Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Marilyn Schaffer, CEO of Today (XTM Inc.), based in Miami, FL, USA, and Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
XTM is a fintech innovator founded in cloud banking and recognized for its positive impact on the hospitality industry, followed by personal care and staffing with on-employee-demand instant pay. We empower service businesses to inspire today’s workers. Our product, Today Financial™, is a foundational payment product for our clients in the US and Canada, including major restaurant chains, fine dining restaurants, salons, and staffing companies. We help businesses inspire their workers beyond on-demand pay with out-of-the-box benefits such as loyalty-driven gamification incentives, employee benefits including budgeting tools, cash-back rewards, and virtual health care.
Tell us about yourself
As a serial entrepreneur, my passion is building businesses and helping others build their professional brand. I founded NEO Communications in the early 2000s, which was later acquired by Omnicom (NYSE: OMC). From there, I was able to fund and start a few other ventures, including XTM Inc., which was founded in 2006. In the early days, XTM was a full-service digital advertising and marketing agency. The company had many significant successes and grew to become a contender in the space, winning awards for its work, including the First Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit’s representation at the PanAm Games in 2015.
In March 2018, XTM Inc. acquired the assets of Zoompass, placing the company squarely into the fintech payment space. Since the acquisition, XTM became public (CSE: PAID) and has evolved as a Miami and Toronto-based fintech innovator in the cloud-banking space, further helping businesses inspire their workforce in the hospitality, personal care, and services staffing industries.
Established as a leader in on-demand pay with many large brands, including Earls, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Cactus Club, Marriott Hotels, and Live Nation, XTM continues to innovate with further digital featurization to support businesses to inspire workers to want to work more with shift scheduling and call-outs, staff management, expense management, in-app health and financial wellness, and gamified loyalty programs. XTM’s Today Financial™ is in use through POS and Payroll integrations and directly through web portals by thousands of businesses and their workers across Canada and the United States.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
One of my biggest accomplishments as a business owner is building a world-class team of fearless innovators. In the past two years, we’ve been focused on helping the hospitality industry bounce back from the pandemic shutdowns and embrace digital transformation through on-demand payment efficiencies. This has not only resulted in us acquiring leading hospitality brands across Canada and the US like Earls, The Keg, Sircorp, and thousands of restaurants across North America, but it has also given us the opportunity to expand in other industries like hotel, golf, salon and other personal care businesses.
Our success is driven by our collaborative team. Our startup mentality affords us the ability to innovate at rapid speed and proactively pivot to overcome any market challenges. We have a mighty team of engineers, marketing and sales thought leaders, and technology product experts who are just as passionate about helping operators develop ways to inspire their workers.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
A big challenge is XTM’s publicly traded status as a micro-cap under significant scrutiny from shareholders, regulators, and institutional investors. Imagine a teenager being critiqued every step of the way. That’s us. Why did we go public so early, we are asked? Financing in Canada is a long and rigorous process for young companies. We had a group of interested investors ready to write a check with the caveat that they wanted liquidity should they choose to exercise their option. We acquiesced and were able to quickly go to a market with a solution we thought the industry needed fast. We were right. In a year, we signed foundational clients that, in turn, allowed us to build and eventually, within about 18 months, dominate the market.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Whatever business you think you want to start, be prepared mentally and fiscally for agility and the ability to pivot. When you put something out in the market, you need to get feedback from the market (and trust me, they will give it) and adjust accordingly.
- When building your team, focus on your people in order to achieve long-term growth. Startup life is challenging, and it’s your job as the owner to cheerlead for your team and provide clear direction on where you are going.
- Talk to your customers. Constantly. The most vocal ones could very well be brand advocates that help take your startup to the next level. Having access to continuous feedback ensures that you consistently improve your value proposition.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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