Celebrate even small successes. When good things happen, celebrate them. It will remind you of the good things you are doing, and give you and others around you more reason for optimism and to keep going.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Barry McCarthy
Barry McCarthy was named President and CEO of Deluxe in November 2018. Barry is also a member of our Board of Directors.
Prior to joining Deluxe, Barry spent 14 years at First Data Corporation, where he served in a variety of senior executive positions, most recently Executive Vice President and Head of Network and Security Solutions, a $1.5 billion publicly reported segment of the company. Barry is an accomplished executive and financial technology leader with an extensive track record of developing and building tech-driven solutions for financial institutions and small businesses. His strong background in product development, sales, marketing and technology innovation have supported the significant growth of companies from a Silicon Valley start-up, to major divisions of global Fortune 250 organizations.
Barry earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and attended the University of Illinois.
Thank you for joining us Barry! Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Ibegan my career in product development, sales and marketing, spending 12 years at Procter & Gamble. I earned my MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Since that first role, I have enjoyed a series of roles with increasing responsibility, including being an entrepreneur, venturing into leading a business in Silicon Valley. Prior to my current role as president and CEO of Deluxe, I spent 14 years at First Data, where I was responsible at various time for nearly every division within the company. I served in a variety of senior executive positions, most recently executive vice president and head of its Network & Security Solutions business, a diversified and growing, $1.5B publicly-reported segment of the company
I have lived all over the country and run businesses around the world. I am a direct, candid and passionate leader who tries to inspire others to achieve more than they thought was possible. I believe in transparency; telling people what I know when I know it. This builds trust. I serve or have served as a director of numerous organizations including The Minneapolis Business Partnership, Junior Achievement of Georgia, The Woodruff Arts Center, Catholic Charities and FinTech Atlanta, where I was proud to support the creation of the University System of Georgia’s FinTech Academy. My background is in fintech, where I have developed and built technology-driven solutions for financial institutions and small businesses.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’m lucky to have had many great experiences in my career. Let me tell you about two things that have happened in the 16 months while I’ve been here at Deluxe. When I became CEO of this proud 105-year-old company at the end of 2018, Deluxe had grown to nearly a $2 billion revenue company, but was only growing through acquisitions, not through innovation. We set out to transform the company from a legacy check printer into a Trusted Business Technology™ company. I wanted the company to think and act like a tech company — to make decisions quickly, move faster and constantly reinvent. To achieve this, I needed to change how our team thought about the company — and themselves. First, we instilled an ownership mindset. Central to every tech company is the concept of “ownership” where employees and shareholders are deeply aligned around the company’s success. Tech companies grant stock to all employees to ensure that alignment exists, so when the company succeeds, the employee and his or her family succeeds, too. Early in my tenure, I asked the Board to support me in granting stock to all of our employees in North America. I’m lucky to have a supportive Board, and we made grants to everyone in April, 2019. Immediately, the questions and employee engagement started to change. Everyone started to feel ownership in their work. What our employees are doing is more than just a job, they own part of the company and the outcomes now. It has been amazing to watch.
Second, we needed to demonstrate how this 105-year-old giant could move quickly and adopt new technology. At my first Board meeting as the new CEO, I asked for support to grant stock to everyone, and to support a massive investment in modernizing our obsolete tech platforms. Pretty unusual first Board meeting! We attacked six areas of our technology infrastructure, but had a unique opportunity with our antiquated CRM tools (actually 14 different tools) to manage our customer relationships. As the first quarter of my time as CEO was closing, we had an opportunity to strike a particularly good deal with Salesforce. But we needed to get the deal done within hours — not the usual months. I was in my office at nearly 2 a.m. in between the two-day Board meeting with the team getting it done. I arrived at the Board meeting the next morning with the deal closed, including some incredible mutual opportunities that have since become a strategic alliance between the companies. Our board and company were more accustomed to talking about an issue and then meeting again two months later to make a decision. What I learned is that people are eager to follow a leader who will move forward with vision and speed. We could move fast and make great decisions by being bold and demonstrating an all-in, can-do approach.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There is so much. Deluxe has been around for 105 years. As a company, we have survived the Spanish Flu, two world wars, the great depression and more. Deluxe is the original payments company. Our founder invented the checkbook, and ever since then we have been integral to the economy. Annually, our services and products help process roughly $2.8 trillion. That is 14 percent of the GDP. We are essential to helping small businesses grow, from their inception through to maturity. We work with the biggest banks and companies in the world, providing the products that ensure commerce gets done.
We stand out because no other company has the breadth and scope of what we have. Our job is to make sure more people know about what we can do for them. We have relaunched the company’s go-to-market strategy to bring the best of Deluxe to all of our clients, not just one solution at a time. This enables us to better cross-sell. Clients big and small can benefit from our entire portfolio.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have had the incredibly good fortune to work for many great leaders over my career. During my 14 years at First Data, I worked for seven different CEOs, including Charlie Fote, Ric Duques, Michael Capellas (former CEO WorldCom, Compaq, president HP, etc.), Joe Forehand (CEO, Accenture), Jonathan Judge (CEO, Paychex), Ed Labry and Frank Bisignano (COO, JPMC and Citi). I learned from great leaders at Wells Fargo and P&G too. Because I got to see so many different CEOs, I think I was uniquely prepared to join Deluxe as CEO.
How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is mostly about perseverance and grit. I tell my team all the time let’s just put our head down and go to work, point ourselves in the right direction and we will mostly get it right. Of course, we’ll make mistakes. It is natural to fail. But we can get something 80 percent right and then keep building from there, you win. That is what a resilient company does. Resilient people are relentless and operate with grit. They don’t dwell if something goes wrong, they stand up, dust themselves off and keep going, staying focused on where they’re headed. The best teams also have confidence to challenge each other; disagree with each other; challenge each other; and challenge me. Sometimes the best ideas come from disagreement. But do it with the team — with the company — in mind. Then, once a decision is made, let’s rally forward, put our heads down and go to work.
When you think of resiliency, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Abraham Lincoln. In the face of terrible odds and horrible human tragedy, he stayed focused, went to work and kept the country pointed in the right direction. He failed many times, but stood up, dusted himself and company off, and went back to work. He had the grit to stay the course and get the job done.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
There have been plenty of times. A recent example was around making everyone at Deluxe a shareholder. It really was a big deal. We didn’t know of any other 105-year-old publicly traded, dividend-paying company taking on a fundamental transformation and granting stock to everyone. Our company had, historically, an ultra-low media profile. I spoke with our head of PR about going to the media with this story because it was so special. The initial response was that our company just wouldn’t attract attention. I said let’s just put our heads down, point ourselves in the right direction and go to work. Our PR leader landed us major coverage in local and national media. Yes, getting headlines was nice. But far more importantly, the coverage got our transformation message out broadly, raising the confidence of our customers, shareholders and employees about our exciting future.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Well, we might be there right now. Managing our company right now through the COVID-19 pandemic is likely one of the greatest challenges I will face. We are watching small businesses retrench and larger companies put projects on hold. It is impacting our company and we are making decisions in real-time to manage this process. We are not through the worst of it yet, but I am certain we will bounce back, and that we are making the right decisions to move us forward and meet the needs of our customers. We are using our overarching purpose and our values to guide our decisions. Our brand purpose is to “Champion businesses, both large and small, so communities thrive.” Our values: a) we put customers first; b) we earn trust; c) we create what’s next; d) we deliver for shareholders; and e) we are a get-it-done team. All of this is built on our 105-year legacy of integrity and prioritizing the safety and health of our employees. We are living these values by delivering content and information to help business at this time. We have started a new TV series, called Small Business, Big Hearts that is part of our market leading Hulu and Amazon Prime show, The Small Business Revolution(www.small businessrevolution.org). And, of course, we are doing all we can to keep our employees safe and healthy.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I put myself through college, basically independent from the time I was 17 years old. I worked multiple different jobs on campus — making auger for Petri dishes in a bio chem research lab, a sporting good store selling ice skates, and an overnight desk clerk at a private dormitory. I spent much of the earnings from this on-campus work to buy bus tickets back home so I could sell house painting services door-to-door all winter, pacing-off a home’s foundation in the snow to get measurement. Come summer, I would lead a team of other college kids to paint the home. Only after I collected payment for the paint job would I earn my generous commission check. Looking back, it took pretty incredible grit to work one job to make money for a bus ticket to have a chance to slug through snow to make money at another job 6 months later. But, I believed in myself and made it work. The lesson was simple, and one I share with people whether verbally or by my actions: Just put your head down, point yourself in the right direction, work hard and it will all work out. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off if something doesn’t work, and just keep going.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Always learn. Being resilient means that you have failed at something and probably many things along the way. Learn how to do better next time. Failures and disappointments are just valuable lessons.
- Be all-in. Be in or out in whatever you do. Do nothing half-way. If you don’t believe in yourself and whatever you’re doing, no one else will either.
- Be positive. Negativity is a trap because it only creates more negativity. Do not allow yourself to get on the “down escalator” of negativity. Find others who are optimistic, too and leave all the people who just want to feel sorry for themselves behind.
- Be transparent. Hiding a problem, a weakness or a failure only ensures that you don’t get help. Put it all out there on the table. This will help you learn (see #1), and help you from becoming negative (#3). When it’s all out on the table, your peers, team and friends can help you overcome obstacles.
- Celebrate even small successes. When good things happen, celebrate them. It will remind you of the good things you are doing, and give you and others around you more reason for optimism and to keep going.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Well, that sounds aspirational. Businesses can do so much good for employees. I’d like to see more companies do what Deluxe has done — make employees owners in the business. Provide stock grants to your employees to get them further invested in the company. This will spark a movement where we aren’t management and employees, but everyone is an employee-owner and our collective mentality will change to focus on how we grow and prosper together.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter — @Barrydeluxecorp
LinkedIn — linkedin.com/in/barrycmccarthy