The Charge Begins

Written by Justin Leto, CEO of Idea Financial
February 12, 2018

During the last fourteen years that I’ve been practicing law, I’ve become less and less interested in traveling for work.  For the most part, business travel as a lawyer leads you to an adversarial proceeding where its your job to argue with a judge, interrogate a witness, or fight with an opposing lawyer.  Whenever I felt I could just as effectively engage in these battles from the reclusive comfort of my office, with the assistance of a speakerphone, I was all about it.

Things changed when my travels started as CEO of Idea Financial. Like many people in my position, I have a family that I don’t like to leave, so when our COO, Michael Zevallos (“Z”) and I embarked on our first trip together to San Diego in October, I wasn’t all that excited.  Then we arrived and the meetings began.

Through his time living and working in Southern California with OnDeck Capital, Z made many strong connections with lenders and brokers. He’s as likable a guy as you can find, so it wasn’t surprising that when he announced to the world that he was leaving the comforts of OnDeck for a startup, the brokers and lenders embraced his decision and did anything they could to help him succeed.  This was evident when we met with the brokers on the West Coast and it was during these meetings that I became re-engaged and excited again about business travel.  Z’s energy and the interactions with his friends in the industry inspired me and I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

I can remember when I was a 25-year-old lawyer, asking some folks on the staff at the firm I worked for when I was going to be able to travel for a deposition. At the time, it seemed like the most exciting thing I could be asked to do.  Fifteen years later, and I get that same feeling again traveling to meet partners and potential partners of Idea Financial.  However, this time I am not a kid lawyer looking for a fun trip. I am the CEO of a what will be a powerhouse small-business lender.  So, while the excitement for the travel feels similar, my determination and focus is far more refined.

The energy in these ISO shops and sales floors is palpable. There’s no fighting, no one-upmanship, no one trying to prove anyone wrong.  Instead, it is all about working together for the greater good of the business community. Its about getting a deal done, together, as a team.  Sure, many of the people we met in Southern California and in our recent trip to New York could be seen as competitors to our business. But no one acted that way. Everyone realizes that there are enough under-served small businesses that need capital to grow that we can all help them without trying to drown out the competition.

Making such a drastic career change as I arrive at my 40th birthday is a tall order, especially when the career you are leaving behind has been successful. But as this journey begins with Idea Financial, I am feeling more confident than ever that this is the career I was meant for. I can tell by the energy I feel when I am working with Z, Larry Bassuk and the rest of our talented team. And I can tell because I have never wanted to write a blog entry before. But here I am, and this is only the first of many.

Just as Idea Financial is here to help Charge Your Business Forward, it has helped Charge my Career Forward.