The 2024 Small Business Lending Forum is thrilled to welcome thought provoker, award-winning author, and podcast host John Garrett as its keynote speaker.

John Garrett—thought provoker, award-winning author, and podcast host—is on a mission to create better workplaces. What the two-time Emmy nominee may do best is champion the human side of professionals, consulting with organizations to develop more productive cultures while shining a light on their people’s rich lives outside of work. Delivering inspiring keynotes about his research and recording over 500 podcast episodes of What’s Your “And”? landed him on Accounting Today’s list of the top 100 most influential people in the profession.

John received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, where he earned a letterman jacket as a trombone player in the marching band. He went on to pass the CPA exam and received his certified public accountant certificate while working at PwC and performing stand-up comedy as a hobby.

Since then, he’s been on stage over 2,000 times and tracks from his debut album, Outside the Box, can be heard on several channels on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Pandora. He’s also been on The Bob & Tom Show, featured in the New York Times, opened for Louie Anderson at resort casinos, opened for the band Train, and has been invited to perform at several comedy festivals.

John currently lives in Colorado and enjoys watching college football and eating cookie dough ice cream—especially at the same time.

For more information about John and the services he offers, visit

2024 Forum

What's Your "And"?

In this thought-provoking keynote, people-centric culture expert John Garrett explores the intersection of work and personal identity. Drawing inspiration from his own experiences and years of research, John delves into the ways organizations can prioritize employee well-being, foster open communication, and tap into the hidden talents and diverse interests of their workforce. With humor, anecdotes, and insights, John challenges traditional notions of professionalism, encouraging attendees to embrace their "And" – the outside-of-work passions and hobbies that make them human – and to create a work environment where everyone can thrive. This dynamic and engaging keynote invites leaders to consider the power of human connection and personal authenticity in the workplace, ultimately advocating for a more inclusive and fulfilling professional culture.

The three key takeaways are:
1. Helping leaders learn how to prioritize the well-being of their employees and promote a healthier work-life balance.
2. Discovering ways to foster a positive work environment and encourage employee engagement by valuing the worker as much as you value the work.
3. Encouraging everyone to pursue their personal interests and hobbies because it contributes to professional growth and success, as they bring unique perspectives and skills to the workplace.


The Small Business Lending Forum is an invite-only event. If you received an invitation from Orion First, please click the link to register at Eventbrite. If you haven’t received an invitation and would like to attend please contact us.

Monday, March 18

Optional Charity Golf Tournament

› 9:00am | Whirlwind Golf Club

This year’s tournament is hosted on site at the beautiful Devil’s Claw course, designed by Gary Panks. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Gila River landscape, you'll navigate through cottonwood, mesquite, saguaro, and palo verde trees, alongside native grasses and rolling terrain. Enjoy a day of friendly competition among colleagues and friends.

Optional Horseback Ride & Wrangler Lunch

› 9:30am | KOLI Equestrian Center

Join us on a horseback journey through the scenic Gila River Indian Reservation. Immerse yourself in the stunning open landscapes and mountain views along the way, experiencing the serene desert. All skill levels are invited to join. After the ride, lunch is provided buffet-style with hamburgers and chipotle chicken sandwiches. To top it off, enjoy a game of chip-in golf and/or hatchets and roping, giving you a chance to relax and network with colleagues and friends.

Opening Reception

› 6:00pm | Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

Join us for a cocktail hour from 6pm - 7pm followed by dinner from 7pm -10pm.

Tuesday, March 19

Breakfast Buffet

› 7:30am - 8:30am | Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

Small Business Lending Forum

› 8:30am | Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
Our forum this year includes notable presentations and multiple breakout sessions focused on current issues facing our industry.

Evening Event

› 6:00pm | Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

Schedule of Events

Schedule of Events

Forum Agenda

8:30am - 10:00am

Opening Remarks

Dave Schaefer, CEO, Orion First

Keynote: What's Your "And"?

Presented by John Garrett

10:30am - 11:30am

Orion Portals: Guiding Clients and Customers to the Information at Their Fingertips in 2024

Orion has rolled out online portals for its Clients and their Customers which are steadily growing in usage. These services have provided further insight into their portfolios, and self-service for various inquiries and information for both finance companies and their obligors. Through attendee participation the discussion will focus on experiences and use cases. By guiding attendees through the usage and benefits of the portals, participants will understand how to utilize them for their company’s advantage.

Implementing What’s Your "And"? An Employee Journey Mapping Workshop

After hearing his opening keynote, join John Garrett as we embark on a transformative exploration of the employee journey in this interactive workshop. We will unravel the art of employee journey mapping, providing you with the tools and insights to create a roadmap for employee success, brainstorming many ways we can use the What's Your "And"? philosophy along the way.

1:00pm - 2:15pm

State of the Small Business and Equipment Finance Industries

U.S. Chamber Vice President of Small Business Policy, Tom Sullivan, will lead a discussion on the state of small business and equipment finance. Join us to dig into real issues that matter to small business owners and those who lend to them. Industry experts will discuss the health of small business, the impact of reduced access to capital, and how they’re responding to tight labor markets.

2:45pm - 3:45pm

Your Data is Telling You a Story, Are You Listening?

In the information age, every piece of data your business generates is a potential storyteller, weaving narratives that illuminate the path to success or reveal hidden challenges. The session "Your Data is Telling You a Story, Are You Listening?" invites you to embark on a journey of understanding and harnessing the power of your data to make informed and strategic decisions for your company. This interactive session will split the audience into three sub-topics: Operational Excellence, Portfolio Optimization, and Sales, Underwriting, and Pricing. In these facilitated discussions, you will learn how Orion and your peers leverage data to make better decisions and optimize processes.

Management vs. Leadership, Where Do You Fall? An Interactive Conversation

Are you a manager or leader? Can you be both? Should you be both? The balance between the two can be tricky. Please join us for a round table dialogue about the differences between management and leadership; when each are necessary, and how your business can accomplish both successfully.

Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

This luxury resort is just 11 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), acting as the perfect gateway to Arizona attractions and the desertscape. Resort amenities are indigenous-inspired, from their Aji Spa treatments to their world-class Native American cuisine at Kai restaurant. Two championship golf courses were designed by renowned golf architect Gary Panks and feature original challenges with scenic desert vistas.

Take advantage of our exclusive room block. Call Margaret Welsh at the Sheraton Grand at (520) 796-8214 to secure accommodations at a special discounted rate for the conference.

Schedule of Events COMING SOON

Schedule of Events

Thank You Sponsors

We couldn’t host this event without the help of our sponsors. Please take a moment or two to check them out. We think you’ll be glad you did.