By Bill Pirtle
C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc.
Editor's Note: This article completes Bill Pirtle's one-year commitment as the author of Street Smarts. Bill's devotion to educating ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) is heartfelt and fierce, and it has been our great pleasure to have worked with him on this column. We hope he will continue to pen additional articles for our Education section from time to time. Beginning April 9, 2012, in issue 12:04:01, Jeff Fortney, Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC, will debut as our new Street Smarts author. He has been one of our dedicated contributing writers for some time, as well as an active participant on GS Online's MLS Forum. We look forward to the generous, seasoned perspective he will bring to the column.
Last year at this time, I was offered the opportunity to write Street Smarts, in part, because of Navigating Through the Risks of Credit Card Processing, the book I had released a few months before, and my contributions in the MLS Forum. I believe I was the first MLS to write the column solo (in 2005 and 2006 members of the now-disbanded National Association of Payment Professionals, an organization of MLSs, took turns penning the column).
I followed in the footsteps of Ed Freedman, Michael Nardy, Dee Karawadra, Jason Felts, Jon Perry and Vanessa Lang, and Ken Musante (all of whom owned ISOs).
Before I accepted the offer, I told The Green Sheet's Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Kate Rodriguez and Laura McHale Holland, the publication's Assistant Vice President, Editorial that I wanted to tackle controversial topics, and they encouraged me to do so.
My intent was to tackle ideas of ISO and MLS registration initially and then move to equipment leasing, which remains a viable option that can also be a business deduction for merchants, depending on a merchant's tax bracket.
Just before I received the Street Smarts ID on the MLS Forum, the Electronic Transactions Association revealed plans for the Certified Payments Professional (CPP) exam and certification. So I wrote my first column on that topic. While I see the need for some type of certification, I remain convinced the CPP is only the first step, not the complete answer.
The first four columns changed me to some extent. After the CPP column, I created a blueprint for positive change that anyone could run with. The next three columns covered common deceptive practices used, education for the industry and how to launch a state registration program.
In a subsequent column on education, I suggested that an education program would be critical in any certification or registration attempt because you need to establish a way to learn material before you can be tested on it. Such education must be standardized and given both through the ISO and from outside sources.
If only the ISO trains, then bad practices can be trained. For example, if you take a course on Latin but are only taught Pig Latin, do you think you'll pass an exam given by experts in Latin?
I also indicated that both Merchant University and my company were looking for modules created by industry professionals to help educate payment professionals. Six weeks after that column was published, Ted Svoronos (founder of Merchant University) and I formed C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc. We knew the best training materials need to be created by experts in each specific topic.
A further column addressed state-level registration of ISOs and MLSs. I feel we need to find a way to make this work by being proactive and initiating it ourselves. The only way to allow the industry to have a say is to present the idea instead of waiting for government bodies to create conflicting rules in each state, or worse, let the federal government take a shot at it.
I told my friend Tim Green that I wanted to speak with Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI. He had Ivan call me, and the interview became part of a column covering three issues (11:07:01 through 11:08:01). The articles covered referral marketing and provided resources to help readers develop their own methods.
The Midwest Acquirers Association show at the end of July was eye opening. I had the opportunity to meet a few people from the MLS Forum in person. I also stepped back from some previous views I had of the industry.
Instead of railing against practices that I found to be questionable, I stopped with many judgments. I now accepted that agents could legitimately use methods that I avoided without necessarily being bad agents.
In September, I decided to update my book and strip the judgments from it and replace the bonus chapters with industry and other experts writing chapters on their areas of expertise to help educate ISOs and MLSs.
Industry experts, we found, had neither the time nor the inclination to write training modules. But chapters were another story. Thus, Credit Card Processing for Sales Agents was born.
My closing line since I started this column has been, "What you do today, determines your tomorrow." This holds especially true for me. I began this column as an MLS hoping to share some ideas and use the column to gain access to experts to help the readers.
As I close out the column, I am no longer really an MLS. While I still can write for two ISOs, I no longer seek merchants for processing.
Each column I wrote pushed me to do more to help educate payment professionals. Some of the contributors I enlisted are considering writing more now that their minds were stirred by writing chapters for my book. I hope to work with them on this. Just yesterday, I was approached to teach some business professionals to write books to use as business cards.
The moral I am offering to readers is to be open to trying new things. Whether you offer new products to get in a merchant's door or accept an opportunity you had never considered before, explore your options and what is best for you and your improvement.
I'd like to thank everyone at The Green Sheet for putting their faith in me and working with me throughout the year. I also want to thank Rosemary Csizmadia, who edited my first drafts and has been a substantial help, as I am dyslexic.
And I want to thank the MLS Forum members for sharing so many insights, and you, the readers of this longtime industry resource, for your interest in your ongoing professional education.
I look forward to reading the column under Jeff Fortney's leadership. He is an experienced trainer in the industry who, I believe, will enrich all of us with his expertise.
Bill Pirtle is the President of C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc., a joint venture with Theodore Svoronos of Merchant University. Created to establish a comprehensive training program for ISOs and merchant level salespeople, C3ET is working with industry experts to produce a training guide to be published in early 2012. Bill's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes all connections on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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