ISO Strategies
Would an ISO Code of Ethics Kill Anybody?

by Harold Montgomery

   What are the ethical standards in our business? How does anyone entering our business today know what behavior is in bounds and what is out of bounds when no one has clearly defined the boundaries? Of course, we all carry our own internal compass which guides us on the issues we face every day in business and personally. Mostly, the rules we carry around originate in a religious context first, and then are transferred to our business lives. After all, one of the original codes of ethics is in the Bible - the 10 commandments. But, where is our Bible, the acquiring business ISO owner's manual? Of course, there isn't one, but if there were I wonder what our commandments would be. How about these for a starter?

Thou Shall Fully Represent the Facts to Thy Customer.

   Non-disclosure of details is the number one sin in our business. Of course, in the salesman's favor is the fact that there are a million details in this business, like lease terms, lease factors, various credit card types and rates which apply to them, and on and on. No one can claim to have successfully communicated all the varying rates and charges to a merchant and so some details always slip through the cracks. The issue is really intent. Do you intend to communicate fully and fairly the facts of the deal? If so, how can you substantiate that claim? Is your training program set up to fully and completely train your salespeople so that they have the power to use that knowledge in the field?

Thou Shall Honor the Agreement As It Was Sold.

   In our business, where credibility is everything, changing the terms of an agreement with the merchant without good cause is very damaging. There are always examples of organizations mandating one-time charges or other new fees as a means of increasing revenues or profits. But these actions send a signal to the merchant that the product was not priced correctly in the first place. Attempts to share these charges with ISO's to buy their cooperation should be viewed with great skepticism by all parties.

Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Thy Processor.

   We all have gripes with our suppliers and no relationship is perfect. But, the appropriate place to work out problems is in the meeting room, not in public. If you don't like something your support organization is doing, tell them and vote with your deals. ISO's have more power than they think sometimes.

Thou Shall Work Hard to Serve the Merchants Needs Long After the Sale is Made.

   Too often, merchants complain that they never see their sales agent after they sign the contract. Much goodwill is lost to the ISO in particular and to our industry in general as a result of lack of follow up. Merchants don't need that much care and feeding, and a very little can go a long way. What about a phone call every 3-6 months to ask how things are going and stay in touch with the merchant's needs? This kind of call can generate referrals and supplementary equipment sales which together more than pay for the cost of the call and that means the goodwill is free!

Thou Shall Keep a Rainy Day Cash Reserve in Thy Business.

   Try putting aside one month's revenues in the bank for a rainy day. What a relief that is to anyone in a business where you are only as good as your last sale, and where you could be out of business if sales go flat for a period of time. If merchants stop buying equipment for 90 days, what would happen to your business?

Thou Shall Read and Understand Thy Processor Contract.

   Too often, ISO's are focused on getting started and sorting out the problems later. A long slow read of your sales contract may keep you from having major headaches later when you have accumulated a merchant base that is significant. Issues to watch out for include not just the rates and pricing, but any bonus structures, buyout clauses, merchant transferability, ability to sell add-on products. The processor's ability to raise or change prices without your consent, and many others. Think long and hard about these commitments they are in the contract for a reason, and you can expect all of them to be enforced sooner or later. It pays to take the time to thoroughly consider the issues in this all-important document.

Thou Shall Do a Site Survey.

   This step is probably the part of the merchant application that ISO's dislike the most and attempt to circumvent most often. Bending the rules here will come back to haunt you. If your processor discovers that your site surveys are not complete and thorough, they will take a dim view of all your merchants, not just the ones with flimsy site surveys. This is a black mark that you don't need on your record since it will follow you around our small industry.

Thou Shall Join the ETA And Attend Its Conferences.

   It's cheap, it's good, and it's there for you in a number of ways. The ETA is an important part of being in this business and needs your support. We are all moving into an era where our industry will at least be under more scrutiny if not outright regulation. The ETA is the only way we will all have a voice in this developing debate. Your voice is necessary and membership in the ETA as well as your presence at the conferences and education sessions is in your best interest.

Thou Shall Read Transaction World Magazine and Give It to a Friend.

   Staying current on industry issues, tips, techniques, products and services is the only way to stay ahead of the big boys in our business and carve a lasting niche for yourself. Our industry is currently changing at a breathtaking pace, and each of us needs the latest information if we hope to survive. Do someobody a favor and pass your copy around, it'll make their world a better place!