Q: Why did you choose private lending?
As a real estate investor, I had used private money in the past and was aware of the pitfalls of using hard money. I had known a wealthy gentleman who owned a software company for many, many years. In 2010, we got together to discuss the state of the real estate investing world, and he was very intrigued by the prospect of building a company that would take hard money and professionalize it into a more elevated commercial lending process. The mandate that I had from 2010 when we formed RCN Capital was that we would elevate the hard money lending business and create an experience where our customers and employees would both be proud of the product we were going to deploy into the marketplace.
Q: What is your current role and what do you do day to day?
I am the CEO of RCN Capital. Overall, it is my role to oversee the C-Suite officers who run and oversee the company’s day-to-day operations. I spend a great deal of time on strategic planning, as well as promotional efforts to elevate our products in areas of the industry that often do not understand the benefits of using private lending as an investment tool in a dynamic marketplace.
Q: What excites you about your role today?
This answer would not be just for today but for as long as I have been the leader of RCN Capital. What excites me most is seeing the opportunities we created and continue to create for our employees as the company evolves. It gives me immense satisfaction to see both our seasoned employees and our newer employees’ contributions to the organization and the tremendous growth that RCN employees have made in their careers within our amazing company.
Q: Can you explain a time where you faced adversity or had struggles early on in your career? Where did it all begin? How did these experiences mold and shape you into the leader you are today?
I began my career owning Subway restaurant franchises. As a small business owner, there was no backstop if you did not generate enough sales to meet your expenses. The reality of being a small business owner out of college gave me the experience of knowing that it was all my responsibility, meaning if I could not find a way to make sure that each location was profitable, it not only put my business at risk but the stability of my employees at risk. At the end of the day, it was always about making sure that the customer was satisfied. Being in a retail operation out of college taught me from day one how to make sure that not only the management, but all team members, provided that level of service. While direct customer interaction at a restaurant versus customer interactions at a loan origination business may seem different, the lessons I learned in that role have helped me build RCN into the powerful platform that provides capital to investors across the country that it is today.
Q: Is there anything that you wish you could go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your career?
I would say the one lesson I learned over my career is that in real estate, even though markets fluctuate up and down, there will always be long-term appreciation. If you are a real estate investor, figuring out ways to hold at least some assets long-term is always the right move.
Q: Who is someone that has had a significant effect on your career and why?
From the very beginning of forming RCN Capital, the equity owner Don Vaccaro showed me the value of work ethic combined with employee engagement. Don is a self-made man who built a software company from the ground up with little to no experience in software development. He was always figuring out a way to provide a better service to the customer, as he believed that led to more sales. I realized that building a private lending platform that would take a marginalized product known as hard money and turn it into a national platform that would elevate the standard for investment lending was a very similar process. He taught me the importance of having the employees always matter at all levels of decision-making. That was truly the greatest lesson of all.
Q: What has been your favorite aspect of being in private lending over the years?
My favorite part of being in private lending is watching the growth of the employees who have built our tremendous RCN Capital. Directly behind that would be the relationships I have made across all facets of the private lending industry. Competitors, vendors, brokers, correspondent lenders, and customers have become more than just business relationships and are true lifelong friends. I am not sure if other industries have the same level of caring and respect for each other as we do in private lending. It is something that never should be lost on anybody who has the pleasure of working in our industry.
Q: What would you consider to be the highlight of your career thus far?
The highlight of my career was with RCN Capital’s senior leadership team to navigate a complete shutdown of lending at the beginning of COVID and our ability to keep all our employees employed and engaged during that period. At the beginning of the pandemic, we truly did not know where the real estate investment industry would go. We knew that our leadership team owed it to our employees to find a way to make sure that when the investment landscape shifted, we were ready to not only resume lending but gain market share so there would be more opportunities for our team. It was the darkest of days, but it ended up being the most rewarding of times.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job? Least?
As the leader of RCN Capital since its inception, I enjoy seeing our ability to provide opportunities for our employees and truly set a standard in the industry for how private lending transactions should be completed. However, as the demands of the CEO to add value to conferences across the nation increases, travel becomes difficult, especially at certain times of the year. It weighs on me greatly to have to be away from home for extended periods of time.
Q: Is time or money more valuable and why?
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of seeking advice from many retired business professionals. Without a doubt, each one of them has advised me to live every day as if it was my last. Each of these mentors has stressed to me that time, in the end, is your most valuable asset.
Q: How do you make sure your company stays ahead in this industry?
The analogy I often give to my employees is as follows: when you drive down the road, you typically choose a gas station that is well-lit, clean, has working gas pumps, and an inviting store attached if you need necessities. Typically, this gas station is not the lowest price in that community. However, the lowest-priced gas station is usually dimly lit, maybe run down, and does not have an inviting or well-stocked store. Sure, the price of gas might cost a couple of cents less, but is that worth the inferior experience? I give this analogy because like fuel, money is a commodity. Folks choose the best level of service if the price is within reason. It is our job as a lender to ensure we always have the best level of service so that when a customer is looking for a loan, it is clear they will have the best possible experience.
Q: What tools do you use to aid you in your role to be most efficient, organized, and focused?
One of the tools we use across RCN Capital is the Calendly app to schedule appointments. This has proved invaluable across the company so that folks who want to get in touch with you have an easy and seamless way to make appointments.
Q: Has your role changed significantly to address the current environment?
In 2022, I have spent a much larger portion of my day-to-day focusing on capital relationships. In 2021, the industry saw an influx of capital that provided many originators with multiple avenues of financing sources. It has always been my belief that relationships, especially when it comes to long-term capital commitments, make a difference. We have always chosen not the quick trade but the solid partner to drive our business forward.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who has just started out in private lending?
Depending on what role they have chosen, I would always remind them that at the end of the day, the customer will drive your success. Whether you are servicing an internal customer or working with external clients, their perception of your level of commitment and service to them will lead you to greater opportunities in the industry.
Q: How will private lending change to adapt to the current market trends?
In today’s liquidity-driven environment, the lenders that focus on liquidity and make it their top priority will have the most success. At the end of the day, the fuel that drives our business is being able to replenish capital on a never-ending basis. Any interruption in this capital can cause serious complications in the origination model. Being a good partner and focusing on both providing loan volume and quality loans is paramount in today’s environment. To be that good partner, you must focus on quality originations at all costs.