy the achievement? That’s not the Forcht way. “I think an organization needs to constantly grow, so we take a breather from profitability every once in awhile for continued growth. Growth is good. It energizes people, and we intend to keep looking at health care, insurance and IT.”
And that growth likely will continue to come with Terry Forcht at the helm.
“I’ve never had any thought of retiring,” he said. “It just doesn’t enter my mind.”