Networking has existed as long as the exchange of value for goods has existed. While one can exist without the other, each is enhanced by the presence of the other.
Networking takes place on many different levels, from the casual encounter at the local grocery store, to the many business phone calls taking place every day, to gatherings of like-minded individuals.
For our industry, the latter occurred Oct. 14 and 15 in Anaheim, Calif., at the Western States Acquirers Association's sixth annual conference. The location for this year's event, in the shadow of Disneyland (known as the happiest place on earth), seemed especially appropriate given the economic circumstances of the past year.
The conference attracted a record attendance of over 500 payments industry professionals, and the mood on the showroom floor seemed hopeful. Perhaps this can be explained by the nature of payments - an industry always in flux, where changes occur often and quickly.
The conference kicked off with the Field Guide for ISOs seminar. This popular session, created and hosted by Mark Dunn of Field Guide Enterprises LLC, was so well attended it was standing room only. Other highlights of day one included:
In the evening, attendees gathered for a reception sponsored by LIFT Networks Inc. The reception was packed and vendors commented on the success of the event ... when you could get near them.
The morning sessions began bright and early with a breakfast in the vendor hall. Steve Eazell of Secure Payment Systems Inc. and Vice President of the WSAA delivered the opening remarks.
The general session followed. Entitled Not the Same Old Sales Strategies, the presentation consisted of a panel of industry experts, including Marc Beauchamp of Performance Training Systems Inc., Mark Dunn, Jeff Marcous of Dharma Merchant Services and Adil Moussa of Aite Group LLC.
They discussed strategies for expanding, and to some extent reinventing your business to adjust to the new economic realities.
After the general session, attendees chose between several breakout sessions. These included Simplify Data Security - Gateways are the Key; Everything You Wanted to Know About the Bankcard Biz, But Were Afraid to Ask; Understanding PCI Impact; and Mobile Payments - The Future is Here.
In the afternoon, Craig Virgin, a three-time Olympian, delivered an inspirational keynote address. He compared sales to a long-distance run and encouraged everyone to not give up when they hit the proverbial wall, but to push through and keep heading toward success.
The final session was a presentation by Paul Martaus of Martaus & Associates. Martaus, a respected industry veteran and consultant, didn't pull any punches.
He believes the economic recovery will be slow, and the largest problem facing our industry is the increasing compression of margins. While he had no answers to this dilemma, he remarked that sometimes the biggest obstacle to solving a problem is identifying it.
Dyson Barnett, President of LIFT Networks, considered WSAA to be a great success.
"If you were new, or if you wanted to learn more or grow, this was definitely the show," he said. "This was one of the best shows in terms of attendance, vendor participation and information. I have to hand it to the board of WSAA. Great job."
Ken Elderts, outgoing President of WSAA, said the sponsors, vendors and especially the attendees helped to make the show "one of our best."
He added that this year's success came as a direct result of "countless hours and preparation put on by a dedicat-ed WSAA board and advisory member group, of which I have had the privilege to work with these past three years."
WSAA's incoming president and board of directors will be announced in December 2009. The association's seventh annual conference is slated for Oct. 13 to 14, 2010, at the La Jolla Marriott in San Diego, Calif.
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