Glenn Read Enterprises, LLC - Schenectady, NY
As a veteran and an entrepreneur, Glenn Read is not one to give up when facing a challenge. Whether he’s serving our country or running his full-service printing, mailing and marketing business, Glenn’s philosophy for dealing with adversity is simple, “always find a way to yes.”
After serving 23 years in the US Army, Army Reserve and New York Army National Guard, Glenn took a leap of faith and launched his business Glenn Read Enterprises in 2017. Like many entrepreneurs, Glenn’s path to success has not always been straightforward or easy. After a period of financial instability due to high-cost business debt, Glenn turned to Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF), who provided him with a $100,000 EGF SmartLoan through EGF’s Veteran Loan Program with Bank of America.
We spoke with Glenn to learn more about his business, his experience with EGF and the advice he has for his fellow veteran business owners.
You served in the military for many years. What inspired you to make the switch and open your own business?
I served on and off in the US Army, Army Reserve and New York Army National Guard from 1983 to 2017. In 2017, I medically retired from the military due to injuries caused by my service. Part of the reason I decided to start my own business was that I was interested in being able to do something that was as exciting as my time in the military. When you serve, every day is different, and every project is about working as a team. I think that I was looking for something that would also allow me to build a team and work with them toward a common goal.
What skills did you develop in the military that helped prepare you for entrepreneurship?
The biggest thing that I have learned while serving is that you must be in it for the long haul. Though you don’t always know what will happen day-to-day, when you serve in the military, the long-term goal is always clear. It may take a month to achieve that goal, it may take a year or even two years. But veterans are taught to look toward a bigger picture and by doing so, we develop determination, persistence and the ability to overcome obstacles and setbacks. I think this mentality of thinking toward a long-term vision is really important when you own a business because no new business is a success overnight - you have to work toward your goals.
I’d also say that teamwork is a huge asset for veteran entrepreneurs. In the military, we serve as a unit. That’s what we’re trained to do. I have brought this skill to my business, not only with my employees but also with my competitors, many of whom I view as partners and mentors.
What were some of the challenges you encountered when starting and running your business?
My business is part of the Allegra Marketing Print Mail franchise. The business had been around for 30 years and when I purchased the business in the spring of 2017, it was not in a great place financially. Throughout my first year, I struggled but worked hard to become profitable. Fortunately, because I am part of a franchise, I did have some support. But the financial piece was the most challenging. That’s when I ran into the problem that many of my fellow business owners run into, which was that I needed money, but I didn’t qualify for banks loans. Unfortunately, the only loans that I could get were high-interest, short-term loans, which had an extremely negative effect on my cash flow.
How did EGF help you overcome these challenges?
I found EGF and applied in December (2018). I was initially turned down because of my first-year losses, but I was encouraged to reapply when I could show a profit (or at least break even) on my taxes. I quickly filed my 2018 taxes and reapplied and was approved for a loan that allowed me to refinance all that high-cost debt into a great fixed, low rate loan through EGF. Instead of spending over $9,000 per month paying off the other loans, I am now paying just $1,600 per month - a savings of $7,500 per month! As a result of my EGF loan, I was able to retain seven jobs, my cash flow has stabilized, and I am seeing a decent profit. EGF hasn’t just helped my business…it saved it!
How was your overall experience working with EGF?
I did have some trouble getting approved, due to a couple of personal credit issues. But instead of rejecting me outright, David Hanold (EGF Chief Lending Officer) asked me about the issues and decided to give me a chance. He made me feel like I was more than just a credit score number. I can’t tell you how that made me feel.
In addition, because of the veteran loan program, I was given an interest rate of 5.75% and up to 6 years to pay it back. This was huge for my business. If you own a business, I would encourage you to reach out to EGF. And if you are a veteran, who owns a business, reach out right away. When I was in Iraq, I always knew who had my back - my team of fellow soldiers. Now I know, when it comes to the needs of my business, I know who has my back, EGF.
Do you have any upcoming goals for your business?
Right now, I am actually pursuing a pretty substantial loan through NYBDC (EGF affiliate) to purchase another business and hopefully the property as well. This business’s specialty is mailing and our specialty is printing, so they complement each other very nicely. This process has been more comprehensive than the last loan (EGF loan), but ultimately it’s helping me learn a lot about the importance of having current financial statements and how to prepare projections.
What advice do you have for your fellow entrepreneurs and veteran business owners looking to start or grow a business?
First, I would say that they need to talk to you. I think that if I had spoken with EGF a year ago, I would have had a lot less stressful of a year. I have been encouraging all the veteran entrepreneurs I know to check out your website because you offer so many incredible educational resources. I tell them, that “even if you don’t get a loan with them, there are all kinds of resources that they offer to help you get ready for a loan.”
One thing that I always tell people is that “in business and life, you’ll hear a lot of no’s. But it’s important to always find a way to yes.” You have to keep trying until you find a solution. As a business owner and entrepreneur, you constantly encounter people and institutions who doubt you or turn you down because you don’t meet their qualifications. This is part of running a business and a challenge that almost every entrepreneur will face. The important thing is to be persistent and proactive and find a solution or another option that works for you.
EGF is proud to work with veteran business owners like Glenn, who serve our country and strengthen our communities. We look forward to seeing continuous growth and success for Glenn and his business.