This is the 3rd part in a series of video interviews with Mark Caplan, Chairman and Allan Levine President & COO.
Allan Levine is the president and COO of Madison Capital, and Mark Caplan is chairman of the firm’s management committee. Based in Maryland, Madison Capital has over 40 years of experience in commercial vehicle and equipment financing. Over the decades, the company has grown to provide financial solutions to businesses throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Madison provides direct funding for most equipment types and all makes of vehicles.
In addition to his role at Madison Capital, Allan has also held leadership positions at the Jewish Community Center, the Gordon Center, and the Chimes. He is currently a trustee of the Maryland Zoo. Mark, meanwhile, is a member of the board of directors and chair of the Compensation Committee at Bay Bank, the president and CEO of The Time Group, and a founder and current Chairman of WPM Real Estate Management.
What do you think keeps Madison Capital thriving?
ALLAN LEVINE: I think we survive because we have industry knowledge and financial knowledge. After 2009, people always asked, “How do you guys do so well?” I said, “because half our competition is gone,” and that’s a wonderful way to survive. We have a good format in place. I think we have knowledgeable people. Our team has a hundred years of combined experience in analyzing financials, as well as business concepts and marketing concepts. Adaptability is the key, and we have always changed quickly. If there is a market out there, we will find it, we will join your organization, we will market to you, and we’ll loan you money. At the end of the day, that is the format we use. We stick to it, and it works. I think we have so much experience in what we do that does help survivability.
MARK CAPLAN: We’re very disciplined. Part of choosing niche businesses is then gaining some experience in them. When we’re talking to a client, we have a meeting, and we understand what their need is. If we can satisfy that for them and do it at an intelligent price, we’re going to be successful. Given our average deal size, we have to do it with not a whole lot of information. We’ve got to do it quickly, and we’ve got to document it really well. There’s a real challenge in being successful through the long-term in this business.
ALLAN LEVINE: One of the other things that might be important to understand about our business is rate. Everybody always says, “What’s the rate?” Rate is not quite as important as one might think, because there are very low rates out there for your very best credit-worthy customers—rates only available to a select few. Therefore, where does one go for financing? It’s companies like ours that are very competitive. Our rates aren’t quite as low as your lowest bank rate, but we don’t have the same formalities or the same regulations that banks have, so we can approve you even if you have a little circumstance that might be a blip in your credit. We will do things like take additional collateral that banks may not take.
We have a lot of flexibility and latitude, and our market base is very diverse and very wide. Once we decide on a market niche, we go after that niche. We find that niche, learn that niche, and market it to death. We’ll give very competitive rates and a super fast turnaround. The electronic age has been a friend to us, as we can get those docs out in an hour. You can DocuSign them and have them back, and it’s a done deal.
Can you share any words of wisdom about surviving through the years, and through tough economic times?
MARK CAPLAN: You could think of our business in terms of the ultimate sort of commodity, which is what we supply: money—completely fungible. Our money is not different than anybody else’s money. Talk about a difficult business, where your product is completely undifferentiated and is very much a commodity: Why would people choose us and how we do differentiate ourselves? I do believe this idea of service, focus, making it customer orientated—all of those kinds of things have enabled us to have some consistent growth and some stability.
We haven’t seen it all, but we have seen a lot. All of the various things that have gone on in the economic world, we’ve had to deal with. It’s been pretty interesting. At times you’re good, you don’t get too crazy. We’re going to continue this way forever, and if times are a little tougher out there, you try not to get too depressed. It keeps us going.
ALLAN LEVINE: I think if you can survive 40-something years, you’ve done a good job doing something right. They haven’t always been perfect years, but it’s been a lot of fun, and we look forward to growing the business from here and moving forward.
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