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Street SmartsSM:
'See You Where the Rubber Meets the Road'

By Ed Freedman

Ed Freedman Bids Farewell to "Street Smarts"

It is with sadness but much appreciation that I write my final "Street Smarts" column. For the past two years, I've had the privilege of hosting an ongoing dialog that honestly and aggressively deals with the challenges faced each day by merchant level salespeople (MLSs).

I covered a lot of ground in this column. Taking my cue from the many calls and conversations I had with MLSs across the country, we discussed it all: contracts, compensation, closing techniques, strategic ISO alliances, vendor selection, lead generation, leasing, value-added products and services, the Internet, card Associations, regional associations, interchange and business philosophies.

For readers who missed any of the articles, The Green Sheet has them archived (and also all of its issues dating back to 1995) on GS Online at www.greensheet.com .

I think what made "Street Smarts" so effective was my interaction with MLSs through GS Online's MLS Forum. No matter what the topic, MLSs clearly and emphatically voiced their opinions, and I proudly included many of those comments in each and every column. Our discussions, albeit sometimes rather heated, reflected both sides of the spectrum.

For my final submission, I asked readers to let me know how they felt about my work these past two years. I requested that they hold nothing back, and they didn't. Here's what the feet on the street had to say:

"I think it was genius. From a marketing, helpfulness and effort perspective ... GENIUS. You got to call the topics, which would be valuable to the MLS. You got the Forum membership to virtually write your articles for you. It got you a lot a free press. But most importantly, it did give some who would never have the chance a voice and a platform ...

"Overall a win, win, win. Great idea; hat's off to you and The Green Sheet for being cutting edge and, most importantly, stirring the debate to advance our profession." - toby

"Your column changed my business for the better." - tazman

"I just wanted to let you know that I think you did a great job with the 'Street Smarts' column. I cannot think of another place where the MLS community can get such great advice that applies directly to it. You always stayed current with the issues that we wanted to hear about.

"I thought to myself many times 'How does he put two columns out each month?' It must not have been an easy task. Yeah, there was a little self-promotion, but should we expect otherwise? We are all in sales.

"Anyway, again, great job, Ed. I know we will be seeing or hearing from you somewhere else." - swinnerton

"Great column. I read it every month and have a ton of respect for what you say and what you have done in the past. I also started out as a young buck in the industry (still am), and I understand a lot of the hurdles that you have faced. Your advice has been great not only for the 'feet on the street' but for everyone in the industry. Thanks again." - SwipeNGo

"[This is] one of the best columns I've read in a free or paid publication. Maybe you can do something once a quarter. I'm going to go back and read some of your old columns that I hadn't had time up to now to read. Good luck to you and [with] all of your endeavors ... " - Utrue

"Yours is always the first column I turn to when my GS arrives. You've done a great job and will be missed!" - hedda

It's apparent from these posts that I have succeeded in what I intended for "Street Smarts." At the onset, I committed to providing a platform where the hardest working sector of the bankcard business, MLSs, could be heard, and they were heard.

I'm glad so many MLSs found value in "Street Smarts." I found a renewed sense of purpose. I took my role seriously and with each column, I pledged to inform, inspire and support.

I want to take this opportunity to let everyone know that I will continue to act on that pledge. As the newest member of the Electronic Transactions Association's (ETA) Board of Directors, I intend to work diligently on behalf of MLSs.

Although I won't have a column in The Green Sheet twice a month, I will represent MLS interests and opinions at each ETA strategic planning session and board meeting that I attend.

As I've mentioned many times during the past two years, it's critical that all levels of the industry participate in the enhancement of policies and procedures.

I've stressed the importance of active MLS involvement in regional and national associations, and I'm putting my money where my mouth is; I hope that others do the same.

In the next few years, our industry will witness dramatic change, and knowledge is the key to successfully weathering the storm brought about by change. New mergers and acquisitions will take place. Some organizations will grow stronger; others will disappear. New products and services will arrive on the scene, while others will become obsolete.

How will salespeople stay ahead of the game? My suggestions: Get involved; join ETA; attend regional acquirers' association events and industry seminars; subscribe to industry publications; and stay informed. I'll be out there fighting for MLSs. We won't win the battle unless we work together for a better business world.

I would be remiss if I didn't also take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks to Paul Green and the entire staff of The Green Sheet for their confidence and support. They took a chance on a guy who had never written anything before. All he had was passion and street smarts! This has been a great experience. I've learned a lot and hopefully have taught a lot as well.

"Street Smarts" will continue with new hosts. I wish them all the best and hope that they enjoy it as much as I did. They are about to embark on an extraordinary journey that will bring them many rewards. It certainly did for me.

Despite all the challenges and curves that our industry throws at us, I still believe that this is the best business in the world. I look forward to working with everyone, whether over the phone, in an office, at a conference or, my favorite place, where the rubber meets the road. Thank you.

"The ancient Greek definition of happiness was the full use of your powers along lines of excellence."
- John F. Kennedy

Ed Freedman is founder and President/Chief Executive Officer of Total Merchant Services, one of the fastest-growing credit card merchant account acquirers in the nation. Freedman 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 e-mail Freedman 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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