You cannot do it on your own- you must find the right partners. I’m a numbers and ideas guy, but I’m no tech genius. That’s why I made sure to surrounded myself with the best developers I can find to build and improve our CryptoBucks platform.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Brown, the Founder and CEO of Aliant Payments Inc., a leading payment processing and independent merchant services provider that is the first to offer credit card, debit card, and cryptocurrency payment solutions. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Eric has a successful track record of leading businesses and bringing payments technology to mass adoption. In addition to running Aliant, Eric serves as an advisor to financial institutions, managing and directing the payment programs, and he speaks at numerous fintech trade shows each year.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks for having me! I’ve always naturally been a motivated self-starter that likes to march to my own beat. From a young age I dreamed of running my own business and growing something that I built, although I wasn’t sure what kind of business it would be.
At 24 years old, I was an unemployed college dropout who was unsure of what my future held. When a friend offered me a job at a payment processing company on the other side of the country, I impulsively moved from Portland, Oregon to Washington DC and it was the best thing I could have done.
Crunching numbers in my head and multi-tasking have always been two of my strong points, and they helped me take to the payments industry like a duck to water. After getting my feet wet for a few years and meeting some great contacts, I moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and founded my company, Aliant Payments Inc., at age 30. I have been grinding ever since to make it the top innovative payment processing company.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Like many entrepreneurs, I started Aliant out of the second bedroom of my apartment with just a laptop and very little money. I created a sales book, and a marketing program where I spent four hours a day cold calling and going door to door in the Florida heat. I’ll never forget the feeling of when I signed my first large banking partnership with American National Bank. We celebrated hard that day, and ended up being the bank’s payments vendor for over 10 years.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I’ve been told by friends and family members that I am one of the most resilient people they have met, and I believe it’s the only way to survive when building a business. I love this line from Rocky: “(Life) ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
As a business owner, it’s all about how you handle and recover from the “hits.” It’s about learning from your mistakes, but always looking forward. Remember that it’s about the winning the war, and not every battle.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
Things today are great! Over the last 16 years I have made lots of mistakes, learned from them, built an amazing team, and together we have grown Aliant Payments Inc. into a leading payment processing company that processes over $1 billion annually in credit card, debit card, cryptocurrency, and automated clearing house transactions for over 8,000 merchants worldwide.
When we first announced that Aliant would be developing a cryptocurrency payment solution in 2017, I had numerous industry contacts tell me that it was a foolish idea. I’m glad we didn’t listen and chose to move forward anyway, because we’re now seeing traditional financial institutions and large corporations change their tune on blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. They are just now joining the crypto game, licensing blockchain technology, patenting their own bespoke blockchain technologies and adapting the array of benefits that blockchain and cryptocurrencies have to offer- and we had a three-year head start! We’ve already signed some great new merchants, and we are the first processor to bring cryptocurrency to an NFL team, as we recently added the Miami Dolphins to our client roster. Needless to say, it’s been an exciting few years of many firsts and we’ve got some other great stuff in the pipeline!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was installing new credit card equipment for one of my first clients, I couldn’t get the printer to work. After about four hours of trying and speaking with tech support, I realized I had put the paper in backwards. It wasn’t funny at the time, but I laugh every time I think about it now and remember how far I have come.
The lesson I took away from that day was that in order to succeed in a tech-related field, you have to be willing to take new risks, and not be afraid to just jump in. In my industry, where payments technology is constantly evolving, my team and I must learn about new hardware and software often. Let’s just say that there have been many hours spent on the phone with tech support. But as long as you have patience, an open mind, and a willingness to continue learning, you will be able to continue moving forward and succeed. Once you stop learning, something or someone else will take over your job.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My team and Iare especially proud of being one of the first payment processors in the world to offer merchants a cryptocurrency payment solution in addition to traditional payment solutions. At a time when other fintech companies and financial institutions were putting out bad press about cryptocurrency because they felt threatened by it, we recognized and embraced the fact that it was going to majorly disrupt our industry.
After two failed attempts to partner with tech companies to bring a crypto payment solution to market by reselling the product/technology that they had developed, we made the decision to develop our crypto payment processing platform in-house, and design it specifically for merchants. We beat all of the larger companies to the market, set the tone for pricing (we currently offer free cryptocurrency processing to qualifying merchants and all registered non-profits), and we have built relationships with the direct inventors of cryptocurrency and are working closely with them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The payments industry runs 24/7, so it’s easy to get caught up and burn out by working yourself to death. No matter how hectic things get, I remind myself that the work will be there the next day, and I make sure to take breaks when I feel run down.
Fishing is what brings me the most peace these days, and I go at every chance I get. Whether it’s casting the line a few times from my backyard dock, or a weeklong salmon and halibut fishing adventure in Alaska (my new favorite spot), I am able to clear my head and return to work fresher and more motivated than before. I also come up with some of my best ideas while I’m waiting for a fish to bite!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I feel fortunate to have a mother who has always supported my dreams, and friends who have always been there to step in when I needed help, whether it was for logo design feedback or to teach me about a new program.
I am extremely grateful for my colleague and friend Josh Finkleman, who has played a major role in helping me learn about how blockchain and cryptocurrency work. Josh helped me realize that crypto and blockchain technology were at the forefront of the payments industry after he referred a large merchant account to us. While working on this account, the subject of cryptocurrency repeatedly came up, and Josh took the time to answer my many questions about how it all worked. The more he explained, the more I understood that what was in front of me was huge, and over the years Josh has been a great confidante and sounding board for ideas and decisions.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My team and I have always been strong believers in giving back to our community. We make it a point to stay involved, from donating computers to local schools, to “adopting” disadvantaged families during the holidays, to participating in hurricane relief efforts, to speaking with schoolchildren on Career Day, and more.
After launching our cryptocurrency processing platform, called CryptoBucks, we decided to use our technology for a good cause and offer free crypto processing to registered non-profit. Through this program, registered charities can accept donations or payments in Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, and receive 100% of the donation in their local fiat currency. This means that when a donor gives a $100 USD donation, the non-profit will receive the full $100 USD deposited directly into their bank account. There are no platform fees, no setup fees, no monthly fees, and no transaction fees.
(Choose) What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. You cannot do it on your own- you must find the right partners. I’m a numbers and ideas guy, but I’m no tech genius. That’s why I made sure to surrounded myself with the best developers I can find to build and improve our CryptoBucks platform.
2. Keep an eye on expenses, and shop vendors regularly. Running a business is not only about making money, but also watching how much you spend. It’s easy to get comfortable with your vendors, but there are usually better deals out there. Usually you don’t even have to switch vendors- you just need to watch what you’re being charged for, and make sure you’re not paying for things that you don’t need. That extra $9.99 a month here and there adds up over the years. To this day I still contact our vendors every few months, and the calls usually end with us saving money.
3. You are, and always will be, your company’s best salesperson. Make sure you are always selling, and never stop. As long as you believe in what you are selling, nobody can match your passion. Nobody wants your company to succeed more than you. Although I have an awesome sales team, I still make it a point to attend trade shows, speak at conferences, and personally meet as many clients as possible.
4. Treating employees like co-workers results in happier, more productive workers that will stay with you long-term. Make sure to reward them for your company’s successes, and treat them the way that you would want to be treated if you were working for someone. I consider things like ongoing education, fun teambuilding events, celebration lunches and boating trips, and as much paid maternity leave as a valued employee needs, to be investments to the future of Aliant’s success.
5. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’ve seen so many crypto-related startups come and go in the last few years. The fintech industry is one that’s filled with regulations, and new companies must really take the time to learn about compliance. Many of these new tech startups launch with no previous experience of managing a portfolio of thousands of merchants, or complying with all current federal regulations and Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) rules, and they fail quickly.
My advice to them is to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Take the time to educate yourself and do things right. Although several members of the Aliant team have 20+ years of experience in the payments industry, we weren’t tech experts before building CryptoBucks. It’s taken us almost three years to build our platform, and we are still perfecting it. But the technology is better because took the time to test, learn, and get feedback instead of rushing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We already offer free cryptocurrency processing to registered non-profits and qualifying merchants that sign up for debit and credit card processing, but we are thinking of extending it to all merchants. Doing this would be a win-win for both merchants and consumers, and it could allow billions of people around the world to benefit. Our mission is to make cryptocurrency a mainstream form of payment, and change the way people around the world pay for goods and services.
For merchants, it allows them to learn about how crypto payments work through experience. For consumers, crypto payments are a gamechanger because it allows the 1.7 billion people who do not have access to a bank account to finally shop online. With crypto payments, all one needs is a smartphone and an email address!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.