Be Kind. Remind.

How Laurie Coburn is establishing a “thank you” culture at financial services company National Money Mart to empower its employees

Photo by Daria Wilcox

It’s not the product or service you sell, and it’s not your marketing or advertising. The keys to your company’s success can be found in your employees and your corporate culture. Unfortunately, many companies fall into a trap—creating a culture that does not embrace open, honest, and respectful communication. Canadian financial services company National Money Mart has made significant improvements in building a company culture that empowers employees to get the most out of their work. Here, Advantage takes a look at the values behind the numbers.

2,000 Canadians

According to Laurie Coburn, senior manager for human resources at National Money Mart, the company is making significant strides in creating a new “thank you” culture—promoting trust and empowerment among its employees. Money Mart employs more than 2,000 Canadians and has more than 500 branches from coast to coast. Money Mart’s parent company, Dollar Financial Group, Inc., purchased the Canadian company from its founders in 1996. Dollar Financial owns and operates the largest international network of retail financial services stores, with over 1,335 locations in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

As Coburn explains, the “thank you” culture at Money Mart is an informal mantra used among the human resources personnel that consists of the company’s new BRAVO program. The program is used to empower employees to recognize daily achievements and reward teamwork—specifically recognizing behaviors that embody Money Mart’s four company values—empowerment, innovation, integrity, and grit.

“The amount of turnover at the executive level was the instigator for this vision,” Coburn says. “Change is difficult, but the fresh faces and fresh ideas have highlighted some major gaps. Our focus has really shifted to the front-line employee’s point of view.”

“The peer-to-peer recognition is so much more valuable to the employees than some annual recognition from the company.”


In addition to the BRAVO program, Money Mart has implemented a new communications intranet tool called that allows the company’s global employees to receive the same messages.

“We’ve also implemented and now completed a 1NA (one North America) business strategy,” Coburn says. “We are trying to align the North American business units and create efficiencies.” Employee response to the initiative has been positive as its employees love the opportunity to recognize their peers.

“The peer-to-peer recognition is so much more valuable to the employees than some annual recognition from the company,” Coburn says. “These are going out in real time.”

10+ Years

Making such significant strides in revising a corporate culture is no easy feat, but Coburn stresses that her colleagues in human resources make the transition smoother.

“This is the finest group of HR professionals I have had the pleasure of working with,” Coburn says. “Most of them have been with the organization for more than 10 years and have held a variety of different roles. This gives them a very unique perspective on the business, and they truly know how to partner with operations in an exceptional way.”

And while the corporate culture initiative has taken hold within the company, it is also being extended to Money Mart’s growing entities. In recent months, Money Mart has acquired a portion of the Cash Store Financial locations. As part of this acquisition, Coburn and her team also have made an effort to integrate the “thank you” culture into these locations.

“From the outset we had made a conscious decision to visit each location and meet all of the staff to introduce them to Money Mart and answer any questions or concerns they might have had,” Coburn says. “For many months they were working for a company that was failing and with no job security. The future was uncertain and we were able to give them an outstanding first impression of our organization.”

1 Cohesive Culture

The integration of Cash Store locations with Money Mart’s existing structure took several months as the HR team had to reorganize stores and make sure renovations and security and technology upgrades were completed.

“Now that they are all fully operating as Money Mart locations we are busy trying to make them part of the team,” Coburn says. In doing so, Coburn recognizes that consistency is key. So the team members are making sure that they offer the company’s standardized training to all former Cash Store locations.

“We’re also continuing to do needs analysis to ensure that the branch managers are fully trained, supported, and set up for success,” Coburn says. “Reassurance, patience, and understanding are very important in this process. It can’t be lost on us that these people and stores were operating under very tense, uncertain, and scary circumstances for a long time. We have to reassure them that we can be trusted, we care, and we are never ever going to sacrifice ethics or integrity.”

For Coburn, finding ways to help employees is paramount to her and Money Mart’s success. “The passion I have for HR stems from the realization that what you invest in people you get back ten-fold,” Coburn says. “Investing in other areas of the business is certainly important but nothing will bring you more satisfaction or better results than investing in your employees.”