First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Greg Ott : We tend to use the phrase, “All things considered…” often. Fortunately, we are healthy and have hunkered down. The chaos of work from home and school from home has been, shall we say, a bonding experience.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Nav
Greg Ott : I have always been a builder of things. I like putting together the right combination of pieces to do something others are not doing. I’ve been fortunate to do that at a variety of large, Fortune 500 companies as well as innovative venture backed startups. I was introduced to Nav while I was working on the QuickBooks team at Intuit. I quickly saw the SMB market opportunity, and that the business required stitching together multiple pieces and being data driven, and loved that we were ultimately helping people who weren’t getting served elsewhere.
How does Nav innovate?
Greg Ott : We innovate by keeping the customer at the center of everything we do. As a data-driven company, we focus on the pain points of accessing and lending to SMBs from the viewpoints of all parties involved, allowing our company to help the entire ecosystem rather than just one side of the process.
We are always adding new lenders and credit card providers to our platform, so our team is continuously looking at data sets and process flow to make everything simpler and faster, for both our customers and partners.
A great example of innovation in our company occurred earlier this year when Nav launched a solution to report positive payment history to business credit bureaus to help SMBs build their business credit score. This can unlock new lower-cost and larger-dollar financing options for them, and close the data gap that is currently keeping Wall Street from confidently lending to Main Street.
The other thing that drives innovation is empowering our team members to be creative and solve problems. My job isn’t to tell people what to do, it is to spotlight the right problems and allow them to unleash their collective skills to come up with solutions.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Greg Ott : Nav uses real business data to connect small business owners to the widest range of financing options as small businesses began to struggle at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, lenders and credit card issuers pulled back as lending became riskier. The demand from small businesses increased, as they needed working capital to fill gaps, but the supply on the lender side was scarce. We pivoted quickly as a company once the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was signed into law to solidify new contracts with PPP lenders and agents, create new product flows and calculators to serve our current and new customers, and connect thousands of business owners to hundreds of millions of dollars in PPP funds. One thing we’re particularly proud of is that these customers are largely ones who were shown the door by traditional banks when PPP first opened — while the big banks prioritized customers, a lot of truly small businesses were shut out. Nav was there to serve them, and that’s something that’s core to our mission — lowering the death rate of small businesses in America.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Greg Ott : We had to make some very difficult decisions as a business. We looked at our financial trajectory and revenue lines and refocused to power PPP funds and doubled down on our credit reporting and tracking tools as many traditional financing and business credit card options disappeared. We continued to find and drive financing to businesses who were qualified, but informing and educating our customers and being a trusted advisor through PPP and EIDL expansions has been key for us. Our information and advice to customers was invaluable to many and we’re proud to have made that pivot, even as we explained some of the flaws of the program.
It would have been easy for us to say it’s a perfect program for all businesses, but we gave them unbiased advice and we’re proud of that choice to ensure our lifelong relationship with them. We also faced tough decisions internally about how we allocate resources and limiting costs. I’m happy to say it’s made us a more efficient company without sacrificing the top-notch customer experience we’re known for.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Nav in the future?
Greg Ott : For stress, I look at the silver lining of no business travel and spend time with my family. I’m also a runner and biker and find that a great way to decompress and recharge. As a company, Nav is in a great position to serve small businesses for the long run. Even without many financing options, we have unmatched tools to help businesses get lender ready as the economy returns.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Greg Ott : There are 30MM small businesses accessing around $1 trillion in capital each year, so the market opportunity to be their gateway to financing is huge. However, many people are surprised to learn that 70% of SMBs do not meet the qualifications to get financing from a bank, especially start ups and young businesses. We help them understand what they qualify for before they apply, then help them complete the process end to end, whether it is with a bank or a non-bank lender.
We are pretty unique in a number of ways, the biggest of which is using real business data to power a digital experience for our customers, including the broadest set of lending and credit card partners. And because we are online, Nav’s platform dramatically reduces the paperwork. Our platform gives them access to free tools, including cash flow analysis and predictions, and their business credit reports, personal credit reports. As their data changes, their options and recommendations change as well. This way we can help them refinance and access different types of capital to get lower rates or larger loans. We have nearly 1.4 million small businesses using Nav’s platform, and they tend to stay engaged because it is free and valuable to them even as their business evolves.
In many ways, we save them from Google. With Nav, small businesses know they are getting the best, simplest option for them.
Your final thoughts
Greg Ott : The ingenuity and innovation of the teams at Nav has been a superpower — they rose to the occasion beautifully. I can’t help but compare it to the same ingenuity and resilience we see from our small business customers daily who are pivoting their own businesses to cope with new realities. For example, we just awarded our quarterly business grant and winners include an Atlanta food truck that will use the money to level up their point of sale systems that have become important through COVID and a B&B in Maryland that has pivoted to breakfast-to-go orders to keep revenue flowing while tourism has dropped.
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