FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Deb Sands
June 30, 2020
Reaching out is not new – but a new and refreshing shift as we connect with people in new ways in 2020 …
Connections with interesting/dynamic people don’t take a straight or predictable path – and often, the track of successful people has some zigs and zags too.
Case in point:
Meeting new people during this ‘time of COVID’ is challenging for every business, so this interview is one of those ‘out of nowhere’ happenings. Debbie (Deb) Sands, Founder, and President of Priority Leasing Inc., is an excellent example of reaching out. As a long time reader of FACILITYCalgary, her reaching out to me with some kind words or appreciation was a surprise. That connection led to a discussion about market realities during the shut-down on top of our economic downturn, which led to another conversation, which led to this interview … so, thank you, Deb.
Deb was born in Calgary. Mom from Coleman, dad from Calgary – they met and married here. Firstborn, she has two younger brothers. She wasn’t much into sports in school, she was a self-admitted above straight-A student with her nose in a book in Killarney, until the family relocated to 20 acres in Bearspaw, then came horses, and grades eight through 12 in Cochrane.
What came next was a collision of, or rather an overlapping of events, a lane change: starting at the University of Calgary in pursuit of arts degree for one year, parents splitting-up, a summer in El Salvador, landing back in Calgary for enrolment at Mount Royal University her quest for a career in TV resulted in two-year diploma in Broadcasting.
While TV was her plan, radio was the result, the more forceful tug, and a passion/ambition quickly shifted to an objective and appetite for sales. Once she got a taste of its dynamics and improved financial rewards, she didn’t look back.
Increasingly important responsibilities from copywriting at CHQR, at CKXL, moving into sales at CKXL and back to CHQR/CJ92 in sales. Her seven years in radio were punctuated by the NEP, and selling was clearly her passion. So, she moved into equipment leasing at Pacific National Leasing, then Pitney Bowes, and Bayshore Leasing. By then, she had built relationships within the industry, knew most brokers in the western Canadian market, and formed a relationship with a mentor – Terry Bradshaw. And she wanted to be more in control of her own destiny, customer selection, where she placed her client’s business, and to be less vulnerable to market volatility.
The answer, and the next steps, became apparent to her. Fast forward – she went out on her own, founding Priority Leasing Inc. in 1993. And she got married (currently separated, two grown daughters, one cat). She continues to run Priority with a small team – operating virtually, away from the office, at the moment and continuing service to small-medium size businesses business owners, and to equipment vendors in financing asset acquisitions.
Why are you successful? “Diligence, persistence, optimism. Doing the basics and offering solutions pays off. I think to be flexible and willing to adjust, both personally and professionally, to changes. And things I learned across the breakfast table growing up – ethics and work ethic.”
What has held you back? “Niggling self-doubt. Occasional loss of self-belief. Asking, what if I failed?”
How do you see your business – equipment leasing – going forward over the next quarter?
… very slow. Equipment vendors business is down, so ours tracks with that trend. Most clients, as they sort out where their businesses are going right now, are reluctant to take on new debt. As the economy re-opens, as projects get rolling, as companies that recover thrive, they will probably need our services more than ever …
And over the next five years?
… I see technology, new ways of doing business, and COVID recovery changing many business methods, but overall I see equipment leasing as very robust – the equipment being financed may be new, but leasing will continue to grow and innovate as an essential tool within the financing mix for startups and well- established businesses
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators, and suppliers?
… value in the person. The personal values and ethics of the person I’m dealing with. Sure, capability, credentials, and performance matters, and price matters, but there is nothing without the depth and value of the person.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Deb Sands/Priority Leasing, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… ethics. I look after my clients – giving them the intention and attention they deserve. Sure, it’s about the equipment and the lease deal, but it’s about the client, helping them achieve their goals.
… YES, I do now! I realize, for about 15 years, I was a workaholic. I was the one driving it, I was driven. I started to relax, I get really juiced up playing in my band, a different variation of banging the drum!
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my dad, Ken Sands, who encouraged me often with, “What have you got to lose?”; Jerry Demchuk, a mentor – biggest visionary I’ve ever known
… Rotary, pickleball, Calysto Steel Band, hanging out with people at my church – West Side Kings Church. I was raised Anglican. For me, it’s not so much about the religion as it is about relationships with the people – that’s important to me. It’s about how to be a good person …
What do you read?
… John Grisham novels, and that genre. I used to read self-help books, DIY things. Currently, mostly business books.
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