President and CEO of Orion First, David Schaefer had the honor of delivering the 2018 Chairman Address as one of his final acts as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ELFA. Watch his speech below:
He highlighted the association’s influence on a number of industry milestones. For example, a major advocacy effort by ELFA positively impacted the direction of the new lease accounting standard, and the association’s advocacy on recent tax reform legislation benefited members. “Thanks to ELFA’s advocacy efforts, the tax measure preserves important incentives designed to promote equipment acquisition,” he noted.
In recounting the history and resilience of the industry, Schaefer shared some of his own personal history. He revealed that in the late 1970s his father was taken hostage by Iran and held for 444 days. “This shaped me forever as a person,” he said. “I don’t allow myself to have a bad day because I know that people deal with really bad situations and I appreciate every day of my life. I also learned to appreciate perseverance.”
Schaefer said his appreciation of perseverance reappeared two decades later he launched his company Orion First Financial on Oct. 1, 2001, in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks. “It felt like the economy was crumbling down around us, and here I was launching a new business!” he recalled. “This was another lesson in perseverance. When we are faced with a great challenge, our determination and grit can be our most important assets.”
He acknowledged that many in the industry have faced challenges with grit. “I know many of you in the audience have faced adversity in your businesses and persevered to be here today. When we talk about our industry emerging and excelling, it is a testament to our ability to face challenges head on, adapt to change and discover new opportunities and solutions.”
After reviewing the evolution of the industry, Schaefer moved on to the second prong in the Convention theme: What’s emerging in the industry.
He spotlighted the changing customer experience, pointing to customers’ new mindset toward usage rather than ownership of equipment; the “uberization” of assets, or utilizing assets by sharing them; and increased demand for bundled services and enhancements. He observed, “For consumers it’s all about convenience: their desire to have access to what they want, when they want it.”
At the same time, equipment finance organizations are becoming more flexible, with employees working remotely, so they are attracting talent without geographic restrictions. “This digital age—of connecting people to your company—is where change is coming from and where the value is.”
Finally, Schaefer examined the third prong of the convention theme: What it means to excel for your employees, your companies and your customers.
He stressed that continuous improvement should be the top priority. “As individuals we should be constantly learning, looking for other successful people and watching what they’ve done,” he advised. He added that leaders need to learn how to get out of the way, to delegate and to allow others to grow.
Focusing on the customer is key, said Schaefer, emphasizing that companies need to offer quality products, deliver a great customer experience, provide value and anticipate the customers’ needs. “We have to be thinking about new products and solutions in advance of the customer even knowing he or she needs them,” he said.
He concluded by noting that the equipment finance industry touches every aspect of the economy. “We provide the capital that drives supply chains across every industry. We enable companies to acquire equipment and employ individuals, so they can support their families and their communities. The healthy flow of commerce and capitalism is good for our communities—and it’s good for our country. I hope you think about the value we create, and that you’re proud to be a part of that.”