I graduated from high school in 1984 with no plans to go to college. I didn’t need college and college didn’t need me. A year later my life was going nowhere, and college didn’t look so bad anymore. So in August of 1985, I enrolled at Anne Arundel Community College in the Communication Arts Technology Program. I was scared it was going to be really hard, so I put myself on the three-year path to an associate’s degree. Three years later I graduated and was on my way to Maryland’s second-largest university, Towson State.
Well, I have to say I had a blast at Towson, and I even met my wife there—but yes, two years later they put a sheepskin in my hand and said hit the road! Now I’m armed with a BS in mass communications, and because I took a few journalism classes I guess you could at least partially say I have a BS in BS. My goal was to set the corporate video world on fire. The only problem was that 1990 was an incredibly bad year to be looking for a job. The good news was that I had a part-time job as the beer man for the Orioles and Redskins. It was tough, but I loved going to the games, and when Camden Yards opened the money got real good, real quick. You were someone if you worked there. So I was making good money, getting a workout, and hey, I got to see the games for free.
Sometime around 1992, I met Fan Man at Oriole Park. Fan Man always had a cheer for me, and when I told him my name was Jimmy, he called me Jimmy the Man. From there on out, I was Jimmy the Man. “Who’s the Man”? “Jimmy the Man!” When the Ravens came to town in ’96, I worked the bleachers at Memorial Stadium, and I “rolled” every game. When they opened their stadium next to Oriole Park, I had my own section, so to bring my fans closer I set up a website, JimmytheMan.com. I would take pics of my fans during the game and put them online for free, which would also lead them to my business offerings and increase my exposure.
It was around the same time that I answered an ad for a credit card terminal installer. Before you know it I was out installing the equipment, which basically involved finding room for a plug and a phone line and then, with a little help from a programmer over the phone, punching a few buttons. Sometimes I waited a half an hour or longer for the program to download in order to finish the job. Things went well for a month or so until they told me that I would not be getting paid for a certain job because I had mis-programmed the machine. All I had done was follow instructions, but suddenly it was my fault. So I quit. I found a job as a car-rental guy. For the next year I was towing cars and writing contracts, but a job was a job, and my girlfriend/soon-to-be fiancée didn’t like me lying around the apartment.
A year later I quit that job to work for another credit card–processing sales company, or what we will now call an ISO, or independent sales organization. They were going to pay me four hundred dollars a week to manage their sales office, do a few installs here and there, and even make a few sales when necessary. This sounded really cool to me, as I could keep my stadium job, which was actually pulling in over 20k a year. With this new gig I might even be able to make 50K.
There were two partners of the company: John, who was teaching me everything, and Bob, who hired me. They told me I had entered the pay cycle in the middle of a two-week cycle, which meant I was going to have to wait three weeks to get my first check. Everything was going fine, and three weeks later Bob wrote me a check for four hundred dollars. Within a few days it bounced like a Super Ball, and I was furious. The next day I went into work and there was a sign on the door saying they were reorganizing and to try back in a few weeks. Ah, but I had a key, so I opened the door and found the place cleaned out. I went to the equipment closet, which was locked. I kicked in the door, and all that was left of their total inventory was a single square terminal, the good ol’ Zon Jr.
Three weeks of work, and this was my severance package.
But wait—I knew where John lived. Within a few days I caught up with him, and he basically told me that he didn’t know the company was going under, but if I wanted, he would continue to teach me the business and allow me to keep 100 percent of the profit for equipment sales. With a little prodding, I went out for my first day of selling. I wound up at a strip mall on Belair Road in northeast Baltimore. The first door I walked in was a real estate office. I asked them if they were set up to accept credit cards, and they said there really wasn’t any need. The second door I entered was a dry cleaner. They had been open for a month or so and were toying with the idea of accepting credit cards but had not gotten around to it. So that’s right, you guessed it: The second door I popped my head into, I made the sale. I sold them a Zon Jr. and a manual imprinter for $500, and I pocketed about $250. I was ecstatic!
Well, there were about ten businesses in that strip mall. On the other end was a new barbecue joint, and I sold them a Zon Jr. and a p250 printer for $800—but it gets even better because this was their third location, and I actually ended up helping their next two locations. In my first three hours of walking and talking, I raked in about $650! I couldn’t believe it.
Two days later I fell into another deal, but they needed financing (seeChapter 11: Leasing). Well, I couldn’t possibly finance them myself, but it turns out there are leasing companies that will work with you to finance a deal for your client. I could now get paid with cash, or I could finance a deal to propel my company. I was getting my equipment from my partner, so I gave him money for equipment, and kind of like a demented Ponzi scheme, he would hold onto it until I brought in another deal.
Things started getting out of hand, so I looked for another company to sell for. It was funny because it seemed a few of the other reps from the company I had started with ended up there, too. Next thing you know, I was writing deals for them, and they had it down pat. They got a list of new businesses every week, and we would call them or just go see them. While I was writing more deals with this company, they were taking half of my equipment profit, which I really didn’t like, but they were paying residuals. A residual is a monthly payment to you or your company based upon your markup for the processing rates, the merchant’s processing volume, and the agreed-upon split between you and your processing partner or ISO.
So I went back to Mr Ponzi, and he promised to make good, but he was lying through his teeth. Before I knew it, he was into me for over a grand. While I was getting 100 percent of the profit, he was holding 50 percent of it, and I knew that had to end. So I went back to the second company and kept writing deals to decrease my learning curve.
Thank goodness April was nearing so I could get back to work for the Orioles. I’d cut my teeth selling programs at the Navy football games starting my freshman year in high school in ’78 and graduated to the big leagues in ’89. I loved working for the Orioles and Camden Yards was a rocking place to work, but while it was fun, more than anything it was much-needed revenue for me while I was getting my company off the ground. Don’t be afraid of working a full or part-time job while you are starting this business. I actually worked part-time for the Orioles, Ravens, and Redskins for the first eight years of my business, mostly because I loved it, but the money helped too! The ISO through which I was writing deals for Mr. Ponzi was a company called Electronic Processing. I had written about twenty or so deals through them when I figured maybe they would let me go direct. Almost in unison they fired me. I called to ask about going direct, and they said my customer service was just too bad. I was in tears. But instead of drowning in my tears, I went to the top. Before you know it, I was talking to the VP, and I set her straight. I told her the reason it was taking forever to do installs was because my crooked buddy was holding my money and it was out of my control. I told her I was busting my ass to write deals and I was serious about the business, and if they would just give me a chance I could really show them my stuff. She agreed with one caveat: I needed to come see them in San Diego.
Excuse me—a business trip to San Diego? “Now I can handle that!”
It was the fall of ’96 and I was on a plane to San Diego. Wow, was it nice. I was there for three days and they treated me like a king. I received a tour of the company, happy hours on the beach, and dinners out every night. I ended my last day meeting with the CEO, and he had a surprise for me. Realizing I had a lot to offer, and in part as thanks for persevering with my crooked partner, he gave me all of the accounts I had written under John and Bob.
I spent the next three years selling or leasing equipment and setting up accounts.
Then I had my first big break. I was at a meeting for the Towson Chamber of Commerce when I met a gentleman named Glen. Glen was a web developer, so naturally we began to talk about e-commerce. He told me about a new payment gateway called
Authorize.Net. He told me that Authorize.Net was the connection websites needed to process transactions securely and sell their goods online. I checked with my partners, who told me they could work with Authorize.Net. I gave them a call, and in January of 1999 we formed a partnership. They put me on their reseller page. Within six hours, two guys from Fort Lauderdale called me and I made my first sale. I was floored. How could I possibly make a sale to a company over one thousand miles away? Well, it happened! In the next five years they dropped over 1,200 deals in my lap, and on most I was getting $400 to $500 up front and a residual on the merchant account and the payment gateway. The busier I got, the more I raised my price. Things really got out of hand when we started leasing Authorize.Net at $50 a month for forty-eight months. We would make roughly $1,400 on the deal plus residuals, and 99 percent of these businesses found us.
At this point I was so busy that I was leaving money on the table (a fate worse than death), so I opened an office right down the street from my house. Hiring an office staff was a little daunting, but after a few failures I had a solid assistant. When she brought her friend on board we became a team of three. At times the phone was ringing off the hook. I remember that when we reached $10,000 in revenue in one month, I felt like I was really doing something. But when we reached $10,000 a month in residuals, I knew I had caught on to something really great.
If you learn anything from this book, it’s that leads are golden. All you have to do is provide a solution that meets a need, provide an easy way to sign up, all in a timely fashion, and you’ve got a deal! We gave clients the option to sign up online or over the phone, but never once did I suggest they sign up online without first asking them to sign up over the phone. Asking them to sign up on their own is like asking to them think it over one more time before signing up.
Another golden rule of this business is to always take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. For many years during the e-commerce boom the business worked me and I was busy as I wanted to be, but I can’t tell you how many times I left my family eating dinner without me, or how many Saturdays I spent in the office. Why? Because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. On the other hand, there was many a morning when I came in to start the day and there would be one or two applications in my inbox. (See Chapter 8: Applications and Contracts.)
Well, nothing lasts forever, and as you know, all good things come to an end. Somewhere in the middle of 2004 the phones stopped ringing, and my days as an order taker were over. See Part III: The Plan to find out what my next steps were.
P.S. Read all of the chapters in between so you will know more about what you’re doing when you implement “The Plan.”
Lets get started!
Call James Darle Jones with your questions @ 301 829 3331