Guest: Tom McSweeney, CTO, Financial Pacific Leasing
When existing tech solutions just don’t cut it for your unique business, it’s time to get creative and get Salesforce. Unlike other software that locks you into a closed framework, Salesforce fits around your specific needs and connects your favorite platforms. In a niche industry of his own, Tom McSweeney, CTO of Financial Pacific Leasing, shares how Salesforce is helping them achieve their mission to optimize the equipment financing process.
To manage all their operations efficiently, FinPac knew they needed to get a technology solution. With no software specifically built out for the equipment financing industry, it became clear that a closed system, one-size-fits-all approach wasn’t going to work. But then they found Salesforce and its customizability opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.
Discover how Salesforce’s flexibility and diverse app marketplace enabled them to align with their mission to deliver equipment financing the way their customers want it – faster and easier.
Salesforce Elevates Equipment Financing
Don’t have time for the full episode? Here’s what you need to know:
1:01 - Our mission, which is actually fresh off the press is, as a trusted partner we want to do business the way our customers want to do it and that's making financing equipment faster and easier.
We operate in a B2B space and we accept applications from a variety of origination points: third parties, referrals, as well as equipment manufacturers and distributors. Some of the systems that we used to process those deals were an out-of-the-box solution that really limited our mission to be able to do business the way our customers wanted to do it. So Terry Jennings, the president of our company, he hired me to figure out how to replace our loan origination system with something that was more conducive to our mission.
2:05 - That's a great question because this is really my 1st gig in equipment financing. Until now, in my career, I’ve mostly done medical and telecom technologies. So coming into this in the initial several months, meeting the different stakeholders, it was clear that a one-size-fits-all approach was not gonna work. We needed a highly-customized solution to fit our business rather than what we'd always been trying to do, which was to fit our business into a closed system. Early on it became clear that if we wanted to continue to offer the versatility and the customized service while we were adding new features like real time reporting and bi-directional, that Salesforce was really our only choice.
3:00 - Yes to both. We replaced an old system but equipment leasing is surprisingly a very small niche type of business. I was actually impressed because I had reached out to a number of companies, our competition, in fact, and just ask them, what are you doing? Found some that had gone with our first choice which was not Salesforce and found all of the dirty little secrets and pitfalls and was able to avoid them through their experience. But then we reached out to a company . . . called North Tech and they really helped guide us to the Salesforce solution that we ended up with.
4:03 - That's the great thing about Salesforce is I'm able to bolt on a lot of different solutions just within the same framework. We've built our base product on Salesforce. But then we were able to bolt on things like Conga to do our documentation . . . Xcally to do our telephony system . . . Copado to be able to do our testing and our robotics. Even within Salesforce, they have their own products like Tableau which we bolted on to be able to take just a sheer amount of data. You can imagine 50 years of data that we were able to then put into data lakes and be able to do some analysis with that. Salesforce is our primary but just the marketplace that's available, the AppExchange, is phenomenal.
5:15 - It's been a very incremental process and we've been building out the originations on the Salesforce framework for over the last four years.
When we first built the app entry and adjudication process in Salesforce, we then pushed the deal back into our legacy system so that they could do the docking. Then we produced our contracts from Conga, from those approved deals, and then we pushed it back into the legacy system. Each time we just kept getting further down the road while still having the flexibility to push it back into our legacy system.
5:54 - Just last month, we built out the auditing stage so now we're able to fully process an application. If we had done a “big bang” conversion, I'm pretty sure that's the sound we would have heard because it would have blown up with the complexity of what we've been doing. The nuances just, frankly, what I call the 'yeah, buts'. We put out a piece of functionality and then we find from our users that ‘yeah, but in this case, it has to do this, but then in this case, it has to do that.’
This year we're actually incorporating all of our customer service and collections functions into the product. Now, by the end of the year, the entire company can service the customer through one single pane of glass. And really that's been our goal.
6:51 - Oh, gosh, that's probably the best part of the whole story because there's been a lot to the implementation with hurdles all along the way. The first hurdle was just figuring out what our internal process was that had evolved over decades. Included in those processes were manual functions, things that only a few people knew about and so we had a lot of discovery. We offer a lot of flexibility with the way that we do business. But that leads to our caveats having caveats. Salesforce provided us an opportunity to develop solutions using agile methodologies and so we learned a ton really along the way, just being able to do the different increments and the ethics.
7:40 - Second hurdle was just overcoming the corporate inertia that we have. We've been successful for almost 50 years. And that leads to a great deal of resistance in trying new approaches. Some of our staff have been with the company almost their entire career and that spans over decades. But that leads to a group of experts and group think. And by combining the agility of our development with another concept that I brought to the table, which is a lean process of, plan, do, check, adjust, we were able to experiment with new ideas and then either adopt or adapt them based on the efficacy measures going forward.
8:28 - I think the final hurdle was training. I had an I. T. team that was really more aligned to service management than development life cycle. They had never done an enterprise-wide initiative like this before, let alone very few of them even had experience, including myself with Salesforce. So we dug deeply into Trailhead. It was fantastic. Months before we even started implementation, we were all taking courses, getting badges and really learning how this thing worked. We also purchased our own enablement site so that we can create walkthroughs and FinPac-specific modules to train all of our users depending on what screen they're on, what their role is and even . . . some of our HR curriculum like mission and values and our standard way of interviewing, as we continue to grow. None of that innovation would have been possible without Salesforce and all the flexibility that platform really provides us.
10:20 - And being able to show immediate successes. Like knowing our customers is a big part of our success. During the initial stages of COVID, we had thousands of customers that were requesting payment deferrals while their 'non-essential businesses' were closed on them. And so taking those requests manually was just not feasible. So right in the middle of implementation, because this would have completely overwhelmed our customer service department, we decided to create an online portal using some of the stuff we had learned from Salesforce to capture those requests.
10:58 - The cool thing was, we didn't even stop there. So prior to getting to the request screen, we also embedded like a short survey just to understand our customers’ positions. How long have they been closed? Were they still able to do some augmented type of business? Because we're in all 50 states, was their governor telling them about the duration of the circumstances that they found themselves in and had they actually received any assistance like PPP funding that a lot of the companies were getting. This information gave us just a much greater insight into the health and concerns of our customers. We even gave them ability to free-form type in how it’s going. We obviously care about you and how's it going? And that helped us figure out how much relief we were able to provide them.
11:46 - Again, I feel like a Salesforce commercia,l but by using Salesforce to set this solution up, we were able to go from conception to inception in a matter of weeks. Getting to show those kinds of successes really helped to turn people's thought processes.
12:21 - We're just going to continue to innovate like the latter half of our mission statement says—we want to make equipment financing faster and easier.
12:28 - Side note, did you know that about the same year that our company was incorporated, I think 1975, Kodak came up with the first digital camera . . . they decided not to pursue it because they thought it would threaten their lucrative film business. So within a few years, Canon and Sony developed their own digital cameras and actually drove Kodak's film market share into bankruptcy.
12:57 - So with our ability to analyze our performance and incorporating Tableau solutions, we're never going to run out of ways to improve our customer experience. As the CTO, I've made a promise to the company: we're going to continue to improve our process lest we end up left behind and experience our own Kodak moment.
13:19 - When JFK back in the sixties said, 'We're going to send a man to the moon and bring them back safely within the end of the decade,' it was wicked hardcore. But we actually just established our own moonshot.
And that is [how we] process our most routine applications with absolutely no touch, in just a matter of minutes, rather than weeks. Some of the deals where [maybe] we have return customers that'll be financing a 2nd piece of equipment, we already know who they are. . . . We know their ability to pay. We know their full credit history. Our idea is to take another application from that customer, seamlessly run it through our multifaceted adjudication process that we've developed and then if they're approved, automatically send them the electronic documents for them to sign using Conga, audit those documents for accuracy and completeness and then issue a payment request to the vendor for their new equipment in just a few minutes and not weeks.
14:31 - There's a lot obviously that goes into that. That's why I'm calling it our moonshot. But we're pretty confident that we can accomplish that through our current framework, probably within the next 3 to 5 years. I think that sets our impact head and shoulders really above our competition and gives us that edge that we need.
15:24 - Jump in with both feet. First, take advantage of Trailhead even before you become a Salesforce customer. They allow you to take all of their courses. That sets you up for what's possible, and then incrementally put together those solutions.
15:41 - You're not going to get it all in one fell swoop. I also strongly recommend an agile [framework] because you don't know everything when you start. In fact, some of our execs tease me and they're like 'Wouldn't it have been better if you had just really studied all of the problems that we were having and then a year and a half later start this process?' And I said no, because we'd still be doing that and we wouldn't be where we are today. Get started sooner than later, adapt. When I talked to my boss about this project, I said, ‘You got to understand we're going to break things. It's just going to happen. But I promise you that we will at least fail fast.’ And we did.
16:27 - Take that risk. Take calculated risk. Don't repeat the same problems that you had but don't be afraid to get started today and find a good partner that you can really bounce ideas off of, companies like Banjaxed, I've been reading about you that can really help with implementation. And even from Salesforce—I have a guy at Salesforce, Sven, and every 3-4 months, I'm like, ’I'm having this problem, give me some ideas.’ In fact, we're meeting tomorrow to talk about Einstein OCR and how we can use that for our documentation. You can't get started too soon would be my advice.
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