LTi Technology Solutions is celebrating 30 years in the equipment finance software industry this year!
The story of LTi Technology Solutions (formerly LeaseTeam) has been told before. But this year, we thought it would be fun to revisit our history and infuse the voices of the founders themselves into the telling.
So for part one of this series, I sat down with LTi co-founder, Randy Haug. We talked about where the company began, how it all got started, and to learn more about Randy’s own history and what drove him to start LTi thirty years ago. For those who know Randy, you know how generous he is with his time and conversation. He loves this industry, and he loves sharing his experiences.
One of the most impressive qualities he displayed in our first conversation here was Randy’s memory for people. I’m convinced he could recall the name of someone he passed on the street in 1978 if you pressed him. He talked about the beginning years of LTi like it all happened last month.
It was really fun to hear how Randy got started in the equipment finance industry, how his family influenced his entrepreneurial spirit, and how his upbringing inspires the way he interacts with his customers and employees.
Join us in celebrating LTi’s 30th anniversary. Read Part 1 of our story, and then listen my extended conversation with Randy below.
In the Beginning
Back in 1985, a man by the name of Jerry Boulay owned an equipment finance company called Metro Leasing. It was a small, full-service lessor based in Omaha, Nebraska. Jerry wanted to find a software solution that would help him manage his lease and loan transactions more efficiently. However, since this was the mid-80s, there weren’t many options available.
“Most systems at that point and time,” Randy told me, “were for very large companies. So you had to buy like a mini-computer or mainframe type system, and his business was just too small to invest in that kind of money.”
There just wasn’t a solution designed for small leasing companies like Jerry’s. So, as many good entrepreneurs do, when a solution couldn’t be found, Jerry designed his own. Along with his staff, Jerry created a software solution called LeasePlus (L+), which was a back-end lease and loan management system. Of course, Jerry had to find a marketplace to sell this product in order to offset the costs of development at this time:
“And developing back then,” Randy said, “was almost like writing down on a piece of paper what the system should sort of do, what your manual business process was. They were using spreadsheets and all kinds of different things. And they were basically just trying to automate that.”
So Jerry turned to a company called Word&Data Processing Products to partner with him. Together, Jerry and Word&Data developed, marketed, and sold the new L+ software solution to other small leasing companies under the umbrella of a company called Leasing Solutions. In this partnership, Jerry owned half of Leasing Solutions and Word&Data owned the other half. And this is where Randy comes in.
From Manager to Business Owner
Randy had met Jerry years before while working at another company. But now, Randy was working at Word&Data, managing the sales and marketing of some of their business lines. The Lease+ product line fell under Randy’s management, so he developed an even stronger relationship with Jerry and his software solution.
Talking about the environment at Word&Data, Randy told me:
“When we were at Word&Data, we were minority owners of Word&Data.” Randy said the overall business was very entrepreneurial this way. “They always asked us every year, ‘What are your goals, individually, as people?’ And it wasn’t necessarily to work for them for the rest of our lives. We wanted to have our own business someday, both Phil and I did, and we let them know that. And so, when this situation happened…I said I would be interested, potentially, in buying this software product. And R&D quickly said, ‘Ok’…”
Then, a company called R&D Systems out of Colorado Springs purchased Word&Data’s hardware and software distribution business. However, they didn’t want anything to do with the leasing side. It wasn’t an industry they were familiar with, and it was too small for them to invest in.
Recognizing this opportunity, Randy partnered with another of Word&Data’s managers, Phil Lieber, to purchase the Lease+ software.
Bootstrapping a New Business
What made Randy and Phil ideal buyers was that they were familiar with the product and the industry it was serving. That was important for Word&Data at the time. They weren’t likely to get much value out of this product sale with any other buyer. It was a fairly niche product in this way.
So, Randy and Phil negotiated a deal to purchase the Leasing Solutions and Lease+ name, branding, and software product. Taking out second mortgages on both of their houses, Randy and Phil came up with a $60,000 down payment toward a $200,000 purchase price. They agreed to finance the rest over a period of about 5 years, but Randy and Phil managed to pay it off within a year-and-a-half.
They brought with them only 4 other people from Word&Data: two of the developers who had helped build the product (one of whom was Phil’s wife), and two support staff.
“No real book of business or anything like that,” Randy told me of their early business. “At that time we had 11 customers that we had acquired…but we were selling both hardware and software at the time. And we made a go of it. The thing we were good at is we were good at marketing and sales.”
So with an all-in spirit, the grit typical of the working class people Randy and Phil grew up around, and much support from friends and spouses, Lease Team (now LTi Technology Solutions) was born in 1985.