Increasing Barrier to Entry (Self-Regulation)
Having been involved in our industry in some capacity since January 2007 (Merchant Services direct sales from 01/2007 – 04/2009 and alternative financing from 11/2009 – 09/2015), it has always been amazing to me to see just how low the barrier to entry is into our space, due mainly to companies relying heavily on the highly profitable Mom and Pop Network.
I have made reference before to The Mom and Pop Network that exists in our industry, which is just a group of random brokers who will resell for free (they cover their own expenses on all commission). A funder might have a Mom and Pop Network of 3,000 brokers that bring in on average of 10 applications a year (30,000 apps), with 35% getting approved (10,500) and 30% closing (3,150), with an average funding per client of $30,000. This is close to $95 million in annual funding volume that comes in very profitable and in a lot of ways, very “risk-free” in terms of new client acquisition ROI.
PROBLEMS WITH THE MOM AND POP NETWORK
Companies in our space relying heavily on The Mom and Pop Network, is why the barrier to entry is so low, as the major players want to continue benefiting from free marketing/advertising by recruiting hundreds to thousands of random, inexperienced, experienced, ethical, or unethical agents/brokers, who are willing to work for free (100% commission) and cover their own expenses, all for the rah-rah sales dream of striking it big.
The reality however, is that The Mom and Pop Network creates a number of problems for our industry which cause merchants to lose faith in all agent/brokers in the space, as well as causing somewhat decent funders, lenders and merchant processors to end up on RipoffReports and other negative review sites. These problems include but are not limited to:
- Merchants being the victim of rogue agents/brokers ripping them off, stealing from them, flat out lying to them, forging signatures, doing bait and switch pricing tactics, and other measures.
- Merchants being the victim to an inexperienced agent/broker providing the wrong information on pricing, terms, conditions, and other aspects which leave Merchants in a bad position long after the “close” of the sale.
- Merchants being the victim to the flat out unprofessionalism on behalf of these rogue and inexperienced agents/brokers.
THE MOM AND POP NETWORK IS THE LAZY WAY TO BUILD A SALES FORCE
The reality is that The Mom and Pop Network is a lazy way of making a profit in the professional Sales game. Instead of actually developing a quality in-house training program that creates a high quality professional Sales Team backed with knowledge, competency, market research, etc., most companies in our space would just rather hire a bunch of random people with a pulse, feed them the rah rah sales motivational dream speech, throw them against a wall and pick off what sticks.
The vast majority of the individual agents/brokers listed in the Mom and Pop Network do not make enough money directly from the activity to make a living, but as a collective whole, the company gains new clients in one of the most profitable and risk-free manners possible.
But in return for that profitable and risk-free procedure, a ton of damage is done to the industry that’s irreplaceable, continuing the threat of government regulation coming in and totally changing the way we all do business for the worse.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO CLEAN UP THE MOM AND POP NETWORK (SELF-REGULATION)
Funders, lenders and merchant processors surely won’t take my advice to end The Mom and Pop Network tomorrow, because it’s simply too profitable, so instead how about we take the following steps to create a more quality Mom and Pop Network?
To clean this up, every funder, lender and merchant processor should require extensive personal and professional background checks on every agent, broker and reseller that they bring on board externally, just as they would do internally with direct employees they would hire on W-2. Just because someone is a 1099 independent contractor, does not mean you might not still be named to a major lawsuit, held liable, etc., for their rogue and inexperienced actions to Merchants in the marketplace.
For Personal Background Checks:
- Pull their credit: If their credit is bad and they can’t provide some type of reasonable explanation, I wouldn’t approve them to begin reselling your services. Think about it, we are in the financial services industry where the rep is going out to “consult” a merchant on a financial manner, when they can’t even do something as simple as pay minimum payments on a credit card every month? Or pay their taxes on time to avoid getting tax liens? Either they are horrible at managing their finances or they just have bad character, neither of which we want to bring into our industry.
- Look for any previous criminal record history: If you have a felony for any reason, you shouldn’t be allowed to come in and resell services to merchants that give you access to SSNs, DOBs, home addresses, bank accounts, tax returns, financial statements, etc. This should be common sense.
- Look for any previous excessive civil record history: Are they getting sued a lot and if so, what is it for? If it’s something that points to bad judgment or bad character, don’t allow them to resell your services.
For Professional Background Checks:
- Look for any previous sales experience: Our industry is very competitive, so why on Earth would a person without any prior professional sales experience want to run in here and start selling for free (on all commission)? At the very least, look for previous sales experience of at least two years with verified references from the prior employer in terms of performance.
- Look for any type of higher education: I would limit all new entrants only to those who have “some college”. It might just be an associate’s degree or they might have only completed one year of college, but they should have “some college”. College in and of itself might not directly influence a lot of the performance in terms of what makes a good sales professional, but usually a good professional in general in today’s day and age, will have some level of college completed.
- Look for a business plan: Simply, what is their plan of action to come in and begin turning profit in our highly competitive space? Do they have the proper accounting, legal, market research, business planning, strategic planning, marketing mediums, etc. in place? If they don’t, then why are they here?
SELF-REGULATION IS THE ANSWER
The barrier to entry into our space will be increased when companies using The Mom and Pop Network model (funders, lenders and merchant processors) start conducting more thorough personal and professional background checks on their recruit prospects.
They need to limit their recruiting efforts to individuals who “appear” to be competent, professional, and serious about our industry, rather than just to anybody with a pulse and a heartbeat, without taking into regard their previous criminal history, bad credit, bad character, lack of sales experience and lack of any type of business plan to gain market share.
Grenville Kleiser (personal development author) said, “by constant self-discipline and self-control, you can develop greatness of character.” If we want to eliminate the bad character that’s running rampant in our space, then we are going to have to develop our own forms of “self” control (self-regulation) to produce a better industry, one that’s instead running rampant with great character.Last modified: November 16, 2015
John Tucker is Managing Member of 1st Capital Loans LLC, as well as an M.B.A. graduate and holder of three bachelor's degrees in Accounting, Business Management and Journalism. Tucker has nearly 9 years of professional experience in Commercial Finance and B2B Sales. Connect with Tucker on LinkedIn by clicking (here), or contact Tucker at Tucker@1stCapitalLoans.com or at 586-480-2140.