Consumers are confronted with economic uncertainties via the media every day: Newspapers, television, the Internet – they all seem to dwell on negative trends and developments.
It's obvious the economy isn't booming, but contrary to pervasive, dismal reports, not all businesses are on the verge of insolvency.
And some in the payments industry are doing very well indeed, even in this tough economic market.
International Bancard Corp., for one, reported growth in the range of 10 to 12 percent for each of its eight years in business.
Plus, IBC is expanding its headquarters – fivefold. Company executives expect to add 100 new employees in offices throughout North America over the next 18 to 24 months.
An electronic payment solutions provider, IBC provides credit and debit card processing, gift and loyalty cards, check conversion and check guarantee, cash advances, POS software, and equipment and supplies.
If you're wondering why you've never heard of IBC, it's because the company has intentionally flown under the radar for most of its existence, according to David Iafrate, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
Hesitant to do what his competitors were doing, such as offering teaser rates and free equipment, he focused instead on agent development, which takes time.
"We do a lot of educating the salesperson," he said. "It took a lot to build that infrastructure so that when we rolled out nationally we could support our agents."
Iafrate feels that now the timing is right to spread the word about IBC. "We've been doing good things," he said. "With all the doom and gloom, it's time to have a silver lining."
A key asset to having well-educated employees and business partners is that a knowledgeable work force leads to well-educated customers, Iafrate said, and this translates to high levels of service and high retention rates.
"We feel an educated customer is more likely to stay with us as a long-term client and will not get caught up in the smoke and mirrors that pollute this industry," he said.
Long-term relationships with customers, employees, ISOs, merchant level salespeople (MLSs) and vendors are vital to IBC's success.
"We really put a lot of effort in making sure we are the best we can be to our sales partners and customers," Iafrate said. "It's not about how many merchants you are boarding, but how many retained. … We retain our clients because of our service and education process along the way."
Iafrate noted with a sense of pride that some of the company's agents have been receiving residuals on the same merchants for years.
IBC has created agent compensation programs and benefits to attract professionals who are committed to its vision of lasting relationships.
Compensation is delivered to ISOs and MLSs in the form of upfront bonuses, residual income and bonuses toward medical benefits.
"I am looking for a person who wants a long-term relationship, and I am willing to put my money where my mouth is by setting up qualified appointments for my agents," Iafrate said.
"For those running out of places to go and prospects, we set appointments for them," Iafrate said, adding that a qualified appointment is different from a lead.
"We educate our outbound appointment setters so we can put our agents in front of qualified merchants that they would normally not be able to get in front of."
For agents with high enough volume to qualify, IBC conducts installs. "One of the unique things with IBC is we install, in most cases, our deals with our IBC technician in our own vehicle stocked with terminals, paper, phone cords and USB cables," Iafrate said.
IBC must compete with some large organizations, but this can be advantageous for the company and its customers.
"IBC holds old-school values by installing merchants in person, not over the phone like the larger banks and wholesalers," he said. "My average merchant is much larger than the industry average. When I go against a large bank, I can offer unparalleled service."
Iafrate and his team are looking for ISOs and MLSs with basic industry knowledge.
However, for the right agents the company offers extensive opportunities for professional development, Iafrate said. IBC offers three levels of ongoing training.
"As the agent is entrenched in the industry, we help him or her get to the next level by understanding card types, knowing when to sell three- and four-tier merchants, and understanding interchange plus," he said. "This way, the merchant can get the best service."
Training is offered via the Web, phone and PowerPoint presentations. Also, IBC will conduct training on site for groups with higher volume and regular productivity, or the groups can come to IBC's headquarters for training.
Iafrate said IBC is not looking for agents to bring one or two deals. "They have to want to put the time in to learn and understand interchange, how to sell B2B [business-to-business].
If their hot buttons are lease factors, conversion bonuses, free equipment, we know that that person probably isn't for our program."
IBC works with a variety of retail customers, but the company prefers the B2B market, as well as the medical industry. Iafrate believes these sectors offer higher returns, more opportunity for software sales or upgrades, and are less inundated by competitors.
B2B can be more challenging because there are gatekeepers between the sales agent and the chief financial officer or controller, Iafrate said. However, for the extra work, there can be an extra payoff: The profits are usually larger and, if serviced properly, they pay off exponentially, he added.
It can also be difficult to gain access to decision makers for medical-office accounts, but the payoffs are high, according to Iafrate. In this realm, IBC handles co-pays as well as noninsurance types of transactions.
While the company does not typically target family practice physicians, it actively seeks and serves orthodontic and dental offices.
"We really put a lot of effort in making sure we are the best we can be to our sales partners and customers," Iafrate said. "This company was built on morals and ethics. We treat our sales partner with respect and appreciate them."
At IBC, the success of the company and the success of its agents are intertwined. "We hold the agent's hand through the process, and I think that is important for their long-term success," Iafrate said.
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Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
909 N. Main St.
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Web site: www.intlbancard.com