…Another piece of advice — create a healthy company culture… I don’t mean just culture as in employee perks like games and drinks, but more so the way your team views your company and their working relationships with each other. Do people feel comfortable? Do they trust you? Do they open up about issues? Women are often fine-tuned to check in on others’ thoughts and emotions — use this to your advantage to keep a pulse on your culture at all times. Similar to starting your business — if you see a problem, fix it.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Suneera Madhani. Suneera is the CEO and founder of Fattmerchant. She has nearly a decade of experience in the financial industry. Since founding Fattmerchant in 2014, she has led the company to more than $18 million in funding and $2 billion in transactions. Her industry-changing ideas have also earned her recognition as one of the most influential women in payments.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After years of working in the payments industry, I recognized that there was a huge lack of transparency for small businesses when it came to processing credit cards. The market was going more and more cashless, yet it was more and more expensive to accept credit cards. Big banks and giant payment companies would hike up rates for customers every quarter without providing much insight to their customers for why. There was very little added value for the customer — it was all about the transactions themselves and never about the customer experience. I knew there had to be a better way. There was an opportunity to deliver a great payment processing experience for merchants with the transparency they needed, and someone needed to provide that. That’s when I decided to take the issue in my own hands and launch Fattmerchant.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
While we were at an Orlando City Soccer game, my co-founder and I ended up sitting directly behind a group of fans wearing Fattmerchant t-shirts and gear. While watching the game, we overheard someone mention their best friend was actually the founder and someone in the group agreed and said that they knew the “founder” too! We had no idea who any of these people were, but in retrospect, it was one of the funniest things I had seen.
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?
The craziest mistake was coming into this thinking the merchant experience was a top priority for the industry as a whole. We quickly learned that wasn’t the case while at a large payments conference, and everyone in the room was excited about finding new ways to slip in fees to merchants. The industry, as far as tech is concerned, is still behind in many ways, so my co-founder and I were shocked no one was talking about how much room there was to grow. Everyone was more concerned with transactions and fees than how much technology could improve the customer experience. So we looked at each other and said that the only way payment companies will survive is by adding value for customers through a great user experience and transparency… and then we walked out. That day really spoke to how much an entire industry can be held back if it doesn’t look forward. Taking value away from merchants isn’t the answer, adding it is.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When was the last time you heard someone say, “I absolutely love my merchant service provider?” Most likely, never. This industry isn’t very cool and modern — it’s confusing and sometimes overly complicated to customers. However, there’s no reason merchants can’t love their processors; the industry just needs a little upgrade. Fattmerchant easily stands out from the rest of the companies in the payments sphere, because we work to provide our customers with transparency and top-notch technology to make running a business that much easier. We use a clear business model so merchants know what to expect every month in their statements, and our in-house tech team has built the most seamless, integrated platform the industry has to offer. This way, business owners can focus more on their trade, instead of having to manually compile data from a bunch of different programs just to see a well-rounded report. The finance industry, particularly payment processing, tends to lack the human touch. We’re bringing that back.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m proud to say we very recently debuted our first-of-its-kind integrated payments platform — Omni. With the Omni platform, merchants can easily track all of their business data from one place without needing to log into different websites and applications. The Omni platform itself streamlines and simplifies the entire payment management process for merchants, and integrates with tools merchants already use, like QuickBooks Online. It’s just one more way we’re bringing a better payment experience to business owners.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Give yourself time to breathe. It’s impossible to help your team thrive if you don’t ground yourself first. It’s not realistic to think that work won’t bleed into your personal life, but it’s still so important to find that balance while encouraging your team to do the same. I’m a woman, I’m a mom and I’m an executive. Society hasn’t made it easy for women like me to kill it in their career and in parenthood, so sometimes, you have to work a little extra to make it happen and keep your sanity.
Another piece of advice — create a healthy company culture.. I don’t mean just culture as in employee perks like games and drinks, but more so the way your team views your company and their working relationships with each other. Do people feel comfortable? Do they trust you? Do they open up about issues? Women are often fine-tuned to check in on others’ thoughts and emotions — use this to your advantage to keep a pulse on your culture at all times. Similar to starting your business — if you see a problem, fix it.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Stay organized. At work, my lifelines are Google Calendar, Trello, and Slack. Within Fattmerchant, we’ve experienced rapid hiring growth over the last year. Managing a team of almost 100 is a lot different from having one full-time employee just a few years ago. You have to adapt. Utilizing the tech resources available to me has helped me keep the lines of communication open with my team, even when I’m not in my office.
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?
My brother Sal is probably the best partner I could have asked for, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all his dedication to our company. When Fattmerchant was first starting out, I was a first-time business owner and entrepreneur and I needed help getting it off the ground. He rose to the occasion and together, we built an incredible company with the most unbelievable culture. He’s incredibly quick and is able to process a lot of information at once; with his solution-first way of thinking, I’ve been able to learn so much from him over the years and I’m just excited to work alongside him every day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Female empowerment, entrepreneurial inspiration, community involvement, and civic engagement are all incredibly important to me. I was a part of the “Dare to Listen” campaign from Orlando’s NPR affiliate radio station, an ongoing program designed to encourage active listening and civil discourse in the Central Florida community. I consistently work together with other tech entrepreneurs in the community, serving on panels, judging local startup competitions and helping fellow entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition.
I also volunteer in the technology community through camps, workshops, and mentorships. One of the organizations I work with is the Athena Center Mentoring program, teaching female students skills, styles and strategies in business through various speaking opportunities. I love encouraging other women to stand strong, speak up and chase their goals.
I work to embody positivity, passion, and kindness in everything I do, both in and out of the office. One of the most important things to me is that my daughter knows she is capable of anything if she works hard and doesn’t take no for an answer, and that my baby on the way knows that if your mom can shatter ceilings, so can you.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
You don’t have to do it on your own. As a female executive, I think a lot of us feel like we have to overcome stereotypes and prove that we can make it. While part of that is true, the best leaders know that it takes a village. Had it not been for the amazing support team I built around me, it would have been nearly impossible for me to have made it to where I am today
You will be told no. Rejection is a part of this journey, which is something I realized pretty early on. Building a thick skin, while still maintaining empathy, is crucial. Criticism can often be the catalyst to pivots in your strategy, which can help your business grow in the long run.
Network. Network. Network. This is an important leadership lesson I learned for not only myself but for my whole team. You have to make networking a top priority for your company to keep building relationships and interpersonal skills for your staff. Find a way to get you and your team out to as many events as possible.
Don’t look back. You won’t always know which decision is right, but you can always make it right. There will always be doubt (there certainly was for me), but it’s those leaps of faith that have a greater impact than just sitting still.
Empower others. Take your experiences and use them to elevate the skills of your team and others around you, especially when it comes to other women in the workplace. We have to lift each other up to grow as individuals and be effective leaders. I continue to learn this every day.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
Over the years, I’ve seen working moms and dads who feel forced to choose between work and family life. I’ve also seen working moms and dads try to balance both but still seem to feel like they have failed. After seeing so many parents try to perform this balancing act, and being both a mom and executive myself, I started my Instagram account @mombossblog. @Mombossblog is my own way of showing parents they don’t need to or have to choose between work and family life — it’s very possible to keep both work and family in balance.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There is no such thing as a billion dollar idea- but only a billion dollar execution.”- Tarang Shah.
This quote has always stuck with me. Anyone can have a great idea but do you really have the chops, the plan, the team, the resources, the playbook to actually execute? It takes a lot more than just coming up with a great idea- it’s all about execution and seeing it through with all the obstacles along the way.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram: @mombossblog @Fattmerchant