When did you first join the equipment finance industry and what has been the trajectory of your career?
I just finished my first year in the equipment financing industry and I’m very excited about the future. This industry plays a critical role integrating the constantly changing needs for equipment and the involvement of material handling and logistics in our global economy.
My experience in financing runs deep, having held multiple positions as a leader in financial services companies for nearly 25 years. Much of my career has been spent with the Toyota automotive division, where I was President and CEO of Toyota Financial Savings Bank just prior to joining Toyota Industries Commercial Finance. I also had the pleasure of working at Toyota’s global headquarters in Nagoya, Japan where I managed 11 automotive sales finance companies for the Asia-Pacific Region for Toyota Financial Services.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own professional development? How did you overcome it?
Until March of 2020, I would have cited overcoming the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 as the biggest business challenge our industry had faced as we dealt with high loan delinquencies and liquidity challenges, among others. However, today I would say the biggest challenge is happening right now—managing business amidst a global pandemic and navigating the massive impacts it has on how we work and live. In any crisis, leaders need to be open to change and seize the opportunity to retool and rethink their business strategy.
While the situations are different, there are similarities between how I handled the crisis in 2008 and now. The key to overcoming any obstacle involves embracing change, listening to your team, and surrounding yourself with other thought leaders who will challenge you to become better.
On a personal development level, the biggest challenge I have repeatedly faced is labels based on my prior experiences. I’m very fortunate that I’ve had a wide range of roles with different organizations—a car dealership, automobile OEM, financing company, bank, and now an equipment financing company. Every time I transitioned to a new area or stepped into a new role, people would make assumptions about my credibility and skills based on the previous position. I was called “a car guy who doesn’t understand manufacturing,” then “an OEM guy who doesn’t understand finance,” then “a finance guy who doesn’t understand banking.” I quickly learned that each time I started a new role I needed to focus on learning about the business and then collaborating and creating a mutual understanding with my colleagues and clients.
When did you first get involved with ELFA and how have you been engaged as a member thus far? How has being a member of ELFA helped your career?
I joined ELFA immediately upon my arrival at Toyota Industries Commercial Finance. I had not been in my current role for more than a couple of weeks before team members advocated for the group, highlighting its stellar education and training programs as well as the industry benchmarking data it provides. As our company continues to grow and expand to meet the changing business needs of the material handling leasing and finance business, I look forward to increasing my engagement with other ELFA members to help us all advocate together for our industry.
What is the most rewarding risk of your career?
Great question! I’ve been very fortunate to be exposed to many unique opportunities, and yet all came with career risk. Every time I took on a new challenge, my family helped encourage me, and I am very grateful for their support.
The most rewarding risk for me was when I was afforded the opportunity to spend four years working at Toyota’s global headquarters in Nagoya, Japan. While an exciting assignment, it also took me out of the normal career rotations that many of my peers were participating in, which made me wonder about the effect it would have on my career. Looking back, this assignment was unmatched in all I learned about how things could be perceived culturally, as well as the importance of treating people the way they want to be treated. As an expat, I was able to experience firsthand what it feels like to be different from the rest of the community. This opportunity stretched me both personally and professionally in ways that I never could have imagined and taught me how much you can grow when you step outside of your comfort zone.
If you had to pick one, which is more important when considering a hire—a soft or technical background? You can’t pick both, and please include which soft or technical skill is most beneficial to success.
I always pick soft skills and cultural fit over technical skills. You can teach anyone technical skills and expand their knowledge; and while you can coach people on soft skills, it is much harder to teach people to adapt and change their attitude or work ethic. When I was working for Toyota Financial Savings Bank, we hired some bankers who were technical experts. However, it was very difficult for them to understand Toyota’s consensus culture.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to someone just entering the industry?
First, be a continuous learner. Our industry is constantly changing. To be successful you must always strive to stay ahead of the times. ELFA is a great way to connect with others in the industry and to remain informed on the changing business environment.
Second, find a mentor that will challenge you to become better. Everyone, regardless of tenure or background, needs accountability partners that will stretch them to continually improve. A successful mentor and mentee relationship requires clear objectives, with both parties invested. If your company offers a mentorship program, find a mentor who will both encourage and challenge you to do things differently so you will be constantly learning.
Finally, take risks. Growth happens when you are stretching yourself beyond your perceived limits. Never underestimate how you can positively impact both the industry and the companies you represent.
And, if I can add one more, I would say to consider your family as a true partner in your career. Alignment on priorities at home will be an asset in both your personal and professional success.
Given that the ELFA recently updated its mission statement and strategic plan to affirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion, can you give some perspective on what your organization has done or is doing to promote diversity and inclusion?
This is a very timely and extremely important topic. One of the main pillars at Toyota is Respect for People, and we stand behind our commitment to diversity and inclusion with a steadfast belief for equality, respect, and inclusivity for all people. As a company, we have aligned with the United Nations in their efforts to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, and reducing inequalities is at the forefront. I could list pages of organizational activities, conferences, ally initiatives, and groups that we have developed and/or participated in to promote diversity and inclusion. But actions speak louder than words and our success or failure in this regard is dictated by our actions every day. It is vital to encourage people, whose voice may be muted, to speak up. Then, truly listen and consider their input. Give up your seat at the table to those who might otherwise sit on the sideline. In short, foster a culture that actively promotes diversity and inclusion as a foundational element of success.