What does it take for a financial company to stand out? In the competitive cash advance and loan marketplace, it's becoming increasingly difficult to be unique, so many companies strive to attract and retain clients by beefing up customer service – a good general idea. But the fine details of day-to-day business interactions are what can truly distinguish an organization, and some understand this better than others.
Greystone Business Resources Corp. aims to be known for its upfront and friendly business practices. The company, which focuses on cash advances and loans for mid-size to large companies, lends a minimum of $15,000 and a maximum of $2 million. On average, customers request $140,000. "We provide working capital for businesses" to help them grow, said John Konop, Chief Executive Officer of GBR.
GBR has cash advance and loan products for merchants as well as ISOs. The company produces funds against residuals. It doesn't require documentation from customers. Instead, GBR gathers information for them. The length of time it takes to get an approval depends on how difficult it is for staff to locate all of the required documents, but GBR will "generally turn it around the same day," Konop said.
Customers who borrow money from GBR aren't the only ones to consider when conducting business. "We believe that there are three sets of customers: the end user, people who sell for us and our employees," Konop said.
GBR works diligently to keep the frontline – employees and sales distribution agents – happy. "It's always kind of been my MO. … I really live and die by that," Konop said. When employees and the sales distribution channel are satisfied, business thrives, he added.
The downfall for most companies, according to Konop, is they try to create business strategies that are too complicated for customers and, in turn, themselves. "We're very blunt about what we do," he said. With that kind of openness, GBR can achieve high levels of success, Konop believes.
GBR has an unconventional approach when dealing with clients: focusing on underselling and over delivering. "That's not traditional for a lot of businesses," Konop said. He would rather give the client a good deal and have a satisfied customer than inflate prices to compete with other cash advance companies.
Although GBR is still fresh to the cash advance market (the company was founded in October 2007), Konop said, "I would guess we're one of the top five providers out there. We're advancing quite a bit of money already." Thus far, the company is funding $4 million a month.
Konop came up with the business plan for GBR after he realized there was a gap in cash advance business and customer service.
"I felt that I could create a niche within the industry of working on higher volume deals and providing excellent service," he said. In late August 2007, Konop called Stephen Rosenberg, CEO of Greystone and Co. Inc., to discuss launching a new cash advance and loan company as a division of Greystone.
A week later, the deal to create GBR was finalized. "It was very quick," Konop said. He attributes the speed of finalizing the agreement to his proven track record over the years. Konop has been in the payments industry for roughly two decades, working for such companies as AdvanceMe Inc. and Citibank Inc.
He credits his knowledge and success to his former colleagues. "I feel very fortunate that I wouldn't be where I am today without the fantastic training I got at Citibank," he said. "It was a great experience."
Creating GBR's workforce was almost a cinch for Konop. He took what he learned from his years in the industry and applied it to hiring. He reached into his networking connections and selected from a pool of former employees. Konop knew he could quickly find an experienced team, which "made this an easy transition," he said.
GBR's incentive package for merchant level salespeople (MLSs) is ideal for the cash advance market, Konop said. They have the opportunity to earn 8 percent commission upfront, and 3 percent of repayments. And when it comes time for clients to renew, MLSs can also earn revenue from the renewal agreement. The commission plan is flexible; the company pays sales agents "relative to the risk to the customer," he said.
Konop also suggested that having a reputation for being a friendly manager helped him find people willing to work for him. "I'm a big believer that if you walk into the room, you wouldn't know who the boss is," he said.
Konop takes the best ideas generated from company employees, and the team takes action on them as a whole. If a productive member of his staff is lacking certain skills, the company reshapes the job description to make that employee shine.
The business got off the ground quickly, but that doesn't mean GBR rushed through the training process. Management didn't skip any steps when training staff. "I'm a walk, jog, run kind of guy," Konop said. Each employee went through extensive training that lasted 60 days. For Konop, a company is only as good as its weakest employee; by taking the time to train everyone correctly, GBR can stay sharp.
GBR has 25 employees in its Woodstock, Ga., office. The company started out with only 12 employees and expanded to meet the high demand for its services. There was so much volume, in fact, that GBR pulled advertisements from media outlets to maintain the quality of the customer experience.
GBR's promise to clients is turnaround within a day – sometimes in just two hours. It was more important for GBR to keep its promise than to acquire an unmanageable volume of business, Konop said. Another expansion is slated for late April 2008; GBR will further expand its team by one-third toward the end of the year.
GBR not only wants its employees to stand out, but also wants the market to do well. If potential clients don't pan out, the company offers suggestions on where to take their business. "I want everyone to do well because it makes all of us look better," he said.
In essence, Konop's competitors are his greatest friends in the industry. Since GBR focuses on the higher end of the market, it often refers interested parties to companies that cater to the lower end of the market. "If I decline a deal, then I want them to be able to place it somewhere else," he said.
For Konop, business comes down to this: People like to do business with people they like. Not only will being likeable help attract business, according to Konop, but if companies are willing to work with clients to achieve success, everyone wins. "You have to learn how to flow," he said. "I always try to walk in someone else's shoes when negotiating."
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