By Jeff Fortney
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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 email@example.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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