As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Irwin Grossman, CEO & Co-founder of Delta Payment Solutions.
Before founding and leading Delta Payment Solutions, Irwin spent over 40 years in various management consulting and line management positions. After five years as a design engineer with Eastman Kodak Company, he spent ten years as an international management consultant and Partner with Braxton Associates, now part of Deloitte Consulting.
He joined Barry Controls, one of his consulting clients, and led the sales, marketing and design engineering teams in the transformation of the company from a catalog-based standard products manufacturer to an engineered solutions provider.
Management team participation in two start-ups followed — in the HVAC and Trade Show industries — with leadership of Tetbury Consulting Group following after that. While with Tetbury, and over a span of fifteen years, Irwin assumed CEO/COO positions with Ekam Imaging, Flo Chemical Corporation and Friend & Union Enterprises.
Irwin’s expertise is in developing and implementing successful growth strategies.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have a bit of an eclectic background. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, I got a job at Eastman Kodak where I spent several years as a Design Engineer. After my MBA, I worked for international management consultant companies, traveling the world to help nurture and grow businesses. I also had a hand in founding two startups, one in the HVAC industry and the other in the tradeshow industry. After 9/11, I reassessed my professional life and started my own consulting firm, where I focused on helping small to mid-sized companies with their growth strategies and took on several interim COO and CEO roles. Three years ago, I started Delta Payment Solutions with two partners and am currently the CEO.
The idea to start the company came from my son. He had taken an interest in learning about credit surcharges and how businesses are often wrongfully overcharged by processors. After some extensive research, I too had discovered how the industry was complex, non-transparent and expensive, especially for small to mid-sized companies. I and my business partners wanted to help companies save money, so we founded Delta Payment Solutions and even better — turned it into a co-op. Now our members not only have the lowest possible processing rates with great service, but they also receive half the revenue we make in the form of an annual rebate.
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?
I wouldn’t say it was funny, but it was definitely a lesson learned! When we first launched, we had a very big partner that became our prime processor. After a few months however, they were acquired by another company and due to an abrupt change in their business model, they decided to no longer work with referral companies like ourselves. We had lost our only partner in the credit card processing world, so it initially felt like a big blow to our business. We got back on our feet, but knew moving forward the importance of having multiple partners to minimize our risk of losing business again. Plus, having more of a variety lets us really hone in on our customer’s needs and tailor their programs. Without that first set back, we wouldn’t have the business model we have today that’s been so successful.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter is a fantastic book. Porter has a lot of the same business principles I have, so reading his work really helped me build a stronger company.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
In short, our purpose is simple: to help small to mid-sized companies not get ripped off by credit card processing fees, especially businesses in e-commerce or ones that use telephone or mail order for purchases. They tend to get taken advantage of more so than brick-and-mortars from a credit card perspective. Our goal was and still is to help the underdogs who don’t have the negotiating powers we have to help level the playing field. We wanted to do something new, something most businesses don’t offer, all while having fun and helping people at the same time.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Find the calm in the chaos. As a business leader, your team takes their cues from you and you alone. The more collected you are during the stressful times, the more ease you’ll create for your team. Tough times are also a great indicator of a person’s character. When times get stressful, it’s important to see how members of your team cope with the pressure and being a foundation of tranquility can certainly help those who tend to be more anxious.
Thank you for all that. 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?
I have been working remotely for years, so truthfully there wasn’t a ton of changes in my day-to-day life. The hardest part of the pandemic on a personal level, was not being able to hug my granddaughter for months. She lives only a few miles away, and though I am still able to see her on occasion (socially distancing, of course), I cannot hug or play with her and that has been tremendously hard to deal with. We respect the guidelines in place and know they are there for a reason, but not being able to touch your kids or your grandkids is difficult as a parent and certainly not something I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
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?
Personally, nothing has been challenging as I’ve stated, remote working has been of the focus of my professional career for the last 20 years. In terms of Delta Payment Solutions, our company is virtual, and we have team members spread out all over the county. Our customers are also located across a variety of regions in the U.S., so working from home has been tremendously helpful. We’re available at all hours of the day and night, can be flexible with our time, and still get to balance our work and personal lives. Due to the nature of our business, we’re actually the busiest we’ve ever been! Many companies who were brick-and-mortar have been forced to sell online, and as mentioned earlier, are facing higher processing fees than before. We’re there to reduce those charges, especially during these challenging times.
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?
In times like these, even though we can’t physically be together, communication is key and more than ever, needs to be increased. I try and speak to my kids on the phone or via Zoom a few times a day, just to check in and see how they’re doing. It’s also important to ask what people need and how you can help them. My granddaughter’s daycare is currently closed and with her parents both working from home, childcare can be tricky. I check in to see if I can pick them up anything or pop over to babysit while one of them is in a meeting. Though most times my offer is declined, they are appreciative that I recognize their struggles and offer to assist however I can.
The same principle stands in business — more communication! The Delta Payment Solutions team and I meet at least once a week just to check in and see how everyone is doing — and I meet individually with each member of the team several times a week as well. I want to know what their struggles are, their successes, and any feedback about our business or the way we’re handling COVID-19.
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?
E-commerce will definitely boom — it already has. Card not present transactions are skyrocketing, even when you physically go to the location. For instance, my family and I went out for ice cream the other night and even though we were steps away from the door, we had to call in our order and pay over the phone.
I also believe delivery-related businesses are going to increase, especially in light of all the issues USPS, UPS, and Fed EX are experiencing due to the pandemic. Many people want their food, laundry, even their alcohol delivered to them in today’s climate, so the need for more drivers and delivery focused operations will certainly begin to rise.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Being forced to shelter-in-place and communicate with loved ones virtually will certainly make people more appreciative of what they have and, in my experiences, so far, more friendly and welcoming. When I take my daily walk, neighbors and other nearby acquaintances in the area are more talkative — they wave, ask how you are doing, I think COVID-19 has forced us to reflect more and open our arms to our community.
I also think we’ll become a less materialistic world as people are starting to realize they can do more with less. We haven’t been able to dine out or vacation in months, and I think it’s forced us to re-evaluate our outlook of the world and our lives, confirming that we don’t need all those luxuries to be happy.
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?
Our biggest goal, and frankly our biggest opportunity, is to reach out to brick-and-mortar businesses who are shifting to e-commerce and online selling. We’ll be focusing on getting them up and running in the digital world, as well as saving them money on credit card processing fees.
We want to grow our business by taking on more accounts and helping companies mitigate the threat of being deemed “high risk”. This can lead to potentially losing their assets if their credit card processing operations aren’t intact. Delta Payment Solutions has been successful in being proactive with our growing merchants, working out any “red flags” processors may encounter, helping merchants to avoid getting shut down or even worse, flagged as potentially fraudulent. We closely monitor our customer’s accounts, ready to legitimize their business should a processor question their revenue.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Businesses need to realize “back to normal” will never happen. Our country will not be the same as it was in early 2020. They need to investigate how this sudden change can work to their business’ advantage, as there will be an abundant amount of opportunity in the growing months.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The future is not a result of choices among alternatives paths offered, it is a place that is created. Created first in mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not someplace we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made. And the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination”. — Anonymous.
This is incredibly fitting, especially today. Our future, though in ways is uncertain, is still in our control. Despite the challenges we’re facing, it’s up to us to build our own paths and make it out on the other side — both professionally and personally.