Barry Sloane ’81 started his career as an assistant buyer for Abraham and Strauss Department Stores in their training program to prepare for a career in his family’s retail business in Brooklyn.
After working at Abraham and Strauss and then for his family, he repositioned his career goals and took a position in 1982 as vice president of sales at Paine Webber selling mortgage-back securities. Thirteen years and many investment banks later, Sloane was managing director at Smith Barney.
“Wall Street is the best training ground for business executives,” says Sloane. “It teaches survival of the fittest and how to get up after being knocked down. Those who cannot get up with quickness and frequency get flushed out of the system.”
Sloane then spent several years as president of the Sloane Organization, LLC, an investment banking, consulting and advisory firm. In early 1998, he co-founded Newtek Business Services, Inc. which offers small business loans, electronic payment processing services, customized business insurance, Web hosting services, outsourced digital bookkeeping and tax services catered to and focused on the small-to-medium business market in the U.S.
As chairman and CEO of Newtek, he sees great potential in the country’s small business client. “Businesses with less than $25 million in revenue and fewer than 500 employees represent 99 percent of all employers in the U.S. and 51 percent of our gross domestic product,” Sloane notes. “Our commitment to small-to-medium-sized businesses allows us to provide services to our customers that focus on their broad needs,” he says. “Building our business from the ground up has allowed us to cross-sell many of our products to clients.” He says that competitors have a difficult time doing this because cross-selling is not embedded in their culture. “Small businesses are the growth engine of our economy,” Sloane says. “Helping them grow and thrive is very satisfying.”
Sloane says that the company is quickly becoming the premier provider of business services for the market. “We have 45,000 clients using one or more of our products and services,” Sloane says, and he predicts that within the next five years, that number will grow to hundreds of thousands.
When asked about his success over the years, Sloane says that his business degree gave him a well-rounded foundation that has helped him make informed decisions. “But a bachelor’s degree doesn’t prepare one for swimming upstream,” he cautions. “Bucking conventional wisdom, developing visionary concepts and assessing risk cannot be taught. However, my business degree gave me the tools to navigate the ‘perfect storm,’ an apt description of today’s business world.”
Sloane’s upbringing has a lot to do with his business philosophy and success as well. His grandfather was a New Jersey farmer who was born in Romania, and his father and grandfather sold housewares off a pushcart on New York’s Lower East Side. “I grew up in an environment where you treated people fairly because that’s how you wanted to be treated, and where honesty, integrity and hard work are ultimately rewarded,” he says. “I am extremely proud of my heritage, education and morals, which I take to work with me everyday in the hope that our company can grow and be a positive influence on our employees, suppliers and clients.”
Written by Jacqueline Ghosen