When he’s not reviewing documents and meeting with clients, Mark Sarlson runs trails, cares for his land, enjoys listening to music and spends time with his sons.
He also enjoys spending time with his daughter, when she’s in town.
He began his career as a litigator and moved into handling business loans, representing both lenders and businesses in those transactions. Sarlson estimates he has closed about 1,800 small-business loans in his career and numerous middle market loans.
Born in Akron, he moved to University Heights when he was 6 years old. He attended The Temple-Tifereth Israel and graduated from Hawken School, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville with a bachelor’s degree in history, and The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law in Columbus with a law degree.
At Roetzel & Andress in Cleveland, he splits his practice between mid-market lending and U.S. Small Business Administration loans.
CJN: What do you find interesting in your work?
Sarlson: Negotiating loan documents is constantly interesting because you generally get comments that perhaps you haven’t received before, so there’s always a new argument about why some provision should or should not be kept in the document.
CJN: How has COVID-19 changed what you do?
Sarlson: I have one client, they’re probably the largest non-bank SBA lender in this area. And what they did within a short period of time, probably within 45 days, we made, documented, closed and funded approximately 300 PPP loans. So that was obviously a direct result of COVID, and in terms of our process, that was very challenging. They did not actually close their office during COVID.
CJN: How did technology play a role?
Sarlson: With those we were able to electronically sign documents because we simply couldn’t have processed 300 loans in a very short period of time if you had to meet with every single borrower.
CJN: What stayed the same?
Sarlson: We still had a significant demand for SBA loans generally. People are still in the position to purchase buildings. We didn’t want to put all of that on hold and have people’s projects on hold. So even in March I continued to meet with people, sometimes to be safe we literally signed documents on the hood of my car.
CJN: What’s satisfying about helping small business owners secure loans?
Sarlson: There’s something that’s satisfying to see what small businesses are able to accomplish with their loans. You know, it may be a business that only employs 10 people, but for those 10 people it’s their livelihood. And for the owner, it’s often a business they’re passing along to their children.
CJN: What’s your pet peeve?
Sarlson: A general pet peeve – and I suppose it’s even sadly more true today than perhaps it had been – an unwillingness to listen to a position contrary to yours. At a minimum, people should listen. They may not have to agree with it, but they should listen and try to reach some type of understanding.