by Corridor Business Journal on Monday, August 13, 2012
By Angela Holmes
Even floods and economic turbulence couldn’t keep GreatAmerica Financial Services Corporation from thriving and expanding.
The national commercial equipment finance company headquartered in Cedar Rapids generated revenue of $144.2 million last year. The $1.35 billion business serves about 3,000 commercial equipment dealers throughout the United States. When GreatAmerica employees were displaced from their building along the Cedar River for three months after the flood of 2008, they continued to conduct business and serve their customers.
“We just kept on going,” said Tony Golobic, chairman and chief executive officer. “We were well prepared for a disaster, but it is a real testimony to the perseverance and dedication of our employees that 80 percent of our dealers never even knew that a natural disaster happened and the other 20 percent were quite impressed.”
About the same time employees moved back into the building at 625 First Street SE in September 2008, the global financial crisis was precipitated when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.
“Again, GreatAmerica didn’t miss a beat,” Mr. Golobic said. “While some of our competitors had to stop lending because they didn’t have access to funding, GreatAmerica kept on with business as usual. We were profitable and had a quality portfolio even during those times.”
In 1992, GreatAmerica moved its headquarters to Cedar Rapids, a location that fits the company’s high standards and entrepreneurial spirit.
“To be able to effectively compete with the giants of our industry we needed a well-educated, productive workforce that would look at hard work, integrity and excellence as worthy values to aspire to,” Mr. Golobic said. “Iowa is full of such people.”
GreatAmerica has a staff of 367 full-time and six part-time employees with offices in Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri.
“We are fully aware that our employees are the only differential between us and our competition,” Mr. Golobic said. “GreatAmerica’s two greatest consituents are our employees and our customers. We know that to keep our customers happy, we need to keep our employees happy.”
The company is divided into cross-functional working teams of 12-14 members each, organized into seven business units - office equipment, communications and data, distribution programs, healthcare, direct programs, specialty markets and portfolio services.
“Everything that touches our customers is handled in these teams,” Mr. Golobic said. “The structure fosters a broad, balanced view of the business by each team member, a strong sense of personal accountability, empowers our employees and promotes customer intimacy.”
Joining Mr. Golobic on the executive team are Stan Herkelman, president; Doug Olson, vice chairman of the board and chief risk officer; David Pohlman, executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Joe Terfler, executive vice president and chief financial officer.
To reflect the company’s diversity, it recently changed its name to GreatAmerica Financial Services Corporation from GreatAmerica Leasing Corporation.
“To provide real added value to our customers, we are today a lot more than just a commercial equipment leasing company,” Mr. Golobic said. “Through our subsidiaries we now offer a range of services to our customers from systems outsourcing (not to India or China, but right here to Iowa), to portfolio servicing for banks and others, to human resources consulting, to meter monitoring and more.”
The company plans to enter other fields in the future. “If we can do it better than others, if it furthers our mission to help our customers become more successful, if it meets our corporate values and if we can make money from it, we will do it,” Mr. Golobic said. “We are always going to be a commercial finance company, but GreatAmerica is becoming a lot more.”