By Dee Karawadra
One of the best things that ever happened to me in my payments industry life was the South East Acquirers Association (SEAA) meeting in Atlanta. Up until then, I was just a merchant level salesperson (MLS) who was struggling to find vendors and new processing relationships.
This was an important conference, as I got to network with a number of vendors. Today, I proudly serve on the SEAA board, in hopes that other ISOs or MLSs can find the breaks they have been searching for.
I was a fresh MLS then, with very limited resources, both financial and industry. I remembered taking that trip by car because I did not want to dish out the flight and rental car costs. I stayed at a cheap motel 18 miles from where the show was to save a little more money.
Despite the 121/2 hour round trip drive, I was determined to find better vendors with better pricing; that was my goal. I met many great vendors. Even though financially it may have been a strain, the value of connecting with the right person is priceless.
Today, there are so many more resources that can help rookies and veterans alike. Some of these resources are nonprofit, and created just for the purpose of helping MLSs and ISOs develop and create networks. These resources range from Web sites to the regional shows. I am going to cover a few resources that I think are valuable to MLSs and ISOs.
The regional shows are probably No. 1 on my list. Even though I have not yet been to any other regional show besides SEAA (I plan to attend all shows in 2008), I know from talking to others that the benefits are the same.
The purposes for the regional shows are education, training and networking. The regional associations do not charge membership fees; however, some may have a minimal entrance price. The shows' dates are staggered, so traveling to a few, or maybe all, during the year can be manageable if you are financially able to do so. You can find information about regional shows at their respective Web sites:
· Western States Acquirers' Association, www.westernstatesacquirers.com
· Midwest Acquirers' Association, www.midwestacquirers.com
· Northeast Acquirers' Association, www.northeastacquirers.com
· Southeast Acquirers' Association, www.southeastacquirers.com
The next important resource for MLSs is the National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP).
The mission statement from its Web site, www.naopp.com, states it is "an organization dedicated to professionals engaged in the payment processing industry. Its mission is to provide education, benefits, liaison/representation and certification to all those individuals selling in the payment processing industry."
This association is specifically geared toward MLSs. The membership fee is $99. The benefits include:
Women Networking in Electronic Transactions (W.net) will benefit a lot of women in our industry. A woman friend of mine, who is the co-owner of an ISO, told me there is only a handful of women-owned ISOs. I was shocked.
My wife is very much involved in every aspect of our business. Frankly, she does run an ISO. While I am busy on new projects, she has been taking care of all of it. W.net is designed to help empower women by mentoring. My wife would be a great mentor to someone getting into the industry, but she would also benefit from having a mentor who has been in the industry for a long time.
The mission statement for W.net, www.w-net.biz, is "to provide a forum to inspire and empower women in the electronic transactions industry to maximize their potential and position themselves for greater success through networking opportunities, mentoring programs, and the overall promotion of women in the industry."
W.net holds two major networking and educational events yearly. The membership fee is $200. Most of W.net's members are from industry markets such as merchant acquiring, card issuing, processors, check and automated clearing house. Some benefits include:
Some of you are probably wondering why I did not include the Electronics Transactions Association. The tradeshow is geared more toward ISOs and processors. In my opinion, MLSs can best benefit from the above groups.
The associations and networks should be as much part of your business as your application paperwork. The cost of membership and show fees are outweighed by the great benefit they provide. Many look at it as a marketing expense, some look at it as developmental cost.
No matter how you look at it, it is absolutely necessary to attend those organization's events, as well as contribute time and expertise to their ongoing efforts. I remember at that Atlanta show, all of the now big shot ISOs were there working their own booths. I can almost assure you that their success had something to do with networking within these industry groups. These and other resources are listed at www. greensheet.com/industry_resources.php.
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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