By Stéphane Marceau, CEO, Driven (formerly Thinking Capital)
It may be contrarian to be bullish on Canadian small businesses after the last two extraordinarily challenging years. But we have conviction on it and are re-launching a new SMB fintech company, entirely betting on small biz owners.
Just as we’re moving into the third year of a pandemic, the entire world is now considering a bleak set of geo-political circumstances that only recently seemed unthinkable.
This is what inspired us to launch Driven, a new company, substantially different from, yet building on the established track record and fast-growth momentum of Thinking Capital. Over the past years, we’ve been listening to the owners we’ve supported day in and day out. The growth of our company is directly fuelled by the small business owner’s resilience, their resourcefulness, commitment and of course by their unparalleled “drive”. For some examples of this drive, see these real-life small biz stories on our website, where the owners we’ve worked with have generously and openly shared not just their successes, but their real struggles and challenges, so that fellow owners might learn from them too. You know how Nike celebrates athletes? Well, at Driven, we celebrate our heroes: small business owners and their teams.
Despite how conditions might look on the surface, a survey we commissioned last month via Angus Reid, shows that the small business owner is confident and eager to seize tomorrow’s opportunity. From this original research with owners, it was great to witness the overwhelming sentiment that came back — one of optimism and firm belief in the future. Most small businesses feel optimistic about the next six months when it comes to the financial health of their business, with 37 per cent of owners anticipating real improvement in their financial situation in that time and 47 per cent expecting stability.
Before the pandemic, Thinking Capital was already known as a leading source of fast and flexible finance for small business, particularly those companies who faced challenges in getting the support they needed from the major banks. We try to be the partner that takes the risk with and makes the leap with the small business owner. We use a proprietary technology platform and we are systematic, and data-driven in how we fulfill our mission with our customers, but the spirit of our work is that we are there, and we take the risk to empower small business owners to achieve their goals.
The North Star of our transformation (over the last two years) into “Driven” has been about leveraging technology and the wisdom of our people to better serve and empower owners. We have been growing at near double digit every month in 2021. We have many and great Google reviews and our NPS is great at 53 (standardized measure of customer satisfaction). Our team is investing in and fueling that strong momentum and recognition from our existing customers to empower many more entrepreneurs in the future.
The prospect of higher interest rates and inflation has become a reality. And that was the case even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We can’t talk away the superpower aggression with optimistic statistics. Economic impacts are already felt at the gas pump and if the energy crunch becomes more of a crisis, leading to increased costs all along the supply chain, once again small business owners will have to step up and adapt, re-invent how they serve their customers, find creative and resourceful ways to deal with adversity. From experience, we know they will find a way. Furthermore, we bet small businesses, most are active and weaved into our communities across the country, will help Canadians and their families weather the stormy period, and even thrive through it.
According to the Government of Canada’s latest statistics from the end of 2019, small businesses make up 98 percent of all employer businesses across the country, employing 9.7 million individuals. That’s about 64 per cent of the labour force. We all have close friends and family members who own or work with small businesses. It’s in these businesses that most of us got our first job, or where we learned the value of hard work and what it takes to be an entrepreneur first-hand. The small business fabric of our communities permeates our daily lives and that of our families. Whether we realize it or not, we all really need them to prevail over these new recent head winds, just like they did during COVID.
Driven operates with the understanding that financial institutions should have to earn the trust of their customers, not the other way around. Entrepreneurs need to know they have someone that’s proud to be in their corner. We keep it simple, everything Driven does is dedicated to supporting and championing the needs and aspirations of Canadian small business owners. We feel our company and team values are supportive of our fulfilling our mission .
Here are some of our strategic priorities:
As the global business environment remains not just unpredictable but deeply worrying, we’ve challenged ourselves at Driven to get our tools and support products into the hands of Canadian small business owner, so they can focus on making informed decisions with the best information at hand. We can’t just assume people are fine and hope things get better — we need to hustle, like they have.
In short and as our new name suggests, we ought to be Driven, like the small business we serve.
Advice and research for Canadian small businesses from our expert team