The following is an interview with PaySimple’s David Sharp. The interview was conducted by Jason Hartman for Authority Magazine.
Improving Sustainability in Finance. There is more pressure on, and movement from, financial services companies to incorporate sustainability into every part of operations, starting with a reduction of energy and paper consumption. This push is coming from both customers and employees, with research from BAI showing that 54% of Gen-Z and millennial consumers would consider switching their primary bank based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.
As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Sharp.
David Sharp, PaySimple’s President, joined PaySimple in 2007 and is passionate about helping PaySimple’s small business customers realize their full potential with the simplicity and flow that PaySimple’s commerce enablement platform brings to the marketplace. David has 21 years of experience in the payments and software industry, including eight years as Vice President of the Western Region for Global Payments. During his career, he has led business development for payment network processing, agent bank and ISO programs, as well as a variety of alternative payment solutions. David 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 so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. 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 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?’ 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.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
A key initiative we have been working on and continue to pursue is the idea of making the business-side of running a small business as simple and as easy as possible. We are doing this by removing the friction small businesses experience today in the process of invoicing, collecting payments for services rendered, and reconciling their books. Sometimes this is done via paper methods, multiple technologies, or just following up with clients endlessly. This takes precious time that could be focused on meeting customer needs, growing the business, or spending time with their families. Our work to integrate the payments process directly into the business management software that these businesses are using removes a lot of the obstacles and hurdles that both consumers and these small businesses need to deal with to pay for services and in turn, increase the cash flow to the small business. Small businesses that are using an integrated payments feature as part of their business are seeing dramatic increases in time saved throughout their week, reductions in deferred appointments or incomplete payments, and getting paid faster and infusing that money into growing their business.
Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the central focus of our discussion. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started what was its WHY, its purpose?
PaySimple’s purpose, or the reason we exist, is to “simplify and empower other people’s lives.” We truly believe that we need to live a life greater than ourselves, and we are driven to help make life easier for the small businesses that serve us each day. We happen to take a technology approach to that “why,” but it is what drives us each day.
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 can make investments, prioritize, build technology and service our customers in a way that yields the financial results we’re after.
What would you advise to a founder who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
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 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 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 act.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Customers Have Choices — Experience is Paramount. Whether you serve consumers, small businesses, or large enterprises, customers have a lot of choices today for how they deal with the financial side of their lives. A lot of financial services and products are becoming commoditized and to stand out from the competition you need to deliver a differentiating experience to your customer. In our industry, there are a lot of companies that can process a payment, however, where we try to differentiate is on the onboarding experience, customer service, and dealing with any payment issues. Ensuring our customers that we are there with them along the whole journey has enabled us to maintain high levels of customer retention and find new customers who are dissatisfied with their “experiences” with other companies.
- Digital Transformation of Finance is Not Slowing Down. The transformation of the finance industry to the digital age began long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the past couple of years have accelerated that pace even more and people are looking for new ways to not only interact with others, but how they transact and manage their finances. According to a study from McKinsey, nearly 90% of Americans are using some form of digital payment, and they are engaging with these rapidly evolving solutions in a variety of ways. There is a need to continue to innovate and differentiate.
- Access to Data is King — But it Also Needs to be Protected. The digital transformation is creating huge streams of data on what customers do with their money, and this creates a big opportunity to offer customers helpful insights about their spending or to cross-sell relevant products or offers to them in the future. However, banking and payments is one of the highest regulated industries and the protection of privacy and financial information is crucial to the success of any endeavor.
- Rise of the API and Embedded Finance. The rise of the use of APIs in banking and payments is bringing the notion of embedded finance to all kinds of financial services use cases. This is the idea of enabling companies who aren’t financial institutions to include financial services or products into their digital apps or products. This makes transacting faster and easier for customers, while providing opportunities for businesses to streamline back-end processes and generate more revenue. The modern financial landscape is an integrated one.
- Improving Sustainability in Finance. There is more pressure on, and movement from, financial services companies to incorporate sustainability into every part of operations, starting with a reduction of energy and paper consumption. This push is coming from both customers and employees, with research from BAI showing that 54% of Gen-Z and millennial consumers would consider switching their primary bank based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I believe that self-doubt is the greatest inhibitor to our joy and accomplishment in life. When we don’t believe that we can create or receive 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.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!