Exclusive Interview with Interface Financial 50/50 President David Banfield
An Australian Franchisor Interview
Franchisors name: David Banfield
Name of franchise: The Interface Financial Group - IFG 50/50
We are invoice discounters, sometimes known as spot factors. Our role in the corporate world is to accelerate the cash flow for our client companies. Our clients have made a product or deliver a service, and they are now waiting to get paid. Our system takes the waiting out of the equation and turns their business into a cash-on-delivery approach. Accelerated cash flow gives them the opportunity to grow at an exponential pace.
Tell us about how/when the business was started and the motivation behind establishing the company.
The company started some 46 years ago out of a perceived need for small business funding. The Founder of the company was at the time working as a consulting engineer, and constantly received requests for early payment for work that had been completed by their subcontractors. Out of that request for an early payment evolved an invoice discounting program that we still continue today.
Although much is changed in the world of technology, the underlying service offered by franchisees is exactly the same today as it was on the first day that we started to franchise.
When and why did you decide to go down the franchise route?
Before we entered the world of franchising we operated the company as an invoice discounting business for about 20 years. This provided a substantial storehouse of information and knowledge that we have subsequently been able to share with our franchisees.
The motivation for the franchise model was that it offered us the opportunity to expand on a rapid basis without having to expand the overall infrastructure of the company at the same pace.
What have been the company’s biggest achievements/successes to date so far?
The longevity of the company in itself is a considerable achievement, and the fact that it started literally from one office and has now grown to an international organization with operations in eight countries, is one of the major achievements.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
Growing on an international basis was one of the major challenges - learning and understanding not only the legal system but the cultural system of doing business in other countries. We grew up as it were in an English language environment, with English common law as the background, and in terms of our expansion we have had to embrace other languages and moved sometimes to a civil law platform. We are constantly ensuring that all of the international operations fit the same mould - offering a consistent product and service is certainly a challenging aspect of the business.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
As with most franchise operations finding the right franchisees is a central task in growing the business. We, therefore, prefer to take on the slower route rather than travel in the express lane in order to find the right franchisees that will be a good fit both for us and for them, and will ensure longevity in our system.
What differentiates The Interface Financial Group - IFG 50/50 from the competition?
We represent basically the only international franchised invoice discounting system in the world. That having been said, it does not mean that we do not experience an element of competition from local sources and from similar entities. The advent of technology has also created opportunities for start-up companies to do something similar on an online basis. Our focus, in order to keep us separate from our ‘competitors’, has always been to offer a high degree of personal service, and we pride ourselves in that we do not do business online but face-to-face across the desk. We have also embraced technology to the maximum extent possible in order that we can reduce the time that it takes to put a transaction together - another major feature of our service.
In your opinion, what makes a successful The Interface Financial Group - IFG 50/50 franchisee?
As with most businesses if the individual is proactive and has an entrepreneurial streak, then they will be successful. We always look for people that have drive and ambition, and the ability to make something happen. Our candidates will, in the main, be mature individuals that will possess these qualities, which they will have acquired through several decades of employment and generally moving up the corporate ladder.
What changes have you seen in your industry over recent year? And how have you adapted to them?
There is no doubt that there is a greater degree of automation and technology creeping into our business, as with many others. We still pride ourselves on offering a face-to-face service for our clients and we have no plans to change that outlook, notwithstanding we continue to embrace as much technology as possible to enable the balance of our transactions to flow as speedily as is possible.
What does the future hold for The Interface Financial Group - IFG 50/50?
Our plan is to continue our steady organized growth, and to maintain the standards that we have built over the years while continuing to embrace technology and all that it offers.
What expansion plans have you got nationally and internationally?
In the Australian market we are looking to grow our franchise opportunity rapidly over the next two to three years to increase our cover significantly. We already operate in seven other countries, and are working on adding maybe two more territories to that over the next two to three years.
What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?
Franchising can be a complex business – it is not just a case of taking an existing business and suddenly it’s a franchise. One of the keys for solid success is planning and research well in advance of launching a franchise opportunity. In our own case we operated a business for some 20 years prior to franchising, so our advice to a would-be franchisor is to make sure that you thoroughly test and prove the concept before it becomes a franchise.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
Looking back over two decades of franchising I think that if we were doing it again, we would perhaps build the international side of the business earlier. There is no doubt that from our point of view it adds value, and to create a solid international network as quickly as possible is clearly an asset, so that might be one of the changes we would have incorporated.