Jared Belnap, President, Mazuma Capital
By Abigail Sutton, Editor World Leasing News
During his tenure in the leasing industry Jared Belnap has personally closed over $150 million in lease transactions and has garnered extensive experience in credit, syndication, sales, legal, documentation, and executive management. Belnap helped create Mazuma. First, as a co-founder and private investor, then, serving as vice president of sales/corporate secretary through December 2007 and in his current position, as president since January 2008. His performance and experience have been invaluable in the formation and implementation of Mazuma’s infrastructure, website development, marketing, documentation, sales and sales management, formation of key strategic relationships and other important functions within Mazuma’s framework. Belnap is an introspective leader who achieves success through calculated risk, for this and more we chose him as February’s Emerging Leader.
Teri Gerson, President & CEO of Executive Solutions for Leasing and Finance, Inc. had this to say about Belnap’s skill and leadership, “Jared Belnap has impressed me with his commitment to analyzing before pulling the trigger. This saves tremendous back pedaling, both with market entrees, employee hires, and sales force structure. He is thoughtful, honest, and fair in all of his dealings, and always takes a broad view without sacrificing practicality and reality relative to his company.”
Where did you see the need for Mazuma Capital?
I was working for a Lessor that had a great model, but I felt there were a few challenges with its execution and a top-heavy management structure. I thought that with a few minor tweaks to the model, an A+ team and the right partners and resources, we could really build something great. When the timing seemed right, we took the plunge. By design, we wanted to start small and not “piggy-back” off an existing bank or finance company. In the beginning, there were only four of us and we grew it from there. We really worked hard in those first few months to build a solid foundation for the company. We knew we were on to something great and we knew it would grow. We wanted the policies, procedures, product, people and model to be built around larger volumes in the future and we built up to that.
When you were working in the automotive industry did you ever imagine being where you are now, as co-founder and President of a middle-ticket lender with $150M in closed transactions? How would you describe the growth and evolution of your career?
Well, Mazuma has actually funded almost $200M to date, but who’s counting? Coming from the automotive industry, I can honestly say that I never imagined I’d be in equipment leasing today. I can say with relative certainty, that even from a very early age, I wanted to own my own business and be in charge of my own destiny. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and when I found the right opportunity, I took it.
I would describe the growth of my career as an adventure! It’s all about the journey… I’ve tried to learn from everyone I can to incorporate the best knowledge, experience, and attributes of those I’ve brushed up against over the years. I’ve tried to implement them into our business in meaningful ways. I’ve learned quite a bit of “what not to do” in many situations, which sometimes has turned out to be more important than knowing “what to do” in many circumstances.
Your company slogan seems to be “building relationships by delivering on commitments.” What does this mean to you?
We’re very customer centric here, especially in the last few years, where competition has become fierce. It’s easy to tell a customer what they want to hear to win a deal, or take it off the street. It’s much harder to address the concerns, if there are any, head-on and lay out a realistic picture for challenging situations. We’d rather lose a deal than attempt to meet unrealistic demands or expectations. This statement to me means “straight forward talk and straight forward results.” When we issue a proposal, we want to deliver on that exact product in a timely and painless way for everyone involved. We are attempting to build a solid reputation one customer at a time by delivering and exceeding customer expectations.
What has brought your success thus far, in the middle-market leasing arena?
In a nutshell, it is our people, our product, and our process. We constantly look for additional sources and partners that can expand and enhance our product offerings. This allows us to stay competitive and take calculated risks that others sometimes can’t or won’t. We’ve taken great steps to build an executive team and create a corporate culture that knows how to execute our model efficiently and consistently. We habitually look for ways to improve and we are always attempting to streamline our process to avoid costly delays or mistakes.
Explain your flat management structure. What else makes you a unique lender in the market? What are your strengths in the marketplace?
No one in our company is more than three tiers removed from our Committee. We aren’t the biggest ship in the sea, but being smaller, we’re nimble and efficient. Decisions don’t wait a week for a committee meeting, if it’s important, it get’s addressed. We have the ability to implement change quickly and become proactive rather than reactive, whether that is changes within the industry and verticals or legislation.
I think we’re unique in that we have a proven model and we stick to it. When the spigot of funding turned off in late 2008, we went into some of the best times for our company. We lent money when no one else would and we’re still doing that today! I think that risk is something you can never get away from, but if it’s calculated, it’s manageable and predictable. We continue to invest equity into lease deals and carry residual risk on some equipment that many of our competitors just can’t get comfortable with. This coupled with our ability to understand complex credits and situations has allowed us to thrive.
How do you utilize the web and social media for your business?
We’ve taken off with this concept. Using the web and social media allows us to start conversations with people and uncover needs that otherwise would not have surfaced. We have secured several transactions though our efforts, and social media has given us the opportunity to extend our reach and influence. We have several blogs and actively contribute articles and ideas to the marketplace through various social media sources. The cost for us in generating a lead is enormous, and thru SEO and social media sites like Stumble Upon, Digg, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other online campaigns we’re starting to see a steady flow of business coming directly to us. We really feel that social media is here to stay and will play a big part in our branding, growth and longevity.
What is your biggest market challenge and how does Mazuma tackle it?
Our biggest challenge has always been finding the right funding partners who understand our business model and clientele. That said, much has changed for us here and we’re much more diversified in funding partners than we used to be. We will continue our efforts to form strategic, long lasting partnerships with funders, vendors, and partners.
What makes a good leader? How would you explain your leadership style?
A good leader is someone who leads by example, from the trenches, not from the tent. I’m not afraid to get my elbows dirty on an issue or circumstance that might seem insignificant. I think my management style is all about being a good influence and example to those I work with. I’m also a strategist and a visionary, and there are always other solutions to difficult problems and unique ways to implement them. I try my best to encourage and motivate our staff to look for alternatives; stay focused, and see all issues and problems through to satisfaction.
Who do you look up to professionally in or out of the industry and why? Do you/did you have any mentors? Do you have any words of wisdom to those starting out in the leasing industry?
I have a friend and mentor who’s been very successful in the leasing industry. He’s retired now, but I lean on him for difficult decisions or special help when I can. He’s built, run, and sold a multi-million dollar enterprise and I respect his intuition and perspective. He’s a great man of high moral and ethical character, which helps guide me through tough decisions to do the right thing. We are currently looking to add him to our Board, which we know will be a fantastic move!
This is a difficult and challenging time for anyone to start a new venture in the leasing industry, from the proposed accounting changes and adoption of IASB standards, tightened credit perimeters, to the overall macro-economic conditions, to name a few… That said, if you can form a niche’ that fills a bona fide need, there’s power and genius in taking that first step. If you find a good team, a great model, and can execute efficiently, I’d say go for it!
Care to share any of your professional or personal goals for 2012?
Sure! On the business front, we hope to complete a software optimization platform to further streamline our business by year-end. This will include electronic signature and on-line asset and process management for our customers. We also are expecting to deepen our Vendor Program department and have set $10M as a goal for funded transactions through this leg of our business. We are off to an incredible start this month, it looks like we should come in somewhere around $8M and hope to secure around $65M in new Lease Originations by FYE 2012.
On a personal note, I’ve always tried to challenge myself to improve my physical, mental, and spiritually minded objectives. So, I took the plunge this year and signed up for an Ironman Triathlon. Crazy, I know, but it is something that’s been on my tick list. I’ve run several marathons and have completed many century rides on the bike but swimming is something new. If I can survive the swim, I just may finish!