Change That Works – The Interface Financial Group

We live in a world of fast-changing technology. As soon as we master one process, it is replaced by
the next version. Can we keep up with innovation and change? Is it change just for the sake of change?

There are, as always, good changes and not so good changes in the things that impact our daily lives. Change just for the sake of change has to rank in the not-so-good category.

Change that enhances and stimulates us, on the other hand, is something to embrace.

The advent of technology has certainly accelerated the velocity of change. One area where we see great  transformations, that have an impact on most people, is the area of how we do our banking. Once we used to line up in the bank to await our turn at the teller’s window, and now that has transformed into the faceless Automated Teller Machine – push in your card and out comes your cash – or so we hope.

When we thought that was as ‘good as it gets’, the banking world tells us we no longer need to visit the bank or even an ATM to make a deposit – we can do this with an app on our ‘smart phone’. Hopefully someone is working on how we get cash delivered through our phone! Or, as many people anticipate, maybe cash will become obsolete in the near future.

The Interface Financial Group has been in operation for over 42 years. When we started life we were literally keeping records in a handwritten ledger. That progressed to a bookkeeping machine, and then to a computer. One thing that didn’t change along the way was the ‘people’ side of our business. It started as a people interacting with people business, and 42 years later that’s still unchanged.

What has changed over the past four decades is the delivery method and something much appreciated by our clients – the speed at which we conduct business. Speed without the loss of the personal touch.

We are invoice discounters, also sometimes referred to as ‘spot factors’. We accelerate the cash flow for our clients by purchasing some of their current quality invoices at a small discount. This takes the waiting out of the accounts receivable equation, and helps our clients accurately predict when they will get paid, either by their customer or by Interface. This is a simple and certainly an unglamorous business. It is, however, a much in demand service for companies that are experiencing a significant growth period.

One of the things that helps Interface to stand out from the crowd is the unique distribution method that we have developed over our 40 plus years of operations. Believing that personal service is an absolutely key element in working with our clients – the question arises, how can you maintain a personal touch when clients are spread around in virtually every State and Province?

The answer evolved over time as the operation grew. Staying in touch meant having ‘feet on the ground’ all across the continent. Interface found that franchising was the opportune method to grow into a large organization without sacrificing the all-important personal contact element. We took our ‘simple’ business and transformed it into a ‘simple’ franchise opportunity. Some many years later we have grown into a large multi-national franchise with ongoing growth plans.

As a franchise organization it becomes our responsibility to ensure that our franchisees operate in a secure environment, and that they obtain the maximum possible return on their working capital. These two elements have been our ‘change’ focus over the years as we seek to grow an organization, but to do so in such a way that growth always represents an enhancement for our franchisees.

When you start with a simple business model, change and improvement become a definite challenge – nonetheless one that always has to be addressed. Interface has recently gone through such a process for the benefit of our franchisees.

We started by asking three simple questions of our franchisees. 1) What do you like about your franchise; 2) What could we do to improve it; and 3) What do you dislike about your franchise.

The answers did not really surprise us, but rather challenged us to come up with some innovative changes that would offer significant benefit to our franchisees.

What our franchisees liked about the franchise was the great return they earn on their working capital. What they didn’t like was the paperwork – we came up with a great solution and relieved our franchisees of all day-to-day transactional paperwork, choosing to do it ourselves on behalf of our franchisees. Their request for an improvement was as expected – they wanted to maintain their return but at the same time reduce their capital exposure.

Finding a solution for this latter point needed some further innovation and change. We were able to introduce a leverage program for franchisees whereby they could benefit from an external investor’s involvement. This has greatly reduced their capital requirement but has not adversely affected their annual return.

Change for the sake of change, as we have stated, is not always a good thing. However innovative and constructive change that enhances, in our case the franchise, has surely turned out to be change for the better.

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