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"Street Smarts" September 2004 Winner Announced

The "Street Smarts" Feedback contest winner for September 2004 is Mark Earle, President of Prodigy Merchant Processing. Earle submitted a story and, for his effort, will receive a paid membership to the National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP) and paid registration fees for an upcoming regional event of his choice. There are more than two full months left in 2004, so don't forget to submit a story on how you successfully implemented something you read in "Street Smarts" in The Green Sheet. We encourage you to send your story to: . Everyone who submits a success story will receive a one-year paid membership to NAOPP. Each month, we will also award the writer of the best story paid registration fees to either an Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) Expo Network or one of the regional acquirers' association meetings. (For a list of upcoming events, be sure to review the Trade Show Directory on GS Online at .)

And don't forget: For the best story overall received in 2004, we will award the winner a fully paid trip to the 2005 ETA Annual Meeting and Expo to be held March 15 - 17 in Las Vegas. Expenses to be paid include hotel, airfare and registration fees.

Following is Mark Earle's story:

Dear "Street Smarts" and Ed Freedman,

First, I would like to thank you for the articles you produce each month, Mr. Freedman. As large as your company is, it amazes me that you find the time to produce such quality work. The knowledge you pass on to merchant level salespeople (MLSs) is great. Every month you tell us tricks of the trade without filling our mailboxes with contracts. In this industry, if I want information, it seems an exclusivity contract precedes the answer.

Writing these articles has certainly increased your sales force, but I feel that it is irrelevant to the big picture. In an industry that sometimes feels like it is full of crooks, you present a good message. "Street Smarts" reminds me of the parts of my job I love. I have been told that one man cannot change an industry. This is not true.

Two years ago, I was done with electronic processing.

I was tired of the lies and people that I had to deal with on a daily basis. I closed my ISO and told everyone to find work elsewhere. My sales director told me, "You're living a pipe dream; every sales job deals with this, and you cannot expect to change electronic payment processing."

He was partially right. Every sales job does have these problems, but one man can definitely change an industry. You have the power and the means to instill good values month after month. There are more people like me in this industry, and I am sure that when they see your success, there are smiles on their faces. There are several ISO owners who should take a lesson from you on business practices and what true success is.

You can get rich from robbing a bank, but true riches come from within. Hold your head up high and know you have done more for this industry than anyone in quite some time.

Recently, I returned from a much needed vacation where I spent a week sitting on the beach enjoying my family. As we packed to leave for the trip, my wife noticed that I had packed several issues of The Green Sheet. At that moment, she made me promise her that I would not talk to her about work while on vacation. You see, she has to deal with me bouncing ideas off of her daily. I agreed.

Once on the beach, I decided to take some time out and think about my life and find my inner self. I relaxed and listened to the waves crashing on the beach and searched deep inside myself.

After that extensive 10 minutes, I decided to open a drink and read The Green Sheet issues that I brought with me. I read several back issues of "Street Smarts," looking for something in particular I have used to help my career. (I can't pass up a free NAOPP membership.)

Keeping my promise to my wife, I began discussing the articles with my seven-year-old instead. I must say she is not a big fan of the column. After I looked at her bewildered face, I decided to read to myself. Here is what I came up with:

"Street Smarts" has improved my career overall. Not only has it helped my physical sales, it has helped me mentally. Your articles have reminded me of my goals. I am not concerned with making a sale; I am concerned with making a client.

You have reminded me time and time again of what I love about my job, and I thank you for that. I have been in this industry for almost 10 years and have only conducted business with two ISOs. I read one of your articles about contracts and leads. I realized these ISOs have never given me a lead.

After reading the message "Street Smarts" puts out, I have broken some long time ties. I searched for an ISO partner that carried the qualities "Street Smarts" speaks of. I looked into several ISOs, including Total Merchant Services. Now I have a wonderful contract with a guaranteed buyout, and I owe it all to "Street Smarts." I have piece of mind knowing that everything I do will be rewarded.

As far as leads go, after signing with the new ISO, they immediately gave me a lead and a reference. This lead is not for one sale; it's with a company that they have been doing business with for some time. I expect 100 to 150 sales to result from this lead this year. "Street Smarts" has given me the knowledge and the confidence to secure my place in an ever-changing industry.

In most cases, the MLS does not have benefits or retirement. The only security we have is our contract. Our contract and residuals are our 401(k), and without a buyout there is no retirement. If it were not for "Street Smarts," I would have continued doing what I was doing with a horrible contract. "Street Smarts" has helped my career in more ways than I even know.

"Street Smarts" helps me keep my chin up and to be proud of what I do. But the contract is the most important thing I have learned yet.

You wrote, "Tell me and other MLSs how something you have learned from a 'Street Smarts' article lead you to a success." Well, by looking into my contract and exploring my options, "Street Smarts" has increased my revenue by finding leads.

Most importantly, "Street Smarts" has helped me secure a contract and protect my family and myself. I now have a contract with a guaranteed buyout. With this guarantee I know that my children's college tuition is paid for. So more importantly, I would say, "Street Smarts" has helped my kids more than me. Thank you for helping me to sleep peacefully at night again.

Mark Earle, President
Prodigy Merchant Processing

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