1800Approved is a business that never really sits still. Since its formation, it has been looking for the next sector to move into or the next market to infiltrate. It’s an approach that has driven it to $20 million revenue less than four years after launching.
The Queensland finance and insurance broker was launched by Rodney Michail, who was a car dealer.
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Michail felt that the finance providers he dealt with weren’t very efficient and had a limited scope. Noticing that his customers were complaining regularly about the service they were getting, he decided he could do better himself.
After initially starting brokering for the car sector (this still makes up 30% of 1800Approved’s business) the start-up began to systematically invade other industries in order to broaden its reach.
“We are very versatile business, we have forecasted change very well,” says Angelo Lauro, who joined Michail as a business partner more than two years ago.
“We moved into bikes, then marine and commercial – we can do anything from a $5,000 loan to a current deal which is with a group of private lenders for $600 million.”
“Our business comes from consumers directly, or referral partners and dealerships. We are about the whole solution – car, house, about providing solutions.”
“We do the same with the dealerships, to help them sell their products. We provide the tools, whether that’s an online calculator or building them a website, to help them. We invest a lot into developing the products and tools.”
This growth isn’t haphazard. Michail and Lauro spend a huge amount of time on strategy, identifying and testing the next market they should move into. A diverse range of mentors and industry experts have been corralled into an informal network that can provide the duo with the key insights they need before they decide to make their move.
“We have a very detailed plan, done quarter by quarter, on the time to turn a product around – it’s very strategic,” says Lauro. “We’ve been able to manage it through the strategy, so we know exactly how much want to do. We found a lot of positive surprises.”
Sometimes, this ambition for relentless growth can come at a cost – Lauro admits that they were a little hasty with their plans for dealerships to process their own finance, as the market wasn’t ready for it. But having taken a step back to develop the systems and tools to allow this, 1800Approved is benefitting from the partnerships.
The founders had to grapple with another, very different, problem in their early days – competitors trying to undermine them in the marketplace.
“We were bullied a bit by competitors and had rumours spread about us to lenders, dealers and suppliers,” he says.
“We had to overcome that by taking the high road on it. It reinforced our drive to do it better than the other guy. If we act and do better than they do, then we will get better results.”
The next step is franchising, with a plan for up to 100 franchises across Australia. It remains to be seen what the next big step after that will be, but it’s certain that this is one fast-growth start-up that isn’t content to coast along.