Jared Isaacman, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Harbortouch, believes that if you want to start a career in the payment processing industry today you need a thick skin and must be comfortable in what is rapidly becoming a technology driven industry.
"There is no instant gratification in this space anymore, not like say 1997 where you came into the space and a merchant didn't have credit cards and you leased them a terminal," Isaacman said. "Merchants get called upon by 20 or 100 different payment reps a year, so they understand the game. It is very hard to jump into this industry and have some instant success."
Isaacman got his start in the payments industry when, as a teenage college dropout, he formed Harbortouch (at the time called United Bank Card Inc.) in the basement of his house in New Jersey. Soon thereafter he became a contributor to The Green Sheet Inc.'s online forums.
"I was a contributor on the first Green Sheet online forum that existed; it's like three iterations before the one we use now," Isaacman said. "A huge portion of our success and our early growth team was from our contribution to The Green Sheet. We were able to interact with so many ISOs and educate them. I probably logged far too much time on those online forums than I should have, but I was 16 or 17 so I had nothing else to do."
At age 19 in 2002, Isaacman became the youngest member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board, a position he has held since that time. Today, Isaacman is recognized by BusinessWeek and Inc. magazines as one of the nation's leading entrepreneurs.
In reflecting upon the reasons for his success, Isaacman said, "We have really tried to avoid the race-to-zero, never-ending margin compression that exists in our industry." A key part of his strategy emerged in 2004 when Harbortouch introduced the first free credit card terminal.
"Everybody was buying the same terminals at the same cost at the same time period," he said. "What is the difference buying a terminal for $200, selling it for $209 and giving away all the rates and fees versus buying it for $200, giving it away and having a predictable ROI with some healthy margins? It was a way to stop margin compression, which, even though I think Harbortouch has been very successful at that over the years, a large portion of the industry has not."
So where does Isaacman see the industry heading in the future? He thinks the POS and the parallel payments industries are on a converging track. "Probably four more years from now we are not even going to refer to them as separate industries," he said. "The fact of the matter is point of sale system technology isn't what is driving the payments anymore; it's just an accessory.
"Technology will drive business operations, and payments will just be one piece of it. Table-turn efficiency for restaurants, order entry, online ordering, online reservations – mobile payments, someone comes into a restaurant redeems a $50 gift certificate on their phone, pays the tab on their phone and leaves. That is the future of the industry, without question."
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