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The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 12, 2011 • Issue 11:09:01

Learn to be a change pro

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

An old saying goes, "The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes." Change is a constant in all walks of life, none more so than in the payments world. In the 1980s and 1990s, we were forced to adapt to change almost daily. Merchants found terminals obsolete after six months.

The number of interchange categories grew from 10 to 200 or more. It was an exciting time, because with each change came advancements in the industry. These advancements meant new opportunities for all.

More recently, the changes we saw were gradual. They didn't have as great an impact as in the early years. We easily could adapt to the advent of, say, electronic benefit transfer, or the need to enter one more item during the acceptance of a payment. As an industry, we started to settle down - or so we thought.

In the past five years, change has come robed in terms like PCI, IRS regulations and, lately, "Durbin." These changes have been profound, bringing with them fears of additional change - and, as perceived by many, not for the better.

Fear-based reactions

Our industry has evolved along with these changes. The growth of mid-tier ISOs has led to more merchant level salespeople. With the increase in these two tiers, the potential for deceptive practices grew as well. Merchants have become more suspicious of our industry as a whole.

The combination of these factors has created more fear. Many ISOs and MLSs fear they are getting only parts of the story. So they look for answers everywhere, sometimes getting misinformation in their searches. Or they react to the changes they are seeing before they have all the information. Others do nothing, but lament the fact that their returns are getting hammered.

Many of these groups tend to claim - in some cases, rightfully - that those above them in the food chain are profiting off them by leveraging these changes for their benefit. In other words, their processors or ISOs are not acting as partners but rather as parasites feeding off their sales forces.

Behind the scenes, many MLSs are preparing for the opportunity that change brings. They understand how to handle change and how to benefit from it.

Seven steps for healthy change

In 1998, Spencer Johnson published a book about change titled, Who Moved My Cheese? He suggested a new way to handle both personal and professional change. His approach remains relevant today, especially within our industry. Johnson provides seven steps for handling change and learning how to make it valuable for you.

  1. Change happens: Accept the fact that change is happening now and will happen in the future.

  2. Anticipate change: Expect it and be ready to address it.

  3. Monitor change: Look for signs that change is happening. Simply put, stay informed about the industry and look for indications that change with the potential to impact you may be coming. Understand and inform yourself, but don't react until all the facts are in.

  4. Adapt quickly: When you see change coming, develop your plan for adapting to it. If this means changing how you price merchants, how you market to merchants or even which merchants you market to, so be it. However, be careful to not react too soon. Otherwise, you may not address the changes properly.

    Knowing that change is coming and understanding which variables are involved are two different elements. Moving too fast can do as much damage as not changing at all. I recommend you have your trusted advisors review your plan and ask them, "What's missing? Do I have my facts straight?"

  5. Change: Drop the old, and concentrate on the new. If you have the facts and have done your homework, making a change will have a positive impact on your will to succeed and your success. All that's left is executing your new plan. This also means letting go of the old and bringing in the new. Keep in mind that you can't have both.

  6. Enjoy change: Savor the new opportunity. Remember when the industry was new and exciting to you. Change gives you the chance to recapture that excitement. Take these changes as an opportunity to put a new bounce in your step. You will be surprised by how your upbeat attitude will be perceived by potential merchants.

  7. Be ready to change quickly, and enjoy it every time: This completes the circle, because we all know change will come again. Yes, it does become easier to adapt to change after you have changed even once.

    One area not mentioned in Johnson's book is just as important. To quote Satchel Paige, "Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you." Once you have made the appropriate changes, move ahead. Don't look back. Change is that opportunity for you to shine even brighter. end of article

    Jeff Fortney is Vice President of ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

    The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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

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