Monitor 101+ Executive Profile: Gary Cook – Building the Future with Hands-On Leadership

by Brianna Wilson Monitor 101+ 2023
1st Equipment Finance began as a startup nearly two years ago with a team of strong leaders from executive vice president Gary Cook’s previous organization. Cook discusses his extensive career and leadership style that led him to this successful business and his outlook on the future.

Gary Cook ,
Executive Vice President,
1st Equipment Finance

Gary Cook, executive vice president at 1st Equipment Finance, has an extensive career in the industry. He began in the 80s at a leasing company and is now nearing his second year with 1st Equipment. He joined the company after his retirement, when he decided he wanted to “get back into the game,” he says.

Throughout his career, Cook has developed into a hands-on leader that is involved in the day-to-day operations of his company. “I like to know what the people feel as they’re operating — if they feel that things can be done better, or if I can help them out in different situations,” Cook says.

As a leader, Cook is passionate about being able to share his knowledge with other people in the industry. He finds excitement in seeing people develop. “I want people to take ownership of their area. I want them to take whatever skill I gave them, and take it beyond where it is,” Cook says.

While discussing short-term and long-term goals, as well as his concerns for the future, Cook notes that he has seen a number of changes in the industry over the years, so his opinions have fluctuated. His current, number one concern for 1st Equipment is how to be an efficient company as he strongly believes that the most efficient companies are going to have an edge that others cannot compete with.

This reflects 1st Equipment’s priorities — profitability and mitigating risk — and its goals. The company’s short-term goal is to make sure it maintains a portfolio and a relationship with its vendors, which aligns with 1st Equipment’s long-term goal of treating the customer right and providing its clients with consistency, transparency and trust.

Looking to the future, Cook believes technology is going to drive the industry. He began to explore artificial intelligence as soon as it hit the market and introduced it to others within his company. He understands the fear surrounding AI, the main one being that it will take people’s jobs, but Cook believes AI will augment our work, not replace it. “Like anything else, if AI is abused, it could become a problem, but under no circumstance do I feel that this is going to negatively impact our industry,” Cook says. “I think it’s only going to help us.”

“I’m most passionate about being able to put whatever knowledge I have into people that are going to work in the industry, from my level down.”

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