Think of what it takes to launch a dental or veterinary practice. It requires hiring employees who bring years of education and rigorous training. But what about all the resources that go into securing a brick-and-mortar business and state-of-the-art equipment?
Navigating the financing process can be confusing, slow and frustrating. That’s where Provide, a digital finance company owned by Fifth Third Bank, comes in. A tech-enabled lender, Provide aims to create a seamless, low-stress experience for its borrowers at every stage, from starting or buying a practice to expanding to additional locations and acquiring equipment or commercial property. As a testament to its success, Provide has become one of the largest players in the market since its founding in 2013.
‘I suspect many large organisations don’t realise that when properly integrated with the rest of your tech stack, Slack has the power to double or triple your team’s output.’
Provide credits Slack for much of its success in empowering remote and hybrid team members to help healthcare professionals across the country start, acquire and expand the practices of their dreams. Andrew Bennett, Provide’s chief business officer, says that using Slack as a productivity platform is as important to the company today as it was when he joined Provide as employee No. 3 back in 2015.
‘Over the years, Slack has become a lifeline for us as an operational tool, in addition to being an invaluable communication tool,’ he says. ‘In our experience, you can manage a loan pipeline two or three times bigger when Slack is a part of your tech stack. It’s impossible to overstate how much Slack has transformed our company.’
Streamlining the lending process with Slack
The lending process involves many different teams, documents and systems, which can make it difficult to keep everyone aligned and on track to meet tight deadlines. From the beginning, Provide knew that part of creating a best-in-class customer and employee experience would involve carefully selecting technology that streamlined its processes.
The solution? Working from dedicated Slack channels, paired with Workflow Builder. By integrating its loan origination system with Slack, Provide can automatically create deal-specific channels. These channels serve as a place for involved team members to track statuses, review files and collaborate with the same context. Workflow Builder is then used to update the channels as the deals move through the funding process, keeping everything updated in real time.
‘Whether you’re an underwriter, loan operations specialist, inside salesperson, closing officer or any other operational contributor, you’re automatically added to the deal channels you’re supposed to be in without even thinking about it. This allows us to make quick, accurate, well-documented decisions when issues inevitably come up in the course of a deal,’ Bennett says. ‘It would be much harder to build that one source of truth if we were relying solely on email or even the newsfeed in our software – which, by the way, we’ve configured to automatically catalogue messages pinned to the deal’s Slack channel.’
According to Bennett, these automations save the company around 10,000 hours of work each year. Those hours back mean more than just improved internal efficiencies; it means the ability to handle a larger pipeline, with happier employees and an improved customer experience.
‘So much of what makes a great borrowing experience is working with a well-organised lending and banking team. Everybody working on a deal should know what’s going on in real time, and a borrower should never be asked for the same information twice – or be caught off guard by feedback on information they submitted weeks ago – simply because we’re not all on the same page.’
Fostering a transparent culture for engineers
Having built the company’s loan origination system and architected its key integrations with Slack, Chris Caselas is playfully referred to as ‘the Slack whisperer’ by Bennett. As Provide’s head of technology, Caselas is responsible for making sure that his team of engineers and IT specialists have the support that they need to be successful, and Slack is critical to his mission.
‘The integrations we’ve built between our deployment systems and Slack have created so much transparency,’ Caselas says. ‘We bring public conversations into Slack channels as much as possible so anybody from the business can observe or even join in our collaboration.’
His team frequently plans ‘epics’; a collection of features released together to support a line of business. Whenever an epic kicks off, the project lead creates a dedicated Slack channel to manage the workload, and opens it up to stakeholders across the company to join and collaborate.
‘We’re always investing in our engineers and making sure everyone wants to be here. Slack plays a big role in helping the team drive our process forward.’
Provide’s engineering team also uses an integration that fields errors and critical issues in #the-war-room channel. A transparent space to iterate, this offers a training ground for early-career engineers to follow along and learn, without getting pulled into a meeting or a video conference. When issues do require a discussion, the team turns to Slack huddles, where they can quickly sort things out through video, audio and multi-person screen sharing.
Building an exceptional employee experience
Beyond using Slack to streamline operations and offer transparency, Provide has built and maintained a positive, connected culture through its various celebratory and interest channels. Whether it be an all-company message in #celebrations, sharing the month’s anniversaries and birthdays, someone introducing their newest potted family member in #plantparents or warm kudos from a newly funded provider in #ownership-dreams-in-action, employees are always having good conversations in Slack channels.
One of Provide’s most memorable uses of Slack is when the entire team attended a company-wide offsite in Austin, Texas, in 2022. The event was significant because the majority of the company had never met each other in person. The #austin Slack channel was created and quickly became a basecamp for making introductions, organising outings and sharing entertaining photos and videos of the team’s adventures.
‘The #austin channel was full of so much happiness,’ says Jess Ehler, Provide’s head of marketing and culture. ‘There was a constant stream of new “hellos”, people offering open invitations to join in on activities and real-time accounts of all the fun things that were happening. You could feel the energy buzzing through your phone. It was pretty incredible to watch the team bond so quickly.’
Slack also allows Provide to create a five-star onboarding experience. Adding over 100 employees in 2022, Provide needed a simple solution for the question that hypergrowth companies are all too familiar with: How do we ensure that people have easy access to all the things that they need when just starting? A Slack channel was the answer. On their first day, Provide’s newest team members are added to the #new-hires channel, where they can meet other new employees, access pinned links and posts full of important information, and quickly have their questions answered.
‘When I see reactions to posts, I know people are paying attention.’
Another benefit to Provide’s use of Slack is as a way to monitor employee engagement. ‘When I see reactions to posts, I know people are paying attention,’ Ehler says. ‘They’re saying, “Got it!”, showing support and celebrating each other’s wins, publicly and often. And right there – summed up in a Slack emoji – are the core values we’re built on.’