Jon Lucas Looks Back At a Satisfying Career
Jon Lucas talks with ABF Journal about his time with CIT and the career in the commercial finance industry.
ABFJ: What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
I think my single greatest accomplishment was keeping CIT Commercial Services together during CIT’s financial restructuring. But it wasn’t just me. We were able to survive and thrive through a bankruptcy and a financial restructuring. That’s how good a company we have. That’s how strong our relationships are and that exemplifies the great employees that we have.
ABFJ: Who were your mentors?
Most people are lucky to have one mentor. I had four at CIT during different stages of my career. They included Joe Pollicino, Larry Marsiello, Dick Romer and John Daly.
When I first joined CIT, Joe Pollicino was the vice chairman. It was a relationship with him, among others here at CIT, that got me involved in the company. Joe was a very relationship-oriented, handshake kind of guy. He’d look you up and down, look you in the eyes and decide whether or not he was going to make you the loan or not; and that’s kind of how I was raised in the business.
Larry Marsiello took it to the next step as he was very quantitative. He was very goal oriented and gave very reasonable, but not easy, goals to achieve. Larry made a lot of changes in Commercial Services that we’re benefiting from today. He moved us from apparel into other businesses and other industries. This type of diversification was unheard of at the time. Today it’s commonplace but when Larry took over it wasn’t so common for factoring companies to get involved in making asset-based loans.
Dick Romer, along with Larry, brought me into CIT Commercial Services from Business Capital. It was Dick who reached out to me when there was an open sales position. He was a very positive guy and coined the phrase, “We can do that!” We all picked up on that. Dick was very deal oriented, sales oriented and people oriented, but a really great guy to work for. He was the kind of guy that if you ran out of gas and it was 10 degrees below zero outside, he’d be the first guy to get to you on the highway with a gallon of gas and a hot cup of coffee. And then he’d give you a hard time for running out of gas when it’s 10 degrees below zero.
By the way, I keep in touch with all these guys.
Lastly, I learned a great deal from John Daly — everything from how to run a business, to how to manage people and how to run the administrative side of the business. He taught me the importance of really learning the back office and the operations of the factoring company.
ABFJ: How would you advise a young person coming into the business?
When I meet and talk to younger people I tell them that in life, just like in business, you have a balance sheet. You have assets, liabilities and then you have your career net worth. So if you’ve got liabilities in terms of experience or education, go out and change that. On the asset side, it’s all about doing transactions, getting involved and learning as much as you can, observing others and how they do things. Find what works for you and what doesn’t work for you — and try to adopt those in your own way so that your assets go up, your liabilities go down and your career net worth grows.
ABFJ: Do you see opportunity at CIT for young people?
I do. What we do at CIT Commercial Services is unique and it’s specialized in terms of dealing with companies selling into retail channels of distribution. When you start to break down the factoring products and the lending products that you have, it’s really applicable to all industries. One of my greatest frustrations, which I share with just about every factoring executive, is the difficulty we have getting our product accepted into more industries. To me the receivable, the bookkeeping aspect of what we do and what we charge for, is the greatest deal since sliced bread.
ABFJ: How has the industry changed over the course of your career?
The relationship piece of this business has never changed. What’s changed is technology and the way in which information is gathered today. It changes almost on a yearly basis. I mean, can you even remember what the world was like before we had Google? We can do a lot more thanks to today’s technology, but those basic fundamentals — credit and good sales and marketing and relationships — I don’t really think those have changed.
ABFJ: What are your plans for your next act?
The only plans I have right now are a little rest and relaxation. I’m looking to decompress and clear my head so I can figure out what’s next. I have grandkids, so of course they are going to be a priority. I am going to do volunteer work. I’m getting more involved with my church, and I’m rejoining the fire department. A good friend’s wife is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and she’s asked me to consider doing some things with veterans. I’ve got to take a step back and pin down where I want to focus and where I want to engage and spend energy, because you only have so much to go around.