I began my career in leasing in the 1980s as an extremely green equipment manager. Thirty years later, I’m still in equipment management and loving my great employer and my role in the banking and equipment finance industries. During the past three decades, I’ve run equipment management groups of all sizes, from small start-ups to multi-billion dollar portfolios.
As years have passed, I sometimes reflect and think, “How did all of this happen?” There have been some constants — things that have never changed whether I’ve been in small-ticket vendor leasing or large middle-market business. I also realize there have been some simple steps that have helped me grow as a person and as a leader over the years.
Here are my “Seven Steps to Success:”
1. Never stop learning. The best equipment managers I’ve known over the years are those who have grown their knowledge of the industry far beyond the walls of equipment management. Early on in my career, I decided I needed to understand the whole business if I wanted my department to carry more weight. I began by learning documentation inside and out. I learned about lease and loan structuring so I could be of greater value to the sales force. I learned as much as I could about credit and operations so I could help make transactions that weren’t “cookie cutter” deals work. To this day, I still try to learn something new from everyone in my company and from folks within our industry. More knowledge yields better results — always.
2. Develop and use easy-to-remember processes that those outside of equipment management need to be effective in their jobs. The people who approve transactions want to know far less about how a widget works and far more about why the transaction makes sense from a financial standpoint. The bottom line for me is to provide them with a clear and simple-to-understand explanation of why the transaction makes sense.
3. Always think ahead. My job as an equipment manager extends well beyond setting residuals and evaluating equipment. For example, I can help the sales force be more effective and keep them deeply imbedded in their respective customer bases. Knowing that the best way to maximize profits is to keep equipment “in-place,” I keep reports of all residual-based transactions that can be sorted by expiration date and salesperson. By working closely with the sales team well before the end of the lease term, I can help them manage their customers’ needs in the most effective and profitable way for both parties. The further we imbed ourselves into each customer’s processes, the more difficult it becomes for any competitor to displace us as a financial partner.
4. Don’t be part of a problem — be the solution. Being a part of a problem — whether it is a procedural or personnel issue — is always self-defeating and counterproductive. Leaders acknowledge problems and create solutions. If I can write policies and procedures that clean up past practices that were time-consuming and ineffective, that’s exactly what I do. If there’s a bottleneck between my group and any other group, we figure out how to fix it efficiently so both groups can work smarter, not harder. Always be on the lookout for better ways to run your group and try to help every other group in your organization be more effective. Being timely and being known as an innovator goes a long way in this industry!
5. Network, network, network. I’ve never been an equipment management “expert” on all types of equipment assets. There are equipment specialists in our industry that may have more technical expertise on a certain asset. I realized that fact early on in my career, so I set out to build a network of people I could learn from and trust. My network has included a number of my managers who have been great mentors in my career as well as appraisers, remarketers, equipment inspectors, repossession specialists and transportation experts. By aligning myself with all of these people and their vast wealth of knowledge, I became more efficient and effective for my employers. To this day, I am constantly searching out advice from “experts” in our industry who can make me more valuable to my company. I have an enormous amount of gratitude for the people who have helped me grow in my career. Success in equipment management is a team effort — none of us know it all or could be expected to know it all. Networking is an ongoing, daily activity that always pays big dividends.
6. Have fun. I’ve learned a lot over the years from a lot of people, but the ones I’ve learned the most from are the folks who really love what they do. They love our industry and their role in it and it shows. I’ve also learned that people who get promoted are more often than not the people that others enjoy working with. My simple advice is to smile, treat people the way you want to be treated and show the types of qualities that your coworkers and customers will respect. Those are signs of a leader, and they won’t go unnoticed.
7. Your legacy will be built. When I retire a decade or so from now, I hope I’ll have left a good legacy in our business. Most important to me is that there are a number of folks who worked in my equipment groups over the years who have gone on to run their own equipment management groups and excel in their careers. That makes me proud, and to this day I stay in touch with all of them. Indeed, if only a few people remember me as someone who really cared about them as a person and as a leasing professional, then I’ve left a legacy I can be proud of and I can go off into the sunset with a smile on my face.
Jim Noyes is Vice President, Director of Equipment Management for BBVA Compass Financial Corporation. Jim has been active in equipment management for more than 30 years and was a founding member of the ELFA Equipment Management Committee. He can be reached at [email protected].