Q.1 Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A. Privately held lending firm specializing in providing asset-backed short-term bridge financing. We manage all aspects of the loan process internally – which allows us to originate, underwrite, structure and fund much faster than a traditional bank lender.
One office in Phoenix Arizona
participate in deals that are all over the state of Arizona, and occasional loans on properties in other nearby states.
Q.2 Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A. I, Robert Leonard, founded Colonial Capital in 2003 and currently serve as executive director! I have had my hands in the real estate investment and private lending space for 35 years.
I am a graduate of Arizona State University, and am an active member in a few different organizations I am passionate about, including; ICSC, Arizona Private Lender Association (APLA) including being a long time Board Member and Past President, Arizona Association of Mortgage Brokers, Arizona Commercial Mortgage Lenders Association, Executive Council (EC70 Foundation), and the Arizona State Sun Devil Club
From 1995 to 2003, I was President and co-owner of Main Street Financial Group, Inc., a commercial & residential mortgage group based in Phoenix & Scottsdale, where we originated over $90MM annually.
Q.3 What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A. I saw a void in the lending space, specifically in Phoenix, for honest and thorough lending – specifically in the commercial and residential sectors.
Q.4 What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A. Be Passionate
Hire a good support Team internally and externally
Be fiscally responsible
Q.5 What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A. Top three characteristics I advise budding entrepreneurs to adopt / exhibit are: Grit, Strong Relationship Building Skills, and Firmness in due diligence (both of individuals you’re working with and projects you’re heading up).
Q.6 How many hours do you work a day on average?
A. Varies depending on the season and/or quantity of projects in the queue, but usually 10-14 hours / day. This is inclusive of answering emails, calling / warming up investors, checking-in with team on status of projects & due diligence items, etc.
Q.7 To what do you most attribute your success?
A. Hard work
Good support Team
Learn from your mistakes
Q.8 How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A. I like to separate out the ‘client’ piece into two distinct categories: (1) investors and (2) borrowers.
To build a strong and reliable investor-pool, we place heavy emphasis and reliance of word-of-mouth style marketing. As for borrowers, while we do rely on word-of-mouth marketing as well, we also like to tap into more traditional marketing channels like social ads, Google Ad Words, broker-connections, etc.
Face to face marketing / networking is the largest marketing we have been doing for the past two years
Q.9 Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A. Capital came from (and still comes from) fruitful and healthy relationships with existing investors. Some of which have previously borrowed from us, some are long-time friends, and others we’ve met via word-of-mouth connections.
I make a conscious effort to deliver information to all investors in an optimistic, yet very transparent manner. I have come to find that individuals who opt to place their money in your ventures place equal emphasis on the good and the not-so-good news.
Q.10 What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A. Have a long term plan and goal
Have a good support team
Learn from your mistakes
Q.11 Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A. I believe we’ve built a steadfast team here over the past 3-4 years whom I know I can rely on. They are able to keep pace with technological advancements, develop authentic relationships with both investors and borrowers, and also leverage a variety of resources (Co Star, broker connections, appraisal firms, etc.) to perform thorough background research of people and properties.
That said, I see myself assuming much more of an oversight role over the next 5-10 years, where I can truly have a macro-level vantage point into all ongoing deals.
Q.12 Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A. I admire the borrowers that we have lent money to, whose goal is to launch their business / development twenty-fold into extremely successful entrepreneurs
Q.13 How important have good employees been to your success?
A. Very important to have a strong team
They continue to advance the overall company strategy. I don’t think there are any examples of successful individuals, entertainer, company, athlete, entrepreneur who have achieved success without someone (employees, freelancers, coaches, trainers, etc.) who has helped them out.
Q.14 How do you generate new ideas?
A. I subscribe to a plethora of blogs, news platforms, etc. These resources allow me to constantly expand my knowledge of not only the real-estate lending space, but also look at my industry through a more-broad financial markets lens.
Q.15 What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A. Not only the desire but also the willingness to immerse yourself in every level of the business. By this, I mean not allowing your pride to overshadow the seemingly “busy” or menial tasks that still need to be completed.
I have noticed that many individuals who possess the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ often exhibit the ‘roll up your sleeves’ mindset and tend to eat-breathe-sleep their company’s vision.
Q.16 How did you decide on the location for your business?
A. I am a third generation Arizonian and grew up in the central Phoenix area! Having gone to Central High School and later on to Arizona State University, this state has a special place in my heart.
I like to think I have extensive first-hand knowledge of not only the variety of asset classes that tend to thrive in certain cities, but also just how much the state has expanded over the past 50 years. Watching this expansive growth over the course of my lifetime has been incredibly jaw dropping, and I love being able to contribute to the ongoing success.
Q.17 How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
A. Transparency and being able to admit when you were the one who made the mistake.
whether it’s those you’ve ‘wronged’ or your own team members, people so greatly appreciate transparency and authenticity…especially when you can approach a situation or problem objectively in an attempt to understand their POV.
Q.18 What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A. Golf, pickle ball, fishing, racing, watching sporting events