Raleigh Roundtable 4 - Diamond Financial Services

Good afternoon!

Welcome to the Raleigh Roundtable, a weekly email about my interviews with business owners throughout the Triangle. My mission is to learn from and showcase the small business owners who play a critical role in supporting our economy.

I have a special project in the works that I'm excited to share with you. I'm going to skip next week's Roundtable to focus on developing it.

On to this week's conversation with Steve!

Steve Mariani, Owner of Diamond Financial Services

Steve is an experienced owner of seven businesses, including delis, a refrigeration company, and even an auto repair shop. If you're fortunate enough to know Steve, he'll tell you about how he hasn't worked for anyone other than himself since his first job as a small engine repair mechanic in his early teens.

Once he got out of the high-end auto repair business, Steve had some money stacked away and was trying to think of how he could help small businesses, since that was his passion. He started training with a loan brokerage company, and while learning about the industry, everybody told him that specializing in SBA loans was a bad idea - "there's too much paperwork," "there's no profit in it," etc.

Steve knew there had to be a way to turn it into a profit center and help people all at the same time. He discovered that 84% of SBA loans were declined because of how they were presented, not necessarily because the deal was bad.

Once he learned of that statistic, he committed to making a niche for himself and founded Diamond Financial Services, one of the nation's leading sources for business acquisition loans from $400,000 to $5,000,000.

Steve Mariani

Me: What drove you to start Diamond Financial Services?

Steve: I love being around small business and helping others. I have a drawer full of thank you letters from folks we've helped. It's a really special feeling - if it wasn't for our help, our clients wouldn't own their own businesses. That's what does it for me. And that's what I preach here at our firm. We tell every one of our clients, "we are not fee-driven." We want to do what's best for them because that's what brings us here every morning.

Me: Are there any changes you've made that have dramatically improved your business?

Steve: It's very difficult to make the transition from working IN your business to working ON your business, but it's worth it. I'm two years into working ON the business and it's made a positive difference for us. For us, this relates heavily to hiring and training the staff well.  

Me: How do you balance work/family life?

Steve: When I started this business I promised myself two things: I'm never going to work the weekends, and I'm never going to work late. My family is too important to me. We close at 4PM and I don't work on Saturday or Sunday, no matter how challenging that can be.

My Takeaways

Here's an important lesson from Steve: choose a niche and double down. We've heard this from Abdel (Undead Electronics) as well. Steve could be selling all kinds of different loan products, but he chose a specific corridor with SBA loans and has achieved great success because of it - despite all the naysayers telling him it was a bad idea.

Something Steve continued to emphasize was his desire to help others. That's a big driver for him, especially at this stage in his life. He's also involved with charities and community service organizations. I'm thinking about how to apply this to my life more.

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