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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 11, 2009 • Issue 09:05:01

What it takes to thrive in business

By Curt Hensley
CSH Consulting

I recently spoke with the chief executive officer of an ISO who was looking for someone to build out a specific regional sales team. I began asking the usual questions: the type of background he was looking for, if he preferred people from particular companies and so forth.

The CEO stopped me and said, "I'd like this executive to have payments experience, but beyond that it's all about finding the right personality.

Our company is here to develop people, and we need to find the people that want to excel. We want leaders with energy and compassion who can develop other leaders."

What a refreshing take. This country was founded on the premise that if you are innovative, work hard and do your job well, you will succeed. Part of the blame for the current economic crisis can be attributed to people sitting back and making investments they knew were questionable, just to watch the money pour in. As a result, many employees who worked hard and did a great job were laid off.

Severed trust

Trust was broken - many employees don't trust the companies they work for anymore. Far fewer organizations can ensure their employees will have a job tomorrow, and deals with clients are broken even more often due to the economic turbulence.

Banks are receiving Troubled Asset Relief Program funds but not putting that money back into the economy through small business loans because they don't trust the economy to hold up.

This isn't just limited to the current housing, insurance and auto crises. Who in the payments industry hasn't run into a small business owner and got to talking, and the next thing you know the merchant is telling you a horror story about a prior or current processing relationship gone awry, excessive fees, or ongoing problems with customer service?

Because of the unethical practices of just a few in the payments industry, everyone is faced with increased skepticism among merchants.

It's time for a new business model built on the understanding that everything contributes to the bottom line. When we encourage our employees to excel by providing a great environment for success, we as a company are going to get stronger.

If we show integrity, honesty and openness with our clients, we can parlay the trust that develops toward a long-term association.

Cultivating strong employees

Bearing in mind that every piece within a company contributes to its success and well-being, it's important to address the needs of each employee. This is done in three essential ways:

    1. Career path: Everyone, from the customer service rep overseeing downloads to the senior vice president of sales, should have a clear career path laid out. This involves you, the business owner, sitting down with your management team and holding conversations about the goals and interests of individuals within the company.

    It's a great chance to get feedback about how the company can help employee morale and productivity - and improve generally. It will also increase employee loyalty, because the focus shifts from just day-to-day work to more meaningful, longer-term goals. When your company invests in its employees, the employees will invest in the company.

    2. Industry-specific training: The more your employees know about their industry, the better they perform in all areas.

    Knowledge of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance can often make the difference in a sale with a merchant. Knowing what companies are adopting e-commerce can be a huge selling point for a relationship manager working with existing accounts. Understanding the background of a payment gateway company you're trying to partner with will make a major difference to your software developer.

    Encourage your employees to learn as much as they can about the payments industry. This doesn't necessarily mean you're taking them off the phones to do a training class. You can distribute industry magazines, and encourage employees to sign up for transaction processing e-mail updates and join industry networking groups so they are receiving real-time payments updates.

    3. Communication: Have you ever received an e-mail or voice-mail message and realized later you misunderstood what the other person wrote or said? I'm a firm believer that 90 percent of business problems can be solved with effective communication. Communication is not only telling clients, employees and partners exactly what you can do for them, but also listening effectively.

    Likewise, the needs of merchants will vary - they may not just be looking for a processor - and it's incumbent on you to find a solution that meets an individual merchant's needs.

    Train your employees to listen first to what a merchant, client or partner is saying, and clarify any problems mentioned in the conversation. Suddenly, your salesperson is a merchant consultant - able to suggest possible solutions to a recurring issue.

    Recipe for growth

    A company of employees who are professional, career-oriented experts in their field and efficient communicators is a recipe for success and growth. This is not a new business model about increasing fees in the fine print or giving top execs a haircut when profits are down - it's about crafting solutions geared to your employees and clients.

    Your clients will recognize that you, and your employees, understand your clients' needs on more than just a transactional level, and you'll be able to build a firm foundation within the business world. Focusing on your employees and showing them that you really care has a dramatic side effect: Your employees begin to really care about each other. Imagine a company in which each employee is invested in the success of his or her co-workers. It promotes a level of teamwork that can lead to exponential growth. In the Linkden payments groups I belong to, I've seen several conversations about instituting regulations and mandatory certifications for agents and ISOs to increase the quality of business provided to merchants.

    If we want the industry to change, if we want low turnover with maximum employee development, if we want merchant loyalty and transparent pricing, the way to change the business world is to start changing the way we operate.

    Building trust and improving communication will ensure you have a steady client stream for years to come. The Green Sheet, Inc.

    Curt Hensley is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of CSH Consulting, a recruiting firm exclusively focused on the payments industry. He and his leadership team have over 50 years of combined experience recruiting in the merchant acquiring arena. They have placed over 1,300 payments industry professionals since their inception eight years ago. Contact Curt at 480-315-8800 or curth@cshconsulting.com.

    Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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