ELFA - Equipment Leasing and Finance Association - Equipping Business for Success

Ask a Leader: Interview with Reid Raykovich

Reid Raykovich

Learning from a Leader: Career Development Advice

Interview with Reid Raykovich, CEO of CLFP Foundation

June 2023


Interview conducted by Austin Law, Senior Business Analyst, AP Equipment Financing and edited by Steven Holben, Director of Digital Strategy, Mitsubishi HC Capital America. Both are members of the ELFA Emerging Talent Advisory Council. Learn more about this interview series.

When did you first join the equipment finance industry and what has been the trajectory of your career?

In April 2003, I started with what was then Premier Lease & Loan Services (now Great American Insurance Group) and that’s where I learned about the CLP designation (we added the ‘F’ in 2015).  After obtaining the designation, I never really had to look for a job again; first I was recruited by my mentor to work for his brokerage company, then I was contacted by a former colleague to work at a bank, and then I moved on to an independent lessor before taking some time off to have my daughter. When she was two years old, I was contacted by the CLFP Foundation and asked if I would be interested in taking over and the rest is history.

When did you first get involved with ELFA and how have you been engaged as a member thus far? How has being in ELFA helped your career?

I was only 25 at my first EL(F)A conference and it was extremely intimidating. There were very few people my age and even fewer women. However, over the years, I’ve seen the effort that the association has put into place to encourage a much more diverse population.

I have a different perspective than most when it comes to how ELFA has helped my career and that’s because when ELFA officially endorsed us in 2015 after a survey of its membership regarding the value of certification and whether to create their own or not, our growth trajectory changed immensely. We went from 290 members to over 1,250 today.

This endorsement included the ability to attend and exhibit at conferences, which would have been cost prohibitive for us, and I can truly say that without the support of ELFA, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and the CLFP Foundation wouldn’t be where it is.

I’ve also benefited greatly by attending events, especially Capitol Connections. It’s an incredible experience working with elected officials and discussing what it is we do, and why it’s so important for the economy.

How do ELFA and CLFP fit together and support initiatives?

We are both committed to diversifying the industry in multiple ways. Both ELFA and the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation have done so much to reach out to the younger generation and getting them involved in our industry. As we know, the majority of us never chose this industry on purpose, but when we entered it, we don’t leave!

Can you give some perspective on what your organization is doing to promote diversity and inclusion?

Recently, the CLFP Foundation and Cisco partnered together to provide the Academy for Lease & Finance Professionals (ALFP) and the exam to Clark Atlanta University, an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). We are going to continue this program for the foreseeable future.

Why would you recommend someone obtain their CLFP in our industry?

I always say that the designation is not for everyone, and each person needs to find their own purpose. For me, I wanted to know everything about the industry. Being a service provider, I didn’t have the knowledge of what my clients did day-to-day and going through the program made me a better relationship manager.

Usually, my question for people is why wouldn’t you want to get it? If there’s a valid answer, then I don’t push it but typically it’s in regard to the fear of the test and one that close to 2,000 people have gotten over.

What I’m probably most proud of is the welcoming environment that the CLFP Foundation has.  We’re out to help each other and create a better commercial equipment finance industry.

How do you lead a non-profit organization and what can others do to offer support?

We have a total of three employees, so our volunteer system is crucial. I It is because of the hard work of our board, committees, mentors and volunteers that we are able to accomplish so much.

We have many people who want to give back and join a committee or the board, but not enough spots, but we are always looking for mentors!

Finally, we can always use donations as we would like to create a scholarship to help those who are financially unable to pay for the class and/or exam.

What are the challenges of growing a global organization and where would you like to see CLFP in five years?

I don’t know if we would’ve pursued going global, but the Australian Association (CAFBA) approached us and made it a viable option by driving the project over the past several years. COVID-19 certainly slowed things down, but we anticipate that 2023 will be the first year of multiple Australian CLFPs. Canada is also in the works, and we are hoping for a 2024 final launch, but other countries are also now approaching us.

What is so difficult is that we have very limited resources, and we need to ensure that quality and service are not at risk by venturing out with other countries. With that being said, in five years, I would anticipate that we will be working with the UK as well as Mexico.

What is the most rewarding risk of your career?

This is the easiest question for me as it was taking this job. The CLFP Foundation was in dire straits, and I had no idea if I would be successful in turning it around, but I had the passion and determination to give it my best shot.

I had left the industry in 2010 to have my daughter and hadn’t planned on re-entering until she was in kindergarten. However, in 2012, I was approached by the Board about the opportunity and after multiple interviews, I was offered the position under the assumption that I wouldn’t travel as much and would only work quarter-time.

Unfortunately, I later learned there wasn’t much in the bank, so it was a less than minimum wage job, and I had to get creative for any travel that I did and, most importantly, quarter-time wouldn’t cut it.

Fast forward 11 years and now I have traveled over 100,000 miles but I truly love what I do, and it was a huge risk that paid off immensely.

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 will ALWAYS say soft, as technical can be taught. Having a very small organization means it is imperative that we have personalities that work well together and respect each other. It’s also beneficial to find skills that complement each other, and I feel that the CLFP Foundation is very successful at that.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to someone just entering the industry?

  1. If the company you are working for doesn’t value you or doesn’t recognize your work or ambition, look for a new job. There are so many opportunities out there!
  2. NEVER burn bridges; this industry is extremely small, and your reputation is everything.
  3. Look for a mentor; there are many industry veterans who are very happy to share their knowledge and offer support.

Is there anything else you’d like to touch on or say?

This industry is truly one-of-a-kind and can be so rewarding; I never thought I’d be in the same industry for almost my entire career, but I can’t ever picture leaving!