Save: I cannot understate the importance of saving money. The earlier you start saving, the more opportunities you will have in life later on, such as opening your own business. Savings not only present more opportunities but they can serve to insulate you from risk. As we currently are seeing during the pandemic, the businesses that are able to rely on their savings are also able to better weather the storm.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Garima Shah.
Garima Shah is a noted fintech executive with more than 15 years of leadership experience in the payments industry. She currently serves as president of Biller Genie, a solution that works within a merchant’s current systems to collect outstanding balances, getting them paid faster with less busy work and a better customer experience. In her role as president, Garima leads overall business operations, partnership initiatives and corporate growth strategy.
Prior to joining Biller Genie, Garima served as the chief business development officer at Direct Connect for six years. In early 2019, Priority Payment Systems acquired Direct Connect and Garima transitioned to Priority as part of the acquisition. She was responsible for integrating the two companies as well as identifying and procuring new acquisitions of independent sales organizations. In her role at Priority, Garima actively managed special projects and transitional change that positively impacted the company. Before that, Garima was head of U.S. sales for eMerchantPay, an online payments company, where she successfully launched the company’s entry into the U.S. marketplace.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
Igrew up in a first-generation Indian household. My only options were to be a doctor, lawyer, or an engineer. All of those seemed boring to me. I considered being an actress, but my parents quickly convinced me I had zero chance of making any money in that industry. I went to school for advertising and loved it. My goal was to create a kick-ass ad for The Super Bowl, but I quickly realized it was an all boys club, and there was no upward mobility in my future.
I decided to go into sales. Not just normal sales, but the hard B2B, outdoor, commission-only type of sales. It worked out and I eventually started my own company. My first client was a merchant services company and that is how I got my start in payments.
From there on, my career in the payments space took off through my role in sales. I had been in the payments industry as Head of Sales for an online payment provider, where I successfully launched the company’s entry into the U.S. market. This led me to other opportunities, such as holding the position of Chief Business Development Officer at Direct Connect, which was acquired by a publicly traded payments company. I played a significant role in integrating the two organizations together.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
The first time I was promoted to management, I was 19 years old. My boss was pregnant and going on maternity leave. The last morning before her leave started, she pulled me into her office and promoted me to management, giving me all of her responsibilities. I was very excited and happy for the opportunity, it came as a surprise. A few hours later, she called and informed me that one of my employees had been caught forging customer signatures and needed to be fired. It was not just any employee, it was one that I had hired.
Being 19 years old and in my first management role, I had never fired anyone before. I go over and tell him he has been caught illegally forging signatures and was fired. He fought back with me, saying “Well, it’s what the customer wanted. We can forge signatures if it is what the customer wants.” I said well it is still illegal, and you are still fired. He was much older and bigger than me. He got angry and picked up a chair to throw at me. My coworkers had to rush in and stop it from happening.
This was a huge lesson to me. I learned how to have difficult conversations. I make sure I have all of the information before firing someone. I go in, stand firm, and always state the decision has been made but I appreciate all that you have done for the company. I try to end it on a positive note.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently fully dedicated to expanding Biller Genie. This year has been a whirlwind and we are expanding, including adding new subscribers and doubling the size of our team. We completely changed our business and revenue model in January, becoming a true SaaS company. We have really focused on streamlining our operations and revamping all of our marketing. Our development team has been busy, ensuring that our product works perfectly 100% of the time and adding great new features for our subscribers. We are on the eve of launching two huge national partnerships that will really rapidly grow our subscriber base
We are on a mission to bring enterprise-level accounts receivable automation to the SMB market. Our goal is to get businesses paid faster, streamline their A/R through automation, and improve their cash flow. There are $3 trillion dollars in unpaid invoices in the U.S. alone and we want to play our part in helping businesses get paid the money they are owed.
We have really focused this year on streamlining our operations and we have come up with new initiatives that I believe will provide our subscribers and our partners with great value.
On a personal level, I am opening a wellness spa in Orlando. My dad is a physician, and even though I didn’t go to med school, health and wellness has always been a passion of mine.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I met Biller Genie’s Founder/CEO, Tom Aronica in 2012. I was a consultant for a company I didn’t even work for yet. That company wanted to buy out his company, but he didn’t know that — so he hated me. In 2013, I led the transaction and we transformed his company from a small business to one that was able to go after large partners. We then became business partners. In 2018, I bought his company, again. He then used the money from that transaction to fund Biller Genie. I came onboard because I knew that the payments industry was commoditized and there was a need to bring solutions to the market that would transform and make businesses more efficient.
Most automation software focuses solely on the accounts payable side of the business. With our focus on A/R, it gives us a unique advantage. Anyone reading who has ever had to send an invoice knows it is a headache-causing, tedious task. From creating the invoice, chasing late payments, and closing it out in your books. It is a lot of manual labor, it doesn’t have to be.
Biller Genie is cloud-based and seamlessly automates accounts receivable without changing existing business processes. The software integrates directly into subscribers’ accounting software. We take over the entire process, from sending out invoices via email or paper mail, following with reminders, collecting payments online via credit card, ACH, or Apple Pay, and reconciling back into the accounting software.
The software works well, so that our average subscriber sees 40% reduction in overdue invoices, gets 15 days faster, and saves 10–20 hours of weekly administrative work. Biller Genie is a five-star-rated product, across all review platforms. Apart from an excellent product, we have an extremely qualified and capable leadership team, along with a dedicated and motivated group of young professionals, whose unified goal is to push Biller Genie forward.
A great example of how our company stands out is a subscriber who owns an RV park. He had over $800,000 in past due invoices. To make matters worse, the average invoice size was only eight dollars. People come to stay at the RV park and plugin for electricity. The owner then manually sends invoices via mail to each customer once they leave. The problem was, he was so busy running the park and business was booming, he could not find the time to do this manually.
We set him up with Biller Genie, sending out 100,000 invoices instantly on the first sync. Within 48 hours, he had collected 50%. Within 30 days, we had reduced his outstanding balance by 75%. Imagine, within 30 days getting $600,000 of important capital infused back into your business.
His customers were not trying to not pay an eight dollar bill, they just didn’t know they owed it nor did they have an easy way to pay. With Biller Genie, customers are notified the moment an invoice is ready and can log in online to a branded customer portal to quickly make a payment.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
Software coming into finance is what has caused this change. It is no longer just an old man’s club on Wall Street calling all the shots. New trailblazers from all walks of life have stepped onto the scene with solutions that make a difference in the world. Who you know or what school you went to doesn’t matter anymore, it is what you bring to the table. That is why you have so many more women and diversity. Finance is no longer done on the trading room floor, it is done all over the world.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?
We can begin educating younger generations that they can choose any career path they desire. Often, the fact that less women occupy positions in fields such as investment banking, or in my case payments, can boil down to educational choice. If women are more encouraged to occupy these positions, I believe we will see more parity in industries where women are underrepresented.
My advice? Chase your dreams, stubbornly. If I would’ve listened to everyone’s ideas of what I should become, I will most likely not have accomplished what I have today. Diversity has been on the forefront of most conversations recently, yet one way companies and organizations can be more conscious is by committing to establishing initiatives to prepare the next wave of future female leaders, such as management and mentorship programs. If more organizations adopted programs that incentivized, for example, academic degrees for women in finance, we would see a dramatic change in the proverbial workplace.
Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
One major reason for this statistic is the lack of financial literacy resulting from a lack of education. Most school systems don’t have programs that effectively teach how to create and manage wealth, with only 17 out of 50 states requiring financial literacy courses. If we made it a requirement for every school, we would be hearing a lot more success stories.
Financial literacy can even be improved in the workplace. As a company, one can take small initiatives to include education as part of the company culture. For example, many modern businesses provide educational material through rotating newsletters, or even make it a requirement for team members to attend leadership courses. You can take that concept and include whichever type of educational material desired.
Last but not least, never stop learning. One thing that has always proved invaluable to me during my career is self-education. With the internet at our fingertips at all times, you don’t need an expensive course or coach to learn how to improve your finances.
You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- Stay ahead of trends: If you see an industry or company with a big idea, go for it. A great example of this is our own accounts receivable platform. The industry is projected to grow from $4.6 Trillion in 2019 to $20 trillion by 2026, a 20% CAGR. It is a great time to invest in these companies. Technology is rapidly changing the way we conduct business and people are constantly finding ways to improve or disrupt the conventional way of doing things, which I think is great! Imagine the guy who invented contactless payment technology.
- Set financial goals: Setting financial goals is necessary because it solidifies your desired result. For example, If your goal is to purchase something, having an actual number to work towards makes it more attainable. As with your business, you need to set goals in order for it to be successful. Without them, you’re more likely to buy those shoes that you will probably only use once and never wear again.
- Make your money work for you: Saving money is important but so is making it work for you. There’s no secret to the creation of wealth, “it takes money to make money”. Investing in assets like real estate can provide a supplemental income, which doesn’t require too much of your time or energy.
- Diversify: As they say, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. This may be cliche but it is a timeless phrase for a reason. Putting your money in different places can act as a cushion when it comes to unexpected economic shifts. If one investment is affected by circumstances out of your control, you can rely on your other assets.
- Save: I cannot understate the importance of saving money. The earlier you start saving, the more opportunities you will have in life later on, such as opening your own business. Savings not only present more opportunities but they can serve to insulate you from risk. As we currently are seeing during the pandemic, the businesses that are able to rely on their savings are also able to better weather the storm.
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 about that?
I have a huge list of people who have gotten me to where I am. I’m a huge advocate of mentorship. Asking people for help is the most important thing you can do for yourself.
My first boss had an enormous impact on my life and my career. She taught me the value of time. Everyone wanted her time and attention. She made it clear that you had to earn time with her. If you were ever late to a meeting, the door would be locked. You had to be someone she wanted to spend time with. It was through her that I learned the importance of prioritization.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Dance like no one’s watching…”
I am not just saying this because I’m a dancer. It’s meaning goes beyond dancing. It translates to being true to yourself and being proud of who you are. Stop worrying about what others think. I am not scared of being myself and it has played a big role in getting me to where I am today.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement that would teach people how to achieve their goals. It would teach economic literacy and common-sense practices to people all over the world, including children. These skills are not taught in schools.
I volunteer at United Against Poverty and we train homeless people on basic life skills, such as how to save money or how to dress for an interview. The fact that they don’t know this is not their fault, they were just never taught. If we help people in this way, I know the world would be a better place.