Equipment Leasing & Finance

Equipment Finance Puts the Kids to Work

Nov/Dec 2021


No one as a kid says, “I want to work in the equipment finance industry when I grow up.” But passing conversations and casual observations of parents doing work at home germinate and today there are many family connections throughout the industry. Members of the next generation are following in their parents’ footsteps and introducing new technology and new, efficient ways to communicate. Among the new entrants and rising leaders are young professionals working side by side with parents. Most unexpectantly landed in the same industry as their dads or moms. Based on interviews for this story, the parents didn’t groom them for equipment finance careers, at least not intentionally. Some of the children were going to be engineers, fire fighters or healthcare professionals.

BergA passion for the industry 
Picture Jeff Berg as a child in his New Jersey home stuffing invoice envelopes for his dad, the late Ian Berg, who started COPELCO, an entrepreneurial small-ticket leasing business, in the basement of the Berg family home in the early ‘70s.

“There was never a master plan to follow in my father’s footsteps,” says Jeff, who later worked at the company his father founded. “By the time I joined COPELCO, it was a big corporation. Everyone was fantastic, but I felt I had to work twice as hard.”  

Jeff says he and his dad didn’t talk business at home. “My father always recused himself on anything that I was working on but was always available if I ever needed to talk things through.”

Working at COPELCO enabled Jeff to experience a variety of positions; its culture gave people a wide berth, and this helped to prepare Jeff for the expansive career he enjoys now. Today Jeff is President of DLL’s Advanced Solutions, a global business unit that is responsible for developing new channels and products for DLL and its partners. “We are doing things that are new to DLL, and in some cases, to the industry, all focused on driving innovation and creating new, long-term value for DLL,” says Jeff.

When asked what his father would say about his career, Jeff thinks he would be impressed with the people and teams Jeff has surrounded himself with. “His sense of decency and respect for every person that worked with him were second to none,” adds Jeff. “I carry that with me along with his passion for the industry. He’d be thrilled to see all the experiences I have had over the years in this niche industry.” Ian loved to travel and Jeff says that one of his business trips on behalf of DLL took him around the world. “That would have blown my dad’s mind!”

Ian Berg is an industry icon, a member of ELFA’s Equipment Finance Hall of Fame and one of the early industry pioneers who introduced credit scoring in small-ticket leasing and the concept of cost-per-usage lease products. These ideas had a significant impact on the evolution and growth of business opportunities for lessors following his lead.

Jeff says his dad was more of an entrepreneur than he and certainly left some “pretty big shoes to fill,” but Jeff says that his father would not expect him to “fill his shoes.” Instead, he says, “My dad would say, ‘Find something that you love to do, do it, and have fun along the way.’” 

Treating everyone with respect
TBF Brett Boehm watched his dad Bob, a Chicago lawyer, on the family couch on Sundays on the Dictaphone. Later Brett surprised practicing lawyers when, as a young law clerk intern, he was more adept than others in the firm at using such machines. Later, in 1998 he, his dad and his brother Adam, the CTO, would form TBF Financial, the first debt-buying service in the industry.

Today Brett is the face of the company and a participant at industry events and on ELFA committees. He has grown the business in the equipment finance industry and expanded to other areas of financial services, beyond what his dad had imagined. In fact, when asked about this, Bob said that, if anything, he advised his sons to think twice about joining him at TBF, telling them they may not get paid for a while.

There are advantages to having family connections at work, and Brett says mentorship is one of them. “You should have a mentor at the start of your career. In my case I had my dad, who obviously cared about my future.”

The Boehms learned from their dad to treat everyone with respect and to “treat others as you would want to be treated,” says Brett. Bob elaborated on this by noting that the company receives letters from people who owed them money, and who thank the Boehms for treating them with respect and helping them pay off their debt.

When Bob started realizing that he was getting past his prime and that Brett and Adam were competent to run the business, he told them to take over the day-to-day operations.  They were ready, but at one point, Bob says, the sons brought a sign to his office that read, “If we are day-to-day then you must stay away.”  Nevertheless, when the Boehms go on family vacations they still like to talk about the business because they enjoy it.

Preparing for the future
A few years ago Madison Capital, an Independent in Owings Mills, Maryland, was looking to expand its sales team. Rather than hire experienced executives from within the industry, President Nancy Pistorio decided to hire recent business school graduates and provide training. One night she was casually talking about telemarketing over dinner, and her son Danny asked if it was something he might be able to do.

Nancy“I told her I would work cheap,” said Danny, who thought it would be good to get some office experience. His previous jobs were in retail, restaurants and a tree service company. He started working at Madison in telemarking sales on a commission-only basis. Today, at 28, he is in a business development position and sharing some valuable tech shortcuts. 
At first Nancy said she was hard on Danny. She wanted to avoid having other employees think she would give him any special breaks, even though at the start he earned less than others. She said, however, that she is willing to cut anyone a break as long as they are performing and getting results.

Nancy says Danny quickly distinguished himself as being able to push past objections and get sales leads where others couldn’t. She said she is impressed with his phone demeanor and how quickly he learns a new process and then picks up the next one, noting that the company is reliant on cloud-based systems and is tech driven.

While she is not sure where this experience will lead her son, Nancy sees him getting very good training at Madison Capital that will prepare him for employment anywhere in the industry.

Opportunity for deeper conversations 
In a reverse situation, brothers Brient and Brad Mills, who started working in equipment leasing sales at their uncle’s independent finance company in Tennessee, had an opportunity to teach their dad what they knew about equipment finance and small business. When their dad, Jack Mills, retired after more than 30 years in a senior sales leadership position with Proctor & Gamble, the father and sons launched JB&B Capital in Knoxville. The uncle joined them and today they run a fast-growing business that is so special to them it is hard not to talk about it on family vacations, they said.

Brient, who is a partner at JB&B Capital, says while they aren’t trying to build a corporate behemoth like P&G, they are grateful for their dad’s long career there, his ability to talk to people at high levels as well as his knowledge of business structure, culture and bank relationships. “Dad gives us instant credibility when we walk in the door together,” Brient adds.
MillsWhile all of the Mills men apparently have sales ability in their DNA, Brient’s brother Brad holds the leading role in sales and business development and says his dad taught him this: “At the core you need to have a vision and be grounded in your values, and that drives everything. The customer is always right, and integrity is the key.” 

Brad says an advantage to having family connections at work is having the opportunity for deeper conversations. He said they don’t leave anything important unsaid. 
Jack Mills said he is pleased to not only watch JB&B Capital grow but also to see his sons develop in their roles and to witness the way they balance work and family. “They are both great fathers, better than I ever was. I’d give them an A in business and an A+ as fathers.” 

Be a bright spot in someone’s day
Family members who work together need to set boundaries and be clear about roles and responsibilities. That seems to come naturally to the Fate family. Grant Fate, Assistant Vice President of Capital Markets at Stonebriar Commercial Finance and son of Stonebriar Commercial Finance CEO Dave Fate, says, “I have 25 years of reading my dad’s aura. I know when he is in work mode…. I know when I can just have a good time with my dad. We both know we are here to work, but it’s a blessing to see him every day.”

FateGolfingGrant says he is fortunate that his dad has hired many young people in their 20s and 30s and treats everyone the same. Grant said when he joined the firm, he felt there were big expectations to follow in his dad’s footsteps. “I had to remind people I’m just a 25-year-old kid learning like everyone,” he says. To his advantage he had previous experience at a Wall Street firm, and he graduated from college with a dual degree in finance and accounting. 

“I picked up a lot, learning the basics, how to price deals, how to win them, but over my entire life I watched how my father treats people, and I learned it’s important to be a bright spot in someone’s day,” said Grant.

His father says he is impressed with Grant’s soft skills and his positive personality. “He’s smart, has a desire to learn and interacts well. I take comfort in knowing he can work with executives at other financial institutions, law firms and on funding deals.”

FateSkiingGrant was encouraged to get involved with ELFA and is active in the Emerging Talent Committee. He is appreciative for those new connections in the industry, but most importantly, he is thankful for the “special opportunity to work with my dad. I don’t take it for granted. We also have fun together and that makes it all the more special.”

Dave Fate never advised his son to enter the industry. He just wanted his children to find something in college that could lead to a job and for which they’d have a passion. His daughter Jordan, 23, is a Salesforce analyst reporting to the CFO at Stonebriar.  She started as a part-time intern then became a full-time employee last February. She works on a wide range of projects, including compiling business overviews and board presentations, and she handles social media and Salesforce applications. 

Dave said he is not just impressed with his children but with the next generation. “I am positive on the future of our country and our association based on the young people I have met.”  



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