By Jeffrey I. Shavitz
Now 2016 is here – how did 2015 pass so rapidly? Curious about what members of GS Online's MLS Forum think about what's in store for payments this year, I asked them the following questions.
In this second article in a two-part series, I'll share the remainder of the responses I received to these questions, as well as answers to questions I asked about members' business plans for the coming year. I'd love for you to share your ideas, too. Please feel free to post additional comments on the MLS Forum.
Forum member Benjamin Abel offered the following to the questions posed. "Great questions; see my replies below," he posted. "And as you can tell by my mini-essays I did my best to keep it short, but these are obviously topics that I can pontificate on for a while."
1. Do you still believe we are a great industry for you to continue to make a good and growing compensation?
"Yes, but more than ever in our industry, I think the growth curve is getting steeper, and the ability to quickly generate revenue is getting tougher," Benjamin Abel wrote. "In a way, I think the result of this is not quite a barrier to entry but more of a difficulty to thrive once in. If you check out the 2015 ISO & Agent compensation survey, 40 percent of the industry has been in it 15+ years, 55 percent of the industry has been in it for 11+ years and 74 percent for 6+. To me this reads it's an industry that if you can make it over that initial hump, then you can become pretty entrenched. Residuals are hard to accrue, but once they start to snowball you're good. The counter to that, though, is for someone new, they're out there competing against some very experienced people."
2. Would you promote a person graduating college to enter our space?
"I would, but it's definitely dependent on the person and if, when you say 'our space,' you're referring to the sales side of it specifically," Benjamin Abel stated. "For example, within our company we have a good amount of salespeople, but we also have a good amount of support staff who enable the salespeople to properly do their jobs. I think the industry as a whole has a lot of potential still, and there are plenty of roles which need to be filled.
"Now if you have the right person, I would 100 percent direct them to our sales department. We just gave offers to a couple of pretty young candidates, not direct from college but not that far removed either, who I am confident can be very successful. To circle back to that study for one moment, they also reported that 88 percent of the industry made at least $50,000, and 58 percent made $100,000+ annually.
"I think a lot of ambitious people would take a job with a 58 percent chance of them getting a six-figure salary, and if you're both smart and ambitious, I think you can do very well in this industry.
"One side point I'll make about referencing the study repeatedly, though, is that obviously the results of a study are only as good as the people who reply; and the people who reply have to be the people who even know to reply. A study conducted by an industry publication would only be exposed to people versed enough in the industry to be aware of the publication and thus only exposing us to answers from the more experienced, and so [this] could skew some of the stats we're looking at.
"Maybe all those people who would have answered that they only made $0 to $50,000 have never even heard of ISO & Agent, so their voices go unreported. All that said, we obviously have to take this data with a grain of salt and not the truth carved in stone, but either way, I find the reported information pretty optimistic."
3. Can you share (without divulging any company secrets) if you plan to market you and your company differently in 2016 than the past few years?
"I wouldn't say we plan to market differently but perhaps rather spend a bit more time looking into market segmentation and tailoring how we approach different verticals/industries with greater specificity," Benjamin Abel noted.
4. Any other comments (general or specific) would be appreciated about the future of our business.
"I think jotucker1983 did a great job in articulating what I was thinking," Benjamin Abel said. "I think to be successful in our industry it's more and more important that people expand their knowledge base, their ability to truly understand a merchant and find solutions that will work for them and their situation.
"One of my clients, who is priced very profitably, loves working with me because more than once, I was able to figure out an out-of-the-box solution to problems that popped up on the fly. What they pay is far from the primary concern in our relationship, but rather my ability to be able to tap into my knowledge base, roll with the punches and find a solution was what made all the difference for her on numerous occasions. I think if an agent can't think on their feet and tailor their offering to the person in front of them they're destined to fail in our current market environment."
Forum members ccguy and jotucker1983 responded to the following questions about their plans for 2016:
Regarding his plans for 2016, ccguy wrote, "More diversification ‒ added a new product in 2015 ‒ will continue marketing that product. Another new product is in the works for 2016; I hope to launch in first quarter."
In terms of what he plans to do differently in 2016, ccguy stated, "Sell a lot more equipment than we sold in 2015. Equipment sales have been soft or did not exist in the past few years. We are selling like crazy, and that will continue."
Regarding 2015 goals, ccguy posted, "The goal of getting merchants on board with EMV before October did not happen, but it is happening now at a rapid pace." When it comes to the personal side of things, ccguy added, "Personal growth is important – making time for family and fun."
Initially, ccguy said his plans for prospecting to a unique industry type are secret, but then he divulged he would go after "more retail and restaurant" accounts. He added that his company also has a greater focus on card-not-present transactions and EMV. "When merchants have losses, we have a solution," he wrote.
In terms of his plans for 2016, jotucker1983 wrote, "My office and career positioning are currently going through some needed restructuring, with my plan being to expand my 'reach' by operating as more than just a one-man show. This will allow me to have an even greater influence going forward on the world of financial services in general.
"This might be through 1099 structures where I'm running my own office. Still, I might work on W-2, I might hold multiple positions, and I might not continue selling services solely related to merchant services or merchant financing. I might be selling/managing an array of other commercial and personal financial services (including educational)."
As to whether he'll do anything differently in 2016, jotucker1983 stated, "Operate as more than just a one-man show. Having been involved in our industry in some capacity since January 2007 (merchant services direct sales from January 2007 to April 2009 and alternative financing from November 2009 to September 2015), I've always operated as a one-man show. I've had to juggle everything from coming up with my own strategic business plans, creative financing, managing taxes, accounting, legal, you name it.
"I think it's time to expand with more strategic partnerships, networks, resources, and players either underneath or working beside me, allowing me to have greater levels of impact."
When it comes to last year's business and personal goals, jotucker1983 feels he hit the mark. "I always plan out the year having professional objectives and personal objectives," he said. "I then divide these objectives down into quarterly objectives, then divide them down into monthly objectives, then down to weekly objectives, and then down to daily objectives. So everything that I do during the day lines up with my monthly goals, which lines up with my quarterly goals, which also lines up with my annual goals."
And it looks like jotucker1983 will be casting a wide net in terms of prospecting this year. "For this industry in particular, I've mainly dealt with the small business owner-operator type of structured prospective clients in mainly retail or service industries," he said. "But I've also sold products/services into medium, large and giant corporations in the $100 million to over $1 billion revenue range in the distribution, manufacturing and wholesale sectors.
"I most likely will be prospecting to both small and medium commercial clients going forward within a wide assortment of sectors."
I hope this two-part series on what 2016 might have in store for our industry's feet on the street spurred you to reflect on your achievements in 2015, consider the potential for your business in the coming months, and make ambitious plans accordingly.
Jeffrey I. Shavitz is Chief Executive Officer of TrafficJamming LLC, which is a virtual business group for entrepreneurs and small business owners to help grow a company's sales (traffic = customers in his language). His experience in payments includes co-founding Charge Card Systems Inc., which was sold to Card Connect in 2012; Alternative Merchant Processing, dedicated to high-risk merchant processing; and Charge Card Funding, involved in the cash advance space. Jeff has published four books: Size Doesn't Matter — Why Small Business is Big Business, which became an Amazon No. 1 top release in both the business and entrepreneur categories; Small Business Aha Messages; The Power of Residual Income – You Can Bank on It!, and Networking – Get Connected. He can be contacted at 800-878-4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org; his websites are www.jeffshavitz.com and www.trafficjamming.com.
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