Pursuing A Promising Future
by Wendy Craft
Quest Resources is a full-service equipment finance company that specializes in the needs of the professional salon owner. In January 2004, co-owners Brian Bjella, president, and Ken Noyes, CEO, combined their financial expertise and beauty industry knowledge to meet the demands of the indoor tanning industry. Quest now looks to the future with hopes of maintaining its success through being on the road and meeting clients face to face, while achieving increased financial independence to offer its clients even more competitive rates.
The company’s focus in 2004 has been giving existing employees the resources they need and improving the company. “It’s been a strong year,” Bjella says.
Bjella has more than a decade of experience in commercial leasing, and was the senior vice president and general manager of U.S. Bancorp Business Equipment Financing. “Over the years, I had underwritten about $70 million in beauty and tanning equipment through Quest Resources,” he says. “I had an entrepreneurial drive in me, and I always knew someday that I wanted to have my own company.”
The relationship between Bjella and his partner spans many years—yet it took just two months from serious discussion about purchasing Quest to ownership.
On The Road
Telephone, fax and e-mail provide healthy media for Quest to do business. However, hearing someone’s financial needs in person is what makes the process flow for Bjella. “When it comes to lending money, I still feel the personal relationship and the trust that you build needs to be there,” he says.
Of course, it is not feasible to meet every client, but trade shows provide that one-onone opportunity. “We get face to face with our customers,” Bjella says. “We go to the shows to support our vendors, distributors and manufacturers. You get to know the people you’re with pretty well.”
In 2004 alone, Quest Resources was represented at 26 tanning, beauty and spa trade shows.
The personal relationships the company forms with its clients at the shows takes priority over writing financing agreements. “We’re not there just to write deals,” he says. “If there are customers who need financing, we’re there to help them. For us, there’s no better feeling than to know that you helped somebody build their business.”
Quest Resources says it stands apart from other lending agencies because the company knows its markets. A majority of the companies Quest accommodates are existing businesses that are expanding salons or incorporating tanning or spa treatments. “There are some opportunities to make that a better and easier process for a salon owner,” he says.
Tanning salon owners who are cash-flow-sensitive can choose Quest’s step-up program, which requires little monies down and low payments up front, then gradual step-up payments over the course of the lease. The deferred-payments program has no payments for the first four months, which allows a business to gain momentum with equipment revenue. “Those are by are the most popular,” Bjella says.
Financial expertise is available at Quest in addition to consultative-type service, Bjella says. “We know the major manufacturers and distributors out there, and we can help them move in the right direction,” he says.
One of Quest Resources’ goals is to become more financially independent. “We want to sophisticate our capital funding structure by utilizing more of our own monies, instead of relying on banks,” Bjella says. “We control the entire process from A to Z. It allows us to have more competitive rates and pricing.”
Within six months, Quest plans to widen its employee roster in Marshall, Minn., by adding two salespeople and one operations person. Quest’s existing facility in Neptune, N.J., will continue as the Eastern operations center.
Quest Resources’ familiarity within the tanning, beauty and spa industries permits it to understand the collateral those businesses can provide, whereas other larger financial institutions may not and therefore choose to charge higher rates.
“The performance of our portfolio in these industries is very good, so we want to control it more and offer better pricing,” he says. “We feel so confident in the industry that we’ll put our own money on the line.”