By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC
Some sons and daughters feel called to follow their parents' professional path; others try it and decide it's not their thing. The payments business can be tough, even for the most dedicated merchant level salespeople (MLSs). But even a brief foray into a family business can have enduring beneficial repercussions in a person's life.
Relatives who try your trade, but then move on, take a piece of you with them. It may be your work ethic, favorite saying or ability to laugh at setbacks. Sometimes it's the small things that make the biggest impressions.
I have a wooden board and T-square from my days as a summer intern at my father's advertising agency, The Music Agency. The tools of the trade have changed, but these simple props take me back to my first days as part of a team. The music business was booming in the seventies, and whether I was answering the phone, creating a background doodle for an album cover, typing a letter to a rock star or proofreading my father's liner notes, I was thrilled to be part of it.
Years later, I found my way into merchant services. I hardly thought about that first job until a few years ago, when Johnny Ray Miller called. He was writing a book about the Partridge Family, for whom my father's agency had played a supporting role. In subsequent interviews, I realized how the agency had shaped my career and life.
Miller's When We're Singin', funded on Kickstarter and published in December 2016, blends my reminiscences with others who worked on the group's TV show, albums, concert tours and merchandising. "The Partridge Family captured an audience from the tail end of the baby boomer generation and the early edge of Generation X," Miller wrote. "Finding the perfect sound for this segment of youth – experimenting, preparing, and discovering – is where it all began."
Miller's informal history of a television family is woven together in a tapestry of individual stories. They tell of last-minute decisions and brainstorming sessions behind the songs, records and marketing campaigns.
He said many song and album concepts happened organically, like the collaboration behind The Partridge Family Album. My father, The Music Agency President Jay Leipzig, came up with the album's title. Art Director Mary English drew gold letters on a red scrapbook to create the album cover. "There were no computers then," English said.
Wesley J. Farrell, son of record producer Wes Farrell, found life lessons in his father's greatest hits. "His work on the Partridge Family was but a small part of his catalogue, but it always stood out to me as remarkable – and in so many ways underappreciated – music," he wrote.
Miller describes the 1970s as a shopper's paradise for Partridge Family fans, who could find toys and trinkets bearing the images of favorite cast members. "In the pre-Internet era, the only hope of getting close to a favorite celebrity was through fantasy – realized, if not through teen magazines, then by an endless supply of merchandising," he wrote. "The Partridge Family operation was so huge it was nicknamed 'the merchandising machine.'"
Imagine the same fans in today's omnichannel environment, taking selfies with favorite cast members, posting online reviews and directly engaging with stars on Twitter and Instagram. They'd buy tickets and merchandise on their smartphones. Mobile apps would alert them to last-minute concert seating. Virtual reality headsets would be a next-best option for sold-out shows.
Payments, like the music industry, is competitive, collaborative and multifaceted. Its regional and global conferences are filled with talented individuals who share their personal stories in The Green Sheet and other industry trade publications. Sales engineers, business analysts, product designers and marketing directors all have a place in the payments family album.
As retailers grapple with the complexities of commerce enablement, scores of payments experts provide them with advanced technologies, solutions and marketing to help them engage with their customers. The Internet and mobile web may provide a greater audience, but merchants still rely on humans to convey the right marketing message and mix.
Payments industry tools may eventually look "analog" to future generations, but business strategies will remain fresh and relevant. MLSs will continue to leverage assets and resources on behalf of their merchants. There will still be a cast of thousands behind every merchant portfolio, each with a small but crucial part to play. By working together, they will keep merchants content, secure and compliant in this fast-moving industry, because all relationships take work.
Dimitri Akhrin is the founder and President at Integrated Reporting is Simple LLC, creators of IRIS CRM. He said his father, Mike Akhrin, inspired him to be a planner and not just a doer. The message has resonated throughout his life, especially in his role as a business leader. "It underlines the importance of an entire team having a clear understanding of what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and what the rewards will be for everyone's personal contributions," he said. "Hearing an idea without a long-term plan for its execution is like receiving a partially eaten pizza pie; you don't realize part of it's missing until it's too late."
If you're a planner, you already know that life has a way of interfering with even the best-laid plans. You may have built your book of business with the intention of leaving it to your children, only to find that they have other ideas. But even if they choose a different path, they may still take a page or two from your book. What wisdom will you leave them long after you've signed your last merchant account?
My father used to say, "I see, said the old man, and he picked up his hammer and saw." I repeated that maxim over the years, without ever giving it much thought. Then one day, when I found a solution to a complicated issue, I realized what the saying really meant. Sometimes the best hacks are the ones that are right in front of you, hiding in plain sight. Thanks, Dad.
Dale S. Laszig, Senior Staff Writer at The Green Sheet and Managing Director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content provider. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.
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