Financial Services: GreenSky, LLC
Perseverance pays off
Not all entrepreneurs find success right out of the gate. Sometimes, they need to try a number of different formulas before finding the right combination.
Serial entrepreneur David Zalik originally sold computers he had made from spare parts to other students at Auburn University. In 1996, Zalik sold this venture, MicroTech, to fund Phoenix, LLC, a real estate company based in Atlanta; 1996 and 1997 were, Zalik says, “a great time to buy real estate in Atlanta.”
Three years later, commercial real estate prices in Atlanta had soared, so Zalik changed course again, this time to start Outweb, a consulting business for companies considering business process automation.
Running Outweb “was an incredible experience,” Zalik recalls, until the dot-com crash of 2001. With many of his large corporate clients suspending projects, Zalik realized he would be “better off trying to build a company where I could leverage my skills and own the client and the transaction.”
That company is GreenSky. GreenSky, founded in 2006, provides business-to-business online payment solutions for Fortune 500 corporations. And while the company enjoyed initial success, it didn’t perfect its business model until it repositioned its point of sale payment platform for small businesses and consumers.
But Zalik soon faced another hurdle: the financial crisis of 2008.
As GreenSky struggled to meet payroll and stay in business, Zalik kept the staff lean and focused on providing exceptional service to existing clients. He and his team continued to look for a new business offering, which they found when they revamped GreenSky’s point of payment platform for small businesses and consumers.
GreenSky’s technology analyzes data gathered from social security and credit bureaus and makes real-time credit financing decisions for small business owners. Once they are approved, customers can access funds in less than 10 seconds, significantly improving the odds that they will complete the sale.
“We started this as an experiment while we continued to sell and serve our large corporate accounts,” Zalik explains. “This pivot, this experiment, ended up being 100 times bigger than our core business.”
Since 2012, GreenSky’s revenue has soared 400%, and its workforce has expanded from 50 employees to an expected 800 by the end of 2016. Now Zalik faces a new challenge: how to build a team that can channel GreenSky’s rapid growth.
“The better you are in the marketplace,” he says, “the greater your need to hire people with exceptional talent.”
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