Ask a Leader: Interview with Scott Thacker

Dave Walton

Learning from a Leader: Career Development Advice

Interview with Scott Thacker, CPA, CLFP, CEO of Ivory Consulting Corporation, Chair of the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation and Chair of ELFA Equality


July 2020

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Interview conducted by Jon Gerson, President, Executive Solutions for Leasing & Finance, Inc. and edited by Jacob Fahl, Leader, Funding & Portfolio Services, Hitachi Capital America Corp. 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?

I first joined the equipment finance industry in 1986, working at American Airlines financing aircraft. Over time I also developed an expertise in how airports are financed, including ground equipment and facilities.

During the dot-com era, I took a brief diversion from the industry and became hooked on using software to solve problems. Through a connection, by coincidence, I found myself back in equipment finance when Oracle hired me for a role that was essentially one foot inside a product design customer—GE Capital—and one foot inside Oracle, working to create a new product called Oracle Lease & Finance Management. That put me squarely back into the industry—I was the industry evangelist for OLFM.

After about seven years, I was approached by a partner at Accenture while attending an ELFA Annual Convention. Now my career came full circle—my first job was at Arthur Anderson, a predecessor to Accenture. At that time, Accenture wanted to create a greater management consulting presence in equipment finance, and I joined as a partner.

Near the end of the Great Recession, I received a call from Chris Ivory, whom I had met during the time we created OLFM. Chris talked about the future of his company—Ivory Consulting—and its evolution to cloud computing. He said he would love to have somebody who could make sure the company was well positioned in the cloud era. I was that somebody, and I’ve been with Ivory Consulting for almost 10 years.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own professional development? How did you overcome it?

Early in my career I struggled with low self-confidence. There were a number of occasions where I received attractive job offers that I ended up not accepting because I felt that I wouldn’t be successful. Now, I’ve completely remedied that situation. How did I accomplish that? I started collecting small wins, which collectively became larger wins, learning about myself through professional assistance, and by pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Throughout my career, I’ve found that anything I can do to improve myself—whether it’s education, volunteering to do something I know nothing about, executive coaching—is a worthwhile investment.

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’m fortunate to have a very long history with ELFA. I first became involved in 1999 as a member of the Ops and Tech Committee, where I met Cam Krueger, a close professional colleague to this day. Cam was Chair of the Committee and when it was time for him to move on, he advocated for me to become Chair. Meanwhile, my work with Ivory Consulting’s SuperTRUMP included quite a bit of accounting so I reactivated my CPA and joined ELFA’s Financial Accounting Committee just as we were helping to shape Topic 842. So, it was a very interesting time.

Later, with Cam’s support, I was tapped to join the ELFA Board of Directors and saw firsthand how much lessors depend on the ELFA for the broad and deep services and knowledge it provides. In the year I rolled off ELFA’s Board, I moved to the Foundation Board, again following in Cam’s footsteps. I’ll be the Board Chair for 2020-21 and Immediate Past Chair for 2022-23. Being chair is very gratifying because every one of the other Trustees has a passion for one of the Foundation’s three missions: research studies and economic insights, academic outreach and fundraising, so we are collectively able to make great strides.

My most recent role is the most gratifying because it is very personal to me. Last year, ELFA formed ELFA Equality, and I’m honored to serve as founding Chair. Our mission of ending inequality has always been important, but it is especially acute right now.

I suspect at the end of these roles, I’ll continue to help ELFA in some way. After all, it has brought me immeasurable benefits, the most important of which are the many people I’m proud to call friends. If you volunteer, you will find what you give pales in comparison to what you receive.

What is the most rewarding risk of your career?

Accepting Chris Ivory’s offer to lead Ivory Consulting. I was living in DC, so it required a cross-country move. I’d never worked for a company as small as Ivory, and I didn’t know how I’d fit in. Today, our entire team and all of our customers are very gratified with what we’ve achieved.

 

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 think you hire for people skills first because if you don’t get that right, a bad hire can pollute an organization. Technical skills can be taught; people skills, not as much.

 

What advice would you give to someone entering the industry?

I think, first and foremost, put your head down and do an outstanding job with your work. Understand how to exceed expectations. The easiest way to be promoted is to act like you’re already in the job you want to be promoted to.

It’s incumbent upon you to understand how your boss and the other folks in the company succeed. Always volunteer to do more. Exhibit curiosity.

Eventually, when it’s the right time in your career, be visible. Whether it’s ELFA, the Foundation, NEFA or another avenue in the industry, it’s very important for people to know you. As soon as you’re comfortable, volunteer and show your enthusiasm. And, earn your CLFP!

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?

Let me answer that slightly differently because I’m in a unique situation. I am fortunate to be tasked as the founding Chair of ELFA Equality, leading an eighteen-member steering committee. I couldn’t be happier with the enthusiasm and acceptance we’ve received so far. Our goal is to have equality become a central part of what happens within ELFA, and within its member companies. I’m very excited to be able to kick off this initiative and to encourage members who already have diversity and inclusion activities to do more and to convince other members to create those initiatives in their companies.


Also See:

Learn about two July webinars hosted by ELFA Equality: