By Jeff Fortney
At least once a week I hear a story. It always begins with a statement such as, "A while back, I partnered with an ISO who promised great revenue, had what I thought was a fair schedule, and a quick way to grow my income. I trusted them. Then I discovered …"
At this point, the story varies, but typically involves a complaint such as the residuals were much lower than promised, a minimum productivity was required to even get paid, or the partner had increased (or padded) fees elsewhere that inflated the costs to the merchant. Invariably, the reason for telling me this story was to demonstrate the individual had learned a valuable (albeit expensive) lesson or to explain why he or she was wary about trusting people to do what they said they would do.
It's human nature to want to trust. Trust could be defined as a logical result of someone's action (earned trust). Or it could be defined as an emotional response given to something heard or seen without full examination (blind trust).
Trust cannot be measured in portions. You either trust or you don't. It's all or nothing. And it's completely in your control. Placing your trust in the wrong person, company or situation can be damaging both financially and professionally. Sometimes, the professional and financial damage is recovered over time, but the damage to your ability to trust may be permanent.
In our payments world, trust is critical. When you sign merchants, they trust that what you say is true and that you are not going to damage or injure them. You, in turn, trust that what you offer is exactly what you believe it to be.
If you are building an ISO, you must trust in your sales force to abide by the rules. You must trust in your partners to pay you correctly, to provide the key information you need to remain successful, and to not take actions for their benefit at your expense.
There is no success without trust. And when your trust is betrayed, it is exceedingly difficult to trust again. Until you address the situation, the damage caused will fester and become a wall preventing your future success.
The first step is to address the lost trust head on. Examine what led to the failed trust. Did the individual intentionally mislead you or did the person not know he or she was providing inaccurate information? Did you fail to ask the right questions upfront? Did you not read all of the documentation?
Knowing the cause is necessary to avoid repeating errors. Don't attempt to place blame though. Once trust is lost, placing blame will not rebuild it. The goal is to determine what you should have done differently before you misplaced your trust and what actions to avoid going forward.
Next, change how someone gains your trust. Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust, but verify." Any person or company must earn your trust. Read everything. Make no assumptions. Ask questions about anything you don't understand fully. Don't accept any answer that isn't supported in writing unless you have established a personal trust first. And if the question is about something that has financial or professional impact, make sure it's in writing – period.
For example, if you are considering a new partnership, and (during your conversation) you ask all the proper questions, make sure all answers you're given are as worded in the agent or ISO agreement. In addition to reading the agreement, complete an online search of the company and of the person you are talking with regarding the opportunity.
Remember, your goal is to verify what is said and what is being committed to. (Note: Don't allow a negative review to be a sole determinant. Online reviews must be weighed against the situation, the reviewer and other comments.) Be trustworthy yourself Putting your trust in a company is vastly different that trusting an individual. A company can earn your trust by documenting all commitments. An individual must earn it by reputation and actions.
Trusting an individual involves trusting the person to be honest, fair and forthright. And this needs to be a two-way street. There can be no deception from either side. As with a company, do your due diligence on the individual. The person may not have been reviewed online, but he or she may be published and likely has an online presence.
Do this, and you'll find someone who will be blunt or supportive as needed, someone who will contribute to your growth and success in the payments industry. Just remember, the person you want to rely on also needs people to trust. Make sure you are trustworthy as well.
Jeff Fortney is senior vice president of business development and partnerships for TouchSuite LLC, a fintech company providing POS systems, payment processing, SEO solutions, working capital and marketing services to small and midsize businesses. A long-time payments industry professional and mentor, Jeff focuses on strengthening and developing corporate partnerships and evaluating new business to drive strategic growth. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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