Bluewater started at ground zero of the tough economic times in America – Detroit. As one of their people put it: “I love Detroit. But it seems to have become known lately as the world capital of bad business decisions. That has made it a great sandbox to play and learn in.”
Checking Out Your Loan Collateral
Bluewater’s employees and contractors are mostly loan collateral field examiners who regularly visit borrower companies (located anywhere) on behalf of the bank to make sure the loan collateral is actually and physically as reflected by the company’s regular financial reports.
If you want to borrow money and have nothing to hide, you will welcome the Bluewater Field Examiner dropping in to check out your collateral.
Kicking The Collateral Tires Means You Have to Be There
Yes, that involves old-fashioned shoe leather. You cannot do this safely just by reading documents. So Bluewater’s Field Examiners have to be close to where the borrowers are. Having them at a desk in the main office is not helpful.
Bluewater is a national tale, not yet multinational. The company has 19 employees and several contractors spread across nine U.S. states. But it is growing nationally by using online tools and this will enable the company to grow internationally when the time comes.
This is process-driven work. As Robert Bowles, founder, explained to us:
“The Field Examiners typically spend three to four days at a borrower’s location. They observe, report, then move on to the next assignment. Most of their scheduling is communicated by logging in to the office file server, reviewing the up-to-the-minute schedule (an Excel worksheet), and making travel plans based on that. Work papers and files are stored on the office file server, and communication is handled via phone and e-mail. To date, it’s been a pretty analog process without a lot of innovation. We’re hoping that Worketc helps us improve, centralize and streamline all our processes, improve collaboration, making information more accessible and in real-time.”
Scaling the Micro-Multinational Model
We asked Robert how he would envisage scaling this model if capital were not a constraint. We heard an answer that we are getting from many micro-multinationals about improving online connectivity. But one part of his answer stood out:
“And we’d have a bigger party every year where everyone comes together in person.”
Yes, the jet plane is the tool that augments all those online tools! This is why networking events are thriving while traditional media wilts before the online wave. People need to make face-to-face contact, to break bread together, to look each other in the eye and laugh together.
Robert told us what concerns him when he looks at scaling the business in a more traditional model:
“I fear the efficiencies of scale might not offset the less tangible effects of what would surely become a less personal and interactive workgroup.”
Stay Close to Your Clients
But in the end, the ability to stay close to clients is a core advantage of this model:
“One of our key distinctions, separating our Lender Analytics group from direct competitors, is our motivation to keep our senior executives within easy reach of all our clients. Maintaining a small, nimble structure may be a key ingredient that cannot be extracted.”
Next Is The Real Time Project
This is the fifth in a series of six articles on micro-multinationals. Next is The Real Time Project. If you run a micro-multinational and want to tell your tale to the world, send an email to bernard dot lunn at gmail dot com.