Ironically as I conclude this strange year-end, it brings very much to mind December, 1971, thirty years ago.

  It was late December, 1971, I rented an office at 2175 De La Cruz, Santa Clara, California and American Leasing was off and running.  For the prior three months I worked out of my 1961 Porsche Super 90, parking the old car away from potential customers as I was embarrassed driving it, using an answering service. Thirty years later  American Leasing is located right behind the original location at 348 Mathew Street with professional full staff and state of the art equipment.  Right in the heart of Silicon Valley,

near the airport, off three major highways, not far from the first original Mission Santa Clara  de Asis founded on January 12, 1777 by Father Junipero Serra  The second

site after the first was washed out by the river, as was the second, is closer.  I often

walk there and have a sandwich.  Rarely is it visited, so it is quiet except for the highway

and airplanes right next door.


I remember the decision very well to locate here.  I was out of work, looking full

time for a management position in a down market; doing free lance writing, radio-television vacation relief, all types of short assignments, any work, as I had borrowed as much as I could from my parents; credit cards were at the limit. I thought car leasing would be how I could earn my living.  I wanted to try this out of the area where I was living.  If I failed, I could always go back to managing a chamber of commerce, my last job,  and still had friends in the news business. My late wife was not in favor of this as our goal since having children was to buy our own house. Newsmen did not make much money, plus it was musical chairs in the radio and television business.  It was the most important thing to her, to own a house, and I remember saying, salesmen make the most money and it is either this or real estate or life insurance.  I thought this was the quickest way.


I went to Courtesy Chevrolet in San Jose, California, started with the general manager, who sent me to the sales manager, who sent me to the lease manager, who I told I would work for free if they taught me how to sell leasing.


After a half day of training, with new and used car salesmen, including the leasing crew ( mostly general  sales talk,) I was told no “ups,” as I would have to go out and cold call for car lease sales. I mapped out the area, picking out industrial parks first.


They were surprised when I brought in my first lease in three days, a small metal forge company who wanted to get a new truck. It became more and more obvious the more

business owners I met, they  were more interested in getting financing for equipment rather than vehicles.   I also did not know much about models of cars, but I could read a financial statement. I knew about budgeting, cash flow, and was not afraid to talk with an owner, president or chief financial officer.  I went to the library and at night read everything I could about equipment leasing, financing.  Knowledge was what I was promoting.  Money was easy to sell.  I never got kicked out of any office that I cold

called.  Everyone was glad to see me, and I left them a card, making a follow-up



One day it was so hot, perhaps over a 100, and I had my jacket off, but my tie

on, and I called on this machine shop.  The owner asked me what I was doing

working in this heat.  I said the same thing he was doing, trying to make a living.

He told me he was doing a finance with Westinghouse, but would give me a shot

because I had called on him in this hot weather.


Since I was “commission only,” I   quit Courtesy Chevrolet, got an answering

service and printed up some of my own business cards. The dealer of equipment

said he only had a finance plan, and he would refer the leasing to me, as

his plan required 25% down, and leasing was only one month.


 I was finding business, taking it to Jim at  Studebaker-Worthington in Novato, Duane Russell at WWW Leasing in San Francisco, Art at Tiger Leasing in Palo Alto , Jack Mancellini at TRE Financial,San Mateo, Herb Saltzman at SHW Capital, later Jay Coles at Foothill Capital, San Francisco, Rick Wilbur at Budget Financial, and others.  It was all new to me and I wasn’t really very comfortable presenting myself as an “independent,” , looking not only for business, but a place to take the business.


Some friends in San Bruno had just formed a leasing company, Triple C Leasing, and I asked if I found some equipment leases, could I bring them to the new company, to be located in San Rafael, California.  They introduced me to Harold “Mac” MacAfee. He

said I could use the name and printed up some business cards with the San Rafael

number and my own in Santa Clara.  So I would cold call, find a customer, get their application and financial statements and drive it from Santa Clara to San Rafael. Later they would let me take it directly to their bank in San Mateo to save the trip.  The bank manager approved all the leases.  He and I became friends.  I found out what he liked and didn’t like.


We didn’t have much money that December.  Friends had given us a Christmas tree.  The kids were babies so Christmas presents were clothing, basically, and from a $500 advance on a signed lease  from Mac and a sublease check, I had enough to make the first and last on the 2175 De La Cruz address.  It was a two room office. An attorney friend sub-rented one room, then he left to run for city council in Sausalito, then I subleased it to the Haven machinery salesman.   I brought some furniture from home (I still use the same desk), had a telephone installed, keeping the same telephone number and the answering service.  In the 1980’s they changed the prefix from 241 to 727 and basically still have the same telephone number since 1971: 727-3844 ( the last two numbers

are calibers of my Colt pistols ).


 I spent most of the day cold calling, and it took me a year to walk from San Carlos to all the industrial parks and business areas in San Jose. I had a routine.  I kept a diary of

how I was spending my time, organized follow-up, and even worked on Saturdays in

Santa Clara.


I would leave the Porsche at the railroad station, and commute to San Bruno, leaving at 7am in the morning and going home on the 7:10pm, or 7:50pm, if I missed the first one.  I saved money this way, plus worked on the train both ways.  Saturdays I wrote letters, worked on marketing, and prepared my “repeat telephone calls.”  We moved to an apartment a year and a half later in Santa Clara.  In 1973, we bought our first home in Los Gatos for $38,000.


I can’t remember how long it took before I was able to hire a part-time secretary, Linda Bourgeois, who stayed with me until she and her husband moved up to the Gold Country.  I think she was with me for seven or so years. My sources of funds expanded, primarily after my friends who had started the leasing company began to have many personal disagreements. The company was going to go public and I was left out of it.


As business expanded, I rented an adjacent office. Then bought out a neighbor

with cash and paying three months on a new place that he eventually was

going to move to.  Gradually, we had all the offices on the second floor.   It soon became apparent I needed to also have my own funds, so a banker friend, Gene Van Lanaan (who later was to be a president of a bank and I sat in as a director, plus on the executive, loan, and long range asset committee) introduced me to Walter Muir, owner of Medallion

Mortgage, who later started Dividend Development.   I kept American Leasing, but started Medallion Leasing, utilizing his personal guarantee to the banks.  I was to become a partner in six other leasing companies as I built up the ability to have more “control” of credit decisions.


Things have changed in the operation from having Federal Express, dry copiers with high speed, faxing, pagers, car telephones, personal telephones, personal computers, the internet, cell telephones, and very high obsolescence of equipment.  Credit decisions have not.  Better times did bring quicker decisions through “application only”, but it still is a financial statement, management, people decision process and a lot more complicated than that.  It is a relationship business, if you want to stay in business.


As I look back thirty years, there certainly are things I wish I had been smarter, made better decisions, chose other roads in my life, and spent more time with my mother, father, my Aunt Dorothy, and friends who are no longer alive.  I miss them a great deal. People like Frank Sanchez, the landlord at 2175 De La Cruz, who became a close personal friend.  He died of lung cancer, as did my first wife. I remember when my first video camera lights burnt out and I was ready to take video of the kids discovering and opening their presents.  Frank met me at his office late Christmas eve night to get me a high intensity light bulb from his inventory at Applied Microfilm, the company he owned.


As you get older, you appreciate more the people you no longer can see. Birthdays become more important.  I am up in Mendocino to celebrate mine with Sue

and some close friends who live here.  Here’s to a better year!!!


Happy New Year.



  Kit Menkin

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