Stan Prokop | Founder of Founder of 7 Park Avenue Financial
Success leaves clues.
Finance Strategists sat down with Stan Prokop, founder of 7 Park Avenue Financial. He discusses his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the company, as well as the insight he gained from running the business.
Who is Stan Prokop?
Q: Who are you and what’s your background?
I’m Canadian, originally from Burlington, Ontario. When I left to enter the working world in my 20’s I subsequently worked in the Canadian cities of Hamilton, Ottawa, and Toronto. After a 30+ 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.’
In 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 as well as investments is a true passion of mine and my day isn’t considered complete until I have read Canada’s business press or understood what the markets are doing.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?
I had some mentors very early in my work career – today they would probably be called old school but I find I always go back to the advice I got from them as far back as the 70’s. I think part of that is because with the huge revolution in technology that has overtaken the world everything is instantaneous and all the tech in the world of financing and corporate credit still hasn’t taken away from sound judgement and fundamentals. During my 24 years with Hewlett Packard and a predecessor company I lived and worked through the Dotcom era, where fundamentals seemed to not make sense – which was ultimately proven quite incorrect due to the spectacular rise and fall of many companies. I still can’t believe that when I joined HP the internet existed in only a very rudimentary fashion, and certainly wasn’t on our desktops at work!
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?
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 a 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! Unfortunately many people in my industry find that tuition is extremely expensive in the school of experience.
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.
Q: What is 7 Park Avenue Financial?
7 Park Avenue Financial is an originator of business financing. We provide financing for small, medium, and large companies and we predominantly work with the SME sector.
The definition of size in SME varies by country, and many consider companies with under 250 employees and 25M in sales as an SME firm. From our part we’ve never found that to be small!
We do not focus on equity financing, but consider ourselves specialists in cash flow and debt financing in a number of core areas of competency – Those include:
- Bank Financing
- Alternative Finance
- Acquisition Finance
- Franchise Financing
- Asset Based Lending
- Tax Credit Financing
Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?
Our tagline is “Business Financing With The Intelligent Use Of Experience,” and it’s 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.
Of course the best way to stand out from the competition is to successfully help the over 400 clients with the $100 million of finance we have originated on our clients behalf.
Additionally all of Canada’s Big 6 banks 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.
Although 99% of our business is Canadian we do occasionally look at U.S. transactions. Our compensation is success based and clients like and appreciate that.
Q: What led you to start 7 Park Avenue Financial?
I’ve mentioned that my entire working life has been based on our business credit and financing. During my long tenure at HP I managed credit for the internal finance company at HP in Canada (many larger corporations utilize customer finance programs to grow sales and HP even has its own bank charter.)
When HP merged with Compaq I left the company and for a short period of time and took consultant positions with two smaller firms that required my assistance. I had never contemplated an entrepreneurial role in my life but apparently necessity is the mother of invention.
Although I can freely admit now the stress involved in starting a company was somewhat overwhelming as I had for so many decades enjoyed the company man/corporate head office type of role where the paycheck and compensation was most assured.
I needed a name for the company, and I read that my favourite British band, a group called Badfinger, had lived as a band on 7 Park Avenue in London, England. I added “Financial” onto that and the job was done! (We still get calls asking if we are New York based, and on one vacation I took the liberty of visiting 7 Park Avenue in New York and took a pic for our website!
Nevertheless I set up shop, shared an office with a business associate, and finally acquired my own offices in Oakville Ontario where we still are today.
On day one I had of course no customers, and no paycheck, and was fortunate in that clients I had met and financed over the years at HP engaged me for some of their external financing needs. That first transaction turned out to be in fact the largest transaction we have ever done, in the 20 million dollar range, and from there we never looked back.
We are a very small firm, but we’ve continued on and are probably more selective in taking on transactions.
Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?
I now know more than ever that business can be tough, and even in good economic times there are numerous challenges. The 2020 pandemic has forced us to alter our client engagement, and when world wide economies implode, obtaining finance for our clients has been a challenge.
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..
I have never considered myself a salesman, so it’s a challenge to constantly be putting the company forward from a marketing and sales perspective. Referrals, as well as our website and blog, generate the most new activity for us.
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.
Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?
I have stepped back from the business in recent years, 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.
I have always thought that many people who know me in business would never guess that I am very focused on rock music/guitar, etc.
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. Over the years we have developed a reputation in the area of alternative finance and that is and will remain one of our core focuses.
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.
From family and friends the old adage of health is everything has never been more clear to myself and from personal experience I can assure anyone that is not a cliché.
About 7 Park Avenue Financial
7 Park Avenue Financial works with small and medium-sized businesses throughout Canada. They focus on working with business owners and entrepreneurs through various stages of growth, acquisition, and restructuring. Learn more at https://www.7parkavenuefinancial.com/home_page.html.