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Tips for Managing a Smart, Expandable Startup

  
  
  
  

Joey Dawkins, owner of Wodafood, dishes on what inspired him to start his modern, healthy food delivery service and how he made it happen.

About CrossFitters' Favorite Food: Wodafood (6:05) 

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About the Author

Jackie ClewsAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

Q&A With San Francisco Developer on Business Lessons, Digital Trends

  
  
  
  

NTC Texas interviewed David Fritsch, owner and lead developer at Webity and Real Estate Ally. Read the transcript below on what he's learned as a business owner and what he predicts in development, especially regarding real estate.

San Francisco1. I’ll start with a sort of a basic question. How did you get into web development and why were you drawn to it?

I was definitely one of those kid hackers. I've always been enthralled by math and puzzles, so in middle school I started playing around with programming and websites. I also had a much older cousin who was learning computer programming in high school, so I bought some of his old books and worked through those.

Conveniently, the web was still very young at this point, so there was a lot of opportunity for those who didn't really know much. My high school when I was a freshman had just a simple 1-page site with their name and contact phone numbers. I asked if I could help make it better and ended up running the site all 4 years of high school. I knew that this was something I could do well by the time I graduated high school.

2. How did you start Webity?

I started Webity after college because of the interest I was getting from family and friends. Several people had their own businesses and needed more involved websites, one to manage real estate listings and one to manage private health care classes. These two projects in particular helped me make the leap into full-time self-employment and develop my skills in a way that I could market them with concrete examples to others.

Like most small businesses, my business was very up and down, and mostly because I would go to events and get some work and then stop marketing myself while I did the work. When the job ends, that means you have nothing to do until the next job falls in place, which took some time initially.

3. Your dad was a business owner and your brother started a healthcare certification
company in the Midwest, where you’re from. Have you always had the entrepreneur bug?

Yes! I actually started my first business between my junior and senior year of high school doing computer repair in my home town. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so there wasn't much competition.

Even when you hardly do any work, you can still learn a lot about the process of starting a business and the challenges you face. Also, it is immensely helpful to have grown up in a family of entrepreneurs. The random things that I know about sales tax and payroll taxes just from hearing about it as a child is crazy.

4. Speaking of entrepreneurship, something related to Webity is Real Estate Ally. Can you explain what REALLY is, what problems you hope it solves, and for whom?

Real Estate Ally (R.E. ALLY or REALLY) is a company started by myself and my wife Brittany. It relies a lot on the skills and expertise we have in Webity, but it is a completely separate entity.

Real Estate Ally is our effort to provide better tools for the real estate industry. As you know from my previous answers, one of my first customers was a real estate website. Over the years, we have worked with a few real estate customers and have always seen them struggle to manage the massive amount of information involved in their business. Since most real estate brokerages are small businesses, which don't tend to invest in software in a way that really helps the industry, there is an entire industry that doesn't get to use the latest technology for business management very often.

Real Estate Ally started by building a “back office in-a-box” to help real estate agencies manage this information. Based on our initial trials getting this product set up, we've found that this is great for newer brokerages but hard to implement for existing agencies.

We have now shifted the enterprise to focus on what we think will bring the greatest value to agents and brokers: data insights. We have a demo of our statistics dashboard (don't worry, it isn't scary!) live at demo.yourrealestateally.com. This product is meant to give agents and brokers a snapshot of their business quickly, help them track and reach their goals, and importantly, integrate with their existing tools.

5. Unlike Webity, REALLY is a project that you all are seeking investors for. This is very San Francisco of you all as the startup and VC market continues to grow there, but remains a mystery to others. What is something you wish you had known when you started seeking funding that you know now?

I would encourage everyone to focus on proving your concept as quickly and cheaply as possible.

When you start a business like Webity, it is a little easier to just guess as you plow forward. This is typically because you should make money on any and every customer, so any new customer is usually good for the business and a sign of success. (Not that we haven't had customers that we lost time and money on, but it is easy to see those are bad customers and that you need to move away from them.)

A business like Real Estate Ally is different, since we only really make money on our customers when we get a lot of them, because in the mean time we continue to spend a lot of time and money building the product and infrastructure around them.

Investors don't invest because you built a lot of the product and spent a lot of money. They want to see the proof in the concept, so the faster that you get to that, the easier it is to raise the money you need to actually build the product you envision.

6. Along with investor shopping, strategic partnerships can be another great source of business to jump start a company and help it grow. How important has this been for Webity and Real Estate Ally and what tips do you have in creating the best partnerships?

Strategic partnerships can be an excellent boost to any business. The best strategic partnerships should help you capture the most value from your expertise, usually by minimizing the tasks you have to do outside of your expertise.

For example, Webity is a web development company. On the one hand, we build websites. More concretely, we build web-based data management tools for small businesses. This means that when we are helping customers develop content for their website, we are now outside of our expertise. Finding partners that are experts in this area helps us serve our customers better and stay in our expertise.

We have also had partners that really just wanted us to be sub-contractors. They really wanted us to do the entire job and service the customer as part of their brand. While we can make money in these arrangements, they tend to dilute our expertise, so we end up creating less value in these projects.

7. One question that has turned out to have some really interesting answers among business owners I’ve interviewed is asking about predictions they see happening in their field. How do you predict the real estate industry will change in the future, in relation to the Internet (online or mobile)?

I think that the real estate industry will change considerably because of technology. Traditionally, real estate agents have been marketers. They are meant to help the seller get their property out there in the market, get noticed, and get sold.

Technology can handle so much of this marketing information better than a person though. Most younger buyers (and even many older buyers) would rather look at properties online first than to talk to an agent and have them show them the market.

Many agents feel like they are getting driven out of the market, but I see that as only because they think of themselves as marketers, first and foremost. Their actual value is as the “broker” of the deal. Real estate is complicated in terms of the laws and paperwork that need to be completed to make the transaction legal. It is also highly emotional, especially for people buying a house, but also for small business owners leasing or buying their store location or office space. The agents that focus on being an asset to their customers in regards to navigating the buying and selling as opposed to focusing on marketing only will likely weather the changes best.

8. What about websites in general? Changes you predict there?

The base cost to start a website has basically reached zero and should continue to stay there. If you just want to get a company page with your name, address and phone number on the web, it is easier and cheaper than ever and that won't change.

More importantly, you will continue to be able to do more and more with these low cost options. Lots of more module pieces are coming out every day that work together to let you build something unique on the web easily.

Like what I said about real estate before, this means that businesses have to focus on what value this tool (a website) can provide to their customers if they want it to provide value to their business. Yes, you can get information on your business up on the web quickly and cheaply now. But so can everyone else. Just having a website won't get you traffic to that site and more business.

We should continue to see more and more tools and uses for the web, especially in allowing people and businesses to connect and share information. The companies that can find ways to really integrate this into their business should do well.

Finally, I see security and ownership as a continuing issue. I'm sure most of us are aware of the NSA eavesdropping issues and other security flaws in the web (such as the Heartbleed bug) that have been in the news over the last year. There definitely is not a resolution to what is appropriate for the government or for companies to be tracking, so this will likely cause further controversy in the future.

9. What has been the number one thing that you think you all have done right at Webity or Real Estate Ally that you are most proud of and why?

From day one, we have really focused on being an expert and doing what makes sense for our customer. Being an expert allows us to provide real value for our customers. And focusing on what is best for our customers keeps them as our customers.

10. Lastly, as a business success series, how do you view success and why?

I believe that success boils down to two pieces: staying in business and continuing to learn. Just staying in business is not very glamorous (or fun) but it is the baseline for success. As long as you can afford to continue to run the business for the foreseeable future, you have a successful business.

Except that I don't think any business can continue to run exactly as they have always run. I struggle to think of any business that runs exactly the same as they did ten years ago. If you stay in business but don't have the time or capacity to be learning, you will likely slip past that baseline and no longer be able to stay in business.

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About the Author

Jackie croppedAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

Could Your Business Withstand a P.F Chang's or Target Style Breach?

  
  
  
  

business security While the days of the horse-mounted bandit sticking up a postal worker may be over, crime certainly hasn’t gone anywhere – it’s simply become much more sophisticated.  Tommy guns and telephone hacking followed in the decades to come but the majority of consumers' assets stayed relatively safe, tucked away in safety deposit boxes at banks where tellers could attach a name to a face. 

In the last decade, the name has become faceless and that type of information isn't held just by banks anymore.  Instead of bringing a tommy gun, thieves are now breaching corporate information databases with sophisticated hacking tools and stealing massive amounts of customer information – PF Chang's and Target are two recent examples of these breaches. 

The 90's conjured up images of a geek with glasses sitting behind multiple computer screens but the present truth is that most breaches take place automatically via malware.  In many cases, the victim is a small to mid-size business brought down from a lackadaisical approach to security with few safeguards protecting them and their customers.  As far back as 2004, small businesses were actively targeted by hackers with the MyDoom virus, the perpetrators understanding slow technological advances in small business. 

Malicious Software 

MyDoom was one of the first major viruses (or malware) of the budding internet age but many have come and gone since then.  Malware is software designed to exploit known vulnerabilities in a number of different ways.  Viruses like Heartbleed communicate by “pinging” a potential victim and asking their computer to respond.  If the response goes through, the computer can be fooled into providing security information even on a well-protected system.  Even governments aren't safe from this one, it managed to affect the Canadian Federal Government's Social Security website, causing massive panic during the 2014 tax return season.

Other malware like Zeus target online banking specifically.  Zeus can make its way onto a computer as a seemingly innocuous email attachment but can contain programs like Cryptlocker which can be used to ransom Bitcoin accounts or banking information stored on personal computer at home or the office.

Even unprepared retailers aren't safe with malware like BlackPOS around.  This particular program is difficult to detect and is believed to be responsible for the breach at Target and Neiman Marcus earlier this year.  According to an interview by Krebs on Security with security expert Tom Arnold “It’s very much designed for the POS system it’s running on, because it knows exactly where to hook and where the memory location is going to be when the data it’s looking for is flowing through it”.  In lay terms, the program lifts data from payment cards while being harder to detect because of the way it communicates with the POS software.  Certainly a nightmarish situation for any retailer. 

How To Protect Yourself

As a consumer, everyone should be aware of how their particular bank detects and handles fraud and security breaches.  It is also important to have basic virus protection like avast! or Microsoft Security Essentials.  Available in America as of 2014, EMV chipped credit cards offer a layer of security that makes it far more difficult for most malware to siphon information.  With massive credit card industry growth from the 1980's forward, it is estimated that over 80% of Americans own a card and are using them far more often at a wider variety of businesses – all the more reason to acquire a chipped card. 

 

When scaling up to small-business sized enterprise, if payments from clients come into play via a POS system, having an integrated firewall becomes necessary.  Most wired and wireless routers will have a built-in firewall but more in-depth solutions like BitDefender go a few steps further in ensuring the integrity of you and your customers' information.

Target released their CEO as details about their first major attack surfaced, the first major CEO to be let go for lapses in cyber-security.  As security systems become more complex, so do hackers ability to break into those systems that have been outdated much as Target's system happened to be.  As credit and debit use rises, so does the need for an integrated security system for even the smallest business, an enterprise of any size can be taken down by lax security.  In summary, don't end up like PF Chang's - no matter how good the food is, if customers can't trust you with their information, they'll find someone else to feed them.

Learn how to protect your business from various types of security breaches and credit card fraud.

Download our 2014 Security Tip Sheet Today!

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About the Author

Aaron Binder

 When not leading one of Toronto, Canada's top tour companies, Aaron Binder can be found dreaming about becoming a professional wrestler and writing articles on music, architecture, business and beer.

5 Ways iPads Can Help Your Business

  
  
  
  

iPad POSWhen the iPad was announced it became the brunt of night-show jokes and business analyst fodder for weeks.  Like the ugly duckling though, it overpowered and once the general populace began to understand the functionality of the powerful device it turned into the belle of the ball.

Weighing far less than the average laptop, travelers have come to love its ability to jet around the world.  In the same vein, traveling sales reps have found it an increasingly powerful presentation tool with the added benefit of playing Angry Birds during downtime.  In fact, Jeff Orr at ABI Research recently told TabTimes “We don’t see Apple losing its leadership in tablets, no one else is even close, Samsung is still a distant second,”  No Angry Birds but certainly angry competition. 

Even brick and mortar retailers of all sizes have begun to integrate these powerful tablets into their repertoire with updated POS systems and presentation stations.  Below are 5 ways that your business can use an iPad to build business and create better relationships with your customers.

1) Loyalty Applications 

Loyalty programs are becoming more pervasive and difficult to ignore.  Canadians lead the world in loyalty programs, almost 95% of their citizens belong to some sort of program.  The numbers in America are far lower, according to a Hotels.com study, only 36% of Americans belong to a loyalty program. 

From coffee shops to international travel agencies, capitalizing on a loyalty program can be a great fit if you know who your customer is and what they want.  There are a number of apps for the iPad offering different amounts of functionality.  Many iPad point of sale systems come with built-in, robust customer loyalty programs. Creating more potential contact points with clients is key to building high-volume, repeat customers, the same type of customers that tell their friends about great service and value. 

Building a loyalty program can be an effective way to build repeat business and great referrals without the intrusion of marketing tools like mass emails, physical mailings or high-pressure sales tactics.  Using an iPad to deliver and track the program allows the customer an easy way to use and see how it works while giving the business valuable data about interactions.

2) Review Stations
For certain types of businesses in the Tourism, Travel and Restaurant industries, review stations have become fairly popular tools over the last few years.  Setting up a tablet with a direct link to Tripadvisor, Yelp or any other review site is a great way to encourage immediate results from a (hopefully) great experience.

While your business needs to produce a great product for this platform to work, the benefits of immediate and future engagement are huge.  Not only can you receive an immediate review but access to email addresses, phone numbers and other important market demographic information. 

 3) POS System
There are a number of apps flooding the market designed for iPads that allow businesses to set up easy to use, affordable POS systems with marketing automation and customer loyalty programs built in. NCR Silver and talech are a two great examples of these apps. These programs not only accept all payments but also offer businesses ways to get out and find customers in new ways. 

A mobile POS system offers the ability to process payments at the point of contact instead of following-up, setting a meeting, presenting a more formal presentation and then hoping for a sale.  Catching customers when they're initially excited grows sales and dramatically shortens the sales cycle.

4) Presentations
Powerpoint won't cut it anymore.  The days of standing in front of a dimly-lit boardroom while pointing at too many words on one slide are over, only the well-prepared and beautifully presented will win now.  Numerous contenders have come up and the cream of the crop right now is Prezi, a dynamic web-based software with exceptional fluidity that can be ported to the iPad.

Depending on the size of the organization, development companies will build custom presentation software or you can create your own.  A dynamic sales presentation can also cut down on the sales process by reducing the need for call-backs.  Combining a knockout presentation with built-in POS systems, salespeople can generate instant sales anywhere they happen to be selling.

5) Sales Simplification
There used to be a time where the insurance man would pull out a huge, thesis-sized book of different products, lick his finger dolefully and proceed to flip through the book with increasingly bored clients.  It would be hard to believe this person deciding financial futures actually had an interest in every page of that book, much less read them all.

Having a tablet is a great tool for databasing information and presenting it in easy to understand terms without the fluff of that thesis-sized book.  In a time where consumers want options but not too many, presentations need to be simple and decision-oriented.  Directing clients to a conclusion becomes easier and more legitimate when information is presented in a simple manner.

An AT&T survey of small businesses in a number of cities reported 70% of the businesses polled increased sales when they switched to tablets to present to potential clients.  The reduction in clutter and increase in organization can work wonders.

Conclusion

Most businesses can find ways to improve their sales cycle, customer interactions or presentations through the simplicity offered in a tablet.  Adapting to customers' needs is crucial as a business of any size and being able to offer incentives from loyalty programs to better presentations will assist in giving your business an edge over the competition. 

Staying competitive means continued innovation and while many small businesses struggle to find ways to change affordably, for a small sum, a tablet is an exceptional addition to the savvy business person's repertoire.  Not only will your employees and customers thank you for making their lives easier, your time will be more effectively used to deliver more of those sales presentations or, at the very least, beat the last level of Angry Birds.

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About the Author

Aaron Binder

 When not leading one of Toronto, Canada's top tour companies, Aaron Binder can be found dreaming about becoming a professional wrestler and writing articles on music, architecture, business and beer.

Top Photo Courtesy of Philip Matarese @ Flickr CC.

Hard Work is Key in Professional Sports, Running a Business

  
  
  
  

Nicole Hage, former professional golfer and current member of Las Colinas Country Club member services, talks about her career as a professional golfer, golf in business, and women's golf fashion trends.

About Nicole Hage, Former Professional Golfer (07:56)

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About the Author

Jackie croppedAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

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Q&A With Hubspot Co-Founder on Business Tips, Advice

  
  
  
  

NTC Texas interviewed Brian Halligan, Co-Founder of the internet marketing company Hubspot, about his perspective on everything from time management, to startup financing to partnerships. Read a transcript of the interview below. 

Brian Halligan1. Sales: One simple sales tip I was given was always go into a meeting with a clear goal ahead of time, whether it’s scheduling a next meeting, submitting a proposal, or another action item. What’s one simple sales strategy you live by?

Solve pain. Everyone has pain. Great sales people are very, very good at finding that pain efficiently and crafting solutions to make that pain go away. Solve pain.

2. Partnerships: How important do you see key partnerships for tech companies?

Oh gosh -- its critical. If you want to move mountains, it is exceptionally difficult to do it on your own.

At HubSpot, we've built a thriving partner channel. We go to market with 1,500 agencies around the world who help us spread the word, market/sell our products, and service our customers. They are ginormous piece of the HubSpot puzzle these days.

3. Partnerships: What’s one great partnership you acquired and how did you or someone on your team form it?

We do a few co-marketing campaigns with Twitter per year. When we began the relationship, we started with one webinar that was educational in nature to test the waters and ensure there was value on both sides. After we demonstrated success with the webinar, we expanded our relationship to include more and more activities throughout the year. We got it by proving we understand their business, can help educate marketers on how to leverage Twitter, and were willing to start small and expand.

4. Efficiency: A lot has been said about the importance of leveraging. What’s something you’ve leveraged that went a long way that others can mimic to grow their businesses?

Wowsa -- Inbound marketing is 100% about leverage. Traditional marketing is all about renting space on someone else's "asset" (tv show, radio show, application, newsletter, newspaper, etc). Inbound marketing is all about owning your own "assets" (YouTube channel, podcast, freemium app, email marketing, blog, etc), increasing the number of those assets over time, and increasing the return of those assets over time.

I'll give you a real example from my own company -- HubSpot's blog. It generates over 1.5 million views every month and the majority of our leads every month. The interesting part of that is most of those views and leads would still come in even if we didn't post at all in a given month and our blogging team took vacation for a month. All those articles we've posted over the years are permanent assets that pull in customers forever -- little mini customer magnets. Inbound marketing is the gift that keeps on giving.

5. Startup financing: What’s one tip you would give to other business owners in regards to pitching, securing, and using venture capital to grow a company?

Here are a couple of tips:
a. Raising venture is much more time consuming than it looked on "The Social Network" movie. To convince a vc to invest, you typically need to have about 10 meetings with various levels of skeptical investors inside and outside the firm. You need to have your "A game" for each of these meetings (controllable), but the people your meeting with also need to have their "A game" (not controllable).
b. You need to find a vc who fits the following filters: top tier (gigantic benefits associated with the brand of someone like Sequoia and gigantic knowledge transfer), correct stage (vc's all say they do "card table" stage, but very few have the stomach for it), and domain expertise (unless the parter you are dealing with has domain expertise in your field, they'll have a hard time convincing their partners to invest).
c. In early stage, syndication is not a good idea. You only need one vc for a Series A -- make them compete for your deal.

6. Time management: As a Co-Founder of one of the fastest growing companies, what’s your number one time management trick?

I think of myself as half "manager" and half "maker." Managers typically have days packed with meetings and makers need a lot of quiet time to think and create. In order to facilitate that type of work, I work from home every Wednesday -- I don't care if the Pope is coming to town, I work from home on Wednesdays.

I also happen to be an introvert (although people think I'm an extrovert), so that break from lots of human contact in the middle of the week gives me a real battery charge.

7. Competition: One of Hubspot’s competitors is Infusionsoft. The main difference is the COS, but they both do automation and workflows. Other imitators to Hubspot have been popping up as well, often at a much more affordable cost to business owners.What will keep customers coming back to Hubspot instead?

Because HubSpot works insanely well. Our average customer starts with x number of leads per month and twelve months later they have 5.7x leads per month.

I think it works insanely well because of three things. First, our software is fantastic -- it is by far the most comprehensive on the market and it is built from the ground up for mere mortals...it doesn't feel like confusing enterprise software. Second, our methodology is fantastic and it foots perfectly with our software. Third, our people are fantastic at teaching and hand holding. Those things are hard to replicate, IMHO.

8. Future: What is one marketing shift or phenomenon you predict in the next couple of years?

LinkedIn is turning into Twitter and Twitter is turning into Facebook.

My best source of predictions is Mary Meeker's annual internet report: http://www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/internet-trends-2014-05-28-14-pdf

9. Music: What’s on your iPod or Spotify most regularly these days, outside of Grateful Dead?

Alison Krauss, Susan Tedeschi, Jackie Greene, Grace Potter, Miles Davis, & John Coltrane. Consuming most of my music through my favorite new "app" -- Sonos.

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About the Author

Jackie croppedAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

What it Takes to Own a Club in Downtown Dallas

  
  
  
  

Entrepreneur and club owner Arthur Beynon discusses what it takes to own a club in downtown Dallas as he approaches the opening of his third, scheduled for the fall of 2014.

Payment Processing Lessons for Events, Clubs (04:47)
About Arthur Beynon, Entrepreneur (06:03)

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About the Author

Jackie croppedAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

 

Why Are Businesses Dragging Their Feet on Chip and Pin?

  
  
  
  

12801816304 1f9d09d25a mIt seems to be part of the human condition. To perpetually procrastinate or cut corners on doing things that are good for us – until we get burned. It’s like the guy that doesn’t shred his credit card offers until his identity is stolen. Or the girl that fails to lock her deadbolt when she leaves, until her place gets robbed. We learn from our experiences – and when conducting business – we learn no differently.

Chip and Pin (also known as EMV) credit card technology has been minimizing credit card fraud in Europe for almost two decades. By using Chip and Pin capable credit card machines and Smartcard technology, businesses are less liable to be hacked by fraudsters – keeping them AND their customers more secure.

So then why is it taking so long to implement in the U.S.?

As the rest of the world gets on board with EMV, A Bloomberg article reports that in 2012 “…the U.S. became the world capital of credit-card fraud. Last year it accounted for 47 percent of global fraud, while processing just 24 percent of the payments by volume, according to the Nilson Report.”

Well that’s embarrassing. And to make matters worse, a new report titled EMV in USA: Assessment of Merchant and Card Issuer Readiness,  released by Javelin Strategy and Research says it could be 2018 before we see a real prevalence of Chip and Pin in the U.S. - despite the October 2015 deadline for business liability shift.

The report states that although there are only 18 months left until the liability shift for merchants and issuers (those not operating with chip and pin technology then take on 100% liability for fraud), the industry is still slow to prepare for the “monumental task.” The report also cites reasons for the lag in momentum as lack of consumer and merchant education and confusion on how the technology will be used.

Additionally, the report projects a $6.8 billion total cost between card issuers and businesses to implement the card and POS system technology across the board.

Critics argue that Chip and Pin is not the magic bullet answer to eliminating credit card fraud. Ina recent article on PYMNTS.com Karen Webster, CEO of Market Platform Dynamics, writes “The best weapon in the fight against fraud isn’t a single thing. It’s, as many are advocating, a “layered” approach which includes tokenization and end-to-end encryption, in addition to EMV, so that data is rendered useless when transmitted at the point of sale.”

Webster Continues, “EMV simply makes it more expensive for the bad guys to produce counterfeit physical cards in the event of a data breach. EMV alone does nothing to render data useless when it is in “in the clear” and being transmitted between the POS device and the acquirer.

While Webster’s point in valid, the switch to Chip and Pin is a critical step in implementing this “layered” approach and taking a stand against fraudsters in the US.

Nick Holland, Javelin Senior Analyst and author of the report says it’s not big box retailers that will hold up Chip and Pin but small and micro-businesses which currently make up for 58 percent of retail establishments. The report estimates that only 25% of these small businesses will be prepared for Chip and Pin by the 2015 deadline.

Holland attributes this lack of readiness to the limited amount of education and information available to small businesses regarding EMV. According to a 2013 Javelin survey, 53 percent of small businesses stated that they had limited or no knowledge of EMV technology. And a staggering 50 percent claiming limited knowledge of the October 2015 liability shift. "

So whose responsibility is it to educate the masses on Chip and Pin? Card issuers? Service Providers? The Government? Or should it ultimately be left to individual businesses themselves to find out how to keep their systems secure and reduce fraud liability?

Maybe it will take an expensive breach for them to learn.

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About the Author

Rachida EssadiqRachida Essadiq, Director of Marketing at NTC Texas is a successful five year marketing veteran, running events and campaigns for large to  small enterprises and non-profits.  She specializes in blogging, social media, branding/ identity and search engine optimization, striving to provide NTC Texas customers and fans with entertaining and valuable educational resources to find success in all areas of their businesses.

Top Photo (altered) Courtesy of DaveOnFlickr @ Flickr CC.

Q&A: Staying the Course in Business, Biking

  
  
  
  

NTC Texas sat down with Justin Piontek, lead designer and owner of Justin Piontek Graphic Design, to discuss his journey into becoming a business owner, being self-employed and managing the balance between personal and professional goals.

justin piontek biking1. How did you get into graphic design?
I fell into it. In high school I was really into filming and editing and I thought I would be interested in animation but there was a two year waiting list at the school I went to. The counselor told me graphic design was pretty similar so I gave it a shot and it kind of came naturally to me. The teachers thought I was doing a good job so I went for and it worked out pretty well.

2. Where did you go to study design and what are your thoughts on where or how you learned the most?
I went to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC). I think a tech school was good for me because they have smaller classes and are pretty hands on, which is good, versus a big college where you might not talk to a professor as much. The classes only had about 15 to 20 people so that made it easier for them to come around to your computer, sit down next to you and show you stuff on your sketchbook.

3. Your last full time job before you decided to go out on your own was at a casino in Wisconsin. What did that job teach you in regards to design?
I got that job like two weeks after I graduated in 2008. Working there was kind of a big jump for me but I learned a lot. Also, they need all the details there to read so if I was to do something minimalistic and modern, they would think it’s not finished. That taught me a lot about designing for different audiences.

4. What did you learn there in regards to managing your business and personal goals?
Professionally, I learned how to manage multiple projects at once and get them in on time. Personally, biking really helps clear my mind by getting out in nature and see the trees and birds. It helps give me perspective on both.

5. How did you prepare to break out on your own?
I developed several relationships with people, one in particular, that I really trusted and allowed me to work on side jobs for probably two years while I was still at the casino. Then I tried to save as much money as I could and get as many clients as I could. I eventually had to stop doing one or the other but I didn’t want to quit doing side jobs.

6. Did you feel “ready” to break out onto your own or is it like having kids, as one person described to me, where if everyone waited until they felt 100% ready no one would ever reproduce?
I was ready to do it. My dad and grandpa own their own businesses and my mom works for my dad’s business so she’s basically self-employed too. I knew I always wanted to do it I just didn’t know when or how and finally I just decided to quit waiting and do it.

7. How do you process payments for your business? Has it been sort of an after-thought for your business like it is for many?
It’s an after-thought for mine too. I use Harvest for time tracking and invoicing but I’m still in the whole paper check in the mail kind of thing. I haven’t really stepped up to electronic yet but eventually I’m going to have to because I think everyone’s going to have it.

8. What’s your favorite part about being self-employed? Being able to bike on a break? ;)
I think being able to work my own schedule is really a big advantage. I can go out and ride my bike when I want. Doing stuff like that also helps give me creative ideas and if you’re locked up in a cubicle all day long your creativity goes away pretty quickly.

9. Do you think you would have been able to train and compete like you have if you still worked at the casino?
I think I could do it. I know people who do it and still place ahead of me but it would take a lot more mental strength I think, or I’d have to cut back on other hobbies like pottery.

10. Lastly, because this interview is part of our business success series, how do you view success and why?
I could relate it to biking…In biking you have to have realistic goals on what you think you can do. If you set your goal for first place in a really tough race when you’re not at that level yet, you’ll never reach it and you’ll never succeed. Instead, if you set it at top ten and then top five once you reach top ten, you’ll be happy and then want to keep achieving new goals.

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About the Author

Jackie croppedAt NTC Texas Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

A Long Way to The Top - Why Bitcoin Isn't An Answer Yet

  
  
  
  

BitcoinAs Bon Scott of AC/DC once proclaimed “It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll”.  Much like navigating the music industry, Bitcoin continues to find itself on the long road to becoming a legitimate currency.  The much-vaunted digital currency continues to generate headlines for its value, controversy and status as a currency without borders. 

What is less sure lies under the headlines and its real life applications.

The currency has run into trouble when approaching legislation in many countries and it’s only on a good day that legislators even pretend to understand how the currency works. The last time we reported on Bitcoin, Cameron Fuller wrote about how 40 different countries approach Bitcoin, but how do average people utilize the niche currency?

One of the most fascinating uses of Bitcoin lies in Pensacola, Florida where a small group of homeless people have found a way to exchange their eyeballs watching videos for minute amounts of Bitcoin for each view - enough to pay for coffee or two per day.  Advertisers may question their contracts with ad delivery services based on this information but these impressions are providing real life interaction from advertisement to Bitcoin wallet to often a handful of retailers in a city utilizing the currency. 

But don’t confuse Bitcoin with bartering , it can still be translated into other currencies – albeit with difficulty in some instances.  The United States government has declared Bitcoin as personal property, a move which may hinder its ability to properly grow here on a larger scale aside from smaller transactions (below $600) where no reporting is necessary on a 1099-MISC.  For transactions above the $600 threshold, the value of the transaction must be reported in American dollars at the time of the trade.

According to Bitcoin.org, these micro-transactions are beginning to become the bulk of daily transactions taking place.  If this new taxation status holds, companies and individuals that already have a stake in the currency can adopt accounting techniques like First-In, First-Out to minimize tax paid.  On a more sinister note, any business or individual involved in a severe audit with frozen assets will still have their Bitcoin wallet available - it’s hard to seize a USB key from a bank account. 

While the looming nature of that $600 threshold could be a deterrent for some businesses, one important piece of speculation is that utilizing Bitcoin as a personal asset could reduce the level of overall transactions.  This could have the effect of reducing volatility by focusing on, once again, higher value transactions taking place.

There are still a number of issues surrounding the volatility of the currency, small events can provide large declines in value.  When false reports of China banning the currency surfaced earlier this year, a nosedive ensued it still hasn't recovered from.  With no real pilot guiding the plane this is prone to happening but the passengers are resilient and determined to fly.

For early-adopter businesses though it has proven a great experiment in earned media.  Numerous small businesses have utilized it as a marketing tool and the Bitcoin economy grows incrementally whenever a new business joins the network.  A wider network of businesses accepting Bitcoin will cast a larger foundation and provide greater stability and awareness for the network and its patrons.

It's what less conventional businesses like musicians are hoping to promote as well.  In a press release from her website, former Spice Girl Melanie Brown posted “I love how new technology makes our lives easier, and to me that's exciting.  Bitcoin unites my fans around the world using one currency.” These are the types of transactions that are becoming more popular, small purchases like cd's and coffee are easy for a business to justify even with day to day fluctuations of 5-10%.  While there are no records of large ticket items like cars being purchased yet, the example of Mel B (whether or not you like her music) helps illustrate the borderless applications of Bitcoin without the stiff regulations of a service like Paypal.   

But is there enough security yet in Bitcoin banks to warrant regular large purchases?

The answer is uncertain as the currency still needs more than novelty momentum to catch on, plus a heightened push on security from hackers who seem to hit a new Bitcoin bank every week.  For now large ticket items will certainly remain under the influence of credit cards, loans and good old fashioned Greenback without the worry of losing $10,000 on a misplaced USB key. 

The end game according to Bitcoin is a normalized currency without major fluctuations. But to accomplish this it needs to become widely accepted before it comes to be known as more than a novelty marketing tool and black market currency.  Bitcoin proclaimers continue to push for wider acceptance and proven stability, it has yet to gain anything resembling balance, enough of a reason for most to stay out of the game so far.  Even more, most people still have no idea what Bitcoin is - it remains in the limbo of uncertainty and scepticism and with the IRS declaring it personal property, a less liquid form of tradable currency. 

Another 80's star, Ronald Reagan, once said “Trust but verify” and this technology isn't too far off from that Cold War sentiment.  Whether or not Bitcoin ends up being a transitional or permanent solution to an increasingly global economy has yet to be seen but should become clearer as legislation looms in a number of countries supporting or at least exploring the currency.  Right now it is difficult to trust something that can be lost so easily and has no central governing agency.  Bitcoin may remain an easy and efficient way for homeless folks to earn some chow money but if legislation shifts away from personal property and back to liquid currency, it could very well become the catalyst for a huge shift in global currency. 

It's a long way to the top and since those lyrics were written, the world hasn't stopped turning but it certainly has changed into a fledgling technocratic society begging for the right currency shift to exchange an old guard for something shiny and new.  Bitcoin certainly has more to prove but with legislators in dozens of countries talking - it has arrived at a plateau on its journey but its next foothold is less sure yet eagerly awaited.

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About the Author

Aaron Binder

 When not leading one of Toronto, Canada's top tour companies, Aaron can be found dreaming about becoming a professional wrestler and writing articles on music, architecture, business and beer.

Top PHoto Courtesy of BTC Keychain @ Flickr CC.

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