2020 Year-in-Review & a 2021 Sneak Peek
What a year it has been! With this being our last blog post of 2020, we wanted to do something a little different. Instead of your regularly-scheduled small business-related content, we're dedicating this post to commemorating 2020—in all of its strangeness—and looking ahead to the new year.
We hope this post makes you reflect on the year you had— all the adjustments you've had to make in your business (and personal life), all the growth those adjustments caused, and everything in between.
Interview with founder and CEO, Heather Francis
Q: In what ways has Elevate had to pivot this year, and what do you think the team has learned from pivoting?
A: There was a lot of pivoting, but the biggest was turning to real-time data vs legacy data. We had to move one of our team members to analyze state by state closings every day, and then to track customer foot traffic so we could find the most impacted business types by area, as regions were being affected differently or choosing different methods to combat the spread of COVID.
Q: If you had to recap Elevate’s biggest successes of 2020, what would those be?
A: Our biggest success this year was our ability to continue funding and helping small businesses in a time when it was needed most. We created new funding programs, we expanded our customer service team to help triage businesses that were shut down (through no fault of their own), and we kept our own employees working and moving forward.
Q: What are you most proud of when you look back over the past five years and see how much Elevate has grown and changed?
A: We have, and will continue to hold true to our core values; from the first deal funded to the last payment received, we are here for the benefit of the merchant and to help small businesses achieve their goals. I am proud that we have not given up our integrity for the sake of a dollar.
Q: What are some of your goals for Elevate in 2021?
A: The old: to continue to grow our brand through social media campaigns, to continue to provide educational content to both merchants and referral partners alike, and to continue innovating our financial products for the betterment of small business.
The new: to provide valuable updates to our proprietary client management system (Elevate View), to create synergistic relationships with vendors that will help improve small business financial outlooks, and to see our organic growth take off.
The ugly: To remove the slow and unsafe email submission practice, and to remove our COVID restrictions.
Interview with Elevate's leadership team
Q: What are the biggest takeaways you learned from 2020?
Ken Peng [KP], Director of Business Development & Marketing: Nobody anywhere knows anything about anything, but we can do our best to mitigate risk both professionally and personally. We had to learn how to constantly pivot and adjust to what’s happening, and think more long term than ever before. But my biggest takeaway is that our team is resilient and has been able to adapt without missing much of a beat. During a tough time where a lot of funders went under or had to cut manpower, we grew instead. It has been a testament to our foresight, flexibility, and leveraging of data.
Michael Gaura [MG], Senior Manager, Corporate Strategy: I've learned the importance of working for a company with the ability to adapt and pivot quickly. Elevate was able to implement changes in our portfolio quickly, which allowed us to mitigate risk and capitalize on market opportunities. Also, with great change comes the importance of being able to effectively communicate those changes internally and externally. We were able to implement those changes with multiple dashboards internally and externally.
Internal and external partnerships were also critical to our continued success this year. We would not have been able to continue operating at the level we were without the support of all our business partners and our amazing internal team.
Angelina Mapp [AM], Sales & Customer Service: This year really drove home the importance of keeping an open line of communication and reminded me to step outside the box when working on resolutions for our clients. A multitude of complications can arise from a single situation, and just when you are comfortable with one dilemma and develop a strategy, another issue pops up and throws a wrench in your well-laid plans. Flexibility is key, especially during times of uncertainty.
Chris Wesley [CW], Lead Developer, Elevate View: 2020 has taught me the difference between being remote and being apart. The same way our bodies and minds are strengthened through exercise, our relationships will atrophy without regular reps. It is much easier to share some friendly banter at the water cooler or catch up at a tailgate than to call someone out of the blue for a chat. That is why I have found it so important that we regularly check-in with each other on a schedule. Tech standups are not just for reporting a project’s progress and blockers anymore, but also for maintaining familiarity and comradery with your team. While not every phone call needs to be a Zoom meeting, it is a blessing that we live in a time when seeing each other is just a click or tap away.
Q: In what ways have you and your department had to pivot, and what have you learned from that?
KP: In-person trade shows have always been a great opportunity for us to speak to new partners and continue fostering the strong relationships we’ve built with existing partners alike. Not having those this year has been a real downer. To the credit of the trade associations putting on the shows, they’ve adapted well to holding online-only events. But it has not been the same. We’ve had to learn on the fly how to work various online platforms and still effectively bring in new business. There’s no replacement for the in-person events, but we’ve luckily been able to make do with the circumstances and still bring on 50+ new partners since the pandemic began.
MG: Our department has had to pivot the company’s portfolio guidelines based on several industry and geographical risks. We have tracked each state’s restrictions and the effects that it has had on local businesses. We have also tracked consumer demand through foot traffic for those locations that were able to operate without government restrictions. Because of the measures taken, we were able to mitigate portfolio volatility compared to our competitors.
AM: We went from looking at a file in terms of renewability to looking at the best way for us to assist merchants through the pandemic and mitigate the impact on their business. That meant reviewing and tracking the impact closures and restrictions had and making sure we were working with our clients that were in the hardest-impacted areas. We increased our reviews on business receivables and adjusted payments, extended debit holds, and sometimes just leant an ear during an overwhelming time.
Q: What are some of the things you were most thankful for this year, at work or in your personal life?
KP: I’m thankful for a company that was built on strong ethics, prudent practices, and an emphasis on its people. I believe all of these things contributed to our continuous operation throughout the pandemic. On a personal level, having great people around me as part of a strong support system has been so vital to my mental health. It has been a very challenging year for all of us on so many levels, and as we approach the end of the year, we can arbitrarily feel like things are going to be better come January 1st. But the real thing that’s going to get us through it is having the right people around you. I’m very blessed to have this both professionally and personally.
MG: At work, the continued success of Elevate Funding through one of the most economically turbulent times faced by our country. Also, the team I get to work with is truly a blessing. In my personal life, the birth of my daughter.
AM: I’m thankful for the opportunity to advance to a new position here at Elevate, and I’m thankful that we finally have our own home (woooo, mortgage!) and I can unbox 10 years’ worth of items.
Q: What are some of your goals for Elevate and/or your department in 2021?
KP: Growth. Growth. Growth. Whether it’s physically adding to our team, gaining new skills and understandings, or signing on even more partners. We cannot be afraid to look at every aspect of what we do, and be willing to build it better. With news of the vaccine, we hope to get back out there to see some of your smiling faces, bring on even more business, and continue to grow this company as we have year over year since inception.
MG: To continue mitigating portfolio risks for Elevate as the economy continues to recover with the release of the COVID vaccine. Also, to achieve superior operational outcomes by improving our efficiency through automation, and to capitalize on potential growth opportunities by expanding our reach into new markets with the relaunch of the Embark program.
AM: The biggest goal would be personal and departmental growth. I would love to expand the amount of organic files we are funding and increase the retention of our current merchants. I’m also looking forward to further developing my sales and customer service knowledge and skills to provide an exceptional experience for our clients and partners. Let’s knock 2021 out of the ballpark!
CW: As we look forward to resuming in-person collaboration in 2021, we should continue to use these virtual platforms as tools to complement and enhance our processes. As it turns out, peering over a shoulder is a pretty antiquated way to review code when simply sharing a screen presents a more effective—and socially distanced—solution.
Happy holidays from the team at Elevate Funding!
From our team to yours, thank you for another successful year. We count ourselves lucky to have learned and grown alongside you this year, in spite of AND because of the chaotic conditions. Whether you're one of our merchants or one of our partners, we’re looking forward to continuing our relationship and our shared mission in 2021 and beyond.
Warm wishes from sunny Florida!
—The team at Elevate