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Street SmartsSM:
Street Smarts Grows Up

By Ed Freedman

Street Smarts is now one year old. I admit that I have been challenged in writing a timely and relevant column for every single issue of The Green Sheet for the last 12 months, and I'm scared to think that I just agreed to host the column for another year.

I'm not a glutton for punishment, but when Paul Green asked me to continue hosting "Street Smarts" in 2004, I agreed. I feel a great sense of pride in helping merchant level salespeople (MLSs); I enjoy giving something back to an industry that has given me so much and providing a forum for informative, honest MLS-centric discussions.

As you know, this semi-monthly column is the lead in the Education section of The Green Sheet and has become the voice of the publication's core readership, the MLS. The series is dedicated to MLSs whose feet are firmly planted out on the street and whose opinions, observations, concerns and critiques need to be heard. "Street Smarts" is not about Ed Freedman. It is about you, the hardworking MLS and pertinent issues that affect you.

Some of the topics the series covered this past year include a six-part series on the essentials for success, discussing contracts, compensation, vendor selection, strategic partnerships, lead generation, closing deals, industry associations, educational resources, successful selling techniques, check conversion, wireless solutions, gift/loyalty cards, Internet-centric services, Level-3 processing and the National Association of Payment Professionals (NAOPP).

These columns serve as a template for any MLS striving to achieve success, and if you missed any of them in the past 24 issues, they are all available and archived on GS Online (www.greensheet.com) in the MLS Portal section.

From the many e-mails I received this past year, it seems the "Street Smarts" series is widely read. Here are some of comments I received from readers:

"I just read the September 22, 2003 issue of The Green Sheet, and I want to thank you for all your kind words about the regional meetings that are experiencing a ground swell." -Judy Foster, Thales

"Ed, you are a hoot. Your article was very upbeat...and funny." -Keri, POS USA

"Dear Ed, we don't know each other; however, our mutual associates in the industry speak highly of you. Just a quick note on behalf of the newly formed NAOPP to say thanks for giving us the great press in your most recently published article in The Green Sheet. This new organization can use all the support it can muster, and we appreciate the time and effort you took to help 'jump-start' it." -Corey Saftler, President, Integrated Leasing

"After receiving the latest edition of The Green Sheet yesterday, I read the article on gift cards, 'The Gifts That Keep on Giving.' The article was very well done; it gave a great overview of the industry and offered the perspective from both the merchants' view as well as the MLS." -David Petry, Executive Sales Director, Valutec Card Solutions

"I look forward to reading your column in each issue of The Green Sheet. It is very helpful as a learning aide." -Herb Mordkoff, National Sales Manager, Federated Payment Systems

"I've read your column for the past couple of issues. Again, I want to say 'hats off to you' for believing in paying people well! It's really nice of The Green Sheet to allow you to 'toot your own horn' in these articles. But, you've got the right attitude about building your business and keeping the people who are building it for you happy. Don't change." -Chris Collins

"I just finished a week off and was reading The Green Sheet on the airplane headed home today. Thank you for the very kind words in your column. They were much appreciated. You have a way of being positive, and that is a terrific trait that will carry you far." -Bob Carr, Chairman and CEO, Heartland Payment Systems

So what's in store for 2004? Plenty! While attending the 2004 ETA convention in Las Vegas, I had the privilege of being treated to dinner by the mastermind behind The Green Sheet, Editor in Chief, Paul Green, and Vice President and General Manager, Julie O'Ryan.

We didn't finish dinner until almost 2 a.m., and there was not a second of silence. In fact, the hostess came over and offered to buy us a round of drinks only if we would lower our voices. Diners around us had complained about the decibel level from our conversation. She bribed us to keep it down to a dull roar.

Over this marathon meal, I told Paul how so many people came up to me at the ETA golf tournament and pitched new ideas for future columns. I told him how countless attendees of the convention complimented me on "Street Smarts" as I walked around the exhibit hall. Some even said that when they get their copy of The Green Sheet, they immediately turn to the column to see what's going on and what hot topic is being discussed.

Paul, Julie and I talked at length about the past year and the future of "Street Smarts." The results are cause for celebration, and I am pleased to announce new developments in this series for the coming year. The first one is Guest Columnist. I love this one.

Many of my peers and competitors in this industry have teased me about writing "Street Smarts." They boast that they could do this job just as well, if not better-if they only had the time.

To all of them, I say, "Put your money where your mouth is." My challenge to these very successful industry leaders is to write just one column.

Be a guest columnist for one issue. Send me a letter on an issue or topic that you believe MLSs will find interesting and informative, then let's see if you still think it's easy and/or fun. You actually might find that it's hard work.

I look forward to Guest Columnist contributions from such luminaries as Joe Kaplan, President/CEO of Innovative Merchant Solutions, an Intuit company; Marc Gardner, President of North American Bancard; Mitch Lau, President/CEO of Money Tree Merchant Services, and many others.

I am confident these contributors will write great articles. As readers of the series, you all know I am not afraid to seek advice and help from industry experts to ensure we are properly informed by the best sources. In that tradition, I open the floor to guest columnists-and don't worry, as always, I'll add my two cents' worth.

Another development of interest: Many MLSs have sent me e-mails about how something they gleaned from one of my columns led them to a success. These e-mails sparked an innovative idea-why not share these success stories with other MLSs? Why not encourage these testimonials by offering incentives?

I believe these stories can inspire others, and so does Paul Green. He liked the idea so much that when I presented it at our ETA dinner, he immediately agreed to buy the first year's membership to NAOPP for every reader who sends in a success story. Why NAOPP? We both agree that the concept of NAOPP is vital to having every MLSs voice be heard. With this initiative, no MLS should be left out of NAOPP. Continuing education is very important to Paul and me, which is why I was thrilled to hear him also offer a one-time paid conference fee to a regional conference of choice to the MLS who is selected each month as having the best success story.

And what would a contest be without a grand prize? For the best success story received all year, the winner will be awarded a fully paid trip to the 2005 Annual ETA Conference, including full registration fees for the conference, airfare and three-nights' hotel accommodations.

This is your opportunity to give something back. Send submissions to: StreetSmarts_Feedback@greensheet.com .

Kudos to Paul Green and The Green Sheet for generously endowing this new program; it will promote ongoing education of the MLS while inspiring others to success.

On a more personal note, I'd like everyone to know that Paul Green has always been my mentor. He is a true inspiration for how to give back to an industry that has been so good to so many of us.

I am equally excited to announce a new topic for a series of columns for the second year of "Street Smarts." We will examine the Mind of the MLS. I will closely monitor the MLS Forum and report back to the readership the hot topics being discussed. Not only will I explore them, but, as always, I will welcome your opinions, too. In this way, we will always have a strong finger on the pulses of MLSs-and the serious issues they face in today's dynamic market.

On this first anniversary, I'd like to let you know I take great pride in creating such a special forum for MLSs and am steadfastly committed to moving forward with "Street Smarts."

I have never been more hopeful about the opportunities the payment processing industry presents to all of us. I am very proud of what, together, we have accomplished to date. I vow to continue to be the advocate for MLSs everywhere and to keep this column timely and relevant.

The energy and anticipation of success surrounding our industry is more palpable than ever before. With your help, "Street Smarts" will remain the #1 format for MLS-centric issues.

To all of you, I offer my thanks and gratitude for the extraordinary support I've received this past year. I'm thrilled with the dialog we have created within this phenomenal industry and look forward to continuing it into 2005.

"Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose."
-Lyndon B. Johnson

I'll see you next time where the rubber meets the road.

Ed Freedman is founder and President/CEO of Total Merchant Services, one of the fastest-growing credit card merchant account acquirers in the nation. Ed is the driving force behind all business development activity as well as the execution of Total Merchant Services' marketing plan, including recruiting and training independent sales offices and establishing strategic alliance partnerships with leading vendors, so that Total Merchant Services can provide its customers with the highest quality and most reliable services available. To learn more about Total Merchant Services, visit the Web site at www.totalmerchantservices.com . To learn more about partnering with Total Merchant Services, visit www.upfrontandresiduals.com or contact Ed directly at ed@totalmerchantservices.com.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.
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