Creating Success With The Human Side Of Technology: LTi Celebrates 35th Anniversary

by Erin Rafter Monitor 100 2024
LTi Technology Solutions is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Randy Haug sat down with Monitor to reflect on some of the company’s proudest moments, discuss the challenges the industry faces today and share his predictions for the future of equipment finance.

Randy Haug,
EVP, Vice Chairman & Co-Founder,
LTi Technology Solutions

LTi Technologies, formerly known as LeaseTeam, officially opened its doors on Jan. 9, 1989. The company was founded by entrepreneurs Randy Haug, Russ Hallberg and Phil Lieber. As longtime friends and college roommates, Haug and Hallberg had always dreamed of starting their own business, so when the opportunity presented itself, they seized it.

“When we started our business, Russ, Phil and I each invested $20,000,” Haug says. “I didn’t have $20,000 and neither did they. So, we put second mortgages on our homes and used our equity. Today, $20,000 doesn’t sound like much, maybe a semester of college for one of my kids, but at the time, in 1989, that was a lot of money to our families.”

Despite the inherent risks of launching a startup, Haug and his partners remained optimistic. He attributes their confidence to their strong work ethics, competitive nature, and varying skillsets. Hallberg’s CPA background and experience as a tax manager for a large regional accounting firm gave Haug and Lieber the opportunity to leverage their sales expertise out in the market.

In 1992, LeaseTeam introduced LeasePlus, one of the first Windows-based software products. This launch proved to the industry and competitors LeaseTeam’s desire to innovate and lead the industry in technological advancement.

In 2006, LeaseTeam established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), allowing employees to become part owners of the business. The intention for the ESOP was to create a culture where employees were treated like family. As a bonus, it proved successful in attracting and retaining the top talent they were looking for. To this day, LTi remains a private company owned by its main shareholders and employees.

“There are two things that concern small companies: hiring the best people within budget and ensuring other people don’t hire them away from us,” Haug says. “Offering ownership stakes to our employees was our strategy to encourage loyalty, which, in turn, helps our customers because our team has a wealth of experience.”

Another successful achievement for Haug and his team came in the aftermath of the Great Recession. While many equipment finance businesses and banks were struggling, Haug and his team saw an opportunity to invest back into the business. They developed a new product, ASPIRE, which launched in 2011. Their strategic reinvestment in technology and personnel positioned LeaseTeam for success as the economy recovered.

In 2014, LeaseTeam expanded its operations to the United Kingdom, adding to its established presence in North America, Mexico and Canada. That year, Jeff Van Slyke was promoted to CEO and president, alongside several other executive promotions within the organization. In 2016, recognizing the importance of succession planning, Haug and Hallberg began mapping out the company’s future and built a team of leaders responsible for running the day-to-day of the business, while they continued their roles as majority owners of a nearly debt-free company.

“A lot of small businesses today understand their entry into a business, but they don’t understand what their exit plan is going to be,” Haug says. “Our exit plan is that we don’t want to have an exit plan.”

The company underwent a rebranding in 2018, changing its name from LeaseTeam to LTi Technology Solutions. This purpose of the name change was to reflect the company’s broader scope to financial product offerings beyond just leasing solutions. In 2021, ASPIRE was repackaged to serve smaller and mid-sized firms as well.

Today, LTi software solutions are used by 40% of the Monitor 100, 36% of the Bank 50, 45% of the Vendor 40, and 53% of the Top 30 Private Independents. Haug attributes part of LTi’s long-term success to the Monitor, which has been an elemental marketing strategy of the company since its inception.

“In our second year of business, we looked at the Monitor 100 rankings and thought, ‘It would be great if someday our customers were among those listed here,’” Haug says. “The list changes on a cycle-type basis, so we put a strategic plan in place to start integrating clients that are featured in the publication.”

When reflecting on the industry over the last 35 years, Haug describes it as revolutionary.

“Working for a software company, we’re always pushing forward with new innovations and the newest products needed in order to compete in the marketplace today,” Haug says. “We get so busy on a day-to-day basis that we rarely stop and think about how incredible it is to see how transactions are done now compared to how they were done 35 years ago.”

Haug remembers entering offices where front-end applications were managed through phone calls and handwritten notes. As technology progressed, fax machines replaced phones for manual credit transactions. He was astonished by the time-saving capabilities of the fax machine, particularly in processing credit applications for small-ticket deals, which previously took up to two weeks via mail. Haug even recalls the hefty price tag of a company fax machine — $20,000.

Over time, the industry has transitioned from software systems to network systems, then Windows-based systems and, now, cloud-based solutions. Contract signings evolved from in-person meetings with traveling salespeople to UPS deliveries, and finally to electronic signatures that can be completed within minutes nationwide. Haug believes this technological progress has shifted business dynamics from regional to national scales.

Although the industry always faces one challenge or another, Haug prefers to think of challenges as cycles of time. He believes that one of today’s biggest challenges is sourcing the talent required to manage not only LTi but a trillion-dollar industry. LTi’s continued focus has been on closing this talent gap and developing talent at all organizational levels.

The current economic cycle is a clear challenge, but not one that concerns Haug very much, having navigated periods of economic turmoil over the past three decades. He has observed firsthand how an economic cycle is constantly rebounding and believes the smartest people are the ones taking advantage of the opportunity through strategized investments. Even more recently, government regulations — particularly concerning banks — have influenced market dynamics, with smaller-ticket transactions shifting towards independent entities and larger-ticket structures remaining within the banking sector.

“I think there’s going to be a changeover from the old guard to the new guard,” Haug says. “The new generation is tech savvy, operationally focused, agile and dynamically reshaping the marketplace. I think that’s going to continue in the future as well.”

Haug and the LTi team are strategically positioning themselves for the future by investing in talent, research and development, and innovative products. By listening to customers, Haug has gained an understanding of what is important to them in terms of the future, but he also feels responsible to prepare them for what they may not even be considering. Haug believes his customers view AI as a helpful tool rather than a threat, provided they remain in the forefront.

Summing up his insights from the past 35 years, Haug identifies the human side of technology as the key to success: talented people make a business, not business owners. For him, investing in technology is the price of being in the industry, but investing in people to be their best so they can take care of the customer is what it is all about.

“Our congressman visited our office recently and said, ‘The entire economy of the United States is $23 trillion and when you think of $1 trillion just in equipment finance, that’s a big number,” Haug says. “That influences the ecosystem of our economy — it’s a huge thing.” •

Erin Rafter is an associate editor of Monitor. Rita E. Garwood, editor in chief, interviewed Randy Haug for this article.

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