Helping put firms ‘with a story to tell’ back on their feet
Inside Track: Capitalflow chief Ronan Horgan on finding a niche in lending market
Capitalflow chief executive Ronan Horgan: ‘I was made redundant in 2013 during the financial crisis which was challenging, with a young family and responsibilities, but it spurred me on to get outside my comfort zone and look at new ways to rebuild my career.’
Capitalflow is one of the fastest-growing specialist business lenders in the Irish market with more than 70 people recruited in the past three years to service the demand from Irish firms and SMEs for an alternative finance provider. With two offices in Dublin and another to open in Cork before the year ends, they offer equipment and vehicle leasing, invoice discounting and property lending products.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
We respond quickly to customer requests for our lending products. We provide certainty that we will do as we say and we won’t do a “Slow No”. We guarantee that we will make commercially sound lending decisions.
The team are all very experienced in lending to Irish firms and we enjoy working together. Life is too short to have it any other way.
We have a common sense approach to lending to Irish business not just focused on balance sheets, and we look more towards the growth or potential of a business.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
One of the key values in business is to treat customers the way you would like to be treated yourself, with fairness and honesty. I was advised by an old boss to invest in “time out” to focus on the business strategy as much as the ongoing performance of the business.
Also, never underestimate the value of the people in your business. As a business, we are all about relationships and people. We pride ourselves on getting to know and listening to our customers and firmly believe that, by looking after our team, they in turn will look after our customers very well. It’s a win-win for everyone.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
At the beginning, I invested in the wrong technology and software and had to unwind that within the first couple of months. It was a costly mistake. I learned that doing the proper research is essential for any investment.
And your major success to date?
Our major success has been our ability to back Irish firms that have had a difficult trading history during the recession, especially those in the construction sector. Establishing Capitalflow with partners Pollen Street Capital and being in a position to support many different types of business, with a great team around me, has been the highlight of my career to date.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
Michael English from Shannon Valley plant hire. I started doing business with him in 1996, and I’ve found him really easy to deal with. I admire the way that he has built a business with his brothers from scratch, and initially one machine, to where he now has more than 350 employees.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
I think they are open for business as long as you fit into the box that they want to put you in. However, if you have a story to tell or have experienced any difficulties in the past, there will be a number of hoops that they expect you to jump through. It’s understandable as they have to deal with a lot of their own internal issues like legacy debt. That’s why there is room for direct lenders like Capitalflow to successfully grow with these customers.
What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
My advice is to start building social houses and put people back into their homes where they belong. I’d use Government and private funding to make this happen and speed up the planning process. In turn, this will stimulate not just the construction sector but the wider economy.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
I was made redundant in 2013 during the financial crisis which was challenging, with a young family and responsibilities, but it spurred me on to get outside my comfort zone and look at new ways to rebuild my career. It taught me the importance of resilience and backing my own ability.
How do you see the short-term future for your business?
We are very positive about the short-term future of Capitalflow as we continue to grow and expand our business regionally in a sensible manner. We introduced a new property lending product which has gone down really well with our customers.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
A lot more than when we started out three years ago. If a sale meant we provided the right return for our investors and we could grow our challenger brand even quicker, then Yes.