The Reviews Are In For Julia McLaughlin

Owner Stories: Julia McLaughlin, Co-Founder, Review Robin

We met Julia through some online networking. Soon after, she invited us to participate in her Digital Agency Abundance Series, and she agreed to return the favour with our Owner Stories series. Julia is a long-time entrepreneur and the co-founder of Review Robin, a tool designed to help agencies help small business clients get more online reviews. As you may know, that’s a topic near and dear to our hearts here at 10|20 Marketing. Over the last months, our two teams have been working to get to know each other and, after demoing Review Robin, we should have an announcement about offering the tool to our clients in the New Year. So stay tuned!

Our interview with Julia is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Julia! Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. Why don’t you take me through a little bit of your professional history and explain how that led to Review Robin’s creation.

Julia McLaughlin, Review Robin: I started my first business at 21 when I was still in college, which I ran for eight years. The company focused on serving small businesses’ marketing needs. I offered branding, website design and development, and social media management. I remember designing flyers for a hot tub company, my first client, from my dorm room!

Fast forward to today, and I’m now a partner in Review Robin – an Online Review Management software built specifically for digital marketing agencies. Our goal is to help marketing agencies offer valuable services to their clients that don’t take up much time. And Review Robin allows marketing agencies to quickly and easily get their clients more positive reviews across the web in places such as Google and Facebook. Our tool also helps effectively manage unhappy customers to prevent negative reviews from being posted publicly.

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing! So tell me how Review Robin launched and why you decided to build the platform.

Julia McLaughlin, Review Robin: We began building Review Robin in March of 2020. When everyone went into lockdown, we began making the software. Review Robin was very much a COVID baby! It took us eight months to build the MVP, our first platform, that we began selling! However, we quickly found a product-market fit once we brought on beta testers and got feedback from marketing agencies using our software.

We wanted to build software to help marketing agencies offer a valuable and profitable service. Of course, ensuring this platform was easy to use, so it didn’t take up too much of the user’s time, was very important to us.

10|20 Marketing: So Review Robin is a tool designed to help marketing agencies, like 10|20 Marketing, help their clients generate more positive online reviews for their customers. Can you run readers through a case study or two? What kind of results can a proactive business owner expect when trusting their online review marketing strategy to an agency selling your tool?

Julia McLaughlin, Review Robin: The results that businesses are going to see vary based on a few factors! First, some industries are more “reviewable” than others. People are highly likely to talk about their experience at a restaurant and maybe not so likely to rate their pest control provider, for example. Another factor is the customer service you are providing. If you give your customers a great experience, they are more likely to leave feedback when you send them a review request.

Another factor is customer volume. Reviews are a numbers game, and it’s essential to send review requests to all of your customers. So naturally, businesses that have a higher volume of traffic they are serving will get more reviews and have more success using a review management service.

When businesses first sign up, we recommend doing a “review blast,” which will request a review from all customers served in the last 2-4 months. As a result, those users can expect to see a higher volume of reviews come in to start. After that, the number of reviews will decrease; however, receiving new reviews will go up.

10|20 Marketing: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to launch an online brand?

Julia McLaughlin, Review Robin: I think that I have two main pieces of advice for entrepreneurs looking to launch an online brand. First, don’t underestimate how difficult it is to drive traffic to your brand. After the initial “friends and family” buzz dies down, things get real. 

Building a social media presence is complex, and even if you have a large following, that does not translate to website traffic and sales. Think through how you will drive sustainable traffic to your website and the economics of doing so. 

For example, consider your product costs before devoting a budget to paid advertising. Why? Because you need to make sure that you are not losing money to acquire a customer. And if you are, you need to make sure that you have a business where you can upsell that customer again through email marketing). 

10|20 Marketing: What’s better for Google, for example, a sudden burst of reviews or a slow trickle? We always coach our clients to take the drip approach so Google doesn’t become suspicious about the business offering incentives for reviews or just spam. Any thoughts?

Julia McLaughlin, Review Robin: Yes, I agree with you! To ensure businesses receive a steady number of reviews, users can upload a list of contacts and then create a drip campaign of requests. By doing so, they’ll have requests automatically dripped out over a few days to prevent any suspicious activity.

10|20 Marketing: So let’s change gears here a bit, Julia. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to create something that will impact small business owners? And how did the pandemic help or hurt your business?

Julia McLaughlin, Review Robin: My advice would be to create something that is high value, cost-effective, and fills a need in the market. Then put your spin on it to make your offering unique and better than the competition.

We know that other software providers offer review management software to small businesses. However, we sell our software to marketing agencies who can manage this for their clients, along with their client’s other marketing services. Because we service agencies and not the small businesses directly, we can save time and keep costs down. In turn, agencies can pass those savings onto their small business clients.

Did the pandemic help or hurt our business? We were pretty lucky because small businesses were becoming extremely conscious of their online presence during this time. Small business owners started to understand the importance of digital marketing more deeply during the pandemic. In turn, the digital marketing agencies serving these businesses were scaling like crazy. Because the marketing agencies we serve were thriving in the pandemic, it worked in our favour as well.

10|20 Marketing: Well, that’s amazing to hear, Julia! We appreciate you taking the time with us and sharing your story!

Julia McLaughlin, Review Robin: Thanks for inviting us to participate! It was my pleasure!


This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Dan Cohen Of Neon Bandits Brings Fun To Socks

Owner Stories: Dan Cohen, Co-Founder, Neon Bandits

We met Dan on LinkedIn and, after a short call, he immediately agree to tell the origin story of Neon Bandits, the business he launched with his sister Sammy a few years back. Neon Bandits, like so many companies, was created out of need and, as a side hustle for both Dan and Sammy, they’ve had the luxury of being able to listen to their customers, follow what’s working and allow success to be built up over time. And what they’ve built is quite impressive.

Our interview with Dan is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series.

Interview with Dan Cohen, Co-Founder, Neon Bandits

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Dan! Thanks for agreeing to do this. So tell me a bit of your background and how it led to Neon Bandits’ launch.

Dan Cohen, Neon Bandits: First off, thanks for thinking of us for this project. We appreciate it!

Good question! How did we get started on Neon Bandits? Both myself and Sammy (my sister and co-founder of Neon Bandits) were athletes growing up. I played basketball and baseball while Sammy was a soccer player. Since we were so involved in sports growing up, we always asked our parents for the latest and greatest gear. 

As a basketball player, I loved sneakers and hated when my socks lost their elasticity and fell down my leg, so I always tried to have a handful of special basketball socks that I just kept for my games. 

My passion for sports and apparel grew as I got older, leading me to the sports apparel industry after college. In addition, Sammy found interest in retail and worked as a retail consultant after college. 

The first job that I had after grad school had me working for a growing sports apparel brand as a college marketing rep. For this job, I travelled around the country to different colleges. At the time, I had to wear khaki pants, dress socks and a nice shirt to meet with various representatives on campuses – totally not my look! Dressing like this made me feel very out of place. At these meetings and around campuses, I noticed many students were wearing high white or black tube socks with bright sneakers.

Meanwhile, I was wearing dingy dress socks that were not comfortable or functional. When I travelled, I had to bring ten pairs of socks for two days. My routine included a workout, shower, then wearing dress socks for a meeting. After the meeting, I’d take the dress socks off right away in favour of athletic socks. 

10|20 Marketing: So, where does your sister come into this story?

Dan Cohen, Neon Bandits: At the time, Sammy and I were both living at home. After a business trip to Texas, I came home, and Sammy asked me how my trip was. I told her it gave me a business idea. She replied, that’s funny; I have one too. So we agreed that we should start a sock brand!

We set out to create a versatile sock to be worn while working out, hanging out and everything in between. However, we didn’t want just to produce a sock; we wanted to create a premium sock. At the time, “athleisure” really wasn’t a thing/word, but we essentially set out to create an athleisure sock brand that was fun, vibrant and had a bit of an edge to it.

10|20 Marketing: So what came next? How did you come up with the name Neon Bandits?

Dan Cohen, Neon Bandits: Coming up with the name Neon Bandits was the easiest part of bringing our socks to market. We wanted to create a brand that was a bit edgy and stood out. The name Neon Bandits just came to me one day, and we ran with it. 

Next, we had to source a great sock manufacturer. Again, Sammy led our efforts in this area. And going back to us thinking about our sock brand, we didn’t want to create just any sock; we wanted to create a premium sock. And it was challenging to find a factory that could develop a sock with the quality we wanted. 

It took us about 18 months to find the right factory and develop the right sock blend and construction that matched our expectations. We were very fortunate that we landed a great factory that took a chance on us, given that we were a new company. 

After landing a sock manufacturer, we worked with a designer to bring our sock designs to life and sampled them with our factory. Over the next six months, we settled on our initial looks, built our website and prepped all of the not so glorious things about running a business (like legal and banking needs). 

We went live with our brand in June of 2015, and we haven’t looked back. 

10|20 Marketing: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to launch an online brand?

Dan Cohen, Neon Bandits: I think that I have two main pieces of advice for entrepreneurs looking to launch an online brand. First, don’t underestimate how difficult it is to drive traffic to your brand. After the initial “friends and family” buzz dies down, things get real. 

Building a social media presence is complex, and even if you have a large following, that does not translate to website traffic and sales. Think through how you will drive sustainable traffic to your website and the economics of doing so. 

For example, consider your product costs before devoting a budget to paid advertising. Why? Because you need to make sure that you are not losing money to acquire a customer. And if you are, you need to make sure that you have a business where you can upsell that customer again through email marketing). 

10|20 Marketing: And your second piece of advice?

Dan Cohen, Neon Bandits: Listen to your customers and adapt to what they are telling you. For example, with Neon Bandits, we started selling socks to gyms through a wholesale program. They told us that they loved our socks but wanted to make custom socks. 

At first, we were skeptical about it, but we eventually warmed to the idea. Now, 98% of our business is developing custom socks for different companies, from gyms to restaurants to breweries. 

If we stuck to our ways and not listened to our customers’ feedback, the business would have likely failed. Listening, learning and adapting are a massive part of running a business. 

10|20 Marketing: I have a follow-up question, Dan. How are you driving traffic to your website now?

Dan Cohen, Neon Bandits: When we first launched, we tried to do everything – social media, paid advertising, strategic partnerships, content marketing – and we quickly found that we could not be good at everything. We would be spending tons of time doing these activities and not see much return. As a result, we scaled back our efforts to focus only on activities we saw moving the needle. 

We know that we are in a unique position in that we don’t need the money that we generate from Neon Bandits to keep the lights on in the business, as this is our side hustle. As such, we have taken the “long-tail approach to drive traffic to our site. For example, we have written a few blog posts based on keyword research. Additionally, since we now have a robust wholesale network (based on our custom sock business), many customers find out about our socks after buying them from, say, a brewery or restaurant, like them and then come to our site to buy them from us.  

We wish that we had more time to devote to creating content for Instagram, but we don’t see a direct correlation between a great post and driving traffic to our site, so we have scaled that back a bit. Additionally, the math does not make sense for us to invest heavily in paid advertising (since our margins are smaller from a dollar perspective). We would need to change our pricing and packaging model if we did get into paid advertising, and we have thought about doing that to scale the business. So stay tuned! 

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing, Dan! Any last words for our audience? We appreciate your time!

Dan Cohen, Neon Bandits: Thanks so much for reaching out to us and for thinking of us for this project. We appreciate your time and for allowing us to share our story!


This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Warren Wilansky Believes In Creating A Culture That Works

Owner Stories: Warren Wilansky, Founder, Plank, Montreal, Quebec

This story is a really special one for us as Warren Wilansky and I go back over 30 years. We met at summer camp, where Warren lead a unit of 11- and 12-year old boys and staff aged 17 to 19. It was then that I started to appreciate Warren’s leadership abilities and knew that he would one day go on to create something special.

And that something special is Plank, the web design company he founded right here in Montreal over 20 years ago. What’s so amazing about Plank is not just the agency’s longevity, but how they thrive through their culture. It’s something very important to Warren and his partner Steve and they work hard to create an atmosphere that people want to be associated with. In this interview, we jump into the agency’s history and dive into the culture that makes it all work.

Our interview with Warren is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series.

Interview with Warren Wilansky, Founder of Plank

10|20 Marketing: I appreciate you taking the time for us, Warren! How about we start with a little bit of background? How did you get into web development and how was Plank born?

Warren Wilansky: I had been a computer hobbyist since I bought my first Apple IIe in 1984, but it wasn’t until I started taking what was then called Multimedia classes in university that something clicked. I finally saw that my love of computers could translate into a platform for creativity and communication. Once I saw what the internet was developing into, I decided to teach myself HTML so that I could design and build websites. Shortly after, someone started to pay me as a freelancer and then a full-time employee, because of that skill, I was hooked. I was at first shocked that I could make a living at something I would have done for fun.

Over the first 18 months out of university, I worked a few different jobs and found that there wasn’t the same type of interest in the design and user experience of the websites we were building. I had the crazy idea that myself and a couple of friends could pool all of our freelance work together and start our own company building websites. It’s almost 23 years later, and I’m still here.

10|20 Marketing: What would you say some of your biggest challenges were when you started out? How did you get on a path to real growth and how long did that take?

Warren Wilansky: The biggest challenge was that we didn’t plan for or understand the fundamentals of running a company. We learned as we went along and assumed that we were doing the right things. It was only about a decade into running the company that I started to get to know some other peers and confirmed that some of what we were doing made sense and some didn’t!

As far as real growth, I was always quite hesitant about it, and we went out of our way to try and keep the team small (less than 15 people) and limit the number of projects that we took on. It’s only been in the last two years that our hesitancy has gone away, and it’s mainly not because of a need to grow or make much more money. We now have a team and culture that is at its strongest, and we want to share it with more people.

So, real growth took 20 years. 🙂

10|20 Marketing: Let’s delve into Plank’s culture, which I know is a big source of pride for you and the company as a whole. Can you talk a little bit about what’s important to you, your employees and why it all has come together to create such a strong culture and identity for Plank?

Warren Wilansky: One of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt over the past few years is that we need to be extremely clear and honest about who we are and what matters to us. We didn’t articulate our vision or values for a long time because we assumed that everyone knew what they were or would figure them out. Our assumptions would always leave someone who joined the team feeling a bit lost and unsure of themselves.

So we identified five core values — Empathy, Collaboration, Evolution, Accountability and doing Work that Matters — and made it clear that everyone needs to live up to them. We offered a benchmark set of expectations for everyone to focus on.

Another element that the current team has fully embraced is that we need to have complete and total trust in each other to have a healthy culture. We needed to know that everyone could depend on everyone else. Being honest and transparent allowed for a culture of vulnerability and the space for everyone to flourish and grow.

10|20 Marketing: So what’s next for Plank? Where do you see the business headed in the next five to ten years?

Warren Wilansky: My answer to that question is probably more consequential than any other time in the company’s history. In addition to continuing on a steady but accelerated growth path, our goal is to prepare some people to become the next generation of leadership at Plank.

Our goal is to make sure that everything that Plank has become can continue with the same core values moving forward. In addition, we hope that we can develop a team that can also infuse the company with their energy and values. Finally, we want for decades to come to continue to create some of the highest quality digital projects for fantastic clients and partners.

10|20 Marketing: That’s awesome, Warren. Love how you see the future. Last question. What advice would you give people who are looking to break into your industry? What skills should they focus on, assuming they’re looking to build websites? What traits do you look for in a hire?

Warren Wilansky: Given how diverse the roles can be at Plank, there are many different ways to become a part of a team like ours. While one could be a generalist and try and manage all aspects of a website project, we get much better results by letting people specialize in different aspects such as Project Management, Design and Development. Each of those roles can also be broken down into even more defined roles.

As we are trying to hire people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, we will be open to as many different traits as we can be. But, on the other hand, being organized, helpful and present will mean that you will fit in great with our team.

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for your time, Warren! This has been great. Any last words of wisdom?

Warren Wilansky: I should share with you one of the most important initiatives we recently launched, our Ethical Web Design Framework. So my words of wisdom are, please join us in trying to make the internet a better place.


This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Lee Goren knows how to sell and his clients would agree

Owner Stories: Lee Goren, Fractional Sales Leader and Coach, Goren Management Inc., Montreal, Quebec

After profiling Jamie Goren a few months back, it was time to offer the same opportunity to Lee, our brother. Lee’s experience in sales and business has been honed for over 30 years, starting as a salesperson, growing into leadership roles at major corporations, as a partner in a multi-million dollar business. Today, he applies everything he has learned into a successful consulting career. Lee loves teaching, coaching his clients to listen and learn, and he particularly enjoys mentoring younger salespeople who are looking for guidance.

Our interview with Lee is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series.

Interview with Lee Goren, Fractional Sales Leader and Coach

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for agreeing to do this! Can you provide some context for our readers about your background? How did you get into sales? Where has your career taken you before launching Goren Management?

Lee Goren: I was one of the few people I knew that saw himself having a career in sales rather than sort of falling into it. I had been working at an Aldo store through CEGEP and University and realized I loved the interpersonal aspect of selling as well as the thrill of the deal, no matter how big or small. After graduating from Concordia with a BA in Economics, someone I knew who owned a grocery distribution company in Toronto asked if I wanted to take a crack at opening up the Quebec market for them. I started with one active account and grew the territory to be the largest by sales volume in the country. After 10 years I got the opportunity to join Ericsson Canada (later Sony Ericsson/Sony Mobile) where I held progressively more senior roles, culminating as the head of sales for Canada. Landing with a large global corporation showed me another side to sales, which I refer to more as large account management.

In dealing with the Big 3 Telcos at the time, structure, contracts, and relationship management became as important as the offer, and selling internally became critical. This is really where I learned that selling is at least 50% internal in most large companies. It was during this period that I was fortunate to receive great formal and informal training, learned to work under several different managers and management styles and got to build a literally worldwide network of contacts.

10|20 Marketing: All this must’ve really made a difference when you went into business back in 2010 with your partner.

Lee Goren: All these assets became invaluable when I left corporate life to go into business with a partner back in 2010. By leveraging my knowledge and the vast experience my partner had in operations, importing and small business, we were able to build a multi-million dollar business by leveraging our complementary skills. Fast forward to November of 2020 when I exited the business and decided that my very unique set of experiences with both small and large corporations, my passion for mentoring and coaching young sales talent and my desire to focus on what I loved led me to form GMI (Goren Management Inc) as a full-service sales management consultancy, offering Fractional sales Management, Sales Coaching, Training and Go To Market consulting.

10|20 Marketing: So as a sales leader and consultant, what would you say are the skills you would look for if you were hiring for a sales position? Or, looking at it from a different perspective, what are the skills you would want a sales team to learn from you should you have the mandate to train them?

Lee Goren: I think that the biggest mistake companies make when recruiting sales talent is hiring qualifications and specs only, without taking into account the soft skills that are required to be a successful account manager. At the point where a candidate has made it through the vetting process for an interview, anyone you meet will have the minimum requirements specified to get the interview. What I look for are things like:

  • Do they listen more than they speak?
  • Do they make you feel comfortable when engaging in conversation?
  • Is there a fit between this person and the customer base he will serve?
  • And one of the most under-appreciated and most important factors when building a team… is there a fit with this person and your culture?

Earlier in my career, I went for an interview for a role that on paper was designed for me. I showed up in a suit. When I got there every single employee was wearing shorts and flip-flops. I knew within two minutes of coming in the door that this would never work – and so did the hiring manager. I bowed out gracefully and moved on.

10|20 Marketing: Looking at it from a different perspective, what are the skills you would want a sales team to learn from you should you have the mandate to train them?

Lee Goren: As far as some of the skills I train for, I think listening is the biggest. I try to instill in all those that I train how to penetrate a customer organization, look at the situation from their side and understand through the relationships they build within their customers what drives the customer decision. If you understand what keeps your customer up (or his CEO), then you can offer solutions to their problems and move from commodity seller (selling only on price) to becoming a trusted partner. There is nothing more powerful in sales than helping solve your customer’s problems as opposed to focusing only on what your company needs.

10|20 Marketing: Can you describe how you go about customizing your program to fit prospective clients? And perhaps give some details on how you measure the results of your work?

Lee Goren: There are 2 very distinct kinds of services I provide.

  1. Coaching
  2. Consulting

For coaching, I often have a mandate to work with an employee or the owner to help them talk through issues or situations, or in the case of employees work with them on specific areas to improve upon. A recent example of this is a mandate to help a new hire with great sales experience understand the consumer products world and work with them on an ongoing basis to coach them on the dynamics of the industry as well as specific situations as they arise.

For consulting, I typically take a few sessions to really understand the company culture, vision, mission, structure, and more. This is done through interviews not only with management but also with key stakeholders from every division of the company. This helps me assess the needs and gaps and make recommendations for improvement, growth etc… Once management agrees we move to implementation of the agreed recommendations. This is completely customized to the organization and their people and unique to them every time.

Results can be measured in increased sales, increased employee engagement/satisfaction, decreased staff turnaround, increased productivity, or margin improvement. Again this is often very specific to the nature of the engagement and the recommendations. An example of this is a company that is doing more sales but making less money. The recommendation may be to focus on the 20% of the business that provides 80% of the margin…or it may be that if they focus on the 20% of products that give them 80% of their margin.

10|20 Marketing: What is your favourite part about sales coaching and consulting?

Lee Goren: I love mentoring young sales talent and watching them succeed. And I also love that working with various companies in various industries satisfies my natural curiosity.

10|20 Marketing: One last question before we let you go. What advice do you have for clients or readers who are looking to survive the pandemic and come out of it in a healthy position?

Lee Goren: Great question. I think businesses of all types have an opportunity and an obligation to redefine their business approaches and processes as a result of the way this pandemic has changed the way businesses of all sizes must operate. For example, global supply chain operators need to reorient production, training, marketing, and other functions or like how a local doctor needs to support their patients through technology and communication. A business needs to look at its internal (employees, vendors, service providers, and others) and external customers in order to serve all the stakeholders better. Those that react first and most effectively have an ability to leapfrog the competition as the market resets itself.

10|20 Marketing: Great answer! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!


This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Steven Persaud of Everest Financial Will Help You Reach The Top

Owner Stories, Steven Persaud, President, Everest Financial Services, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Steven Persaud has a love of helping people achieve their financial goals. His company, Everest Financial Services, is designed precisely to help guide people towards those goals. Steven loves the end results, which is making a difference in people’s lives. We met Steven via 10|20 Marketing’s friend Nikki Gillingham. Our interview with Steven is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Steven. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. When it comes to financial matters, it’s crucial to establish trust with your clients. So maybe let’s start with your background. How did you get into this field? What did you study? Why finance?

Steven Persaud: The field of finance was never in my scope. I never thought I would work in this field growing up. My father has a background in commerce and accounting, while my mother is a master statistician. I, on the other hand, always wanted to be an architect without knowing what that meant. I just knew I liked drawing and design. 

I moved to New Jersey in my senior year of high school when my father started working with my uncle as a CFO for his financial firm. They employed traders in financial markets, and their company was my first exposure to finance and the business world. Living so close to New York, I got to experience firsthand the ups and downs of the New York Stock Exchange and the speed of trading in this industry. 

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing. So what brought you to Montreal and a career in finance?

Steven Persaud: When I graduated high school, I moved back to Montreal and pursued a commerce degree, bachelor’s finance. Every summer, I would return to New Jersey, spend some time shadowing traders, and had the opportunity to intern for a New Jersey-based hedge fund. 

While all that sounds exciting and interesting, I quickly realized that I did not want to be a trader or stockbroker. You can make your annual salary as quickly as you can also lose your shirt. My family had great relationships when they were living in Montreal. When I graduated, I was introduced to my father’s Financial Advisor, Gord Shipley, who took care of him and us as children. Meeting Gord was the beginning for me and led me to the career I am so fortunate to have today. 

10|20 Marketing: What a fantastic backstory, Steven! What is your approach to helping your clients succeed with their investments?

Steven Persaud: Financial advice and what I do is so much more than returns or dollars; it’s about educating clients and taking care of people—understanding that everyone is different and has different needs. One size fits all doesn’t work in today’s economy. A tailored approach with careful consideration of a client’s goals and helping them achieve them is why I do what I do. Assisting clients to find simplicity among all the noise of where to invest, what tools do I use, what insurance they need, how to protect their business, and the list goes on is what makes me different.

10|20 Marketing: So how many years have you been in the industry, and what are the things you like the most about what you do?

Steven Persaud: I’ve been in the industry for 13 years. You can see on my website that I was a manager/director for eight of those years. 

What I like is the fact that doing what I do doesn’t feel like work. Don’t get me wrong, yes, it’s a career and some days are more complicated than others. But in a given day pre COVID I would have breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner with clients, helping them while joking around. In between eating and drinking, I’d be making calls and doing some paperwork. So every day was different and always super rewarding. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that working didn’t feel like work. The absolute best thing about my job is seeing what my advice and help can and have done for clients. Seeing them retire, buy a house, and achieve their goals is super fulfilling for me. But by far, the most significant impact I’ve had on some clients is the death benefit checks or critical illness claims I’ve settled. Knowing that the products I use work and give people hope and peace of mind. 

10|20 Marketing: How has the last year been in terms of what your clients need most from you? Have you seen a shift?

Steven Persaud: My clients are used to the level of service I give them and are not very demanding. I have found that many clients have taken to self-investing and playing in financial markets since they’ve been stuck at home. While I encourage clients in this area, I also encourage them to play with a small portion until they are comfortable. There is too much noise in the market with tech companies and cryptocurrencies. People feel they can do it all themselves when, to be honest, they cannot, at least the majority. 

The main question is that while everyone is happy and riding the stock market wave last year, what are they doing now? Where are their opportunities now? Did you sell at the right time? What advice are you getting now? It’s easy to advise when things are going well, but when things are flat or not doing so well, how are clients treated and serviced?

10|20 Marketing: So how has that changed your approach?

Steven Persaud: One thing that has come out of this in the last year is the efficiency of meeting clients. We were starting to get into video conferencing and meeting virtually and electronic signature, among other things. But with the pandemic, I have seen a considerable shift in how we reach clients. The accessibility and ease of virtual meetings have made it easy for them and me too. 

A lot of the travel time has diminished. But with all the good comes some negative. What I have seen is that relationship building and conversations are now lacking. A virtual meeting I always say is basically “Hi, how are you, now let’s get down to business,” whereas meeting a client in a café, restaurant, or even their homes allows for a much friendlier experience. 

Conversation and the overall client experience is what we pride ourselves on—being client-centric and having an inviting space to receive clients and give the option to do things virtually. Everyone has different preferences and precautions when it comes to business, so adapting to the client you are dealing with is paramount in helping them.

10|20 Marketing: One last question. How has the advice you give your clients changed in the last year? Any words of wisdom to share with our readers in terms of investing?

Steven Persaud: The last year has been a crazy time for investing. We have experienced some of the most significant returns I have seen in my career. At the beginning of COVID, I would often hear questions and concerns that clients wanted to pull their investments due to the uncertainty of the market. When everything rallied, I would listen to the same clients suggest that there would be another drop and we should pull back. 

The fact is this: clients who try to time the market always end up buying high and selling low. My approach to giving financial advice has never changed and never will. What I do is take the emotion and stress out of the equation. I always tell clients and prospects that if you have a financial plan that you follow, you don’t have to be nervous. Making sure your asset allocation is in line with your time horizon and risk tolerance is the key. 

If there are any words of wisdom to share, it’s this. Review your financial plan and make sure it is still in line with your goals, then circle back and re-align your investments to that plan.

10|20 Marketing: Thank you, Steven!

Steven Persaud: Thank you!


This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Blue Whale’s Nikki Gillingham Puts Content Into Marketing

Owner Stories, Nikki Gillingham, President, Blue Whale Communications, Kelowna, British Columbia

Nikki Gillingham is a content wizard, able to take a topic, learn all about it and turn a subject into likeable, relatable content. And that’s what social media, and in turn, Blue Whale Communications are all about. It’s the variety of clients that keeps Nikki buzzing, as she loves to learn about new people, industries and services and help clients of all different business types succeed online. From a personal standpoint, we’ve been working and collaborating with Nikki for over a year now, and we’re always impressed with Blue Whale’s output. So we were excited when she agreed to participate in our Owner Stories series.

Our interview with Nikki is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for participating, Nikki! So how did you get into social media, and what is the origin of your business?

Nikki Gillingham: Thanks for the opportunity, Mark!

When I was in school for Communications and PR, social media wasn’t even a part of our projects, aside from including some Tweets in our communication strategies! After graduating, I worked in marketing and communications for several years, from government agencies to national organizations to small non-profits. Social media was a growing but small aspect of the work I was doing.

4.5 years ago, when I started Blue Whale Communications, the intent was to be focused heavily on strategy development and content marketing. However, the requests I kept receiving were often for social media support. So I took the strategy and content and applied it to social media, focusing on gaining leads instead of followers, and things took off from there!

10|20 Marketing: That’s excellent, Nikki! Often the marketing dictates the direction you go in. I was once told that it would take at least five years to figure out what your business will be. Are you there yet? How do you see Blue Whale evolving?

Nikki Gillingham: That’s a good question! At the risk of putting words in my own mouth… I think we’re getting there! We are now at the point where social media management is the core of the business, and I’d like to see that continue to grow. I have brought on several freelance content creators to the team, and we’re really taking Blue Whale from ‘online business’ to ‘agency,’ which is exciting! The extra support allows me to work more on the business instead of in it. I’m taking the opportunity to coach those interested in learning and doing it themselves and launched an online course for those interested well. So I think Blue Whale has settled into a nice rhythm. We’ll continue to expand on the current business model, which is a combination of done-for-you social media management services and coaching or consulting. Of course, ask me again in 12 months, and my response might be totally different!

10|20 Marketing: I might ask you again next year! So what’s your wheelhouse in terms of clientele? Do you service a specific type of business, or is your client roster more random? An immediate follow-up to that question is, If you have an ideal client, how would you describe it?

Nikki Gillingham: One of the things I absolutely love about running an agency versus when I worked in the field as an employee is getting to work with clients in all different industries – it’s fascinating, I learn so much! The majority of our clients are small, service-based businesses, for example, laser and aesthetics clinics, wineries, dentists, real estate agents and brokerages, nutrition coaches, and even other communications agencies and consultants. It’s really all over the map, and it’s a lot of fun! An ideal client for social media management services is a business owner with an established business, already earning consistent revenue, and who wants to generate more leads with a smarter social media strategy.

For the coaching aspect, ideal clients are either new to business and entrepreneurship and want to create their own unique marketing strategy. They have an admin overseeing some of the marketing work and want them to optimize what they are already doing. We offer a 1-hour strategy call called a Power Hour. It’s an opportunity for anyone to hop on a video call and ask me any questions they have at all about marketing and social media. I get to chat with everyone from those whose businesses haven’t launched yet, to those with 20+ years of experience wanting a fresh perspective.

10|20 Marketing: Love it! You certainly know who you’re after and how to attract new clients. Let’s switch topics now. I want to ask you what your thoughts have been about the last year. How has your business adapted? Have you seen a change in how your clients are approaching their marketing?

Nikki Gillingham: The past year has been one for the books, hasn’t it? Initially, things really slowed for Blue Whale – marketing is always the first thing that gets cut from budgets! But that opened the door for me to pivot into the coaching space and allowed me to create the online course and other offers at a lower price point. So the second arm of Blue Whale really grew out of the pandemic. I don’t know if marketing, in particular, has changed so much as life in general has – of course, many had to move online, and that change in operations changed the overall messaging.

Instead of booking appointments, salons are suggesting products that to purchase for at-home care. Instead of promoting gym memberships, health and fitness experts share at-home workouts, renting equipment out, or offering virtual classes. The other big question is, when you go from seeing loyal customers regularly to not at all, how do you maintain that relationship? Maybe that’s where the marketing has shifted (or rather, more businesses are embracing the online side of it). We see more faces on social media as owners go there to share their stories and stay connected with their audiences.

10|20 Marketing: Do you see a one-size-fits-all approach with social media for your clients, or do you see some networks work better for certain types of businesses? Do you have favourite networks? What else do you do? Email, content writing, other approaches?

Nikki Gillingham: I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, but I think all platforms can work for all businesses. Even when we’re in the B2B – or Business to Business – market, at the end of the day, a human is on the other end making those decisions for the company. That human goes home at the end of the day and scrolls through Instagram, watches videos on YouTube, or chats with friends on Facebook. All places where they can inadvertently discover your business when they’re not thinking about business. That’s why messaging and understanding your audience is so important, more so than the platform you’re on. That’s not to say all businesses should be on all platforms, but I don’t think one platform over another will make or break a business.

Personally, I love Instagram. It has a higher engagement rate than other platforms, meaning users are more likely to interact with content than elsewhere. I’ve built real, genuine connections on that platform and have made new friends, business connections and generated leads from showing up and talking to people. THAT’S what social media for business is all about – having fun, building connections, and generating leads in the process.

Besides social media, we also manage email marketing, blogging and copywriting, and even basic website design.

10|20 Marketing: Nikki, thanks so much for taking the time for us. We loved spending this time with you!

Nikki Gillingham: Thank you! I had fun too!


This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Community is the Key At Metspace

Owner Stories, Caterina Mazzone, President, Metspace, Montreal, Quebec

Late last summer, we joined Metspace West Island to network and access the lounge. The minute you walk through their doors, you feel at home. That’s the sense that Caterina Mazzone and Paolo Catania have worked so hard to create at their two co-working locations. Mission accomplished. Starting in April. we’ve moved into a closed office and couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. We now have a wonderful space to work out of that’s private, but also still very much associated with the community. Our interview with Caterina delves into their plans for now and down the road, and includes an inspiring message for those looking for positivity as we move deeper into our new normal routines.

Our interview with Caterina is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Caterina! Thank you for agreeing to this interview! We’re excited to have you participate. Can you give us a little bit of background on how Metspace was started and walk us through your business concept?

Caterina Mazzone: Thank you for the opportunity!

How Metspace started was quite a natural process. In 2013, we closed a family business and we had an office that was empty. My husband decided to go to real estate school in 2014 and as his courses went on, his fellow students started coming to the office to study or to work. Shortly thereafter, the questions were asked if they could rent an office and voila, Metspace was born!

Our business concept is simple, we are building a community and offering the space as a tool to help you feel empowered, to help with your growth and to help with achieving your goals!

10|20 Marketing: Can you walk us through your locations, give some context on why the two locations were chosen? Why St. Leonard and the West Island?

Caterina Mazzone: St-Leonard is the first location and it is where we had the empty office so it just happened! As for the West Island, it is part of our expansion plan. We are aiming at the 4 corners of Montreal and then increase the radius nationally and eventually internationally!

10|20 Marketing: Have your plans changed over the last year in terms of expansion? How did the pandemic change things for Metspace? And how did you see it affect your tenants?

Caterina Mazzone: At Metspace we try to make all our members feel comfortable. When the pandemic first hit, we had to make necessary adjustments. We took every precaution to ensure our members felt secure but most importantly safe in our workspace. One of the values we uphold in our community is that once you join Metspace you become family. We adopted habits and rules that took care of not only our members but our staff as well. In terms of expansion of course some of our plans were delayed. We had to put a pause on some projects.

As we now continue in our new normal, we are starting to once more branch out and begin new ventures and partnerships. We have adjusted and have maintained a clean and healthy workspace for all our members and tenants by having routine cleaning, monthly sanitization treatments and hand sanitizers distributed throughout the space. This not only made our members feel safe but our tenants and staff feel comfortable as well.

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing, Cat! What’s the profile of a typical member? Metspace caters to people and businesses of all sizes, but what do you think they all have in common? And what type of business really thrives within your Coworking concept?

Caterina Mazzone: The typical member profile is an individual or small group that is an entrepreneur or works for corporate. We have seen that the common factor of them choosing to come to Metspace is that they want a place where they can work yet feel like they are part of a community. In the past 6 years, we have witnessed so many friendships, partnerships, and business transactions happening between our members!

10|20 Marketing: Speaking from experience, I agree that you and Paolo have done a great job of making everyone feel a part of a community! Can you describe some of the events you put on that help create that community feel?

Caterina Mazzone: Thank you Mark! We are doing our best to make everyone’s experience at Metspace, an exceptional one! One of our events that everyone looks forward to is our monthly lunches! It gives our members the opportunity to meet one another while having lunch provided by us! Our community loves this event so much that they ask us for the dates a few months in advance to block off that lunch hour!

10|20 Marketing: Yes, the lunches are great! Any last words of encouragement for our readers as they try to find the light at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic?

Caterina Mazzone: Yes, absolutely! What I know for sure is that we are all in this together. The beauty of our Metspace community is that the common values are focused on 6 c’s! To connect, to collaborate, to create, to cultivate, to conquer, and of course, to celebrate! I invite your readers to come by Metspace and take a tour or to come work for the day! We will make sure you feel right at home!


This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Joelle Dorfman sees the new reality of realty

Owner Stories, Joelle Dorfman, Real Estate Broker, Groupe Sutton Performer, Montreal, Quebec

We’ve known Joelle Dorfman since we were kids, as she grew up in our neighbourhood and was friendly with our family. More recently, we’ve reconnected through our common networking group, The Networking Club here in the West Island of Montreal. getting to know them through our community sports programs and then as clients of 10|20 Marketing. Joelle has been a real estate broker since 2006 and has an interesting perspective on the market, the pandemic and just plain old hard work.

Our interview with Joelle is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place. And with the second wave now upon us, it’s the right time to prepare your business online.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Joelle! Thanks so much for agreeing to participate. So when did you get into real estate? Is this what you’ve always done? Where did you get your start?

Joelle Dorfman: I officially got my licence in June 2006. Before that, I went to McGill University and earned my Bachelor’s of Social Work. After I graduated, there weren’t many jobs in that industry so I worked as a Montessori school teacher for three years. After that, I worked as an office manager at my father’s engineering consulting company until he sold the business.

I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father, brother and husband all ran or run their own businesses. I believed that the business experience I had working for many years in a professional engineering company, along with my social work education gave me the perfect tools for a career in real estate.

10|20 Marketing: Can you describe what kind of market we’re in now. And what advice do you have for anyone looking to buy a home now?

Joelle Dorfman: Well, it’s been a strange one! Lol. This year is a very unusual one, just like in most industries. The real estate industry was basically “on pause” and since things have reopened, any properties that had been on the market or have been put on the market, have sold quickly, often with multiple offers. It’s been a great market for sellers and often a frustrating market for buyers.

If you’re looking to buy a property, act fast and don’t hesitate! Work with a broker who is active in the current market and is consistently looking for anything new that comes up for sale.

10|20 Marketing: How do you see the housing market changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

Joelle Dorfman: Predicting is an imperfect endeavour. I think what this pandemic has taught us is that working from home can be a positive, as employees can be just as productive! So after the pandemic, companies may still allow their employees to either work from home on a full-time basis or allow them to work part-time from home. This will require people to have more space to set up proper permanent at-home offices which will, in turn, translate to the need for larger family homes.

10|20 Marketing: Great perspective, Joelle! What have you personally learned during the last few months from a professional perspective? From a personal perspective?

Joelle Dorfman: From a professional perspective, I have realized how my education in social work has really helped me to understand how to work with clients who may be feeling stressed out and unsure about their future during these unprecedented times.

On the personal side, I have learned how much I enjoy spending time with my family but also how much I miss the social aspect of life. I’m a very outgoing and sociable person and have realized what an integral role my friends play in my everyday life.

I think this pandemic has forced us all to look at our lives through different eyes. We’ve learned that we shouldn’t take anything for granted because we never know when it will be taken away from us, at least temporarily.

10|20 Marketing: Do you have any advice for other brokers out there? What about for brokers who may be starting out in the industry and only just now getting their feet wet?

Joelle Dorfman: In this business, it can be a lot of ups and downs. When you first start out, you have to really want it because it’s very challenging to get started and establish yourself in the industry. Like in anything in life, hard work pays off!

10|20 Marketing: Great advice, Joelle! I appreciate your time and participation in our series!

Joelle Dorfman: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!


This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Joel Goldenberg believes in the power of putting his customers first

Owner Stories: Joel Goldenberg, Business Owner, Premier Ostomy Centre, Montreal, Quebec

We’ve known Joel Goldenberg and his father Nat for about 20 years, getting to know them through our community sports programs and then as clients of 10|20 Marketing. In business since the 90s, Premier Ostomy Centre has become to the go-to for ostomy supplies in Quebec.

Our interview with Joel is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. Also, remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Joel! Thank you for agreeing to participate in our spotlight series. Let’s get started by having you describe your business, Premier Ostomy Centre.

Joel Goldenberg: Premier Ostomy Centre is a family-run medical supply store.  As most of our customers have health issues, customer service is our number one priority. We make sure our clients’ needs are met in every way.  We sell all medical products, including, but not limited to, ostomy bags and supplies, catheters and accessories, mobility aids, bathroom equipment, compression stockings and more.  In addition to our brick and mortar store on Côte des Neiges, we also have a transactional website to help our clients.

10|20 Marketing: How long have you been in business? Can you discuss how your store started and evolved over the years?

Joel Goldenberg: My father started the business in the late 1990s. My Dad had a small pharmacy and started to have a significant demand for ostomy supplies. He decided to open a second business in the pharmacy as a medical supply store. I joined him about ten years after he opened with the idea of expanding the business. We started carrying other medical products, with catheters and supplies being our most important addition. I started visiting remote areas of the province to bring product expertise to underserved cities. We have since moved into our current location, which doubled our space and finishing an expansion. We have also diversified and are now distributors and importers for specialized products. However, our original goals and principals remain the same. We provide excellent customer service, have a very knowledgeable staff and provide fair and competitive pricing.

10|20 Marketing: What are some of the approaches you’ve taken to grow your customer base? Do you actively run marketing programs?

Joel Goldenberg: Our business relies a lot on referrals. Our best marketing is offering the best service we can. That’s how we get so many referrals from health professionals and current clients. We do other marketing as well. We advertise in local support group journals and nurse publications. We have an active presence on Facebook and are trying to be more active on other social media platforms. But I will always believe that offering good service and treating people with kindness and respect is the best marketing you can do.

10|20 Marketing: We agree, Joel! How has the business been since the pandemic hit? How have you been coping?

Joel Goldenberg: It has been interesting, to say the least, since the pandemic started. First, we had significant panic buying from our clients, so we were insanely busy. We also had so many calls for masks and other PPE that we couldn’t access. Then things quieted down as may of our clients had stocked up. Staffing has been an issue as our customer service team had to stop working. Most have young kids and needed to stay home with them. I finally have some staff back working from home, which poses many other challenges. We had to slightly reduce our opening hours, so I didn’t burn out the rest of the staff. For the most part, the supply chain has held up, and we have been getting our products as usual. I have even managed to find stock on most PPE items at fair and reasonable pricing.

10|20 Marketing: Final question, Joel. As a seasoned business owner of a retail location, what advice do you have for others in your shoes as they deal with this new normal?

Joel Goldenberg: That’s a good question. First off, I would say, don’t panic. Take your time before making any decisions and think them through. Another crucial thing is to take care of your staff. You need happy and productive employees, so you need to consider them when making any decisions. It is also essential to plan ahead. You need to try and figure out what’s going to be required over the next few months and try to be ready for anything. We have gone through many scenarios, and I continue to do so each day. There is nothing worse than being unprepared.

10|20 Marketing: Great advice, Joel! I appreciate your time and participation in our series!

Joel Goldenberg: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!


This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

When it comes to leasing, Jamie Goren sees both sides of the coin

Owner Stories: Jamie Goren, Commercial Asset Leasing Consultant, Affiliated Financial Services, Montreal, Quebec

Nepotism comes to the Local Business Owner Spotlight series and we won’t apologize for it! Jamie Goren is not only my brother, he’s also an experienced businessman who has worked for others and owned several business. He now guides other business owners through the process of leasing equipment earmarked to help grow their revenues. In this discussion, we touch on what he does, who he helps and the importance of distinguishing between good debt and bad debt.

Our interview with Jamie is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. Also remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

Interview with Jamie Goren, Commercial Asset Leasing Consultant

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for agreeing to do this, Mr. Goren. Your participation is greatly appreciated. How would you describe what you do if you were asked by mom?

Jamie Goren: Very basically, we help companies and sole proprietors alike to purchase commercial use assets without tying up working capital or depleting their cash. We can help companies to purchase everything from used or new trucks and construction equipment, to machinery, racking, telephone systems, alarm systems and even websites. We can even help professional offices to purchase furniture. We do this using lease-to-own contracts that typically go to a $10 buyback at the end. This the most tax efficient way to finance these purchases.

10|20 Marketing: So why would someone come to you for financial help rather than go to a bank or another lending company?

Jamie Goren: There are a few reasons, depending on the type of business you are running. For some proprietors (electricians, plumbers, contractors) it’s often a way to get commercial credit established while not tying up the amount of credit their bank will allow them to run their businesses.

For larger companies, the approval process is much quicker than traditional financing, the financing is off balance sheet (in many cases), and it does not tie up their working capital.

Lastly, for companies of all sizes, we will look at assets that traditionally a bank would not finance. We will also look at credit profiles that banks don’t usually touch.

10|20 Marketing: What advice would you give to business owners as they try to manage cash flow during what is now a very uncertain period of time with a lot of unknowns?

Jamie Goren: Managing your working capital is critical to buffering the uncertainty and the unknown. Even if you have the money in the bank it doesn’t mean it is the right time to reduce that balance and spend it.

There is such a thing as good debt just like there is such a thing as bad debt.

If you have the opportunity or the need to acquire an asset that will help you to grow revenues and it will generate positive cash flow when weighed against the payments, you should really consider leasing that asset and using the increased revenues/profits to make the payments.

I know it sounds self serving in this case, but adding debt to manage cash flow and punt the problems down the road is bad debt. Adding debt to purchase an asset that allows you to bill more or make more profits is good debt.

10|20 Marketing: You raise a great point. How do you help clients to see the good debt-bad debt point by coming across as help and not self-serving?

Jamie Goren: Having been in manufacturing businesses for 30 years prior to this career change, I feel like I know the experience from both sides of the coin. I truly believe that I am now selling a service that is really needed and in demand.

I will never put a gun to anyone’s head to sell them something that is not the right fit for them if they are not comfortable with it. I can help with the cashflow calculation, I can help with the weighing of pros and cons. I am in this for the long haul and want to be viewed as a client’s ally. I tell clients all of the time that I work for them, not for the lenders. In the end, my objective is to find a solution that fits their situation and that fits their business. If I cannot provide it, I will refer them to someone who can.

I recently did a financing for a company that I had that exact conversation with back in January. They opted to use cash for their purchase because an older member of the management team believed that there is no such thing as good debt. We had the conversation about good debt/bad debt, I let him know that I greatly respect his life experiences and his decision but I am always here if they need me. Not only did I recently do a deal with them, I have also been referred to another prospect by the same person.

10|20 Marketing: Do you see business getting back to normal now? What was your take of the market during the last three months of lockdown and pandemic panic?

Jamie Goren: Let me address the second part first. The business climate was really difficult in the months of April and May especially. Deals that were signed and ready to be funded were cancelled, especially in the event production space, and they won’t be coming back until next year at the earliest.

I hope that governments learned enough during the last three months to figure out a way to do target shutdowns on a much more micro level as best they could. But like any black swan event there were business opportunities to be had. And money to be made. We were busy with transport companies, Amazon delivery couriers, and some packaging equipment manufacturers.

I am thankful that we aren’t very focused on the restaurant trade, because that is going to be a really difficult industry (credit-wise) for an extended period of time.

As for the first part of the question, truthfully I am not sure what normal is. I have long felt that companies and consumers have very short memories and habits will return to the norm. I am not sure about that as a blanket statement in this case.

New credit approval will definitely be more challenging to get for a while. I certainly wouldn’t bet on an immediate return in travel and tourism.

On the other hand, home renovation companies, pools and drive-in entertainment venues are areas where we are seeing lots of demand.

I believe in the ability of entrepreneurs to innovate and adapt, but don’t think that the worst fallout has really hit yet. Lots of businesses are being propped up with payment relief and government subsidies.

It’s going to be a long summer and fall for the local economy and for the labor force, especially in retail and service based jobs.

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for this discussion, Jamie. Any final thoughts on credit, funding and moving forward?

Jamie Goren: I guess if I can leave your readers with a thought it is this: now is the time to make smart decisions. To conserve working capital but to not be fearful of capitalizing on opportunities. Some of the biggest success stories today are companies that took chances coming out of the recession back in 2009/2010 because they saw opportunities and pursued them.

There is money available for good businesses. While credit is tougher to get, it is far from impossible. There really is such a thing as good debt, especially for small and medium sized businesses.

I am available to discuss this with anyone who would like to.

I work for the clients. Not the lenders. Not a bank. Not anyone else. My job is to help businesses purchase the assets that they need for success. I can help you too.

Thanks so much for doing this, Mark. I have truly enjoyed reading every one of the stories and am grateful for you doing this one (even if I did have to wait my turn!)

10|20 Marketing: My pleasure. And the list is long! Thanks for playing along. See you later!

Jamie Goren: Of course!


This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.