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Founder’s Letter: Larry Elton and the Story of Advantage+

Larry Elton, the visionary founder of Advantage+, has played a pivotal role in revolutionizing the business lending landscape. With a deep understanding of the challenges faced by small businesses and a passion for empowering entrepreneurs, Larry embarked on a remarkable journey to create Advantage+. His extensive experience in the industry, coupled with a commitment to common sense underwriting and client-centric solutions, has made Advantage+ a trusted name in the world of business lending.

In the following letter, Larry Elton shares the inspiring story of Advantage+’s humble beginnings and its evolution into a thriving company that is dedicated to supporting small businesses. Discover the remarkable journey, challenges overcome, and the unwavering dedication to providing accessible and flexible financing options. Join us as we delve into Larry’s unique perspective and gain valuable insights from his decades of experience in the field of business lending.

Larry K. Elton

Larry K. Elton
Founder, Advantage+

Would you believe me if I told you that 25 years ago, our founders, conscientious free market thinkers, knowing that small business was the backbone of capitalism, began our company to support this noble institution? They also knew there was a capital gap that hindered small businesses’ ability to start and grow. Our founders’ dream was to fill that gap.

Would you believe all that? If so, you would be wrong.

Here’s the real story. I worked for a bank holding company called F&M Financial Services. In 1992, F&M was sold to Associated Bank. With the combined operation, there were too many cooks, so some of the cooks, including me, decided to leave to pursue personal interests. That means I was fired. So, there I was, 54 years old, out of work, and wondering what the hell to do next.

Part of my job at F&M was overseeing a small equipment leasing subsidiary. And after the acquisition smoke cleared, the folks who ran the leasing company, Dick Hackl and Marianne Flemming, concluded that Associated had no interest in their little operation; they sensed their days were numbered.

So, the three of us conferred and decided to try to make a go of starting our own equipment finance company. There was nothing altruistic or noble about this—we were out of work, and needed jobs. Necessity was the mother of invention.

We concluded that with support from outside investors and a few banks, we could start and build a successful venture. Our plan was to grow enough so that in six or seven years we could take it public or sell it to a bank for a big return. We convinced some investors and some banks who believed in us—many are still with us—that the plan would work.

And it did. But not at all as planned. The original plan focused on the outcome—building fast and selling for gain. It didn’t work that way. It turned out to be a much longer game, but I think a much better game.

As we grew and as we worked with lots of small businesses, we realized that small business really was the purest form of capitalism, and really was a key part of our economy. And we found it surprisingly fun and emotionally rewarding to see how our little part often made a difference.

Our bankers also became dedicated to our small business cause. They became partners as well as lenders.

And many of our investors also took a longer view, so we successfully modified investment instruments to provide acceptable liquidity to complement growth in value.

Our staff grew in size and talent. Our culture and standards evolved. And our team coalesced to become more like-minded and more effective.

So, our company, created to have a fixed-term run, developed momentum, and seemed to develop a will, to want to go on and on.

What started as a way to make a living became a way of living. And God willing, we’d like to keep it going. And we think we can.

~ Larry K. Elton

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