By Steven Feldshuh
Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East
Residing and working happily in the New York City area, I used to think I lived in a bubble. I wasn't sure life outside my sphere could be satisfying. Fortunately, having friends in business throughout the country enabled me to realize there are so many similarities among all of us that the differences are more in our belief systems than in how we live our lives.
We all like to eat great meals and, once in awhile, eat junk food. We like to drive new cars, versus relying on a 10-year-old car. We dream of owning our own home, whether it be a house, townhouse or apartment. We enjoy a good show or movie; activities like biking or water sports; and playing or watching basketball, football or baseball. We work hard so we can take a nice vacation.
Our parents, our friends, our children, our relatives and work colleagues play a huge part in our lives. Most of us like having a cat, dog or at least a goldfish in our homes. We seem to give to charities such as the Red Cross, the homeless and hundreds of other worthy causes. We all experience heartbreak, pain and loss.
However, it appears we're losing some common ground. Given the unprecedented rancor in our country today, how do we find the stability and motivation to continue to train new agents, solicit new merchants and return home each day feeling accomplished?
Recently, I heard a commentator say that young couples who are thinking of marrying are increasingly concerned they may bring someone home to meet the parents who is not of their political belief. For some, this issue surpasses fears of rejection based on race, religion or economic status. To me that says it all: we are creating new barriers rather than breaking them down, and logic has gone out the window. We must figure out quickly how to get it back.
If this year's heightened rancor in Washington is an indication of what the next four years will be like, we citizens of all political stripes are sorely in need of political parties based on logic and honor in the true sense of the words. We all have neighbors who are different than we are, and to date, that has worked. We all have business associates who have different religions, life partners unlike our own, and differing approaches to work challenges. That, too, has generally worked. I am delighted to be able to work well with sales agents and merchants who do not share my religion or, most likely, political views ‒ at least not on all issues. To me that has always been a positive, not a negative.
If we each retreat to our own world and associate only with people like us, we'll have little room for growth of any kind. Meeting new people is always an adventure and, in most cases, turns out to be highly rewarding. Most of us in sales have found this to be true.
It makes sense that we should continue to reach out to people with different backgrounds and beliefs; it is a sound practice. Now, it is also smart to be particularly aware of our assumptions. Many of us have believed our government has our backs as Americans, but is that the case today? We've felt that serving in the highest ranks of government is an honor, but is that true today? And we've believed that a kind word will get you more than a heavy hand or ugly tweet, but is that true today? If these assumptions are no longer true, can we mitigate the impact in some way?
I expect we are all in this industry to make a healthy living and to continue growing as people within our community. However, I fear that as business owners, salespeople and operations folks, we might start believing that if it is OK for our top government officials to lie, hide their personal business dealings, and chide anyone and everyone who is weaker than they are; that it is OK for our industry to adopt the same habits.
I spend part of each day reviewing processing statements for our sales team. If I followed the example set by our country's leadership, wouldn't it follow that I would try to cheat merchants and our sales agents? I have seen more and more processing statements being presented to merchants by agents of companies doing just that: cheating merchants in ways that are almost impossible to detect. Is this a logical thing to do? Is it honorable?
Our industry and its leaders need to follow the example of the companies that play by the rules. I am fortunate to be working with a company with integrity. Doing business with a real code of honor, to me, is logical. Following what some dishonorable entities in the industry are doing is not logical unless you are comfortable with the current climate that surrounds us all.
There will always be individuals and companies that do not play by the rules, but today, more than ever, we, as an industry, need to push ourselves to not get ugly. How we all decide to conduct our lives is up to us, but I believe doing business with integrity is of utmost importance now, especially when dealing with merchants.
Many merchants don't understand how our business works. Demonstrating that we are there to take care of them is more critical than ever. It seems everyone today can benefit by a kind word, less arguing and more explanation. That goes for our merchants and the people who give us support on a daily basis.
Consider mitigating the discord we are seeing daily. Join me in striving always to do what is right, not what you can get away with. Unlike some of those who are wrangling over restrictions in the banking industry, we can help the payments industry lead by example in a stable, honest and fair-minded way.
Steven Feldshuh, President of Merchants' Choice Payment Solutions East, has 18 years' experience in sales and ISO development. Directly prior to joining MCPSE in 2012, he was President of Payment Partners. In his current position, Steven devotes the bulk of his time to assisting agents in building their portfolios. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 212-392-9202.
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