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Article published in Issue Number: 061202

Industry Leader: Dick Draper
A founding father of ISO fortune

Certain adages are universally accepted: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," "Trust your instincts" and "Get it in writing" are just a few. We can all remember a time or two when we didn't follow advice such as this. And, though we survived, we have a few battle scars as a result.

Dick Draper, President and Chief Executive Officer of thermal-print innovator Peripheron Technologies Inc., listened to a trusted friend as well as to his instincts and "got it in writing" years ago while working as an independent distributor for VeriFone. Securing a written contract made all the difference in the success of Draper's business at the time, Stone-West Inc.

Draper has founded a number of companies in the financial services and construction industries. He has enjoyed successes and suffered setbacks. And his knowledge, skills, dedication and work ethic have made him a leader.

If you're looking for someone to blow smoke or speak in marketing lingo, he's the wrong guy. If you're seeking someone who will tell you how it is and be your friend before and after the deal, Draper is your man.

Entrepreneur in training

Draper has logged in many hours at the office, but he has also worked hard in the true sense. While growing up, he helped out on family dairy farms in New York state, some of which had no electricity. Between his freshman and sophomore years at Cornell University, he worked as a deck hand on the Brigantine Yankee for Windjammer Cruises.

His college education was partially funded by a Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship and through his jobs washing pots and working summers as a stonecutter, which isn't exactly taking the easy route.

Upon earning a degree in marine biology in 1964, Draper entered the Navy's Basic Underwater Demolition/Sea Air and Land (SEAL) training. He graduated the following August and served as an officer until October 1967.

In recalling this period of his life, Draper said, "No matter how much money I have made or what success I have enjoyed, completing this training and serving with these men was the crowning achievement of my life and defined all subsequent activities."

Unstoppable initiative

Draper has experienced numerous business vicissitudes. After the Navy, he spent 15 successful years building two construction companies: Alexander and Draper Inc. and Stone-West.

He worked mainly in sales and installation of granite and marble for office buildings. Unfortunately, his business did not survive the recession of the early 1970s. "I went broke and went to work for others as a General Manager of construction operations," he recalled.

Drawing on the persistence he acquired in SEAL training, Draper took another shot at running his own business. This time he chose the financial services industry. In 1982 he resurrected the Stone-West name and met Bill Melton, who was then the President of VeriFone. Draper described Melton as "the true visionary of our industry."

Draper became VeriFone's sales agent for 10 Midwestern states. "It was a rough beginning," he said. "But eventually we achieved great success with the help of many who continue with distinction in the industry today, including Mark Dunn, Dan Debraal, Bill Biwer, Sue McGrady, Dan Lewis and Scott Rutledge."

A rewarding run

Draper and his team signed significant accounts, including First National Bank of Omaha, Discover Financial Services LLC, Secure Payment Systems Inc., Harris Bank "and nearly every other POS equipment provider in the Midwest."

Draper was the only independent agent to sign a contract with Melton and VeriFone. It was a simple one-page, two-sided document outlining a one-year contract, with 10 one-year extensions.

"All the guys [other distributors] were independent contractors, like me, but none had contracts," he said. "As soon as VeriFone did well, they got absorbed or canceled out, and we persisted until we were the only independent left."

Draper credits this decision to get a signed contract to his background in construction. "The construction business teaches you the importance of documentation," he said. "It's important to get things in writing ... especially with your friends."

Draper stayed with VeriFone through its first initial public offering in 1990, leaving in 1994. He remembers the time fondly. "It was a great 10-and-a-half-year run, and perhaps my proudest achievement was being able to share my stock options with my employees when VeriFone went public," he said. "It was a unique opportunity and one I am happy I didn't miss."

Triumph and truncation

During his association with VeriFone, he set records and headed the company's most successful sales region. In a sense, he blazed the trail for modern-day ISOs. Acknowledging his contributions to the industry, the Midwest Acquirers' Association honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in July 2006.

As his contract with VeriFone was ending, Draper and his team started another business, Direct Data Inc. "We knew the contract [with VeriFone] would not be extended, so we started Direct Data to carry on," Draper said.

VeriFone experienced such rapid growth in its early stages that it had difficulty getting software developed and certified. Keeping this in mind, Draper took a different route with Direct Data.

"We hired our own programmers and did our own application development," he said. "We had in-house engineers, customer service people and the infrastructure for a working, functioning and efficient business."

Direct Data developed a low-cost check reader, the Cheq'R, and began working on smart cards and low-cost, integrated terminals and thermal line printers.

In 1995, Draper sold Direct Data to U.S. Wireless Data Inc. (which was later purchased by Transaction Network Services Inc.), and it became a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Wireless. However, "Milburg Weiss, the famous class-action law firm, got U.S. Wireless Data in their sights and eventually destroyed Direct Data," Draper said.

As a result, Direct Data's projects were truncated midstream, U.S. Wireless was unable to fulfill its contract and Draper was forced to pay more than $1 million to cover the debt.

Retirement rerouted

When the dust settled, Draper attempted to slow down and moved to Whistler, British Columbia. "I decided it was time to retire and concentrate on skiing, fly fishing and golf," he said. However, it didn't quite go as planned. Some friends convinced him to start yet another company to take advantage of some patents and technology he owned.

Draper was happy to oblige, and Peripheron was born. "My golf game will never be respectable, my knee injuries will limit my skiing and one can only do so much fly-fishing," he said. "I am happy to be back in the saddle."

Peripheron is a thermal print technology company that manufactures POS and mobile thermal printers. With the company, Draper has brought the RM2000 thermal line printer to market.

He also intends to successfully launch the RM2500 (a next-generation thermal receipt printer) and the Nomad (a mobile printing system) before "turning over the reins to younger, more energetic folks, and then fading into the sunset."

How can someone repeatedly launch successful businesses in a variety of industries? In addition to his SEAL training, Draper is quick to point out that his wife of 41 years, Loi, "has been my constant partner and essential contributor to whatever success I have achieved ... she's my rock. I would not have done much of anything without her constant help and support."

Newsworthy advice

Draper also credits the advice of his mentor, Jimmy Milne. "He told me, 'Conduct all your business like you were going to read about it on the front page of your local newspaper in the morning,'" Draper said.

Throughout his life Draper has lived by that credo. One of his career highlights was reading an article about himself in which an associate described him as honorable. "Nothing could have made me happier," he said. "They also said I was 'interesting' which I assumed was a polite way of saying I was outspoken, and there was little doubt where I stood on any given subject, or perhaps that I was simply full of it."

Draper shares his mentor's advice with others. He recommends that agents be honest and recognize that one's reputation for integrity is fragile and easily destroyed. "It's a very, very small world," he said.

"Be an advocate for your customers, and give them the best deal you can while maintaining a fair profit for your company. Never cut too good a deal for yourself."

He also predicted the POS industry will remain strong. "As long as people want to conduct transactions at the point of sale, we'll have a business," he said. "It's just a question of who and how."

Though Draper isn't going to exit the payments industry any time soon, his first attempt at retirement gave him a chance to review his career and achievements. "I've had a great time, made a few bucks and made a lot of good friends," he said. With that, he is content.

Article published in issue number 061202

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