Interview with David Banfield - President of Interface Financial Group
David Banfield was named President of the Interface organization in 1991 and has played a significant part in the successful development and growth of the Interface organization in North America. He has extensive background in banking and financial services covering offshore banking operations to senior management positions with one of North America’s leading factoring and commercial finance organisations. His international business experience is a key factor in driving Interface into new international markets.
BeTheBoss - What’s the story behind The Interface Financial Group?
David Banfield - On Tuesday April 14 1972, in a small town in Connecticut, John Sheehy, founder of The Interface Financial Group, made the first IFG invoice purchase. His client was a construction subcontractor working on a major government-funded infrastructure project and the general contractor was taking nearly 50 days to pay him. That first invoice purchase, for $14,348, was to enable the subcontractor to meet his tax and payroll obligations. John realised there were other small businesses that needed the same type of help and 38 years ago Interface (and our Invoice Discounting Program) was born.
The dictionary says that the definition of ‘interface’ is a point where two systems, subjects, organizations, etc. meet and interact. That is exactly what we are about, bringing two businesses together to interact. In our case it is our client, a small business that needs funding to meet current cash flow needs and implement their growth plans, and Interface acting as a funder providing the short-term cash flow to help them accomplish their financial business goals.
BTB - What made you decide to franchise?
DB - Since 1972 we did the Invoice discounting business ourselves, we saw probably every conceivable scenario and I want to assure you we have addressed them all. We used those years to perfect our system and business model. We reached a point when it became clear to us that franchising was the most time- and cost-effective way to rapidly grow the business and take it to the next level.
BTB - Tell us a little about your market?
DB - The invoice discounting market is part of the factoring financial services family. The factoring market is a multi-billion dollar industry in North America alone, but that’s only a portion of the market as our type of business is actively operating in over 70 countries and is growing year over year on a worldwide basis. The market continues to grow at a healthy rate, especially at the lower end of the sales-volume scale. This is Interface’s niche market. Interface has always enjoyed great success working with smaller emerging companies (companies with sales in the range of $30K to about $4million, been in business from less than a year to 3-4 years).
The North American economy, the world-economy in fact, is certainly not at its strongest point and all indications are that the situation will continue for the next couple of years at least. One of the areas that have been hit badly is the small business financing sector. Cutbacks have meant that many small businesses that were at one time able to obtain small lines of credit and loans are now almost totally excluded from the credit marketplace. This forces thousands of formerly bankable businesses into the secondary finance market in order to find appropriate funding for their growth needs. This action has proven to be an extremely positive factor for The Interface Financial Group, as we are one of the very few options for small businesses to obtain cost-effective and time-effective growth funding.
BTB - What have some of the challenges been in growing your franchise?
DB - Educating the marketplace and marrying together a well established business into a franchise model. There are also the “international” logistics to contend with; not only is Interface in Canada and the United States, we now have franchise offices in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Naturally there are legal and regulatory differences in each country and as a franchisor we have to make sure that we comply, as well as making sure all of our transactional forms and documents are appropriate and specific to each country.
BTB - Who has been your greatest inspiration?
DB - Definitely the founder of the company Mr. John Sheehy
BTB - What are some of the advantages in being an Interface franchisee?
DB - Interface’s 38 years of experience in this business is instant credibility for our franchisees. Interface franchisees have the ability to work at whatever size and velocity suits them. There is also the reward and sense of accomplishment of being a positive force in the economic growth of small businesses and their local economy.
BTB - What “Gadgets” (Blackberry, IPhone, IPod, etc) can’t you live without?
DB - I can live without any of them.
BTB - What do you do in your spare time?
DB - Almost anything that is not business related — it’s important to have a complete change on a regular basis.
BTB - What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
DB - Research, research and more research. There is a tremendous amount of instantly accessible information available on almost any topic. Nobody needs to acquire any business in this day and age without being very well informed about that business.
BTB - In your opinion, why do you think that The Interface Financial Group would be a great opportunity for someone?
DB - It is the franchise with a difference. This is a professional, white-collar franchise working in a business-to-business environment. It’s a business with no employees, no inventory, no storefronts, no long hours or extensive travel. We do not have a pres-set capital base and the startup costs are modest. There is no restrictive territory so the franchisee can relocate easily. This is a business that can be done part-time or full-time, and can be used as a transition vehicle, meaning a franchisee can build their Interface business while still maintaining their “corporate” job and paycheck. And, probably the most attractive aspect is being in control of their own income potential, what we call “putting working capital to work”.
BTB - What accomplishments does The Interface Financial Group have to its credit?
DB - There are several. We have received “World-Class Franchise®” certification from the Franchise Research Institute five consecutive years. This is one of the most prestigious awards a franchisor can receive because it is based on an independent survey of franchisees to determine their level of satisfaction with the franchisor system. Interface has also been in Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500® List for the past 6 years, including the top 101 Home-based Franchise category. We were also named a “Military Friendly” franchise by G.I. Jobs magazine in their 2010 list.
Our highest accomplishment is the fact that Interface is the largest alternative funding source for small business in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. Of course, we are striving to accomplish that status in Australia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.