If you can’t be first, be best — Innovating is really exciting, especially in the financial sector. Being first to market is always the goal, but it’s more important to put out the best version of your product — that will inevitably get you noticed.
As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chase Harmer, CEO of PayCertify. Harmer originally started PayCertify in 2013 as a concierge merchant processing and fraud prevention service for the travel industry, but quickly discovered that the fraud issues plaguing hotels and airlines were also affecting E-commerce and other merchants as well. PayCertify has become a major player in the fintech world with 25 full time employees and more than 500 independent agents generating more than 5 billion dollars per year in processing revenue.
Chase is also the host of the well received Beta2Boss Podcast, a business and entrepreneurship themed online radio broadcast that has earned a reputation as a platform that is as motivational as it is educational. Chase Harmer uses Beta2Boss as an outlet to be able to motivate, inspire and give back to entrepreneurs, offering bi-monthly mentorship to his audience by interviewing his rolodex of self made millionaires and billionaires. Beta2Boss’s guests are always self made and come on the show to break down their approach and mindset to being successful, and empower listers by delivering actionable tasks that anybody motivated can use to start or grow a business of their own.
Chase Harmer now runs his company and podcast from his office in Los Gatos, California, loves being a father to his ten year old son, and bets on the San Francisco 49’s to win the Superbowl every year.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I fell into merchant services when I was just starting my career. Soon enough I branched out on my own, established bank relationships, and grew the business while travelling all over the country. I began with the travel industry and soon realized that the processing part of it wasn’t just a commodity type business, but it was residual, and it was consistent.
But in order to keep customers using the PayCertify platform and make more money, we had to add more value. We became a card issuer and were then able to acquire a transaction and pay a supplier, utilizing the interchange on both sides to offset each other. We took that payment approach and applied it to some of the biggest merchants in the world, the gig economy merchants. From there, PayCertify was born.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When starting out, entrepreneurs need to realize “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I entered into a partnership early on in my career with an individual who I didn’t know well enough. A business partnership is much like a marriage — you need to really know the other person for it to be successful and long-term. Especially at that point in my career, I had a finite amount of money to make my ideas a reality and disagreements ensued over the best use of our limited resources. The experience really helped me remember that trust is everything in business — especially in partnerships.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
A book that has meant a lot to me is “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. It’s been important to my life and career development because it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that comes your way as a business owner. It’s important to prioritize the items that make the most impact.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Take it with a grain of salt. Life is complex and crazy. Everyone has a journey that they need to go through in order to reach their version of success. It’s the people who pivot, reevaluate and persevere who enjoy the end results and you can get there by being flexible and rolling with the punches, taking the struggles along with the successes.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
We were doing some very unique things at PayCertify from the start. Everyone thinks about marketing a certain way and we’ve tried to come in from a different perspective. If you take the end user away, every transaction boils down to the same thing: a seller and a consumer. It doesn’t matter if your business is B2B or B2C, if you serve the user the right ad, they’re a buyer. Looking at our dealings from that approach helps us get into the mindset of our customers and what they want to see from us to move the deal forward.
If a fellow CEO would ask you for advice about whether to bootstrap or to look for VC capital, how would you help them weigh the pros and cons of that decision?
I would say to bootstrap, if you can. For me, there wasn’t much of a choice. I wasn’t the tech guy, I was the sales guy. People aren’t going to invest in just the idea, so I had to pay for it and get tech people to do the work. All I knew was that I had a great idea and I was going to make it happen.
By choosing the bootstrapping option, you maintain control of the vision. It’s easier to pivot, grow and morph into the best version of your idea and company, rather than committing to a certain roadmap that might not be the best route to success. I was lucky to have very good investors who saw my vision and my ability to get it done, but that level of freedom isn’t always the case.
What would you advise to a founder who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
My biggest piece of advice for founders is to look at how they can monetize on the back end. If you have a service, think about what else it touches and the other ways you can make a better connection or be better host to that connection. For instance, accounting software is a big deal for media buyers. We recognized that and now we’re in the process of building a button within our platform so when an ad buyer uses their virtual credit card, they can get attribution inside of their accounting system.
People aren’t always thinking about ways to provide that added value. It can help to close additional deals once users realize those connections are there to compliment things that they’re already using.
What are the most common finance mistakes you have seen other businesses make? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Not paying attention the cost of employees and turnover, but also being afraid to cut bait when you need to. I think it’s key to just trust your gut and make the decision. Because there’s no point in letting things linger — it actually creates bigger ripples inside of the organization.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Approach it from an empathetic view — As a sales guy, that was probably the hardest thing for me to do. I would pick out key things my customers said and I would focus on those pain points, but I wouldn’t really listen or look at it from their point of view. Once I made that adjustment personally, it really changed me. And that reflects throughout the company, because people understand that you’re genuine and that you really want to help them.
- Keep it simple — Your customers don’t want complexity. It can be complex on the back end, but for your end users, it needs to be simple.
- Build for the customer — The customer experience is the most important thing. So even if you have a great product that solves a problem and the consumer experience isn’t up to par, it’s not going to work.
- Add incentives — People react positively to incentives and anything that adds more value to their experience or investment.
- If you can’t be first, be best — Innovating is really exciting, especially in the financial sector. Being first to market is always the goal, but it’s more important to put out the best version of your product — that will inevitably get you noticed.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Remind yourself that the goal needs to be big enough. If you’re not ready to win and have those sleepless nights, then you’re not doing the right thing and you’re not excited enough about it. For me, PayCertify has almost become an obsession. It’s not even my choice anymore, it’s who I am. Adopting that mindset has helped me in times of stress. I remember that I have a unique solution to offer the world and I need to do everything I can to bring those dreams to life.
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. 🙂
I started a nonprofit called Founder LLC to help entrepreneurs who have a great vision and a dream to get to a place where they can really start scaling their business. I believe that the biggest impact that I can make in this world is to help entrepreneurs strive and aspire to get to where they’re trying to go, because those are the people who are going to change the world really. At the end of the day, it’s the innovators who are going to make a difference. I feel like if I can help them get there, then that’s probably the biggest impact that I can make — besides making my little son into a better man as his dad.
How can our readers follow you online?
PayCertify can be reached at PayCertify.com, on Twitter @paycertify, or LinkedIn linkedin.com/company/paycertify/. You can learn more about me and my story at chaseharmer.com and about the nonprofit, Founder LLC, at founderllc.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!