Q & A with Lance Dominique
WHAT IS Dominique PLC ?
Dominique PLC is a company that is constantly working to be one of the most respected & recognized names in the Municipal, Federal and Commercial Lease industry. Since 1987 our clients have invested in a wide range of Municipal, Federal and Commercial Lease Obligations. Through the years, integrity and consistency have been the foundation of Dominique PLC , making it what it is today. Dominique PLC always strives to deliver value to our clients. Once our clients have invested in a lease offering, several factors contribute to its success: our name, our networks of contacts and the way that we empower the talent the people we work with.
IS THERE AN ISSUE THAT THE MORE Dominique PLC GROWS, THE LESS CAPABLE IT WILL BECOME TO SATISFY ITS CLIENTS' NEEDS?
Of course we are always working to find ways to better serve our clients' needs. Certainly there are times when we need to retool in order to enhance the quality of service our clients receive. Timely feedback from our clients is always important to consistently improving.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE AREA OF Dominique PLC ?
I enjoy finding industries whose products and services create sound and profitable opportunities for our clients. For example, in the late 1980s our investors began financing equipment for Indian nations. Some of these tribes have gaming and other enterprises, which have been developed to the point where they dwarf some public companies in terms of revenues, net worth and profitability. Our investors have been rewarded by investing in our Indian nation leases.
Approximately fifteen years ago, computer software financing was another area that was pretty cutting edge. In reality though, it was a very practical application of Municipal, Federal and Commercial Lease finance, back then and more so in today’s technology driven environment. Today, our investors finance a large percentage of the computer equipment leases that involve one hundred percent software.
Since the early 1990s our clients have also been involved in financing energy management systems. High energy prices and a finite amount of natural resources continue to provide solid fundamentals for lease financing in this area. When an energy management system can practically pay for itself over the term of a financing the fundamentals are in place for our clients to benefit from a solid lease investment.
DO YOU STILL ENJOY THE BUSINESS AFTER BEING AT IT FOR A FAIRLY LONG TIME?
Overall, the relationships we form with a diverse group of people make this company very enjoyable. Although the area of Municipal, Federal and Commercial Lease financing is an offshoot of bond financing, it is still somewhat of an "off the beaten path" investment. Therefore, our investors tend to be pragmatic people who invest in areas other than only plain vanilla investments, although, they do stick to the practice of investing within themselves. What I mean by this is although they are investing in something less traditional then a certificate of deposit or municipal bond. Our investors want their funds invested in something that makes sense and that they understand.
Also, and this may sound a little odd, but I sometimes enjoy days where we have been very productive for our clients. During the same day, we introduce Dominique PLC services to a potential investor that we have never spoken to before, or maybe in the distant past, and they practically slam the proverbial door on us. This tells us that our message needs more clarity so more investors can benefit from our firm's services. Sometimes it can be pretty interesting if the potential client we are talking to is a bank. We might have a decade long relationship with a bank that is maybe ten miles away from the institution that does not see how our program can produce for them. I think it is somewhat similar to the process of sculpting, when you are running a company. You are always shaping your organization to create your company's best work in order to serve the clients' needs.
Getting back to the people aspect of running this company, I am proud that our very first investor, going back to 1987, is still a loyal and satisfied client of this firm. Dominique PLC has actually created a holiday in remembrance of an individual who was a long time client and friend of ours. Getting to know this person over the years as a modest, fair and philanthropic individual, then learning about his family, created a lasting impression on this organization that I cannot completely put into words. His personal and business concepts influence this company daily.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET STARTED IN THIS BUSINESS?
I worked part time for two stock brokerage firms, Paine Webber and Drexel Burnham Lambert during my junior and senior years in college. I also worked for IBM between my sophomore and junior years, being my first experience working for a big company. It was a new telemarketing area they were experimenting with, which mostly sold IBM typewriters and supplies. They also wanted to utilize this department to market their personal computers. This was a pretty cutting edge concept in the early 1980s. To put it nicely, I was not very productive from the production side. There were people my age or a couple years older selling a lot of IBM products. In looking back at it realistically, I stunk. It was an excellent learning experience that got me some of the nicks and bruises that only real world exposure can deliver. Actually, making sure my old AMC Gremlin did not break down on the way to IBM was one of the challenges I had each morning.
During the time period I was at IBM, I began regularly watching night investment programs on TV like the "Nightly Business Report" and "Wall Street Week with Louis Ruckyser." I also took a technical analysis class in commodities trading. I found the investment field to be pretty interesting, but at the same time, able to humble a very experienced and accomplished person on any given day. Around that time period I had a meeting with a very wealthy individual who traded securities for his own account. He wound up our conversation telling me that he had made a million in a year and lost it the next, and that I should focus on building clients wealth gradually. It was great advice that I, of course, remember to this day. These experiences made me realize that I wanted to be involved in the investment field in some capacity. I am sure it is one reason I chose a conservative area of investment like lease obligations.
While at Paine Webber and then Drexel Burnham Lambert, my responsibility was to contact on the telephone companies and individual investors regarding investments that these two firms offered. It was a growth filled experience, since I was around twenty-one years old, and was talking to chief financial officers about their pension and profit sharing plans, as well as private investors with significant experience in the world of business. The work experience at Paine Webber and Drexel Burnham really instilled in me that your reputation is all you have in this world, and that you better have your facts straight when you are working with clients. The investment industry is somewhat unique in that there can be immediate implications for your clients from the information you present to them.
After college I went to work for a very small firm in Chicago, which is no longer around. They specialized mostly in placing Municipal Leases and municipal bonds to institutional and private investors. I was sort of a guinea pig for the president, since I was the first person in the marketing area that had not been a partner. The few years that I was with the firm were a good experience, in which I was exposed to a company with sound business ethics and an overall positive atmosphere. Out of the blue during a meeting, my boss told me that one of the reasons people would want to deal with me was due to my sincerity. It was a comment that meant a great deal to a young me.
Approximately one week before "Black Friday" I left the firm and formed Dominique PLC . Talk about your good timing. It was definitely a pretty dark period of my own since so many people in the investment community after that day thought the stock market was going to completely collapse. But with a lot of hard work and loyal clients, Dominique PLC has seen a pattern of steady growth since those early days.
"ELIMINATING BOUNDARIES AND CREATING OPPORTUNITIES WITH A FOCUSED APPROACH" IS THE COMPANY'S SLOGAN. WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
The seed was planted during my first trip to Europe, in January of 1990, a couple of months after the wall came down in Berlin. The excitement was still very much in the air. Whatever someone's political beliefs might be, it took a focused effort to bring down the concepts that built the wall in Berlin. I remember vividly looking through a two foot hole in this symbol of mental and physical oppression, and realizing with that brief glimpse that this bleak place was no place to live. The opportunities that were created through the removal of that wall are of course still flowing today. I am not someone who collects souvenirs, but the fragment I brought back of the wall is one I will keep. I think that much of life and investing, for that matter, is like that wall. Sometimes there is this mental wall that keeps people from taking advantage of certain opportunities because the norm is so easy to go along with. When investors look beyond the typical fixed income investments and invest in the leases their portfolio's can benefit a great deal. Pardon the massive stretch from the fall of Berlin wall to investing in our leases.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THINGS WHEN THINGS DO NOT GO YOUR WAY?
I usually will think of people, in the past or present, who have dealt with much more severe situations than I have. It is that mental search for a reality check that always puts things in focus and creates the mental momentum I need to address the issues at hand and move forward. As you know there are examples of this almost everywhere you look in the world.
Also, I try, as difficult as it sometimes, to see the situation from the other party's perspective, even though sometimes I may not agree at all where they are coming from. Doing this enables me to get better idea of why something took place and how a positive outcome might be achieved. I have found this to be very effective, because everybody has a different perspective based on his or her own experiences. These different perspectives certainly make dealing with people interesting, and in most instances, enjoyable. So much of it has to do with treating people in a mutually respectful manner. There really is no substitute for treating people in a respectful manner. This is how I was raised.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE KEY THINGS THAT PEOPLE IN BUSINESS AND ENTREPENUERS NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL?
I think that this quote from Richard Branson the CEO the Virgin Airlines says it all. “Be polite and respectful. Do the right thing. Keep your good name. Be fair in all of your dealings.” In my own words, I certainly do not have all the answers but there are a few things that I believe in a great deal. You should never stop learning for one. For all that I have learned about this industry there is always more to know. I remember seeing Bill Gates on television while he was at an exposition for his company’s products. The sound on the television was off but you could feel by watching him that he was observing how a teenager was navigating through his company’s software in order to learn something. Here is Bill Gates a person who has helped shape an industry totally plugged into one of his customers in order to learn something about one of the most successful products of all time.
Also, I believe that you really need to care about people and have pride in what you are creating. Being honest, upfront, and using good judgment is an absolute must. Aside from it being the only way I want to conduct business, it really makes things more fluid, and certainly reduces mistakes and regrets. One of the things I treasure the most is a note sent to me by someone who I dealt with for about fifteen years while they were leaving a company they worked for. Among other things, their note stated that they always thought I was honest. I keep this note in my desk, not as a reminder, but a personal reward. Also, you need to be sincere when working with people. Most people can spot a lack of sincerity a mile away. I think it falls in the same category as being honest and up front with people. Following your gut is also very important. There is something incredibly reliable about gut instincts. You want to hire good people, as opposed to hiring people and then training them to be good. It is an obvious statement, but they are two distinctly different concepts. Of course you need to control your rate of growth and make sure your company's overhead is in check.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Trust and loyalty are extremely important. Being honest, open, and straightforward with people is right there with the first two. Working with people this way enables things to be done more productively and ideas to flow more freely. Also, dealing with people from a position of mutual respect is incredibly important. When this concept is in place there are not too many things that cannot be discussed or accomplished, whether it is in the business world or outside of it. When people are working in a mutually respectful manner, there is an inherent forward momentum that exists from the beginning, and goods things can usually come from that type of environment.
Giving back to those who are less fortunate is and will always be a big motivator for myself and Dominique PLC . This general concept was in the back of my mind long before Dominique PLC was established. I remember talking to an advisor, while in college, about my general aspirations after school. One of them was to give back, at the end of my life, much of what I had earned to those were less fortunate, especially in the area of people with physical and mental special needs. Fortunately, along the way I discovered that giving back during life's journey is probably more important. All things being relative the fact that I had this general goal while I was approximately $10,000 in debt with student loans and was sleeping on the floor, due to the cost of room and board. It seems a little bold as I think about it now. I think that is probably why it is such a strong motivator. It was a goal I had while I was on the ground floor in the workplace and at night sleeping on the floor.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR Dominique PLC ?
We are going to focus on our core business, but continue to do it even better. Going forward, the next phase of our growth will be expanding further the range of things we do. Although our clients have been benefiting since the early 1990s our clients have benefited from investing our offerings where energy management equipment is involved. We will definitely be expanding our clients' involvement in the energy savings area, which makes good long-term sense. With interest rates still quite low investors have found it difficult to consistently generate good returns with their fixed income funds. Some individual investors are allowing their portfolios to become too concentrated with risky investments in an attempt to achieve their goals. In the institutional area some of the feedback we are getting is that a number of community banks are over exposed in areas such as real estate lending. Our program can provide our clients with generous returns, while not exposing them to the risks that accompany certain other types of loans and investments. There is no substitute for diversification, history has proven it. The bottom line is that our Municipal, Federal and Commercial Leases are supported by sound investment mechanics, as opposed to mathematical models that work only in a near perfect investment environment. Investing in common sense areas, like our lease offerings, will not go out of style, no matter how many investments trends come and go. Dominique PLC program has and will continue to prove that well into the future for our institutional and individual clients.
BRIEFLY, SO FAR WHAT ARE A FEW OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE LIFE EXPERIENCES?
Anyone that knows me realizes that it is difficult for me to be brief but I will try. Certainly starting and running Dominique PLC is at the top of the list. Of course, standing at the Berlin wall in early 1990 is right up there. Watching Mohammad Ali light the Olympic flame to open the games in Barcelona was incredibly moving. I remember almost jumping through the ceiling when the United States men's hockey team won in 1980. As a newspaper boy I remember the weight of a bag full of Chicago Sunday edition newspapers on cold winter mornings. Each load must have weighed half as much as I did. To this day, every time I hear the opening chord to the Beatles song "Hard Days Night," you can not help but feel great hearing that song. They were four magical people put on this earth for a very special reason. Falling asleep in front of the TV one minute before Neal Armstrong stepped on the Moon is a keeper. Walking through the Sistine Chapel and being completely humbled by Michelangelo's work was a visually overwhelming experience. All I could remember thinking was that we are all capable of greatness in some way. Starting the Eat Less Feed More promise is something I am very proud and excited about. I really believe that it will make a positive contribution to the fight against hunger in Africa. I look forward to many more memorable experiences all of which come as a result of the special people that I am lucky enough to have contact with in my life.
"Energy Savings projects are the future to cutting costs in the age of soaring energy prices. By implementing energy savings lighting units, energy consummation is greatly reduced. Oil and natural gas pricing remains persistently high; therefore, energy savings lighting projects are proven to be a sound investment in order to cut down on energy costs facing large plants today. According to an article by Bloomberg on April 27, 2004, Greenspan commented that, "elevated long term prices, if sustained, could alter the magnitude of and manner in which United States consumes energy."