On August 23rd, we will have officially hit the quarter century mark since Suntell was formed. As one of the three original founders remaining, I feel personally grateful and so incredibly blessed to hit this important milestone. I have found myself thinking more than usual these past few weeks about the journey and obstacles we overcame along the way. I believe a Harvard business school case study could be developed on the successes and mistakes we made along the way and how we overcame them. All successful businesses can likely tell the same story as it’s the mistakes and failures that will make a company stronger, as long as they are not fatal in the process!
Fortunately, we entered into the business with the right set of ingredients to succeed and avoided any fatal mistakes along the way. My founding partners and I had the right mix of background experience in commercial and agricultural banking, banking connections and technology experience with an identified industry problem we wanted to solve, which led to the formation of Suntell and the present-day Square 1 Credit Suite.
Rather than focus on the missteps that could have sunk us in the early formative years, I am going to highlight the top reasons I believe contributed to how we made it to the 25-year mark of our business.
- People – We hired great people with the right experience. When it came to hiring employees for sales and service, we focused on those people that had banking experience that could translate to our prospects and customers in achieving successful implementations. Today, we have a core team of management and technical staff that have been with the company between 10 to 20 years. Past banking and lending experience with the right blend of technical expertise combined with present day tenure of our staff, leads to delighted and satisfied customers, a ‘must’ if any company plans to be around for this many years.
- Industry Problem Solution – We focused our product on solving two problems – commercial loan origination and servicing inefficiency, while promoting best practices to protect asset quality in order to maximize ROA. The early day platform dubbed LMS for Loan Management System, became the Square 1 Credit Suite in 2008. 25 years later, there continues to be high inefficiency in this area with ample opportunity for the market to continue to adapt as interest margins continue to narrow.
- Steady Platform Investment – We invest in our Square 1 platform each and every year. After 25 years, we continue to innovate and improve the platform based on customer feedback and evolving needs of the market. Technology continues to evolve and we have continued plans to invest in our platform, particularly in the future support of digital origination of commercial loans, so that our customer base can continue to grow their commercial portfolios and compete against the non-bank fintech’s that have entered the market to compete for these loans.
- Focus on Conservative Growth – We began this company by being focused on building a great software product surrounded by a focus on the best service after the sale. Our priority is high customer success and satisfaction post sale vs. volume of customers we could bring on in any given year. Emphasis on customer success and retention vs. revenue and customer growth has been our measurement of success.
- Customers – I will forever be thankful and grateful for the first 20 customers that we achieved in those first 3 formative years of our business. They took a chance on a fledgling startup because of a shared vision and faith in us and the problem we were solving. We were lucky to enter the business in 1996, when vendor management requirements were less onerous than they are today. I am quite certain, were we to start this same business in 2021, the obstacles and hurdles to success would be too much to overcome in today’s regulatory environment. Those first 20 customers gave us the springboard to where we are today, by giving us legitimacy as a software vendor and providing the references that are required to close new deals.
- Learn from the Past with a Focus on the Future – It’s important to not spend all our time focused on the past and the rear-view mirror, other than to learn and improve on past mistakes. While we are focused on the past in this article and the 25-year journey to get here, we are more focused on the future. Unlike our competitors that enter the market, grow fast and then sell and cash out, we have a longer-term focus. Trends toward digital solutions accelerated during Covid 19, as businesses and customers both adapted to those lockdown conditions by utilizing web and cloud-based solutions to conduct and do business. As we emerge from Covid 19 lockdowns and re-open, we believe many of those adaptations will stick long term, including how commercial loans are being originated and serviced.
I want to close by first thanking all of our employees and staff with us now, but also those that contributed along the way. Finally, a big thank you for the customers for which without, we would not exist or have made it this far.
Here is to the next 25 years!
Thank you for your business.
Suntell CEO and Founder
Makers of the Square 1 Credit Suite