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The Green Sheet Online Edition

December 28, 2020 • Issue 20:12:02

Dinosaurs in the age of COVID

By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC

Some of you might disagree, but I wasn't around when dinosaurs became extinct. Scientists say it happened about 65 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. T-Rex and friends were wiped out after terrorizing smaller animals for 175 million years. In today's digital-first world, we hold them up as a terrible warning of what can happen to organizations that don't evolve with the times.

Scientists suggest that dinosaurs had been on the decline for a while and were most likely finished off by a catastrophic event. While the exact nature of the event is still being debated, research indicates it could have been an asteroid or series of volcanic eruptions that brought gradual climate change to an inflection point.

"Whatever the causes, the huge extinction that ended the age of the dinosaur left gaps in ecosystems around the world," wrote researchers at the Natural History Museum. "These were subsequently filled by the only dinosaurs to survive—birds—and mammals, both of which went on to evolve rapidly."

Are you evolving?

Like catastrophic events of yore, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on ecosystems around the world, abruptly ending massive companies that had dominated retail and hospitality for years. Amid the devastation, payments industry leaders and feet on the street went to work to help small and midsize business owners stay alive. The resulting new reality calls for different tools and a different mindset, according to Austin Mac Nab, managing partner at VizyPay.

"I think smaller, nimbler companies are realizing that the payments industry dinosaurs are not going to be able to keep up very long, no matter how much money they have in the bank," Mac Nab said. "Next-generation businesses can run circles around them; they understand the power of social media, and they care more about long-term relationships than short-term gain."

Mac Nab drew direct parallels between the year 2020 and distant Cretaceous Period. In each case, smaller disruptions went unnoticed until a climactic event forever altered the landscape. Fossil records and recent history show that failing to adapt can lead to extinction, he affirmed.

Are you transparent?

Mac Nab pointed out that transparency is critical to survival in merchant services. Merchant acquirers and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) can build a lasting residual base and take care of their families for years to come by fully disclosing their terms of agreement, he added. "Dinosaur companies tend to focus more on themselves," Mac Nab said. "They give [MLSs] a high level overview of what they want them to know and send them out without telling them why they should know it. This lack of transparency gives our industry a black eye."

Mac Nab also noted that transparent agreements set you up for success and save you from customer attrition: your high closing ratio means nothing when your merchants start calling to question charges on their statements and you end up losing ten percent of your base; in the end, it's not only about the company you represent, it's about you and your word and your integrity as an independent contractor, he said, adding that it's up to guys like me to educate merchants fully, especially when it's something they don't want to hear.

Have you found a niche?

As I listened to Mac Nab, I envisioned T-Rexes stomping through forests, terrorizing small and helpless people, while knowing in reality the two had not coexisted. Seeking an equally vivid way to convey the alternative, I asked him what a hero or heroine would look like in this scenario. Is it a force of nature? Is it a person who empowers the caveman to be self-reliant and defend against monsters?

"I love the caveman analogy," Mac Nab said. Imagining that humans and T-Rexes had coexisted in the same epoch, he suggested that people would have survived by studying T-Rex behavior and trends so they could anticipate their next move. That's how you adapt, he stated.

Mac Nab elaborated: If I'm a caveman who has to deal with a T-Rex, I'm probably going to know a majority of their moves and where they like to hang out. So, if the T-Rex likes to hang out in Section A of the jungle, I'll probably want to hang out in Section D, where I'm less conspicuous. I'll be surrounded by other people at risk of getting picked up and spit out by dinosaurs who don't think twice about small business owners and just don't care.

Are you active on media platforms?

In considering ever-present threats facing today's business owners and third-party service providers, Mac Nab underscored the need for payments professionals to align with trusted partners. Community building gives us strength in numbers against the dinosaurs of the world; it also gives us a voice, he stated.

"I think the newer generation of the payments world is realizing that transparency with the backing of social media and payments industry trade media gives small and midsize business owners a voice," Mac Nab said. "Having a voice in The Green Sheet and other industry trade publications helps us amplify the voice of the small business owner."

Mac Nab went on to say he focuses on two voices in our industry: the voice of the small business owner and the voice of the agent and ISO that serves them. Dinosaurs in our industry are not adapting as fast as the smaller guys like me: we can pivot easily and smoothly; dinosaurs, on the other hand, can't turn around their massive businesses as fast as we can, he said.

"We are okay with being in the public eye, being all over social media and talking openly to the media about the challenges, threats and opportunities that are facing the payments industry," Mac Nab said, adding that he and his employees and partners are not afraid of having reviews on their websites. "Unlike the dinosaurs, we say bring it on; let's have an open dialogue. We're not afraid of being called out. Dinosaurs don't post on social media for a reason. They don't want their names all over the place because they don't want people to know what they do." end of article

Dale S. Laszig, senior staff writer at The Green Sheet and managing director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content strategist. She can be reached at dale@dsldirectllc.com and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.

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