Interview with Jon Anselma

Interview with Jon Anselma paragon financial groupJon Anselma spearheads the Paragon Financial Group, which was founded in 1994 with the initiative to afford growing businesses an alternative to conventional Bank Financing. With satellites in Tampa and Orlando, Paragon Financial Group is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Ralf Bieler, President & CEO of Cash Flow Exclusive, LLC, caught up with Mr. Anselma to talk with him about his company and its business, as well as about his view on the economy and future plans.

CFE: Jon, why don’t you kick us off by telling us your “story”. Who is Jon Anselma? When did you start working in the cash flow business, how and why did you get into it, and how did you get to Paragon?

Jon Anselma: I first learned of factoring while growing up in New York. My best friend’s father was a garment manufacturer in the heart of the garment district in New York City. In those days, numerous factoring companies lined those streets of Manhattan. He explained to me what factoring was and that without it, he wouldn’t be in business. I was enamored with the concept and at 15 years old decided that’s what I wanted to do for a living.

While in College, I met my business partner, Michael Rossi and told him about my career plans. It sparked his interest also and together we spent a few years researching and studying the factoring industry. We agreed that upon graduating from college, we would work for factoring companies for a few years, learning the ins and outs of the business, and would then start our own company. At the time, we had no idea how it would all work out or where we would get the money to start.

In 1994, at 24 years old, we embarked on our entrepreneurial dream and started Paragon Financial Group, Inc. Our humble beginnings started in a small apartment with a few clients and $100,000 from private investors which consisted mostly of family and friends. We quickly grew and raised over $1,000,000 in our first year and in our second year obtained our first line of credit for $2,000,000. Fast forward 15 years later and we have over 100 clients and a full staff with much larger lines of credit. We have been very blessed.

CFE: Many people in the cash flow industry have heard of Paragon. But tell us a bit more about what Paragon does. Which services does Paragon offer, and what type of deals and clients are you looking for?

Jon Anselma: Paragon Financial is a factoring company with clients nationwide. We’ve recently added purchase order financing (domestic and international), including supplier guarantees for companies that drop-ship their products. Our typical client is seeking $20,000 to $2,000,000 each month. Most of our clients are referred by consultants, brokers, turnaround specialists, and bankers. I don’t know how much we’ve paid in commission over the years, but it’s definitely in the seven digits. We are one of the few factors that direct deposits commissions each month.

CFE: How has this business been working for you before and since the beginning of our economic slump? How has Paragon’s business and that of your clients been affected by the contraction of our economy?

Jon Anselma: Before the slump, it was much easier. There was money everywhere, high demand for products and services, plenty of credit, and everything was going up. Our clients were growing, our portfolio was growing, and bad debt was minimal. When the economy nosedived, everything changed. Most companies that are seeking factoring are growing faster than their cash flow. In this economy, most companies aren’t growing. In fact, they’ve shrunken. Many have shrunk to a point that they don’t need any financing.

The first client industries hit were trucking, staffing, and then construction supply. Construction supply was hit so hard that many of them shut their doors. For the first time in our 15 year history, our portfolio wasn’t growing.

Suddenly, we had a big surge in demand for our financing due to banks tightening their credit. However, it became harder to approve credit for our client’s customers. Just read the headlines on all of the bankruptcies. Many of these companies seeking factoring are having serious problems and we are unable to approve them.

We’ve been very successful this year with bank referrals. Many banks aren’t renewing lines of credit for their customers. Often times, banks are seeking to terminate their relationship with a company who is out of covenant but is a great candidate for factoring. Companies that were previously bankable are now factoring. This has provided us with a higher quality client who represents lower risk.

CFE: The current administration believes that it will get worse before it gets better. What kind of change – if any – do you foresee, when do you expect it to happen, and what do you think will trigger it?

Jon Anselma: The current administration is not very business friendly. I don’t see things improving until we vote in a Reaganomics type leader. Let’s hope they don’t try to nationalize the factoring industry.

CFE: How will Paragon prepare for any economic changes? What – if anything – will you and Paragon be doing differently?

Jon Anselma: With the economic stimulus, government spending is helping numerous companies. This is one of the few areas of growth that we are seeing right now. We are targeting government vendors and doing very well with it. We can help the client obtain the product as well as factor their invoices. The Federal Government Assignment of Claims specifically provides for the assignment of payment on a federal government invoice. We also work with state and local government entities.

CFE: And what is your outlook on the cash flow industry in general, and on Paragon and your clients specifically? What developments, changes, and/or innovations do you foresee?

Jon Anselma: The factoring industry has experienced many changes over the years. All of them have had a positive outcome. Factoring companies have always adapted to change and rise to the occasion by continually helping companies that otherwise might not be able to get financing.

CFE: Jon, one last question before you run off: What is your advice to cash flow brokers or consultants these days? What specifically should they do – or do differently – in order to succeed during the current economy? And how exactly should they prepare for the future?

Jon Anselma: Make sure you know your funding sources. Numerous finance companies have closed their doors this year due to losing their funding. Those finance companies who are highly leveraged are having a tough time. An example is CIT Group, the largest factor in the world, is facing bankruptcy. What happens to the client’s reserves when the factor files bankruptcy? What happens when they can’t get funded and miss payroll? You don’t want to find out. Know the financial strength of your funding source.

CFE: Any recommendations, words of wisdom or advice to your fellow funders?

Jon Anselma: Maintain strong underwriting and operations. It’s tempting to get greedy and take on deals that you shouldn’t, especially in these slower times. Remember, nobody remembers the deal you didn’t do, only the deal you shouldn’t have done.

CFE: Thank you for your time and the great information you shared with us today, Jon. It’s been a real pleasure, and I’m sure our readers will put your advice to good use. Best wishes to your and Paragon’s future success.

If you have any other questions for Jon or would like to know more, you can reach Jon Anselma and Paragon Financial Group toll-free at 888-400-5931 or via e-mail to jon@paragonfinancial.net or through their website at www.paragonfinancial.net

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