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Issue 07:01:01
News

Industry Update

Restaurants: Data security on the menu - Part I

Intuit to buy ECHO

Public card companies: And Discover makes three

Features

ATM deployers invest in select security options

By Tracy Kitten, Editor, ATMmarketplace.com

AgenTalkSM:
Ty Rosean

Working hard, playing harder

Book Review:
Thinkertoys

Cultivate your creative genius

GS Advisory Board:
The mentoring experience - Part I

Views

Are you an entrepreneur?

By Vicki M. Daughdrill, Small Business Resources LLC

Contactless: Right where we should be

By Bulent Ozayaz, VeriFone

Education

Street SmartsSM:
Finding the entrepreneur in you

By Michael Nardy, Electronic Payments Inc. (EPI)

Been to the doctor lately? Getting physicians sold on plastic

By Elizabeth Langwith, American Express Co.

Spare the plan, spoil the business

By Ken Boekhaus, Electronic Exchange Systems

Hanging out your very own shingle: A look behind the scenes

By Theodore F. Monroe et al., Attorneys at Law

Card Association rules and regs 2007: Get ready for scrutiny

By David H. Press,Integrity Bankcard Consultants Inc.

It's all about you

By J. David Siembieda, CrossCheck Inc.

Shop to enhance your sales

By Mike Grossman, Cynergy Data

Company Profiles

TechTrex USA Inc.

New Products

Yes to PDA: Public display of affection for your mag swipe accessory

Receipt printer gets smart

Inspiration

Begin with this for a year of bliss

Departments

Forum

Resource Guide

Datebook

Article published in Issue Number: 070101

The alchemy of entrepreneurship

Frontiers are no longer geographic. Pioneers do not seek to conquer new lands: They look to conquer new markets.

Not so many generations ago, Americans who wanted to chart their own course or who dreamed of unprecedented success hitched a wagon and headed west, following the frontier or the promise of gold. Then the frontier collided with the Pacific Ocean. Now we peer at every corner of our filled-in frontiers from our computers.

As always, some industries attract more entrepreneurs than others. For decades, the tech industry has been the media's entrepreneurial darling, while the bankcard processing world has quietly attracted more than its share of go-getters. Our industry's innovators escape attention, in part, because bankcard processing is nestled securely in the financial services world, which many in the mainstream business press view as staid.

Although inextricably linked to banking, the payments industry is a frontier. And the traits associated with entrepreneurship - daring, drive, and ingenuity - find a home here. Payment processing is like the skydiving cousin in a conservative farming family, the casino in Des Moines or simply the Wild West of yore.

Attribute development

Ask a dozen successful entrepreneurs what the traits for business success are, and you'll get 12 different answers. Ask a dozen successful entrepreneurs what qualities lead to failure, and you'll get exactly the same answer.

"People sometimes assume that you need to be born with certain traits to make it as an entrepreneur," said George M. Gendron, Founder and Director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program at Clark University. "But that can be destructive and is absolutely untrue. People look at entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs and say 'I don't have a larger-than-life personality, so I'll never be a successful entrepreneur.'

"It is true that if you were in a room full of entrepreneurs, they would look and sound, in many ways, alike - much as if you were in a room full of soldiers that had gone through basic training together. Those so-called traits are developed over time; the fact that they are shared traits is simply a result of the similar challenges that all entrepreneurs face - trying to make payroll or holding onto their vision when surrounded by doubt."

But Mark Stevens, author of Your Management Sucks, details four traits entrepreneurs need to have or develop to succeed. He calls them: monster ambition, cartoon imagination, combat eyes, and serial skepticism.

Ambition and imagination

"The level of your personal ambition fused with your personal skills equates more or less proportionally to the heights you will scale," Stevens said. "It's this fusion that counts. Smarts alone won't cut it."

"Anyone who is serious about running a business has a need to succeed beyond the common wish for a contented, uncomplicated life," said Andy Birol, author of The Five Catalysts of Seven Figure Growth. "Although many factors come into play, the two most common motives behind this kind of ambition are ego and greed."

Birol thinks the "ego-driven owner is more likely to make decisions that are not based on his firm's ability to resolve customer pain or create opportunities because he is focused on his own stature, trappings, and history or reputation. In contrast, the greed-driven owner, much like the 18-year-old college boy who thinks only of one thing, is focused on the bottom line.

"When it's all about making money, the owner is more likely to take quick, necessary actions to keep the company prosperous. Earning more means selling more, which means serving customers in more and better ways. By putting profit above prestige, this owner is objective about pursuing customer needs and often creates a legacy surpassing that of the ego-driven owner."

Stevens said we are often "bogged down in the things we have to do and we don't have time or take the time to dream, fantasize, and brainstorm. This forces us to engage in ready-fire-aim management." Entrepreneurs, he said, use "cartoon imagination" to navigate around this. They focus on "what could be, instead of what is. By drawing scenarios in their minds, one of those pictures comes to life."

Some experts call this trait vision. "Without vision you don't have a business; you just have employment," Gendron said.

Combat and challenge

"Carl Icahn, who is listed by Forbes magazine as the 24th richest person in the United States, is a perfect example of combat eyes," Stevens said. "He sees everyone as the enemy, and he seeks to win at all costs. "His fierce, pugnacious style - whether it is worn on his sleeve or disguised by a more diplomatic and gracious warrior - is at the core of many of the world's most successful managers. All the truly successful managers view the landscape with combat eyes - virtually everyone they deal with is viewed as the enemy."

Stevens said we are all exposed to "data, factoids, theories, and axioms ad nauseam - all presented as science, the absolute truth, unassailable. Most managers make business decisions based on this 'body of knowledge.' Entrepreneurs are determined to challenge what others accept as the truth. And that often leads to the truth."

Persistence, passion, conviction

Allen E. Fishman, author of 7 Secrets of Great Entrepreneurial Masters, compared successful entrepreneurship to running. "Viewing your business ownership as a marathon is one way to maximize your chances of winning your race for entrepreneurial success," he said. "Those who fail generally have viewed their business ownership as a sprint."

Paul H. Green, who among many other achievements is the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Green Sheet Inc., pointed out that The Green Sheet didn't make money for nearly 10 years. "You have to take a leap of faith when you really believe in something," he said. "Most people give up too soon."

According to Phil Wilkins, author of Own Your Business, Own Your Life: 21 Strategies for Becoming a Wealthy Entrepreneur, entrepreneurs have a passion, and business is the vehicle driving their passion. "There will be tough times," he said. "And that passion is what will get you through when those tough times come. Without passion, you won't make it."

Birol mentioned another trait: conviction. "In the corporate world, ambivalence results when the people in charge protect their own assets at the expense of driving excellence throughout their firm," he said. "Business owners are different. We are our business. We are the passion, the conviction, and the commitment and, in some cases, even the product.

"Our companies are the tangible representation of our egos; if we don't believe in what we do, why would anyone else? Ambivalence, for business owners, is more than uncertainty.

"It is a cancer that, if left unchecked, will invade every cell of our firms. If a company flounders, ambivalence is the cause. True conviction requires absolute commitment, which means throwing away any personal tendencies toward equivocation."

Birol added that this conviction generates tremendous confidence among customers, bankers, vendors, and employees, and as such it is "the greatest marketing message you will never pay for."

Mr. Hyde

The same qualities that can help an entrepreneur scale heights others only dream of can also lead to Shakespearean falls from grace. Most entrepreneurs freely admit the traits driving their success are also their worst attributes. Often, successful entrepreneurs hire employees who are not like them in order to balance their own excesses. Or, they are self-aware enough to continually assess how their personal qualities are manifesting in their business affairs.

For example, the dogged determination to succeed can translate into an inability to adapt to changing conditions. Staying the course may be true conviction, or it may be blind stubbornness or unwillingness to leave a comfort zone.

The willingness to roll up your shirt sleeves and do any task necessary in your business - a huge asset in the early days when you're working from a card table in your garage - can turn into micromanaging and the inability to delegate once the business has grown.

"Entrepreneurs get a thrill out of leading the way into unfamiliar territory and thumb their noses at failure," said Vickie L. Milazzo, who was named a Top 10 Entrepreneur by Inc. magazine in 2004. "Fearless pacesetters, they are usually mystified to find that they are weak at operations and management. That's OK. Other people can manage for you, but you must be the guiding force that inspires your managers and staff to follow your vision."

She said leaders have to focus on the big picture and trust others to focus on the details. "People who do it all are self-employed but not entrepreneurial. An entrepreneur must also be an actor. You act and get things done by delegating, subcontracting and leveraging other people's talents."

Birol acknowledged that passion has built some great businesses, but blind faith has been mistaken for passion, which has killed many businesses. "Before you belly up to that bar of opportunity, you need to know your limits," he advised. "Astute business owners balance the faith of knowing they can implement, sell, and deliver new ideas with the pragmatic necessity to make money doing so.

"Don't leap into any new venture before taking a hard-eyed look at what you can sacrifice in terms of cash, time, people and other resources. Otherwise, that conviction is really just wishful thinking."

An entrepreneurial spectrum

In the processing world, many people are their own bosses. The demarcation between a self-employed individual and an entrepreneur can be fuzzy. For example, if a self-employed merchant level salesperson (MLS) builds an extremely financially successful business but hires no one else, is that MLS an entrepreneur, a self-employed individual or both? If that MLS creates an ISO, hires others but isn't financially successful, what then?

How about a business owner who wants freedom and time to spend with family more than spectacular financial success? If the owner grows a business but caps its growth in order to fulfill his primary goals without additional commitment to the business, is he an entrepreneur while the company grows, but no longer an entrepreneur when the business reaches its plateau?

Then there are serial entrepreneurs. They can't seem to help themselves from starting businesses or pioneering new fields. Is serial entrepreneurship a reflection of the businesses themselves or an integral part of the owners' personalities?

Green promised his wife he would retire after a life-threatening medical emergency. He swore he'd travel, take it easy, cut back on time devoted to his businesses, spend time with his family and devote time to hobbies. And he did.

But an interest Green shares with his son - hot rods - has developed into a new venture: RodsandWheels, which launched the Web site www.rodsandwheels.com in July 2006.

"It was a little like when The Green Sheet began," he recalled. "What's out there for hot rodding is mostly dated or incomplete, or is advertising for a company with a particular interest.

"There needed to be a place for car clubs and car buffs to go for fresh, useful, complete information. I didn't really mean to start another business," he said with a rueful grin. "But no one else was doing it."

There are myriad definitions for entrepreneurship. The list is as eclectic and varied as entrepreneurs themselves.

Milazzo said an entrepreneur must lead others, and "above all, you must grow your enterprise and make a profit.

"People who say 'I love it so much I'd do it for free' are not entrepreneurs. They are volunteers. Most entrepreneurs are willing to start small and grow slowly, but they fully expect to make money. There's nothing noble about being poor or failing financially."

According to Gendron, independence and vision are the signs of entrepreneurship - not number of employees, financial success or even the end goal: "One of the joys of entrepreneurship is that you define your success - not someone else."

Birol encouraged fledgling entrepreneurs to decide where their conviction lies. "To run your own firm, you must be willing and eager to accept more responsibility, authority and risk in performing activities you truly enjoy," he said. "This blend of passion, skills, and joy creates the perfect entrepreneurial fuel.

"Draw on your conviction to power your efforts to find, keep and grow customers, and take your business to the next level."

Article published in issue number 070101

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