From Master to Servant: How Honour Capital Breaks the Business-Lending Market Mold
by Ian Koplin May 2021
Since its launch in 2020, Honour Capital has worked on enhancing its foundation of servant leadership and covenant-based relationships to bring change to the business lending sector. In 2021, the company is poised to break the $100 million funding mark while expanding its ability to help clients.
Brian Slipka, CEO, Honour Capital
In late 2020, Brian Slipka, former senior vice president and head of TCF Technology Finance at TCF Capital Solutions/Winthrop Resources, along with Shea Huston, former regional vice president of the central and western U.S. divisions for Winthrop, launched Honour Capital, a new capital finance company that seeks to shake up the business lending market.
Now, standing at the precipice of an uncertain market, Honour Capital is poised to vastly expand its portfolio of clients through two vividly different approaches to business lending: building covenant-based relationships and, as Huston and Slipka describe it, applying a ‘servant leadership’ approach to the company’s mission.
As the gap between the banking and technology marketplaces closes and consolidates, companies are left with fewer and more rigid sources of transaction-based capital. Slipka says Honour Capital seeks to take tremendous advantage of the void left by banks and traditional vendor captive financing by enabling companies to achieve the diversified capital structure required for expansion.
Slipka notes that Honour Capital has the tools of a bank and the freedom of an independent, with the company striving to deliver its unique brand of business lending through close and confident relationships that align with the values of all parties to ensure mutual and exponential long-term growth.
Maintaining solid and reliable relationships inside and out of the workplace is a defining characteristic of successful individuals. Huston and Slipka recognized this fact while ideating what would become Honour Capital and decided to imprint their mutual ideals into the very first thing a potential client would see: the company’s name.
“The name Honour is an old English spelling of the word honor, of course,” Slipka says. “And having the ‘u’ in there is symbolic that this is not about us. It’s about you, the customer; you, the vendor; it’s about you, the stakeholder — and we really wanted that to be a part of the business from the start, coupled with the definition of Honour and what it means.
“In the simplest of ways, that really encapsulates the purpose behind our company and what we’re striving to be all about, which is connected to servant leadership. We wanted a name that would give clients an idea of who we are and the culture we create — one of making a difference, giving back and being grateful.”
Covenant-Based Relationships & Servant Leadership
Central to the concept of covenant-based relationships in a business setting is creating mutual success or enabling others to succeed regardless of whether they are a client, a partner, an employee or a shareholder. Stemming from Huston and Slipka’s involvement in various ministry pursuits as well as a handful of charitable causes, the notion of servant leadership has become a mainstay in the trajectory of Honour Capital. As Huston and Slipka advanced through their lives and careers, they both realized the power in what it means to be uncommon, embracing the unusual and breaking norms by turning inward and focusing on fostering lasting relationships despite where they might lead.
This idea thrives upon the success of all parties involved. It means if an employee isn’t destined to stay with the company, Huston and Slipka want to do everything in their power to help them attain their destiny, even though Honour Capital might have little to gain from such an extra effort. It means injecting passion into a business model and allowing courtesy and respect to fill in the gaps commonly left in transaction-based lending. Citing faith as a tremendous influence in each of their lives, both industry veterans decided to infuse their ideals into a culture-driven approach they believe will disrupt the business lending market.
Prior to creating Honour Capital, Huston and Slipka built their professional lives in the spotlight of publicly traded companies, but they realized they didn’t always have the luxury of putting relationships first because there were often so many other things at stake. Pursuing those relationships is exactly what makes Honour Capital different because by making the relationship come first, the company is making trust, commitment and the mutual exchange of value come first. It is through mutual interests and similar missions and outlooks that Honour Capital seeks to originate business in the strongest degree. The distinction Honour Capital makes is relationships trump all else. Publicly traded companies typically value growth above all else, and Honour Capital certainly values and strives for growth in every endeavor — but not at the cost of those who have helped build the company and enabled its success. For Huston and Slipka, it’s not a race to the bottom and they believe their company will rise in prominence based on value-based, covenant-based and relationship-based interactions.
For Honour Capital, being relationship-based meant assembling a team that embodies both talent and industry experience and also shares the same cultural values as the company’s leadership. The leadership team believes this is what will make the company succeed in the long run.
“We’re effectively hiring folks that we believe are good cultural fits based on what we’ve already described and building a company around talent, which is a distinctive shift from industry norms and something we’re able to do as a smaller, privately-held business,” Slipka says. “That, to me, is the heartbeat of America — being able to be a part of a business like this, so very different than where we came from.”
“We want people who are attracted to the purpose of the company, the mission behind it, and this idea of servant leadership and who will stand behind the founding principles of the company, which [are] client-first stewardship, gratitude and legacy,” Huston says.
Honour Capital is institutionally independent of banks but combines the best aspects of a bank by providing access to capital stability combined with industry expertise, cutting-edge fintech utilization and a culture of maintaining relationships. By stacking its team roster with a diverse range of backgrounds and talents, Huston and Slipka aim to allow creativity to precede regulatory red tape during the underwriting process.
The Next Step
The mad dash to breaking $100 million in funding in 2021 is a top priority for Huston and Slipka, shaping the structure of their operation and the clients with whom they engage. For now, Honour Capital serves small and medium-sized businesses involved with the technology, fleet and healthcare sectors. Focusing on covenant-based relationships, Honour is well on its way to the $100 million funding milestone, leaving just one question: What comes next?
As Slipka puts it, “We’re getting into things beyond just technology. We’re looking at robotics, we’re looking at high-tech manufacturing equipment. Some of those things fit the core of our business, which is business essential, capital-intensive equipment that is subject to some sort of a lifecycle management or change aspect. And we can serve any industry. We can serve any size client. And so that’s really where we’ve been focused today.”
When asked about a long-term outlook for Honour Capital, Huston says, “In the long run, we want to be the most community-minded finance business. We want to be known as a company that doesn’t just say it but lives it and is impacting communities and is working with organizations out there.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Huston and Slipka remain optimistic about an uncertain market. Offering inherent flexibility to access the capital necessary to rebuild or expand their clients’ businesses, Honour Capital is poised to provide lifelines and continued growth to clients seeking covenant-based relationships. Both Huston and Slipka believe corrections to a possibly recessionary economy will cause growth to slow in the market toward the end of 2021, allowing Honour Capital to build its relationships and expand its record of success.
“If we’re playing long-term ball, I’m not scared of the next couple of years. I’m excited about it because I feel like we’re competing and thriving and in a really competitive landscape with an unprecedented situation of capital and liquidity,” Slipka says. “This is a perfect time for us to be standing up this business and we’re going to originate $100 million or more this year in an environment where rates are cheap. Money is everywhere, programs are everywhere, capital is everywhere. And by the time the market catches up, we will have established a really credible track record of success.”
Ian Koplin is editor of Monitor. Rita E. Garwood, editor in chief of Monitor, interviewed Brian Slipka and Shea Huston for this article.