Building Relationships & Going Global

by Rita E. Garwood October 2020
When this year’s Monitor Pioneer Icon, Reid Raykovich, took the helm of the CLP Foundation in 2012, the organization was struggling. Eight years later, nearly 1,000 professionals have earned their CLFP and Raykovich is blazing a trail to take the designation global.

Reid Raykovich, CLFP,
Executive Director,
CLFP Foundation

Reid Raykovich has been networking with leaders since her father took her along to his business events when she was a kid. “Oftentimes, he would go off networking and I would be left to my own devices just to figure out how to mingle with people,” Raykovich says. “So as a young child, I learned how to talk to leaders of industry or leaders of companies, and I realized that that’s what I wanted to do.”

If you’ve attended any industry events, you’ve most certainly met Raykovich and discovered her innate ability to network. “Reid is extremely well-rounded but also has a keen awareness of how to connect with people,” Nate Gibbons, COO at Innovation Finance, says. “I’ve seen Reid speak to individuals and to large audiences, and wherever she goes, she manages to help people see the potential in themselves and their organizations — including organizations in other parts of the world that have taken notice of Reid’s influence on our industry.”

Conquering Challenges

Before she attained the status of equipment finance industry icon, Raykovich had a hard hill to climb. After graduating from college with a degree in psychology and a minor in classics, she worked for a recruiting firm and held various roles at Voice Stream (now T-Mobile) before suffering a major health issue that put her on long-term disability for a year.

When she was ready to work again, Raykovich applied for a relationship manager position at Premier Lease and Loan Services (now Great American Insurance), but when the company offered her an interview, she almost didn’t take it.

“I called them and said I couldn’t do the interview because I had Bell’s Palsy,” Raykovich recalls. “They encouraged me to do the interview anyway, and I did.” After being hired, Raykovich learned that one of the reasons the company took her on was the fact that she showed up despite her discomfort.

Raykovich loved her first job in the industry and soon learned about the CLP designation from a client. “I saw the CLP after her name on her business card and asked her what it was,” Raykovich says. As a person who is “always hungry for education,” Raykovich decided to pursue the designation and met her mentor, Jim McCommon, in the process.

A few stops later in her career, she joined Financial Pacific Leasing, reporting to Terey Jennings as a broker relations manager for the East Coast.

“Reid worked at Financial Pacific for about two and a half years as a relationship manager,” Jennings says. “During that time, her leadership skills were evident to everyone as she was nominated and chosen by the full staff of the company to be the recipient of our Above and Beyond Leadership award, which goes to one most deserving individual each year.”

Raykovich thrived at Financial Pacific until she developed hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy, which made traveling to the East Coast extremely difficult. When her daughter was born, Raykovich decided to leave her position to be a full-time mom.

“I wanted to be the best mom and that meant, for me, staying home with her and being with her every moment of the day,” Raykovich says. “But the problem is that meant I was home with her every moment of the day, and that was difficult for me because I am so used to being in a corporate world. So in time, I truly realized that that’s where I’m supposed to be.”

Motherhood has taught Raykovich patience among other important lessons. “I’ve learned that I can be a really good mom and not be with my daughter all the time,” Raykovich says. Because she discovered that her happiness and sense of fulfillment is deeply tied to her work, Raykovich knows that she is setting a great example for her daughter. “I’m a great role model for her,” Raykovich says. “She always tells her friends, ‘My mom’s the boss,’ and there’s a little part of me that just beams because she’s proud of my accomplishments.”

CLP Foundation

Reid Raykovich
CLFP, Executive Director, Certified Lease & Finance Professional Foundation

Two and a half years into her full-time mom job, Raykovich got a call from the CLP Foundation’s search committee asking if she would be interested in the director position. Although she had planned to be a stay-at-home mom until her daughter went to kindergarten, the position was flexible and sounded like just the opportunity for which Raykovich was looking.

“It was by far the most difficult interview that I’ve ever gone through,” Raykovich says. “I was up against a more seasoned individual who had association management experience, and I was fighting for the job because I’m passionate about the designation, and I’m passionate that whatever I do, I’m going to do the best I can. And I think that finally showed through. It was the best career decision of my life.”

When Raykovich took the helm of the foundation in 2012, the organization was struggling, but she was up for the challenge. When she told her father — a turnaround executive and bank CEO — about the opportunity and her passion and drive for the organization, he gave her advice that has become the hallmark of her career.

“He said, ‘Let them know that when you call, people will answer that phone call. They’re going to pick up the phone because they know you and they trust you.’ So I think my entire career in the equipment finance world has been about building relationships and having people trust me and knowing that I have their best interest at heart,” she says.

First on the agenda was winning the trust of the foundation’s board and the membership at large. There were around 150 CLPs when Raykovich began. Today, with the designation now labeled CLFP for Certified Lease & Finance Professional, the number has grown to 955. To achieve those results, she leveraged the foundation’s volunteers and worked tirelessly with little pay.

“I got paid less than minimum wage, and I was OK with it because I knew myself and I knew that if I worked hard enough, it would pay off in the long run and it has,” Raykovich says. Soon, the ELFA endorsed the CLFP designation, which led to exponential growth.

“In a centuries-old, already successful industry, Reid somehow convinced us all to take action in building an even better industry,” Gibbons says. “She started a movement so meaningful that the CLFP following has grown significantly in an economic time when professional development would typically be an afterthought.”

Several years ago, the foundation instituted a strong committee structure. “We have a charter for each of the committees, and it’s incredible to see the output of their collaboration,” Raykovich says.

“The success Reid has had with growing the Certified Lease & Financing Foundation has been amazing,” Jennings says. “The astounding growth rate of CLFPs during her time with the foundation has been all attributed to her leadership, networking and promotion. She has really raised the bar to make the CLFP designation the top standard in our industry. The foundation’s recent success is all attributed to Reid’s hard work and dedication.”

But the foundation has only begun to grow. “I am so excited that we’re at this point now where we’re talking global and it’s somewhat daunting,” Raykovich says. A true pioneer, she is working to expand the designation into Australia and Canada and more countries down the line. “It’s both amazing and scary to have a global influence and try to figure out the infrastructure for that. There’s no roadmap to taking a designation global, and we’re going to see how this works, but it’s exciting,” Raykovich says.

Blazing Trails Takes Bravery

To other aspiring trailblazers, Raykovich offers this advice: “If you’re in a job that you don’t see a future for yourself, leave the job. I think we’re so scared to make those changes, but I can say some of my best advancements happened when I determined I was in a job that wasn’t the right fit for me personally or professionally and it was time for a change. Moving on is frightening, but finding that right job and finding what you’re passionate about is really what will change your career.”

Raykovich also is quick to remind up and comers that being your own boss means that you are self-accountable. “As a trailblazer, expect to fall flat on your face sometimes,” she says, adding that those who are afraid to take risks will not get anywhere. “Sometimes you just bite the bullet and do something that may be extremely scary, and you go for it.”

Raykovich’s biggest goal for the industry is achieving inclusion for all, and while she applauds the work that industry associations are doing to include women, she believes that attending women’s events is only the first step when it comes to “walking the walk.” She believes that mentoring is essential. “When I was 25 years old, I went to a conference and there were 300 people in attendance and I believe only three of them were women, and I was the only one under the age of 40,” she says. “I would have appreciated someone putting their arm around me and saying, ‘Hey, let’s do this together.’ So I make a conscious effort to ensure that I am always supporting women.”

Raykovich mentors several people and encourages other women in leadership positions to do the same. “I am a big proponent for women supporting women,” she says. “When women support each other, incredible things happen. We are the minority in this industry, and we are not competitors. We are colleagues. When we work together, the best things can happen.” •

Rita E. Garwood is editor in chief of Monitor.

Leave a comment