The Green Sheet Online Edition
March 24, 2008 • Issue 08:03:02
Safari njema - safe journey
Editor's note: It's hard to believe an entire year has passed since Dee Karawadra graciously agreed to write Street Smarts. Working with him has been a delight, for despite his busy schedule, he has always pulled through with original, thought-provoking and useful articles; answered phone calls promptly; brainstormed with kindness and humor; and always had the interests of the feet on the street at heart. We will miss working with him, but he has said he will continue to submit articles to us from time to time. So, keep a look out for his byline.
Now for the sweet part: We are very pleased to let you know that Jason Felts, founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Merchant Services Inc., has already written his inaugural article as the new author of Street Smarts. It will appear in our April 14, 2008, issue. As an expert in this industry, he has previously written many articles for The Green Sheet that have provided substantial advice on how to build a successful career in this business. We welcome Jason, and hope many of you will participate in discussions he initiates on our forums.
Before writing each article, I would think of an issue and determine the stance I would take with it. Then I'd post a question about it on GS Online's MLS Forum. And my views sometimes changed. The reason is simple: I learned about issues in depth from the posting process.
The MLS Forum members, readers, my editor (who really made me look good), my agents, my office staff, my friends and peers, and my wife all gave me perspectives on my opinions and influenced them.
I am just an ordinary ISO who, as a merchant level salesperson (MLS), got frustrated with how the system worked and decided to start his own ISO. I in no way was the most qualified person to write articles, but, somehow The Green Sheet thought I would make a good author because I could relate to the day-to-day frustrations of the feet on the street.
My goal was not to turn the article into a recruiting tool, but instead to sincerely write about what mattered to MLSs. I hope I kept my goal in focus and did write about the issues that matter most to you.
As the author of Street Smarts, I learned a lot. I decided to write my last article on the five most important things that MLSs needs to do, based on a review of my past articles:
- Go back to the basics.
- Attend industry shows.
- Have a good mix of offerings.
- Get to know PCI.
Go back to the basics
The basics are by far what most of us forget. We form bad habits and get lazy. These habits need to be kicked. It is usually easy to detect when sloth set in if you look at your company's historical growth.
If your residuals were going up by $400 a month, and all of a sudden they went up by only $150, usually it means you slacked off in some way three months ago. It is very important to set daily goals (number of cold calls, phone calls and closed deals); they will keep you focused.
Attend industry shows
Attending a regional show may not give you instant payback, but the long-term payback is big. Industry shows are the place to network with your peers, find new vendors, express your frustration, learn from presentations, panels and classes, and create lifelong friendships. In truth, I owe my existence in this industry to the regional show.
Have a good mix of offerings
Offering a variety of products and services has a couple of advantages. It may help secure a deal, reduce attrition, create additional income and diversify your portfolio.
There are many products and services to choose from: check service, gift cards, automated clearing house, back-office conversion, automated teller machines, prepaid cards, cash advance - the list goes on.
Additional offerings could be products and services, including specialized software, geared for specific industries such as (in my case), petroleum, lodging, health care and restaurants.
Get to know PCI
The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) is one of the biggest implementations in the payments industry. Protecting cardholders' data is one of the top priorities of the card Associations.
The PCI Security Standards Council and other organizations collectively are creating a safeguard against theft of cardholder data. It is crucial for the feet on the street to know and understand PCI; it is the only way the message will get out to the small and medium-size merchants.
I probably covered diversification more than any other theme in my articles. That is because diversifying your portfolio is crucial to your survival.
The old adage, don't put all your eggs in one basket, holds true in our industry. ISOs may crumble; card Association rules and regulations may change; certain industries (think mortgage) may falter; anything can happen.
Diversifying happens at many levels. Here is a few:
- ISO: Make sure you have a good mix of ISOs to send your business to.
- Industry: Make sure you have a good mix of merchants in diverse industries in your portfolio. Some popular industries include restaurants, hotels, gas stations and doctors' offices.
- Seasonal: Some business types do good business in certain seasons. For example, ice cream stores thrive during warm weather, and ski lodges are bustling when snow is covering the slopes. Make sure to keep your residuals constant through all seasons of the year.
If your portfolio is not well diversified, make this a top priority. Thanks to all who responded to my dialogs in the GS Forum. We have had many differences of opinion.
But the one thing that shines through is that although a small number of unethical agents operate in our midst, the payments industry is full of professionals who are honest, ethical and extremely helpful.
If you have never experienced the generous help of MLS Forums members, turn to them the next time you need an answer. I wish you all lots of success and, one last time, safari njema - safe journey.
Dee Karawadra is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of Impact PaySystem, based in Memphis, Tenn. He and his team have a wealth of knowledge on the merchant services industry, with a niche in the petroleum market. Dee's experience on the street as an agent has guided him in laying a foundation for an agent program that is both straightforward and lucrative for his agents. Contact him at 877-251-0778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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