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Shane O'Grady: Well Versed

Shane O'Grady © 2019 Melissa Mulera and Tina Celle, STUDIO No 5, studionumber5.com

Shane O’Grady is vice president, client development, with Celtic Capital Corporation, which specializes in asset-based financing from $500,000 to $5 million for manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and service providers throughout the United States. He is a member of the TMA Arizona Chapter’s board of directors.

Q: What might people who only know you in your professional capacity be most surprised to learn about you?

O'GRADY: I played golf in college, and then I played professionally for a few years post-college. And I sing in a country band. I pursued both golf and then music after college. The joke was that I had two failed careers before I was 30.

Q: Where did you play golf in college?

O'GRADY: I played at the University of Wyoming, but I froze to death up there. I ended up at Arizona State University but didn’t actually play on their team.

Q: When you turned professional, did you play the mini tours?

O'GRADY: Yes. I never played on the big show. My dad was my sponsor, and after a couple of years he said, “You know, this isn’t working out so well for me.” I said, “I was noticing that. It’s not working out very well for me either.”

Q: So, he wasn’t getting enough bang for his marketing buck?

O'GRADY: His rate of return was abysmal. We kept having capital calls every month.

Q: After you decided that maybe golf wasn’t meant to be, you went to Nashville?

O'GRADY: I did. It’s a humbling, humbling town.

Q: How so?

O'GRADY: I lived in Green Hills, which is where the Bluebird Café is. Bluebird Café is famous for finding up-and-coming artists, or at least it used to be before the internet and YouTube. They usually have four singer-songwriters who are in what they call a round, and they take turns performing. It’s a very small venue. They’ll tell a little story about “this is what I was thinking about when I wrote this song,” and then they’ll perform the song.

My first time at the Bluebird Café, which I think was my second day in town, I sat down near a keyboard. I was sitting so close that I could have played the right side of the keyboard, it’s such a small venue. In walked the four singer-songwriters, and who’s playing that keyboard but Michael McDonald. Then, just a week or so later, I did get to see Keith Urban play there. He was just at the start of his career and was pretty much unknown at that point.

That was so humbling that I wanted to just pack my stuff and go home because although I sang, I didn’t play anything. These people not only played but sang and wrote. So yes, it’s a rather humbling town.

I love everything about that town, although it’s grown tremendously since I was there. About my third month there, I did get an opportunity to sing in front of a rather big producer in town. I had a demo CD with four songs. I went into his office and he had all this equipment. I thought we were just going to listen to a few songs. Instead, he put in my CD and then plugged in a microphone and handed it to me.

I’m singing, and it’s super-loud—I knew the whole building could hear me—standing in front of an executive desk as he’s just sitting there. He let me sing three of the four songs on my demo. Then I sat back down, and he said, “Has anyone ever told you that you sound like Garth Brooks?” I said, “Yes, I’ve heard that quite a bit before.” He said, “Has anyone ever told you before that we already have Garth Brooks?”

Nobody had ever quite put it to me that we already have Garth Brooks. The end of that story is that he ended up becoming very helpful, and my time there was awesome, but there were way more people who deserved to be ahead of me in that line.

Q: How long were you in Nashville?

O'GRADY: I was only there a little over a year, maybe 15 months. I’m divorced now, but I did meet my wife there—she’s great, and we’re still great friends. She was a singer as well. She wasn’t actually pursuing a singing career—she didn’t live in Nashville. She was there for a wedding, but happened to know that there was a singing competition in downtown Nashville. It was a Sunday evening, and she beat me. I had to have her! She lived in New York at the time. We dated long-distance and then she moved to Nashville, and shortly after that, we moved back to Arizona.

I was in the mortgage business starting in 1995. When I was playing golf, I was also doing loans. I didn’t have to be in the office, so I could take an application and go on to the next tournament. A buddy of mine started a little company out of the bedroom of their apartment in 1998. It was just me and him doing loans, and his wife was processing for us. I took a hiatus in 1999-2000 to go to Nashville.

When I got to Nashville, I was selling clothes for a company called Tom James—custom suits and shirts and that sort of thing. I called mainly on attorneys. I would call and get their receptionist, and she would say, “What is this in regards to?” and I’d say, “It’s in regards to a suit,” and they’d always put me through.

But when the attorneys found out that I’d just got done with my failed golf career, they all wanted lessons. So, I ended up teaching golf on the side. Eventually I had so many clients that I was making way more money teaching golf than I was selling suits. So, probably within six months of being in Nashville, I was teaching golf full-time.

I started out with attorneys and then ended up with everybody else. I always laughed because whenever I would ask a student what they did for a living, it was always they were a dentist/singer-songwriter. They were a cardiologist/singer-songwriter. Everybody in town was a slash singer-songwriter. I was lucky enough that I actually did teach some who were just singer-songwriters; they were fortunate enough to do it for a living.

But it gets pretty cold in Nashville. When that next winter came around, I didn’t have nearly as many golf lessons. My girlfriend, then soon to become my wife, Michelle said we could go to Arizona, and I could just keep teaching golf and do great. She was a personal trainer, so she could work anywhere, and we came back to AZ.

When I got back to Arizona, I went to lunch on December 17, 2002, with that buddy of mine—we’d started that little mortgage company together. He said, “I’ve grown this thing a little bit since you’ve been gone.” I said, “You hired some more people in the office?” He said, “Yes, I’ve got 50.” I thought, “Oh, wow.” He said, “But I hate it. I can’t stand it at all. I hate dealing with people. If you want to run with this, I’ll let you run with it. I’ll be in the background. I’ll be the idea guy, but I’m not managing these people. I can’t handle it.”

So, we were ignorance on fire. By 2003, we had 35 locations and 600 employees and didn’t really know what we were doing. Fortunately for us, we got an advisory board that then became our board of directors, and they bought the company in April 2006, which was, of course, unfortunate timing for them. I was quite the minority stakeholder, so it wasn’t a ride-off-into-the-sunset situation. Unfortunately, we know what happened shortly thereafter with the real estate and mortgage crisis, and they didn’t survive. It was quite the ride, though.

Shane O'Grady © 2019 STUDIO No 5, studionumber5.com

Q: You do seem to have the luck of the Irish with you. You thought your golf career was a failure, but it gave you the credibility to teach golf lessons and keep you going in Nashville. You took a break from the mortgage business, and your friend built it up and was ready for you to run it. And you got out just in time.

O'GRADY: My friends have always joked about that luck of the Irish thing, even every weekend when we play golf. When I hit one that’s kind of squirrely and might look like it’s going out of bounds, they’ll say, “It’s not out of bounds. It’s Shane.” I just tell them, “Look, I’m sorry. I’m one of God’s favorite children. I don’t know what to say.” I’m very blessed. Even as I sit here looking out on the view from my house, there’s a lot that didn’t have anything to do with me because I’m not that smart. But a lot of things have fallen in place for me, that’s for sure.

Q: That’s the trick—to be available and active, and things may happen. So how did you then gravitate into asset-based lending as opposed to other types of lending?

O'GRADY: After the mortgage deal, I luckily fell into a job as a senior advisor for an investment bank out of Chicago. They wanted guys in that role who would fly around to two or three cities a week in North America and meet with small and midcap companies that were looking to do some kind of M&A or maybe private-equity-type transaction. As an advisor, they wanted someone who had run a company. That you could sit there and share war stories was kind of a big deal. You had sat in that seat.

Fortunately, I had come off this mortgage expedition that we were lucky to be on, so I was a senior advisor with Houlihan Smith. You’re probably familiar with Houlihan Lokey. It’s the same Richard Houlihan, but he started a company called Houlihan Smith to deal with the smaller opportunities, small and midcaps. It later became Madison Street Capital.

So, I spent the next few years entirely, 100 percent, on the road talking to business owners. It was the most fascinating position I’ve ever had, bar none. In fact, the investment bank calls me from time to time asking if I’m interested in coming back. But the travel was horrible. It’s tough on a marriage—I’m divorced. I got tired of missing firsts with my daughter, whether it be dances, performances, etc.

So, in 2011 I started a company called Private Capital Alliance to help early stage companies that were trying to find capital. I was lucky enough to have some research analysts from the investment bank who wanted some warm weather and came out to start it with me. We worked with a lot of great companies. We were consulting with them. We weren’t intermediating the deals, because the deals are too small to make much intermediating them. I should have figured that out in my business plan, because one problem with helping early stage companies is, they don’t have money and you can’t intermediate the deal, so how you get paid is very challenging.

But during that endeavor, we started coming across a lot of asset-based lending and factoring opportunities with somewhat distressed companies, and we were brokering those. Eventually, I had some long conversations with one of the companies we were brokering them to, and they said, “How do we get you to just do this for us?” That was in 2013, and I started working directly for an asset-based lender. As bankers do, we like to change our business cards every now and then, right?

But luckily, by the luck of the Irish, Shane O’Grady wound up with Celtic Capital. It’s a match made in heaven for sure. I’m with an incredible company now. There’s no secret sauce other than the fact that we don’t have underwriting and we don’t have loan committees. We have a closely held company with guys who make decisions very quickly about whether or not we’re doing something. It’s a pleasure to be where I am.

Q: What have been some of the most gratifying or favorite situations that you’ve gotten involved with?

O'GRADY: Nobody comes to an asset-based lender with extreme joy. Maybe if they’re getting out of a factoring relationship and they’re saving some money and it’s going to be easier to manage the credit facility, that can be a bonus. But it’s not as if they won the lottery. Most times, it’s the bank that’s asking them to leave. While they were failing to some degree in the eyes of the bank and the bank wanted them out, now we’re going to increase their cost of funds. So, this doesn’t exactly get easier for them. These companies end up having to make some substantial changes, so they don’t exactly come to us with open arms.

But what I’ve found, especially if they get the right people in place—a lot of times wonderful fractional CEOs or consultants or advisors are assisting these companies in the transition of a turnaround—is that they become great stories because we’re not a hail Mary. That doesn’t usually work out so well. But for a company that has the right story and has the right people in the right seats moving forward, we’re a heckuva lot better than going out of business, and with the right people and the right team, they do actually turn around.

So, at Celtic, I couldn’t pick just one—there are a lot of success stories. Our average client stays with us under two years—I think it’s 21 or 22 months from the time they come to us until they go back to the bank. For us, those are all great success stories/turnarounds.

Q: What role has your TMA membership played in your career?

O'GRADY: A huge role because it has afforded me the luxury and the opportunity to rub elbows with all of the movers and shakers in the multiple markets in which I work, whether it be attorneys, consultants, bankers, CFOs, etc., because we all deal with the same client base. To be able to rub elbows and make relationships with those referral sources is so valuable. I’ve had the opportunity to be really involved with TMA, not only on committees but for the last 1½ years or so also as a board member, to even further those relationships and work with clients together. Although I go to other industry organization events, the TMA is the one where my home is.

Q: If you could start your career over again, would you do anything differently?

O'GRADY: Yes. I would have worked harder on my putting. And maybe my driver—my driver tended to miss left a lot. Seriously, though, I can’t imagine that I’d ever get this lucky again, so I don’t think I’d change a thing.

I think you’ve had a career that a lot of people might envy. Everything didn’t work out, but you tried it. You didn’t crash and burn. You went on to other things.

As I’ve heard other people say, it’s easy to risk everything when you have nothing.

Q: So, do it while you’re young?

O'GRADY: Exactly. I just never wanted to look back and say, “What if?” As this comes full circle, when I went through my divorce, I thought about how I would never be in a band when I was married because it would take too much time away. But all of a sudden, when you’re a single dad but you only have your daughter half the time, there’s a lot of time to do things in the evening. There are only so many Match.com dates you can go on, so why not get in a band? That’s been fun because I’ve been able to be in a band with all professional musicians, and I’m the twilighter.

Shane O'Grady © 2019 STUDIO No 5, studionumber5.comQ: How long has the band been together?

O'GRADY: For three years.

Q: What kind of venues do you play?

O'GRADY: Primarily, we play RV parks. They actually pay more. I’m 46, so doing the bar gigs, although we’ve done them, kind of sucks. You don’t start until 9 p.m., which is my bed time. Normally it’s Friday and Saturday nights. The bars here close at 2 a.m., so you get home at 3 a.m. the first night, and then you don’t get home until 4 a.m. the next night. Those are not for me. Lately we’ve mainly only done RV parks, which is nice because you start at 3 in the afternoon and you’re done by 6 p.m. That’s my kind of gig, because then I can still make my early morning tee time the next day.

Q: And the clientele is easier to deal with?

O'GRADY: That is correct.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

O'GRADY:I just feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world, and I have an amazing woman in my life right now as well. We plan to get married in the fall. I’m thrilled that God has blessed me in lots of ways, and I couldn’t have done any of this without him.

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