When Money in Motion got off the ground in 1989, Alf Chisholm and his wife Susan were crammed into a 200-square-foot office space above Gloria's Restaurant in Sudbury's south end.
In the past 27 years, a few things have changed.
The equipment leasing company just moved into a brand new, 8,500-square-foot head office in the same end of town, which houses 24 of their 34 employees, with the rest spread between nine other offices from Vancouver to Newfoundland.
But just as many things haven't changed.
Despite their growth, their management remains in Sudbury, and nearly 40 per cent of their business does, too. Manitoulin-born Chisholm, who has lived in the city since high school, said keeping the headquarters in Sudbury means staying true to his roots.
Chisholm worked in finance after graduating from Cambrian College in the 1970s before he and Susan got into retail, operating two Second Cup stores locally. In 1988, they got out of retail and decided to join forces on the finance front.
The firm works as an origination team with a team of funders to supply businesses with equipment leasing agreements. They have approximately 8,000 clients across Canada.
Since their early days, they've focused on serving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in industries like transportation, construction, and forestry.
Often, Chisholm said, these smaller companies and startups don't qualify for bank loans, and come to Money in Motion instead.
Chisholm calls this the “B-space,” and he's happy to be there.
In the current soft market, Chisholm said this strategy has paid off, and Money in Motion has actually grown during what have been hard years elsewhere in the North.
When the Northern economy took a hit as nickel prices started to stop, Chisholm said commercial funding narrowed, making it even harder for SMEs and startups to find traditional financing from banks or similar sources. Money in Motion grew as companies looking to recapitalize their businesses came to them as an alternative.
“We're steady as you go, we've been the same for 27 years, we'll assist clients in good times and bad,” said Chisholm.
But Money in Motion had to adapt as their traditional funders were impacted as well.
The Chisholm's solution was to invest own family's capital in the business, through Lakes Leasing, their internal, boutique equipment leasing company that started in 1990 but became more active around 2009, during the downturn. Lakes Leasing owns assets and leases them back to Money in Motion, and these days, the majority of Money in Motion's leases are administered by Lakes Leasing.
“We took the place of some of our funders,” explained Chisholm. The move allowed them to more actively support their clients and broaden their services.
Lakes Leasings growth is reflected in their ranking of 60 on the Profit 500 list of the fastest growing companies in Canada.
“There's a lot of moving parts to get onto that list, several criteria,” said Chisholm. “They take a look at your books and they're very stringent, there's a lot of targets you have to meet.”
In the upcoming years, Chisholm predicts more growth.
They designed their office footings to allow them to build vertically and have upgraded their technology to bring them into the future.
“We have an interest in growing in terms of leasing, and we want to continue to be lending in the B-space,” said Chisholm.
The next generation of Chisholm's will be responsible for this, with two of their three children, Erin and Kurtis Chisholm, already working in senior positions and spearheading daily operations.
They'll be working with their dad for some time, if anything goes as he hopes, though.
“I hope and dream to transition ownership to my children,” said Chisholm. “But I don't ever see myself retiring.”