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Priceless Advice from Canada’s Fastest-Growing Finance Firms

IBF Entrepreneur Online –

The leaders of the 22 most dynamic companies in the money business share their best financing tactics

The past five years have not been easy for the financial sector. The great recession made it difficult for many firms in the business to keep the lights on—much less grow. That’s why the 22 financial services firms that made the 2014 PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies are so remarkable. At a time when stagnation was status quo, each took on new customers and added new lines of business to stay on the growth track.

Canada’s Fastest-Growing Finance Firms grew their sales by an average of 465% from 2008 through 2013. (The No. 1 company on this list, IOU Financial Inc., saw revenue spike by 1,924% during that same period.)

In total, they contributed more than $568 million to the national economy last year—or an average of nearly $26 million each. Together, they employ 3,500 people, and have created 1,122 net new jobs in the past five years. You can find out more about each individual company on this list by clicking its name.

Since the money business is where these remarkable companies really excel, we decided to ask some of their leaders for their top tips for financing a business. Here are some of our favourite answers.

The Top 10:

1. IOU Financial Inc.

Montreal

Five-year revenue growth: 1,924 (PROFIT 500 rank: 32)

Chief executive(s): Phil Marleau

FTE employees: 33

Online lender focused on small businesses

Financing tip: “We’ve used everything. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to use angel investors, that’s the way to go about it,” says Marleau. “If you can get angel financing and prove your concept at the very start, and then go to the banks, you’ll end up with a much better valuation.”

2. Lynx Equity Ltd.

Toronto

Five-year revenue growth: 1,339 (PROFIT 500 rank: 46)

Chief executive(s): Brad Nathan, Joanna Lipfeld & Marvin Pludwinski

FTE employees: 860

Private equity firm specializing in buying businesses from owners approaching retirement

Financing tip: “I would suggest every single source that you could get my hands on, period,” says Nathan. “Removing reliance on any one source is huge for us. It’s given us more capital to work with.”

3. Cranson Capital Securities Inc.

Toronto

Five-year revenue growth: 1,310 (PROFIT 500 rank: 49)

Chief executive(s): Devon Cranson

FTE employees: 10

Boutique investment bank specializing in small- and medium-size growth businesses

Financing tip: “Put your own money into your business, so you don’t give away any equity,” Cranson advises. “That way, your cost and interest rates are low.”

4. Berkeley Payment Solutions Inc.

Toronto

Five-year revenue growth: 1,060 (PROFIT 500 rank: 66)

Chief executive(s): Dave Eason

FTE employees: 24

Prepaid Visa and MasterCard program management, reporting, IT consulting and fulfillment services

Financing tip: “I would say BDC offers a good source of debt financing in the early stages of a company, and one that people should look at pursuing,” says Eason. “We received seed financing of up to $150,000 when we first started. It hasn’t been a big component of what we’re doing now at this stage of the company, but it definitely was a good asset at the beginning.”

5. True North Mortgage Inc.

Calgary

Five-year revenue growth: 567 (PROFIT 500 rank: 108)

Chief executive(s): Dan Eisner

FTE employees: 32

Residential mortgage brokering services

Financing tip: “I have no specific tactic to recommend,” says Eisner. “I put $30,000 of my own cash into it and watched it grow.”

6. Trillium FSB Inc.

Vaughan, Ont.

Five-year revenue growth: 454 (PROFIT 500 rank: 130)

Chief executive(s): Orit Koren

FTE employees: 13

Financing and leasing services focused on independent used-car and motorcycle dealers

Financing tip: “It’s best to use your own money!” says Koren. “But if you’re unable to do so, I would say BDC has played a big role in our success. We’ve used them several times over the past five years, but the last transactions happened when we rebranded the company. We also started customizing a new software, and BDC has helped finance that project too.”

7. Premiere Mortgage Centre

Dartmouth, N.S.

Five-year revenue growth: 397 (PROFIT 500 rank: 149)

Chief executive(s): Don MacVicar

FTE employees: 65

Mortgage broker services for homeowners and investors

Financing tip: “Our bank relationship has been key,” explains MacVicar. “We raised our personal capital to start the business, but we’ve since leveraged a good banking relationship. There’s always times in the business cycle where we need a line of credit or other financing and they’ve been there for us.”

8. Mosaic Capital Corp.

Calgary

Five-year revenue growth: 379 (PROFIT 500 rank: 156)

Chief executive(s): John Mackay

FTE employees: 307

Invests in infrastructure, printing, oil and gas services, technology and real estate businesses

Financing tip: “We have two issued securities: our common shares and our preferred securities,” says vice-president Tim Taylor. “We have used our preferred securities to raise capital in the public market, as there is a large demand for yield from retail investors. We have found this to be our best source of funding.”

9. Credit Bureau of Canada Collections

Mississauga, Ont.

Five-year revenue growth: 337 (PROFIT 500 rank: 178)

Chief executive(s): Jonathan Finley

FTE employees: 541

Collections agency that provides call-centre services

Financing tip: “Currently, our best financing tactic is traditional bank financing,” says Finley. “Having been a banker, it was easier for me to identify what the bank was looking for. I could then estimate when we were in a position to qualify for certain things. And as we’ve build up a reputation with our bank, we’ve been seen as less risk, too.”

10. Benson Kearley IFG

Newmarket, Ont.

Five-year revenue growth: 304 (PROFIT 500 rank: 194)

Chief executive(s): Stephen Kearley

FTE employees: 67

Commercial and business insurance services

Financing tip: “We have used insurance companies as a source of financing. It’s common for them to provide financing, and they understand our businesses more than the chartered banks do,” explains Kearley. “They understand the value of an insurance book of businesses. They see the value of consolidation.”

* * * * *

The Next 12:

11. Cambridge Mercantile Group
12. Shenglin Financial Inc.
13. Skyline Group of Companies
14. Provisus Wealth Management Ltd.
15. Rifco Inc.
16. Crelogix Acceptance Corp.
17. Collins Barrow Toronto LLP
18. Partners in Credit Inc.
19. LGM Financial Services Inc.
20. Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
21. Forum Equity Partners Holdings Inc.
22. Mica Cabinets de Services Financiers

Source: Profit Guide

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