John Lie-Nielsen | Jumping into Business in the Midst of Chaos

John Lie-Nielsen is the Founder and CEO of One Park Financial. The company’s mission is to help small to mid-sized businesses get access to working capital, both quickly and efficiently. They help customers for the long haul, growing business with customer-centric services to make it all happen. It is a business dedicated to helping other businesses gain access to working capital just like the big guys. They help get time, credit and paperwork all on your side. 

John is an entrepreneur specializing in launching and developing financial service firms. In 1999, he founded ACA financial LLC and in 2010, he founded his current company, One Park Financial. His business has since been named as one of the best entrepreneurial companies in America and have been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur 360 list more than once.

In this episode of Smart Business Revolution, Julie Musgrave interviews John Lie-Nielsen, Founder and CEO of One Park Financial, about providing financing and support to small businesses during and after a crisis. John also talks about why he founded his company, the government’s relief programs for businesses, and his advice to fellow business owners on starting and growing a business and how they can best manage their employees.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • The biggest obstacles John Lie-Nielsen faced when starting his business and the role his father played in helping him get to where he is today
  • What businesses need to focus on in light of the COVID-19 crisis 
  • How John has been managing his business and stakeholders in the current health crisis and his advice to fellow business owners on managing their employees
  • What new business owners should do to stay afloat in the current economic crisis
  • Steps entrepreneurs should take when starting businesses once the economy becomes stable
  • The needs John saw in the market that led to the founding of One Park Financial

Resources Mentioned:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:10  

Welcome to the Revolution, the Smart Business Revolution podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution. John Corcoran.

 

Julie Musgrave  0:40  

Hi there. I’m Julie Musgrave, guest host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast where we talk with CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of companies and organizations like YPO, EO Activision Blizzard, lending tree, Open Table, app, software, and many more. Our guest today is John Lie-Nielsen, CEO of One Park Financial. The company’s mission is to help small to mid sized businesses get access to working capital, but quickly and efficiently. They help customers for the long haul growing business with customer centric services to make it all happen, you will not want to miss his advice. But before we get into this interview, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media. Rise25 helps b2b businesses get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. If you’re listening to this and if ever thought, should I do a podcast? Well, we say yes, we specialize in helping b2b businesses with a high client lifetime value. So to learn more, and get some more inspiration and ideas about how you could get clients referrals, and some of the best friendships of your life from a podcast, go to rise25media.com or email [email protected]

As I mentioned earlier, our guest is John Lie-Nielsen, CEO of One Park Financial. If you’re a small to midsize business owner looking to make some financial moves, make sure you’re listening to this one. One Park Financial is a business dedicated to helping other businesses gain access to working capital just like the big guys. They help get time and credit and paperwork all on your side. John is an entrepreneur specializing and launching and developing financial service firms. In 1999. He founded ACA financial LLC and in 2010 founded his current company, One Park Financial, that business has since been named one of the best entrepreneurial companies in America in entrepreneur magazine’s entrepreneur 360 lists more than once, john, thank you so much for joining us. We are so excited to hear more from you. Now, as I mentioned, you’ve really been there, you try to get an idea off the ground, get your business started. So If you can remember, what were some of the biggest obstacles you remember encountering and how did you get around them?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  3:07  

Well, thank you, Julie, for having me. Good afternoon. Glad to be here. I think one of the biggest challenges when starting a business, I think the biggest challenge is actually doing it. So, actually making that step where you’re leaving a current job, maybe when you have a salary that is safe, or maybe you’re in a transition, where you’ve been laid off, and you have some great opportunity and you’ve been thinking about it, but you don’t know. You don’t know if it’s gonna work and I think the biggest challenge is really having confidence in yourself and rolling the dice and actually doing it. So I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from my father over the years and A phrase that he likes to use is just get in the game. And so and by that he means just, you know, get started. You don’t know what you don’t know. And if you haven’t started, you can come up with a lot of conclusions in your head. But you really don’t know what’s going to happen until you actually get started. So, getting in the game is the first piece of advice I’d give to people. And because you’re not going to know what the market is until you actually test it a little bit.

 

Julie Musgrave  4:29  

I love that you bring up your father, what was your dad’s role in helping you get to where you are today?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  4:36  

Well, my dad has been an entrepreneur his whole life. So I think an advantage that I had a real advantage growing up is that I actually witnessed what that meant. And the takeaway wasn’t that it was always good. But he’s, he had to work really hard. And he took businesses through big recessions as well. And I saw how hard that was on him. But, he’s also someone who is a bit of a role model to understand. I think just getting back to the question you asked before about what are some of the hardest things and just doing it. And at least having witnessed my father, I understood a little bit about what that actually looked like. So I think that was very beneficial for me.

 

Julie Musgrave  5:29  

Do you remember a time where you saw him maybe in the middle of a struggle and live in his words that he would say is just to do it? When did you learn that in action? Well, yeah,

 

John Lie-Nielsen  5:42  

he’s, uh, yes, there’s several times where I know he was, he was having a hard time. And a big struggle with the business and perseverance is key as an entrepreneur. I think it’s winning And Churchill That said, if you find yourself you know, walking, walking in hell keep walking or something, something along those lines. I’ve just murdered that quote, but Well, I, I but I witnessed it with my father and in our times you there, you can’t, you can’t stay in bed. People are relying upon you. And so you just gotta get up and it’s hard. But you keep trudging forward, and you and you create your path. So, yeah, definitely witnessed that over the years. And, you know, today we’re in another period that’s very complex and hard. And so, you know, it’s, it’s a good reminder every day to get up factly and keep moving forward, looking for looking for opportunities and deal with the challenges but you can’t

 

Julie Musgrave  6:47  

deal with them in bed. You bring up such a timely issue right now. So many businesses are under financial pressure right now. Because of COVID. What would you say that we need to be focusing on in order to stay in the past? I love that you say you just gotta get out of bed. That’s step one. But what else do we need to be doing?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  7:08  

Well, everyone is dealing with so many different situations, right? So what I like to focus on is what I can control. So there are a lot of things that you cannot control right now. And that’s, that’s difficult. I myself can be a bit of a control freak. And in today’s environment, just when it seems like we’re getting some clarity on things, you know, we don’t have them so I know what I can control. I can control my costs. So I’m very careful about costs. I’m looking at any expenditure that is going out of the company now that is reviewed. by me. None of that is on A pilot anymore questioning what we, you know, do we need to do for longer term contracts? What can we do to keep optionality open? I mentioned cost and so we’re not necessarily always looking to do things more on a short term basis. Maybe Can Can we sign up for a six month agreement rather than a three year agreement? So that we can even if that costs more right now, it keeps, it keeps them optionality for us as we get through the fall and as we’re coming into next year, to to see if if that service is something we really need for three years and what is the world going to look like in six months?

 

Julie Musgrave  8:43  

Yeah, I think that’s a good point. Because you need to keep forging ahead, you need to keep turning revenue, but you gotta keep your options open. And it sounds like you’ve really been personally affected. Aside from looking at Your individual costs. How are you managing this with your relationships with the people that work with you?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  9:08  

Well, you know, I think there’s several constituencies, constituencies or groups as a business owner that you have to make sure you’re, you’re in touch with and constant communication. So there are our customers, there are our shareholders, and then there are our employees. And it’s been difficult because we have been here in our location. We went to work from home like many have, we’ve brought back some of our staff that we still have many people working from home. And so we’ve tried to create as much normalcy as we can. So we are big believers in short, typically their short standup meetings in an office. Call them huddles, we’ve maintained our huddles. It’s just now they’re, they’re on a team call. I know I’m on a zoom call with you, but it’s a video call. But we’ve maintained that discipline. we’ve, we’ve, we’ve instituted in a lot of our regular meetings, icebreakers. Just to kind of loosen people up. I know, everyone’s just under a lot of stress. And, you know, there’s their stress right now with not only the business but health, that’s a pretty important thing. And then, you know, everyone’s dealing with different things. Maybe they’ve been in an apartment where they can exercise, maybe they’re dealing with kids that are at home and you know, trying to get kids to work. So we all have a lot of different things. So we try to try to keep things as normal as possible. But then do we do things like icebreakers we do. We do dress up days on our calls, you know, 70s disco days. do different things like that. And just as a way to keep it a little bit light and fun, and we’re trying to inject some, some humor into people’s lives that we can,

 

Julie Musgrave  11:12  

I appreciate that you are not only thinking about the work that needs to be done within the Office culture, it’s there’s so many factors outside of this to the kids and their home lives and then exercise mental health. Yeah. What advice do you have for other business owners to kind of refocus on that, consider all of that when you’re trying to take care of your employees?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  11:36  

Well, I would encourage all of them to exercise. I just think that’s really important. I mean, it doesn’t have to be exercise for some people. It could be meditation, prayer. But the power of exercise for me is incredible. And I often will get to a place where I think I have other things to take care of. So I don’t take care of myself. And I have four young children, I run a business, very happily married. And so a lot of times, I’ll find myself trying to solve all of those people’s needs. And I figure I don’t need to worry about mine for a while. And what actually happens is I kind of turned into an asshole if I’m allowed to say that, because I’m just holding on to so much stress. And that makes me you know, most importantly, not as a good husband, not as good a father and not not as good a manager and leader. And so I really do try to make the time to exercise that just puts me in a better place and then all the other roles in my life. I’m much better at those other roles. So even though it seems selfish to put myself first and insist on 30 or 40 minutes, I’ve actually found it’s the least selfish thing for me to Do because I’m better in all the roles. It pays out in my life.

 

Julie Musgrave  13:04  

Yeah, you gotta put that life vest on first. Let’s circle back around to the business side of this. How do you feel about relief programs?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  13:15  

Well, that’s a good question. Um, so, for this, I’ll focus on maybe the TPP. I felt that for the most part, that’s been a very good program. And I think with some of the recent changes where they allowed the forgiveness of payroll from like eight weeks to 24 weeks, it fixed a lot of the problems with that program where you people were given the money but you know, we’re here in Florida, couldn’t even open your business. So why would you have people on payroll when you’re shut down as a restaurant owner what you really needed was you needed to line up the money in the front Goodness with when you could actually be generating revenue. So I think that it’s now, you know, unfortunately, it’s gotten a little politicized with both parties. But I think it certainly has saved a lot of jobs. And I think it’s very difficult to get aid out like that through bureaucracy and it’s unprecedented and I think they did a great job. I know. Our Community Bank did a great job for us under very difficult circumstances with a lot of changing requirements. From what we’ve seen with our, the merchants that we support. Generally the community banks did a better job than some of the big banks. And it took some time but I think the money did get out. I know initially, there was a lot of frustration with the smallest borrowers that it felt like the bigger customers of the banks were getting served. First, and I’m sure they were but I feel like over time that money did get out and all things considered. I think it’s a pretty good program. I like it.

 

Julie Musgrave  15:11  

So what advice do you have for folks who maybe had just launched they were diving in? They finally did it. They took your advice, they took that first step but then COVID hit Oh, do you recover? What advice do you have to stay afloat? Keep your head above water.

 

John Lie-Nielsen  15:31  

I think in many ways, at the lowest point, it’s the best time to launch a business. Now

 

you know, having some perhaps a lot of money into a brand new restaurant and then you can’t open it. That doesn’t that’s not a good time. But a lot of times in a time like this.

 

John Lie-Nielsen  15:52  

People are open to getting phone calls from people that are not they don’t normally receive. You can hire people or get freelance workers who are extremely talented people who have been laid off during this period of time or are on reduced compensation and maybe you’re looking for some additional work, you might find a great partner in a period of time like this. And when there’s so much disruption, that’s when a lot of great ideas are generated. I know a lot of companies, great companies were built and started in the, in a sort of, Oh, 809 recession as well. So, you know, the whole world is on fire, right? So maybe this is the time to do it. And maybe even more so than when the world is very stable. Because I think a lot of people are looking at maybe where they work now and things are a little uncertain for a lot of companies. And so so maybe this is now the time to bet on yourself. So I actually think this is a great time to to to launch a business,

 

Julie Musgrave  17:01  

that’s it, that’s a good dose of optimism that I think a lot of folks will appreciate hearing. Let’s say that we are feeling a little bit more stable in the economy now. So what are the folks? What are the first steps that folks should be taking when trying to get something off the ground?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  17:16  

Um, well, so you know, that we provide financing for businesses. So I think that an entrepreneur needs to always be thinking about people’s strategy, and capital, and they’re all very important. So

 

if you don’t have the right strategy doesn’t matter.

 

If you don’t have a few not capitalized in the right way, it’s not gonna matter. And if you don’t surround yourself, initially, with a couple of people that are really great, you’re gonna have a really hard time moving forward. So, I always focus on those things even as we’ve gotten large during different businesses. Those words are always in my mind, and I try to find time to slow down and make sure that my current strategy is still the right one. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I’m capitalized. We were pretty well prepared for what happened this year because a lot of thought had been put into it ahead of time. And then I spent a lot of time on people and I don’t I think those three things are really important when whether you’re starting a business, whether you’re two years into a business, or 10 years into a business, I think those are always the three things as the CEO, many times founders need to be really focused on.

 

Julie Musgrave  18:41  

Now clearly, you’ve experienced getting something off the ground. You saw a need. So what were some of the needs that you were seeing with other people when you decided to start One Park Financial?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  18:54  

Well, you know, it’s really a challenge. After the recession, for example, back in oh eight and oh nine banks really pulled back from providing small business financing. Previously, even credit card companies would get very aggressive with large credit lines to small business owners and losses on the credit card side and in the banking sector after oh eight and oh nine were very large. So it is for small businesses, loans to small businesses. So and then, you know, Dodd Frank, there’s regulatory reform. So, so banks pull back and, and just as I was saying earlier, right, sometimes the best time to jump in is, is in the midst of the chaos. So there was an opportunity to come in and provide financing for small businesses in a way where the market had changed very rapidly. So so that was really the opportunity that we saw and that that also came with a just another business that I had that wasn’t mentioned in the intro here where I was just looking for a small line of credit the business was very profitable my credit was perfect and it took four months to get to a yes and i was approved for only 25% of what I was originally told I was going to get approved for it made no sense and that’s when I just started digging and I said this is preposterous why should this be so difficult to get bank financing and again, that led me to keep digging and then that led me to say hey, we can do a better job here. 

 

Julie Musgrave  20:46  

How does it make you feel to know that you’re helping these small and mid sized business owners really make that little but that idea happen? Those dreams happen?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  20:56  

Yeah, it feels great. I think every business? Well, it’s important to kind of understand what your purpose is, and, you know, providing lending or financing. That’s not that, that doesn’t get y’all emotional about purpose, right? But, what we love to do is we love to do profiles on our merchant success stories. And when you see a business that you started with, three, four years ago, that’s now grown their business, you know, five or eight times they’ve gone from four employees to 15 or 18 employees. You know, they’ve been able to, you know, maybe put their kids in a school they couldn’t afford before, or just made some real improvements and changes in their life. It’s fantastic. So that’s, that’s the stuff that we focus on here in terms of what our purpose is not. Not Oh, hey, we made you know, we financed another business. It’s, it’s the businesses that have been with us and where have we been able to take them? So and we Yeah, the big point here is that we’re partners in your success. This over the last few months, we’ve been saying we’re partners in your recovery. But, but we’re partners, the entrepreneurs are the ones that are doing it. We’re just a tool for them. But we’re, we feel like we’ve served a purpose when they achieve their goals. So it’s a great feeling.

 

Julie Musgrave  22:15  

That term recovery. I think a lot of people are, I mean, that’s in everyone’s minds right now. So what advice do you have to keep someone going to, to feel the recovery to hang in there?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  22:28  

Yeah, it’s hard, right? Um, and counter to what I was saying before.

 

Julie Musgrave 22:38  

It’s, there are things out of your control.

 

John Lie-Nielsen  22:44  

And rather than trying to focus on all of the negative things, what I would suggest is to just focus on everyday positive things that you can accomplish that you know you can get done. I suggest you try to do it in the morning because the rest If your day is good if you’ve achieved something earlier in the day, right, and just keep moving forward. As long as your business is still running, you have a chance. And I know it’s hard to kind of look past the noise and all the news. Bad news sells, right? So, but there are there is a lot of good news out there as well. And just focus on the good news, keep moving forward. And, you know, if you’re alive today, that means you’re alive tomorrow, and you still have a chance. So I just tell people to stay positive, keep moving forward, get something done every day. You’ll feel better, even if it’s a little thing. And you know, control your costs and just wait for your opportunity.

 

Julie Musgrave  23:46  

Well, john, I think that’s a great note to end on. A positive note, and optimism that I think a lot of people can learn from and take your good advice and keep going and jump in and do it if you haven’t already. Thank you. You so much for this. We really appreciate it. How can people learn more about you?

 

John Lie-Nielsen  24:05  

I’m easy. Just go to our website. It’s oneparkfinancial.com. So if you’re in need of financing, please, please give us a call. See if we can help.

 

Julie Musgrave  24:19  

All right, John, we appreciate you. Thanks. Thank you, Julie. Have a great day.

 

Outro  24:23  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the Revolution Revolution Revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the smart business revolution podcast.