Lane Conner, founder and Chief Executive Officer of financial technology organization Fuzse and member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board, specializes in facilitating payment processing services for entrepreneurs bringing fledgling businesses to market. In this interview, he discusses what it was like to work with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones; his start in business at the age of five years old, working for his parents; and his philosophy of never asking someone to do something he wouldn't do himself.
I love trying to find solutions for people. I am a people person, and I love talking to people. One of my favorite things is learning about new products that are coming out. It is a lot of fun to see new technology and how people are fixing problems, making life easier for everybody. I have a blast getting into a room with people, especially with the developers at Fuzse, who think outside the box. Finding companies that are developing answers to problems, helping them get to market, and setting them up to take payments is my favorite part of the job.
One misconception is that if you are in ecommerce, you are automatically seen as a medium- to higher-risk business, because it is card-not-present, and there is not that same level of comfort as with a face-to-face transaction. There is always going to be a little bit higher risk because of the nature of the transaction. I'm 36 years old, and I did every bit of my Christmas shopping this year online. I didn't visit a mall or a store once. I think that's the thing that we in the industry need to get through our heads: the next generation, while they might go to malls to walk around and shop here and there, most of the people I know are buying online.
I think The Green Sheet is an incredible resource for the industry. I joined the forum first and saw a lot of what was going on in the forum, and whether it was good or bad – people with strong opinions – it was still a lot of good information. If you want to post on there and ask a question, generally you are going to get some pretty good answers from some veterans who have been in the industry a long time and know a lot. Once I started looking at that and understanding that, I asked my boss at the time, at First American, how I could get more involved in the industry. He told me to call The Green Sheet and see if they had a place on the advisory board. It was a great way to be in the community as well as being a voice in the industry.
It was phenomenal. Jerry Jones is an incredible businessman; everything you've ever heard about him is correct. He walks into a room, talks to you and you feel like you are the only one there. The two years I spent at Blue Star Payment Solutions was an amazing ride; you don't get that kind of unfettered access to a billionaire that often in your life. Being able to learn and be a sponge for his business philosophy was a lot of fun.
Every day I feel there is something new; it is ever changing, and the way merchants interact with consumers is changing daily. What gets me out of bed every day is finding new technology through our developers and learning about the new technology. It's just a lot of fun. I wake up energized by not only the people we are currently doing business with, but also by what I'm going to see today that will have me going to bed thinking, "That was just a great idea! How can we better help that person and that organization?"
I think there is a segment of our industry that really should embrace ecommerce just because there is not as much margin saturation in the business as there is in retail, so there is not a ton of competition. I think that all the people I talk to are really smart people and have moved more of their business into ecommerce because they see that there is just more money to be made there than in retail.
I grew up in a very sports-related house. My mom and dad owned a wholesaler business; they had a showroom in the World Trade Center for 25 years. During the '90s, my parents brought sticker and scrap booking companies into big-box retailers such as Michaels and MJ Designs.
I thought at the time that I would work for my parents' company. I was a five-year-old kid with spiky hair in my parents' showroom, demoing new products to retailers, which is where I started learning how to sell. My dad coached baseball for 25 years, everything from semi-pro to professional baseball. I thought I would do something in sports, or I'd take over my parents' business.
I think the biggest thing that sets me apart as a leader is I would never ask someone to do something I wouldn't do myself. My dad said to me when I was very young that a leader with no followers is just a guy taking a walk. It's watch what I do, not what I say. If it's coming early and staying late, making 300 calls in a day or having 15 business meetings in a day, there is nothing that I'm above that I won't get my hands dirty on.
Fuzse is a relatively young company; it's less than a year old. It's been a lot of fun setting this company up and working 18-hour days not only doing the sales, but even building cubicles on our first day of business. It's all hands-on deck. I think the best organizations are like that from the top down. Everybody gets their hands dirty and problem-solves together. I think 2017 is going to be a massive year for Fuzse.
We have just inked three huge deals with three really big developers and ISVs that are doing projects that are outside the box and require some outside-the-box thinking on how we facilitate payments, which I think is the way that the industry is going. You have payment facilitation now, but I think you will start seeing in the next two or three years interesting ways of people doing payments with products that are being developed. That is where Fuzse is headed.
Yes, I have. Same Kind of Different is Me is a book that just got made into a movie and stars Greg Kinnear. We are actually doing the payment processing for the book's foundation. It's about a gentleman who was an international art dealer in Fort Worth whose wife made him start volunteering at a homeless shelter to repair their marriage, and he became best friends with the baddest homeless guy on the street. They had a 25- to 30-year friendship, and it's just a great book.
I just read The Magic of Thinking Big, which is a great book if you are a sales leader. It talks about goals and goal setting. A lot of people have goals but don't have timelines on goals. For example, if someone says, "I want to make $X more than I made this year." Well, let's work that problem backward. How are you going to do that? What are you going to do on a daily basis to achieve that $10,000 goal, and by when do you want to have that done? It's not just having goals; it's having goals with purpose.
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