As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing David Sharp, President, PaySimple
David Sharp, president of PaySimple, the payments management solution for over 17,000 service-based businesses in the U.S., is passionate about his work with PaySimple’s customers, employees and investors. He has 21 years of experience in the payments and software industry. He served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army following graduation from the Defense Language Institute and holds a BBA in International Business from the University of Georgia.
Thank you for joining us David! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I began my career as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army following graduation from the Defense Language Institute. I enlisted as a Private and quickly recognized the important role I played in the success of my unit as I worked my way up the ranks. That experience has driven a focus on always being willing to serve to support a mission greater than myself. I’ve spent 23 years in the payments and software industry, including eight years as Vice President of the Western Region for Global Payments. Before leading PaySimple, I served in many other roles at the company including partner channel, operations, and sales and from this experience I have developed a greater appreciation for the frontline employees.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I first joined the Army, I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my professional career, which is to let your answer be yes and trust yourself to figure it out afterwards. I arrived at Fort Jackson, SC for basic training two days early, not exactly an ideal arrival as there were about 10 of us that had to do all of the pre-work in the barracks to get ready for the arrival of the other 50 guys. The Drill Sergeant walked in on us goofing around and we all jumped to our feet, he put the brim of his cap in my forehead and asked, ‘Sharp can you kick ass?’ Not sure what to say, I asked, ‘In what respect Drill Sergeant?’ Needless to say, that was probably the most unimpressive answer he had ever heard to that question, so he ignored my answer and simply asked me the question again. Of course, I said ‘Yes!’ to avoid certain death. He named me squad leader and I led the early arrivals and throughout basic training. At that time and looking back on it years later, it was the start of a philosophy of mine which is to just say yes when opportunity knocks and have faith in yourself that you can do it — that is 99% of the battle.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
One of the most influential books that I’ve read was the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. My interest in Grant was mostly out of curiosity for how the top military officer dealt with Lincoln’s assassination since his instinct would have been to protect him had he been in the theatre that night and wasn’t. I learned so much about servant leadership, humility, strength, ingenuity, loyalty and how to live a life greater than yourself. Grant knew how to motivate, was always on the offensive, gave forgiveness, kept his word and was a man of honor. Those are guiding principles that I aspire to in my leadership and it is great to have read his account of the events that shaped his life and his role in them.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
As the leader of a purpose-driven business, I’m not focused on how much money our company can make, but rather on how many employees and customers we can help along the way. I am passionate about helping PaySimple’s customers, employees and investors realize their full potential with the simplicity and flow that PaySimple’s commerce enablement platform brings to the marketplace.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Purpose before profits. I believe that establishing a purpose for the business and keeping it as a guiding light has been vital to success through the ups and downs. Our purpose is to help our employees and customers realize their full potential. It reminds us that our employees are invaluable to our success and that they create the foundation for the success of our customers. When we focus on that we are able to make investments, prioritize, build technology and service our customers in a way that yields the financial results we’re after.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Our funniest challenge working from home with three teenagers was to ensure we have enough bandwidth on the Wi-Fi network to run video conferencing while the kids entertain themselves with streaming movies, video games, online voice and dance lessons and other necessary distractions. I think we’ve done a good job having times when we are non-digital, taking up new hobbies with volleyball, horseback riding and getting a new puppy. We also took a small risk by taking a trip to the beach for Memorial Day. It was very empowering for all of us to take a flight to see family and enjoy some time social distancing on the beach. It gave us a sense of normalcy while managing our health risk along the journey. Life isn’t without risk, so we opt to live our lives to the fullest while balancing the inherent risk that is always around us.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Since most of our customers are serviced-based businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders had a significant negative impact. We helped serve our customers through this time of need by launching a multi-touch COVID-19 business assistance campaign that provided information, guides and resources across multiple channels.
We devised a three-part communication strategy to keep pace with changing conditions. Part one was focused on prevention to keep business owners and customers safe prior to the stay-at-home orders. Part two focused on preparing for re-opening, and part three delivered guidance on reopening a business. We delivered a series of articles giving preventative guidance to protect owners, employees, and customers. As the crisis evolved, so did the company’s efforts. Following prevention articles, we launched a comprehensive COVID-19 resource center that outlined the CARES ACT relief programs, application requirements, deadlines and links to apply for financial aid. To help businesses outside of our customer base, this resource center was pushed out to multiple press outlets. Most recently we have tailored our communication to recovery; outlining steps businesses can take to move forward.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Mindset it the greatest source of strength at a time like this. Where your mind goes your actions follow, so my family focuses on the upside of being together and how that builds character and bonds that we’ll carry for many years ahead of us. We take daily walks, have been improving our homes, taking time to make nice meals together and take stock of what is important to us. With so much out of our control, the focus is always to label the things that we’re anxious about and decide how we’re going to react to them with a more deliberate vs. emotional response. Rather than allow our perception to create anxiety or fear to drive us, we evaluate the source, identify it, label it and visualize ourselves moving through it. It’s a bit of a meditation process I suppose.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Growing out of the COVID crisis, many service-based businesses will expand beyond contactless payments and open more transaction channels, including e-commerce and online classes to help augment and monetize their businesses and provide more opportunity in the future.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Habits form quickly and I think in many ways we have developed new muscle memory and habits towards how we work, how we play, and how we interact with others that is amplified at a time like this. However, we all long for how things were and are in many ways looking to recreate the prior norms in our lives. I believe that necessity is the mother of invention and at times like these we have stretched our capacity, learned how to adapt to uncertainty, helped our customers learn to use our technology in new ways, drawn closer with our friends and families despite the distance and have a much greater appreciation for the good things in our lives. I think as a society we will be more conservative in some ways and take risk in new ways. I think we’ll continue to use new technologies that drive connection and convenience in our lives, use contactless services more often and expand the borders of our workforce. Time, space and proximity are now much more relative, and most of all we know that we can be resilient without having the constant reassurances of those in close proximity to us. I believe we are always moving forward, so we seek to create new norms and use all that we have learned along the way to make the most of it.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
The pandemic has encouraged PaySimple to prioritize and realign our resources to ensure we help our customers persevere and find new ways to grow. We have become more rigorous about our ongoing investments for growth, using this time to evaluate our optimal growth channels, refactor some of our technology and create new efficiencies in our business processes. We are focused more than ever on our ideal client profile to ensure that as we enter the post-COVID economy we have our roadmap aligned to support those clients we can serve the most, which will lead to our growth and success.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
The tendency for many of us is to focus on what is wrong and the downside of the current situation. Unfortunately, that tends to bring more uncertainty and cause us to attract further negative outcomes rather than orient towards reinventing ourselves to grow out of the pandemic. I would encourage others to evaluate what is actually happening to their business, get an understanding of what can be managed differently to adapt, focus on their core values and rebuild the strategy from there. It’s easy to spend time focused on what we cannot control, exaggerate what is actually happening to us and go into protection mode bracing for impact. I believe that all things can work for our good if we just allow it, focus on what we can control and have the courage to take action.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do you no harm.” I believe that self-doubt is the greatest inhibitor to our joy and accomplishment in life. When we don’t believe that we are capable of creating or receiving great things, mediocrity seems to come our way. The act of allowing ourselves to be capable of all that we put our minds to and inspiring that in others around us creates a limitless environment. No ego, no judgment, just awareness and no self-inflicted limitations.