By Dee and Emily Karawadra
Editor's Note: In our March 25 issue, Steve Norell signed off as Street SmartsSM author by sharing several things he's learned through decades of experience in the business. We appreciate his service and hope he will pen further articles occasionally, as time allows. And with this, our April 8, issue, we are delighted to welcome Emily and Dee Karawadra. Each specializes in different areas of the business; combined they are an incomparable force with much to share in terms of how to find opportunity amid the myriad, ongoing changes in the dynamic payments sphere. Personable, hard working, willing to try new things, and all-in when it comes to their commitments, they are well prepared to inform and inspire you in the coming year. Following Street SmartsSMtradition, Dee and Emily Karawadra, introduce themselves to you in their inaugural column as a writing team. Some of you will remember Dee from when he took his first turn as this column's author from April 2007 through March 2008.
I am so thrilled to be writing the Street SmartsSM articles again. Kate Gillespie, president and CEO of The Green Sheet, and I were having a discussion at the Western States Acquirers Association's annual meeting regarding the days when I authored Street SmartsSM. I was reminiscing about how rewarding it was. I was forced to learn about topics and have lengthy discussions with readers at tradeshows and via emails, phone calls and on the MLS Forum. Kate asked if we (my wife, Emily, and I) were interested in writing Street SmartsSM together. Without hesitation, we said yes.
To go back and read some of my old articles is interesting. I can see how my perspective has changed from then, at seven years in the business, to now, with18 years under my belt. I have made mistakes, in some cases have learned from them, and I have grown from those mistakes. We hope to have discussions about sales, technology, interchange, cash discount, fintech (probably wasn't a word in 2007), EMV, and much more.
The sign off I used the first time I authored Street SmartsSM was safari njem, which means safe journey in Swahili, the language of Tanzania, where I was born. Our goal in writing articles is to assist those on their own journey in building their book of business. If we can make a merchant level salesperson's (MLS's) life a little easier by sharing our thoughts on how to handle some of the bumps along the way, that's what it's all about.
There are many types of partnerships; however, the partnership I have is unique. My partner and I eat, sleep, muck horse stalls, mow the yard, run Impact PaySystem, and play Mom and Dad together. It's only fitting that we write articles together, too. Those who know me know the truth is Emily helped me the last time around when I was trying to put into words my experiences.
Emily has 25 years of experience in the payments industry, as she had her start in the business in 1994, six years before I got in. She worked her way from being a chargeback clerk at Concord EFS (First Data), to director of financial institution inside sales, to being on the front line selling Star Network Services to financial institutions. Then she left First Data to join me in building our own ISO – after I convinced her this venture was not going to be like the Pak Mail franchise I'd had. (That was 12 years prior.) Obviously, she is my backbone personally and professionally. I am looking forward to our different and similar takes on hot topics. This also means I only have to write half as much. I look forward to engaging with you all.
Over the last 25 years in the payments industry, I have witnessed firsthand the evolution of electronic payment acceptance. When I first started in chargebacks at Concord EFS, I had to sort through the carbon copies of merchant receipts. Today, receipts are in electronic format. The knuckle buster days are over, and we have pioneered into this space we call the payments industry. Everything changes on a daily basis in the industry. The only constant we can count on is that every April and October the card brands (formerly associations) change up interchange once again. Honestly, one of the things I love most about the industry is that it is ever changing: new technology, new compliance rules, new markets and new opportunities.
Dee mentioned our stumbles along the way, and many we did have, but learning from those is what makes it worth getting up and taking initiative again. We have spent this past year reinventing our business model. We had to get out there on the street with our front-line agents. We hit markets that had gone underserviced for years; we saw merchants who hadn't seen a rep in years but were still our faithful customers. We sat in front of prospective merchants with MLSs selling merchant services. We took the time to analyze competitors' merchant statements and helped agents close deals.
We started telling our story again over and over. Soon the adrenalin began to pump for us both, and we couldn't get enough. Taking the time to reengage in the field has brought us tremendous growth. We learned that we had to be engaged at every level of our business. We had lost the drive to tell our story where it counts: in front of our customers. By reengaging we revived it.
I hope that we can take our experiences of being in the field on the front line selling merchant services to those building their own portfolios, whether as ISOs or MLSs. What we saw in our agents was a need to be educated and to have a support system. We hope to write articles that will do just that.
We will highlight some of the obstacles that ISOs and MLSs encounter while trying to sell and support products today. We'll share stories from the field – of both success and failure. We'll share insights from the front line on prospecting, building relationships, analyzing statements and closing deals. For those building their ISOs, we'll share tools to use for the back office, ways to analyze residual reports and how to understand agent agreements.
Together, we sign off as Dee did more than a decade ago, safari njem – safe journey, friends. We are looking forward to the next 12 months.
Dee Karawadra is president and CEO of Impacy PaySystem, and Emily Karawadra is the company's chief financial officer. Since 2001, Impact PaySystem has been a leading provider of payment processing technologies and services to merchants throughout the United States. Through alliances with payments industry leaders such as Chase Paymentech, First Data, Buypass, Sage and more, Impact PaySystem offers tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of each merchant. Dee and Emily will welcome your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.
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