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The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 12, 2018 • Issue 18:11:01

Failure is integral to entrepreneurial success

By Jeff Fortney
TouchSuite LLC

When I was young, one of my chores was to bring in the mail. I enjoyed this task, as I always seemed to have mail. My father told me anything addressed to Occupant was really meant for me, since I was an occupant of the house. Every day I sorted the mail on the dining room table, pulling anything that was addressed to me. As time went on, I discovered that most of this mail asked me to buy things, which wasn't possible on my 50 cents per month allowance.

Today, we still receive paper solicitations, but with the advent of email, the number of daily solicitations has expanded. I receive at least five a day from various vendors or service providers. And like in the days of my youth, I read each one. Except this time, I read them to see who is offering what (and often to measure their sales skills). Recently, this headline caught my attention: Are You an Entrepreneur or Just a Sales Person?" After reading the body, I was convinced the writer didn't understand what the term "entrepreneur" really meant. The word is commonly used, but the actual skillset of entrepreneurship has been lost in the translation.

The successful merchant level salesperson (MLS) or ISO must act and maintain the spirit of entrepreneurship. Yet most don't understand what it takes. Forbes magazine said it best in 2013, when answering the simple question: What does it take to be successful starting your own small business?

Essential skills

The following eight skills presented in that article stand the test of time.

  1. Resiliency. You must be able to handle the ups and downs of business. You can create the best business plan, but things never go perfectly according to plan. Being resilient keeps you going when nothing seems to be leading to success.
  2. Focus. All companies (including payments) must have a long-term goal. But once that is set, you must focus clearly on one step at a time leading toward your goal. You cannot allow yourself to be distracted, and it is all to easy to be distracted in today's world.
  3. Invest for the long term. Although focusing on the individual steps is critical, a successful entrepreneur never loses sight of the bigger picture as well – the long-term goal. To ensure that they remain on the right track, they set aside time to measure their efforts, and determine any changes required to achieve that goal. Most do this a minimum of quarterly.
  4. Find and manage people and partners. Managing people doesn't mean being the boss. It means you are responsible for the expectations you have for employees and, yes, partners. It implies controlling what you can control, choosing partners that fit your needs, then insuring that they remain partners and don't become vendors. Manage their expectations and your own. Act like a partner, and expect them to treat you like a partner, as well.
  5. Sell. To me this should be understood. Whether you have salespeople or are the salesperson, you must always be selling. You must sell not just your merchant services, but also your vision to your partners and employees.
  6. Learn. The Payments world is ever changing. You must stay abreast of recent changes and new technology. And don't forget to leverage your trusted adviser.
  7. Self-Reflection. Truly successful entrepreneurs know they must set aside down time to examine what has happened and make plans for next steps. Always working, always selling only leads to burnout.
  8. Self-reliance. It is always great to have a trusted adviser who walks with you and gives you advise and guidance, but ultimately, it's the ISOs and MLSs who definee their own success. The successful entrepreneur knows they ultimately must depend on themselves.

Although these present a strong entrepreneurial foundation, I believe one factor is missing. A successful entrepreneur doesn't always succeed. Entrepreneurs can and do fail at times. Thomas Edison was not just a successful inventor; he was also a true entrepreneur. It is said he was asked how it felt to fail over 10,000 times when trying to invent the light bulb. He responded, "I didn't fail all those times, I just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Although this speaks to persistence and resiliency, it also speaks to the fact that failure can be common for entrepreneurs. I met a self-described serial entrepreneur who freely talks about the ventures he started that failed. But he refused to call them failures, believing every one was a lesson learned on what wouldn't work. His biggest lesson? Never fear failure.

Whether you're an employee, a supervisor, or an ISO owner or MLS, having a true entrepreneurial attitude and approach is your best course for success. end of article

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 jfortney@touchsuite.com.

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