We talked to Ami Kassar of MultiFunding about finding the best financing options for businesses and the impact of COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ami Kassar: Both my family and my MultiFunding family are doing well. We’ve all adapted to these strange circumstances both personally and professionally and made the most of it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MultiFunding.
Ami Kassar: I’m a native of South Africa, but grew up in Los Angeles before moving to the Philadelphia area about 20 years ago. Prior to founding MultiFunding a decade ago, I spent about 10 years in various roles, including chief innovation officer, at Advanta Corp., which was a major issuer of credit cards to small business owners.
When I founded MultiFunding, I wanted to help small- to mid-sized businesses find the best funding for them. I wanted businesses to be able to map out their loan choices and alternatives, as well as the pros and cons of each approach, in a completely transparent way. From there, I would be their advocate and provide support as they went through the financing process.
How does MultiFunding innovate?
Ami Kassar: In the last few months, we’ve had to quickly adapt to the many new loan products that came about because of the pandemic – and figure out how our clients could best use them. In addition, while our company has thrived in the past on face-to-face interaction, we had to recreate that feeling virtually.
More generally, our innovation comes organically. The business world is ever-changing, so we have to keep an eye on new products and services, types of business and changing financial mindsets. What worked in 1990 – let alone 2015 – might not be the best choice today.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ami Kassar: Our business is one of the few that has benefitted from the pandemic. Many of our past clients – not to mention literally hundreds of new ones – have found their financial foundations upended because of the pandemic. So we’ve had to deal with a huge volume of business while training the team virtually and making sure our customer service is up to par.
It’s made for some long hours, and we’ve had to do a lot of hand-holding, but it’s satisfying when we’re able to help clients get through (sometimes significant) bumps in the roads. In most cases, businesses have options, and we’re there to help them explore those possibilities.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ami Kassar: As I mentioned before, we’ve had to come up with new ways to disseminate information. Although we’d prefer to deal with clients on a one-to-one basis, that just wasn’t feasible for a while, especially in the pandemic’s early days.
One effective solution was to hold daily webinars. Those allowed me to reach a much larger audience. I was able to give updates on the new government funding initiatives, general advice and also conduct Q&A sessions. By making regular contact with my clients, we seemed to soothe fears – they knew we were still there for them and were a clearinghouse for a deluge of information.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and MultiFunding in the future?
Ami Kassar: I make sure to take one day off each weekend to get away from the constant pressure. Free time to spend with family or even just to watch a mindless movie is a great way to recharge my batteries. The work-life balance is important. I can’t do anyone any good if I’m burned out.
I encourage all my employees to do likewise. I have a great team, and we’re growing together. I’m hoping we’re together for a long time.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ami Kassar: My competition is anyone who is going alone to a bank to seek their funding solutions. Sure, some people can do that and be successful, but many of the small- and mid-sized businesses we work with are financially inexperienced and unaware of their options – particularly the programs of the federal Small Business Administration. Many entrepreneurs are brilliant in terms of generating innovative concepts, products and services, but lack the financial arena expertise to make it bear fruit. That’s where we come in.
We’ll stay in the game by continuing to do what we do best. While we’re a financial services company, we’re more accurately a provider of personal services. The business world can be a cold and calculating place, but there’s plenty of room for the human touch.
Your final thoughts?
Ami Kassar: It’s difficult to remain positive in the middle of the pandemic – and there’s certainly some fatigue setting in, as everyone wants to return to “normal” – but that’s our job and what our clients count on. We’re confident we can continue to help our clients survive the pandemic and thrive once it’s over.