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

Ask a Leader: Interview with Suzzanne Salsbury

Suzzanne Salsbury

Learning from a Leader: Career Development Advice

Interview with Suzzanne Salsbury, Salesforce Product Development Manager at Arvest Equipment Finance

August 2023


Interview conducted by Jenaleigh Lathrop, CLFP, EF Trainer at Arvest Equipment Finance and edited by Brandon Karas, Director, Senior Counsel at Stonebriar CF. 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’ve spent over twenty years in various positions of the banking industry and feel strongly that they have all helped prepare me for exactly the position I am in today.  Prior to joining Arvest Equipment Finance, I worked as Regional Sales Manager for the bank’s commercial card division.  During my time in the credit card division, I was responsible for the roll out of the ePayables product, a virtual payable solution for commercial customers.  This experience gave me insight into how technology is impacting the financial sector and how information shared B2B through web based applications is paramount to staying relative in the industry. 

Working with the bank’s commercial customers led me to forming a strategic partnership with the Equipment Finance division.  I later joined the division in 2020 and now serve as the Equipment Finance Salesforce Product Development Manager.  This role has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.  The job requires a perfect marriage of analytics and creativity and offers freedom to explore ideas to create efficiencies for both associates and customers.

What is something that you wish you knew about the industry before joining?

I wish I had known how vast the industry is.  When you initially hear “equipment leasing and financing,” you think of collateralized based commercial loans and leases.  I’ve spent my entire career in the banking industry, so this was not a foreign concept, but I never saw my expertise as a fit.  After all, I wasn’t a commercial lender.  It wasn’t until after I joined Arvest Equipment Finance that I learned how far that term actually stretched and how many different skill sets are needed to operate a division.  It’s fascinating how a regional bank can serve the needs of business owners on the other side of the country through our vendor program, and how I can help play a role in fulfilling that need through technology.  Within our division we have certified appraisers, CPAs and educators, to name only a few, and they each play a vital role in the division’s success.

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 first got involved in ELFA in 2020 when I joined the Arvest Equipment Finance division. Our leadership team strongly advocates the importance of the association and encourages all new associates to become ELFA members.  One of the first steps in onboarding new hires at Arvest Equipment Finance is to complete the “Be the Boss” (Fundamentals of Equipment Leasing and Finance) online course. Taking this fundamental training lesson and being provided a library of information all in one site was a great introduction to the equipment financing industry.

I’ve since had the opportunity to attend the ELFA Women’s Leadership Forum, Bank Best Practices Roundtable, and most recently the 2023 Capitol Connections.  All events have provided me with the opportunity to make connections with industry professionals and stay abreast of common best practices and challenges impacting the industry.

ELFA continues to be my trusted resource to gaining industry knowledge and insight through available online courses, web seminars and Knowledge Hub resources.

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

Gaining confidence and overcoming imposter syndrome, which most of us have experienced in some facet of our lives, has been one of the biggest hurdles for me to overcome throughout my professional development.  When I first began a career in sales, it would often intimidate me to speak to a C-Suite of executives.  A mentor taught me that if I was invited to the table then it meant I was trusted as an expert.  From that point forward, I have always strived to earn that designation and become an expert in my role and to learn as much as possible about the customers I’m serving.  I don’t know that I’ll ever overcome the feeling of being an “imposter.”  Even as I answer this question, a bit of insecurity sneaks into the back of my mind, but I don’t think that feeling is necessarily all negative.  Creating a constant urge to become more knowledgeable and a genuine desire to learn has been instrumental in my career development. 

How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles that you come across?

I am very fortunate to work with a team of highly motivated and disciplined individuals.  I think it’s critical to inspire creativity and give people the freedom to take risks and try new ideas.  Providing autonomy to work in a way that is best for the individual provides motivation for them to produce their best work.

Sharing ideas in a safe environment can also cultivate motivation. Every Monday I hold a meeting for team members to discuss their goals for the week ahead and every Friday morning we meet to recap.  The time spent has provided a channel of dialogue to ensure we are all working toward the same goal but also gives team members a sense of ownership on how they prioritize their workload. In addition to team meetings, I hold monthly one-on-one meetings to give team members a time dedicated completely to the topics they wish to discuss.  Keeping open communication is pivotal in overcoming obstacles.

Finally, “leading by example” is a phrase that I try to live by both personally and professionally.  To me this means to model the values and behaviors you hope to receive from others.  I think it also means to be authentic, which can include showing vulnerability or admitting you don’t always have the answers but you are willing to step in and help do the work to figure it out.

Given ELFA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, can you give some perspective on how emerging leaders in organizations can promote diversity and inclusion?

The most important responsibility as a leader is to create an inclusive workplace where employees feel valued, included and supported.  Communication is at the heart of all relationships and leaders should foster an environment where all employees feel like they “have a voice.”

As a leader, I feel it is important to have an honest conversation with yourself and be aware of personal unconscious biases when it comes to recruitment and hiring and overall workplace inclusion. Take time to seek out available resources to educate yourself on the topics surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and learn how to mitigate personal biases.

Arvest Bank has made great strides in creating a culture of inclusion and belonging.  Every week a Friday Coffee Break is offered virtually for all employees.  The weekly series hosts a variety of topics all centered around diversity, equity and inclusion.  Arvest also formed Associate Impact Groups, which are groups led by the underrepresented demographics within the organization.

Furthermore, can you give some perspective on what it is like being a woman in the equipment finance industry?

Personally, I have never felt my gender played much of a role in my career.  This could be partly due to my tenacious personality but largely because Arvest has always embraced a diverse work culture.  I do acknowledge that historically our industry has been largely male dominated, however I do see a shift with women executives becoming more prominent. This is evident within our division here at Arvest Equipment Finance. The Sales Manager and Director of Operations are positions previously held by men that are now filled with female leadership.

I do feel a responsibility as a woman in leadership to be willing to speak up and share my perspective.  Generally speaking, women have different points of view and approaches to ways of doing business than men. It’s important that our voices are heard in order to bring changes to the workplace that benefit both genders.

Having female leaders in positions of influence, specifically in the equipment finance industry, can provide needed support to the next generation of female leadership.