Stan Prokop, the founder of 7 Park Avenue, tells us about business financing.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded 7 Park Avenue.
Stan Prokop: I’m Canadian, originally from Burlington, Ontario. When I left to enter the working world in my 20s, I subsequently worked in the Canadian cities of Hamilton, Ottawa, and Toronto.
After a 35+ career with some of the most well-known companies in the world and leaders in their industry (Tonecraft Ltd/Ashland Oil/Digital Equipment/Cable & Wireless PLC/Hewlett Packard), I took a leap of faith and founded my own finance firm, ‘7 Park Avenue Financial.’
7 Park Avenue Financial works primarily with the SME segment of Canadian business – small and medium-sized businesses. (The definition of size in SME varies by country, and many consider companies with under 250 employees and 25M in sales as SME firms. From our part, we’ve never found that to be small!)
We focus on working with business owners and entrepreneurs through various stages of growth, acquisition, and restructuring in the areas of debt and cash flow financing.
To say the world of business financing has changed would be an understatement. We pride ourselves on understanding the lay of the land when it comes to changing business financing options and alternatives in good times as well as pandemics.
Over the years, we have developed a reputation in the area of alternative finance, which is and will remain one of our core focuses.
We do not focus on equity financing but consider ourselves specialists in the following areas of business finance –
- Bank Financing
- Alternative Finance
- Acquisition Finance
- Franchise Financing
- Asset Based Lending
- Tax Credit Financing / Saas Financing
- Technology Financing
- Asset Based Lending
- Government Small Business Loans
I had some mentors very early in my work career – today, they would probably be called the old school, but I find I always go back to the advice I got from them as far back as the 70s.
I think part of that is because everything is instantaneous with the huge revolution in technology that has overtaken the world. All the tech in the world of financing and corporate credit still hasn’t taken away from sound judgment and fundamentals. During my 24 years with Hewlett Packard and a predecessor company, I lived and worked through the Dotcom era, where fundamentals seemed not to make sense – which was ultimately proven quite incorrect due to the spectacular rise and fall of many companies.
When I joined HP, I still can’t believe that the internet existed in only a very rudimentary fashion and certainly wasn’t on our desktops at work!
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Stan Prokop: In the university, I studied foreign languages, so surprisingly all my work career has revolved around business credit and business financing.
I can honestly say that business and investments are my true passion, and my day isn’t considered complete until I have read Canada’s business press or understood what the markets are doing.
Unfortunately, many people in my industry find that tuition is extremely expensive in the school of experience.
How does 7 Park Avenue market its product/services online?
Stan Prokop: Our tagline is “Business Financing With The Intelligent Use Of Experience,” and that experience that we feel differentiates us from the competition. We’ve been recognized/profiled by major newspapers in Canada such as The Globe & Mail, Financial Post, and the Toronto Star.
We’re proud to have received ongoing recognition over the years from the Chamber of Commerce as a service provider in finance.
Additionally, all of Canada’s Big 6 banks and Government Crown Corporations have referred their clients to 7 Park Avenue Financial as they are confident their clients will be handled professionally and with financing solutions that make sense.
Of course, the best way to stand out from the competition is to successfully help the over 400 clients with the $100 million of business financing we have originated on our clients’ behalf.
Although 99% of our business is Canadian, we occasionally look at U.S. transactions. Our compensation is success-based, and clients like and appreciate that.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Stan Prokop: From a marketing perspective, we have spent a lot of time creating and promoting content related to our service. Importantly our focus is to educate Canadian businesses on financing alternatives in conjunction with our services. We have thousands of followers on Linkedin / Facebook, etc., as well as our blog.
There is a term in commercial lending called the 3 C’s – known as character, capacity, and capital. Over the years, I have found that character in borrowers, as well as lenders and even co-workers, is as important as business capital.
The commercial lender is always challenged by something known as gut feel, which in hindsight often proves to be very correct despite the facts or information in front of you that seem to defy logic!
I think many people don’t read enough, and although I, unfortunately, don’t really read any fiction for enjoyment, just keeping on top of business reading makes me feel more confident in my work.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Stan Prokop: We compensate based on transaction success and have a higher compensation rate than many competitors. Referrals, as well as our website and blog, generate the newest activity for us.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Stan Prokop: I now know more than ever that business can be tough, and there are numerous challenges even in good economic times. The 2020 pandemic has forced us to alter our client engagement, and when worldwide economies implode, obtaining finance for our clients has been a challenge. To be honest, I have never considered myself a salesman per se, so it’s a challenge to constantly be putting the company forward from a marketing and sales perspective.
When you own the company, you are constantly concerned about reputation, maintaining integrity in the marketplace, etc. So you tend to over-worry sometimes on the little things…that is how we’ve stayed in the game!
I quickly found that it’s important to know your limitations so we’re very cognizant of what we can achieve for clients from a realistic point of view. Also, for us, it’s never about size or having to grow sales and profits – we have found those things take care of themselves if you focus on each client.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Stan Prokop: In many ways, our first client was our greatest success story. We originated a credit facility for a major Canadian public company that was private and was having corporate finance challenges – That initial credit facility was in the 20 Million dollar range.
We derive a lot of satisfaction from helping ‘the little guy, and the satisfaction derived from that is a solid reward for our work when it’s recognized by clients who are looking to start, grow, or acquire a company.
How did 7 Park Avenue Financial Get Its Name?
Stan Prokop: Our founder’s favorite rock band from the 70’s era is a group called ‘BADFINGER’ – which was on the Beatles Apple label. Paul McCartney penned one of their largest hits, ‘COME AND GET IT’. Other songs by Badfinger were ‘Baby Blue,’ ‘Without You, ‘No Matter What’…
The band lived together in the street in London, England, called ‘7 Park Avenue’ hence our name! We, of course, added ‘Financial’ because that’s what we do!
Many customers and associates have hinted the name has a New York cache – that’s interesting, of course – but we are Canadian!
So the next time someone asks ‘where is 7 Park Avenue’ – you’ll know.
Your final thoughts?
Stan Prokop: I have stepped back from the business in recent years from some day-to-day functions or running a finance firm – but that’s in attendance only!
Having the company be successful and continuing to live up to its reputation is very important to me. Music is a passion of mine, and like many I am an aspiring rock star/guitarist and enjoy playing and jamming with friends and others.
Many new clients we meet are unable to attract traditional financing, and we have a number of solutions that can meet their operational and growth needs in the relatively speaking new world of alternative financing/fintech.
From family and friends, the old adage of health is everything has never been more clear to me, and from personal experience, I can assure anyone that this is not a cliché.