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A Journey Through Life in the Equipment Leasing & Finance Industry

October 06, 2016, 07:00 AM

Have you ever asked yourself the question: Should I do something else? Come on, admit you have! The real question is: Should you stay in your current position or try something new?

The answer of course is not a simple “yes” you should or “no” you shouldn’t. Using my own work experiences and life’s journey, I will provide my insights into this question. The decisions I made were as much affected by my satisfaction from the current job at each time period, as it was by my position in life at the time. In other words, the other “stuff” that is even more important (e.g. your personal financial situation, the economy, your emotional state, family, etc.). 

So let’s start from the beginning...

First Job -- Xerox Sales Position:  Age 21-24
Life Status -- Just moved to Cincinnati from Michigan State University and met a wonderful woman, Diane, who I knew I wanted to share my life with.
Career Status -- Just learning how to work, sell and navigate this new world like any recent college grad.

I started at Xerox in 1981 thanks entirely to my brother Vince. The economy wasn’t in great shape at that time. I was uncertain if this would even be what I wanted to do since my major was Animal Science and Ag Biochemistry; I originally thought veterinary school was my destiny. The truth is that business never crossed my mind in the four years at college, but I needed to get a job or go into research. I embraced the opportunity to learn the art of solutions selling from the best, Xerox, and of course from my brother and some pretty spectacular salespeople at Xerox. I met Diane at Xerox not long after starting. By the time I decided to leave Xerox and join Finalco, an independent leasing company at the time, Diane and I were engaged and due to get married in October of 1985. 

Prior to our wedding, we purchased a home and we were successfully in debt.  I knew that if I wanted to make “real money” long term it was not going to be from selling one line of equipment, so the idea of financing all types of equipment seemed like a better option –- a bigger pond so to speak. While I knew we had some obligations, I also knew that Diane was still working and would stick by me. We didn’t have much if anything to lose in terms of real assets anyway. So the thought was … why not take a shot at equipment finance! I was confident I could get a job selling equipment again if it didn’t work out. 

About two years after joining Finalco, the company was acquired and essentially dissolved so I moved, again with my brother Vince, to another computer lessor. There wasn’t much of a decision to be made this time; so you can chalk up this decision to move under the heading “stuff happens!”

Second Move -- I joined a new company called ILC with my best friends/partners (Vince, Denny and Mike):  Age 26 which turned to 50 before I knew it.
Life Status -- We still didn’t have any kids but over the next eight years Diane and I had three sons who helped me lose the rest of my hair ... I had great hair at one time! We paid down a major portion of the house mortgage and were paying for private school and daycare for two of the three kids. Navigating the waters of both of us working and dealing with those days when one or both kids were home sick just made for a more interesting life. We were transitioning from man-to-man defense to zone defense so to speak when the third one arrived. 
Career Status -- Learning how to build a business from scratch with my partners and without a net so to speak.   

This was probably the biggest move of my professional life up to that point. I was the first one to leave a “job” and go full time into building ILC. I left the comfort of the corporate umbrella –- benefits, steady salary, expense account, some travel, good commissions, friends, colleagues, and feeling like you are part of a bigger team. So why leave now? The reality was that the computer leasing industry was clearly changing. The tax laws were changing too with the loss of Investment Tax Credit. Recall the above reason for leaving the last gig at Xerox: What did we have to lose versus what we had to gain? The gain wasn’t clear at all at that time, but what was clear was that I had partners in Denny, Mike, and Vince that I trusted implicitly. I loved these guys! I also had the love and support of Diane and my kids. So, why not take the plunge and see what was behind the next door in life? I had many years ahead of me and in the end, there are no guarantees that you will even wake up in the morning if truth be told. Be safe and secure in a cocoon, or burst out of the cocoon and fly … even if it were only for a short while?

As things worked out, we grew that business to the point when all of my partners joined full time and we built a business on the premise of “have fun and make money” in that order. The team we built over the years all embraced that mantra and culture. It felt more like family than a team. Even better, I was blessed to have my brother Ed join us in the business as well. After about ten years, we sold the business to Provident Bank in Cincinnati and were rewarded for our entrepreneurial vision and the hard work of our team. During the course of the next decade or so, Provident Bank was sold to two successive banks and with each successive transition, we grew to well over $9 billion in assets, but with that it became more like a bank and the “fun” was slowly and inexorably eroded. Hence my departure which was partially forced, but mostly self-imposed.  But I also knew I needed a change. During this time Diane and I were blessed with our fourth child, our beautiful daughter Madi. Our financial security and our daughter coincided. And, we moved into a bigger house for the six of us shortly thereafter.

Third Move -- Went to work for someone else, again:  Age 50
Life Status -- Four kids in private schools and college and paid off the mortgage of the new house.
Career Status -- Had some financial security, but was still seeking to prove that I could do it again.

Over the course of the past decade I met some great people, got involved in the ELFA and generally wanted to keep learning and find a way to give back to an industry that was very good to my family. I met some of my lifelong friends by giving back through the ELFA. A word to the wise … always consider giving back of your time, talent and treasure because the benefits are worth more than the investment!

I joined CSI Leasing. I didn’t want to retire and frankly my wife didn’t want me hanging about the house, so the opportunity presented itself and it didn’t require an equity investment of any sort. It was my first true clear cut “JOB” in twenty years, if you know what I mean. One more time the decision was: Why not? I liked the CSI team and thought we could each mutually benefit. I spent the next four years with my CSI colleagues and enjoyed my time and continued to learn. Life is a continual learning journey.   

Fourth Move -- Invested in an existing company:  Age 50-57
Life Status -- Three of the four children still in private schools and colleges, one out of school and employed -- yeah for us! Financially secure for the most part and had some money to invest.  
Career Status -- I was Vice Chairman of the ELFA and on the path to Chair. I relished learning continually. I began writing articles for my friend Mike Toglia of Equipment Finance Advisor around my belief that there was a definitive path for independents to not only be acquired by, but also thrive within a community banking model. I was convinced that small businesses and lessors can thrive best with the help of the smaller banks. 

Well, this was the chance to prove what I had been writing about for a while. I acquired a half interest in my new partner’s small independent equipment finance company. I felt that Scott Hawkins and the team were really good people that made a great team. More importantly to me, they were fun to be around and it was exciting. After a year and a half or so, we sold the company to a community bank. This was sooner than planned but a fantastic opportunity for our team. One more time, I was working for a bank and someone else. CBank is a great community bank with all the similarities I have been accustomed to … good people, great team, hard work, fun to be with, and an entrepreneurial attitude.  

What’s the lesson if any to learn from my history?  Be true to yourself. Do what makes you happy and fulfilled. You have to have fun at work since you spend most of your waking hours at work with your colleagues. If it is not fun, time ticks away slowly but surely and you wake up a decade or three later wondering what the hell happened. Your family and friends will know when you are not happy and doubting. Life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed!  Obviously it’s also important to not take risks that put you and your family in jeopardy. But, there is more to life out there! As someone smarter than I said centuries ago, "Seize the day!"

You’ve Got to Know When to Hold ‘em, Know When to Fold ‘em ….” (Kenny Rogers -- The Gambler, 1978)

Robert J. (Bob) Rinaldi
Chief Executive Officer | Commercial Industrial Finance, Inc.
Bob Rinaldi is Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Industrial Finance (“CI Finance”), a national equipment finance company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. CI Finance was acquired in 2015 by CBank, a Cincinnati-based community bank focused on commercial and industrial lending to SMBs. CI Finance specializes in the development and implementation of sales-aid finance programs for manufacturers, vendors and distributors of capital equipment.

Rinaldi was SVP of CSI Leasing, responsible for its organic and inorganic growth strategies. Previously, Rinaldi was Executive Vice President of National City Commercial Capital Company (NC4), now PNC, and President of NC4 Canada. Rinaldi has held positions including Senior Vice President of Provident Bank and Executive Vice President and Principal at Information Leasing Corp.(ILC), later acquired by Provident. As a founding partner of ILC, Rinaldi helped grow the company to the fifth-largest bank-owned leasing company in the United States with annual originations of over $3 billion and $8 billion in assets.

Rinaldi is the immediate Past-Chairman of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA), the premier trade association representing the $1 trillion equipment finance sector. He is also a member of the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation’s Research Subcommittee and Development Committee. He is a past Trustee of the Foundation and past Chairman of ELFA’s LeasePAC. Rinaldi was the recipient of the Foundation Research Committee’s 2013 Steven R. LeBarron Award for Principled Research and ELFA’s 2014 David H. Fenig Distinguished Service in Advocacy Award.

Rinaldi can be found on LinkedIn and on his website dedicated to the pioneers of the modern equipment leasing industry as we know it today --
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