Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Maximize Your Business Revenue with Mobile Payment Options


This is a little different from my usual topics, but a lot of people I know are beginning to start their own small businesses, or grow their existing businesses.  Recent conversations have caused my subconscious to tune into the nuances of this.  

For example, I was traveling this week and I noticed a couple of the cab drivers swiped my credit card on their mobile devices using Square readers and I was able to receive my receipt via email or text message.  That would have been unusual even a year ago, but it's very common now.

If you're a business owner that isn't accepting credit cards yet, here is some food for thought. 

In, small business owner Josh Lattimer details how being able to accept credit card payments saved his business and boosted his bottom line. In the past, Lattimer required his customers to pay with cash or write checks for his car care services, but since he started accepting credit card payments on his wife's iPad, his sales have steeply increased. In fact, Lattimer estimates that customers use credit cards for 90 percent of his outside sales—that money would have been lost without the right technology in place.

Jumping on Sales

Small business owners have to optimize their revenue by jumping on sales anytime, anywhere. For the hot dog stand owner or the ice cream truck driver, this means realizing that not everyone carries cash, and that it is important to have the technology in place to take alternative forms of payment. For someone who runs an online business or even a storefront, this may mean offering more payment options at checkout. By increasing the number of ways that your business accepts payments, you can pick up more sales and boost your bank balance in the process.

Listening to the Growing Market

The demand is not only there, it is growing.  According to the Motley Fool, mobile payments in the U.S. are estimated to hit $90 billion by 2017. Last year alone there were $12.8 billion in mobile payments, representing huge growth. Business owners who are poised to take advantage of this sweeping growth will stand to make more money than their counterparts who let the shift pass them by.

However, the vast number of mobile payment products on the market means that consumers need to spend some time investigating so that they can find the right products for their needs. The main factor to consider is the cost of credit card processing services. This can cost users either a flat fee, or a percentage per transaction. Even large corporations like Starbucks have forgone their traditional credit card processing equipment in favor of more affordable and versatile mobile payments processing.

Companies like Intuit have stepped in to offer a range of credit card processing services for small business owners. Their mobile apps make it possible to process credit card payments using a phone or a tablet, while their online services are perfect for ecommerce sites. All of their services can be synced to your data files so that copies of all your receipts are readily available come tax time.

Expanding Technology

Business owners who accept mobile payments also need to keep up with the technology surrounding these types of payments. The umbrella phrase mobile payments can refer to devices which allow you to accept credit cards with your smart phone, but the phrase can also refer to accepting credit cards that have been stored in an app or accepting payments via a smartphone with a special chip, reports USA Today. The challenge for small business owners may be staying on top of these trends and anticipating how their clients want to pay both today and tomorrow, but information is available to the smart business owner seeking to stay ahead of the curve.

Mobile payments are going to grow, particularly as: more phones have NFC (Near Field Communications) capabilities;, more people move to digital wallets; and more consumers become comfortable with the convenience of mobile payments.  If you're not already doing so, it's time to get familiar with the mobile payment landscape, understand your options, and figure out how this shift will impact your business.

Seeing the Big Picture

Last week, I got a copy of Kevin Cope's new book, "Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company." This is a great primer on how to figure out the real way your business works - I'm talking about money and profitability.Big Picture book image

I wish I'd had this book a year ago. I work for a company that was purchased by a private equity firm last year, and I've had to learn a lot of new things about the financial aspects of business, as they were thrown at me. A lot of what I learned e hard way is presented very clearly in this book - along with some additional information I'm sure I'll need in the near future. Do yourself a favor and learn about it before you need to apply it.

You see, a lot of us know the basics - "A business should bring in more than it costs to run the business." But there is a lot more beyond that to help us use real data to not only run our businesses, but improve them and make them sustainable and profitable in the long term.

Knowing the key elements

Kevin Cope does a great job of explaining aspects of the business in a very understandable way, whether you've got a financial background or not. The sections include:
  • Cash
  • Profit
  • Assets
  • Growth
  • People

Each of them is detailed in a way that unfolds very well - each section builds on the last, so you can better understand the relationships between these key elements of a business. He also does a great job of linking them so you can understand the interplay between these 5 elements.

Furthermore, Cope explains how to use and interpret some of the "artifacts" you'll encounter as you dig into the financials of a business, including how to read a balance sheet, how to interpret an income statement, and how to get real meaning out of financial reports.

One of the concepts I've had to learn about through hard knocks is EBITDA (Earnings Before Income Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization) which is a key indicator tracked by the private equity firm that owns my company. Cope explains this very succinctly in the book and relates it to the 5 elements, above.

Not just for managers

One of the things I love about this book is how relevant it is for anyone who wants to add value to the business they are involved in. This will add a lot of value for managers, but it will also help any individual contributor better understand how they can contribute to making the business more effective. In other words, if you want to figure out how and where you can add value to your company's success, this is a great book for you.

Cope also talks a lot about how you can use all of this information to make better decisions about your business - such as how you can make pod decisions about when to save earnings, when to reinvest them in the business, how to look after both short-term and long-term horizons for your business.

If you want to brush up on your financial acumen and learn some techniques to help you add more value to your business, grab a copy of "Seeing the Big Picture" - it's like a crash course MBA.

Business at the Speed of Now

I just finished reading "Business at the Speed of Now," by John Bernard. Wow, this is a good book.

Business Now Cover

I know of John because I worked with him on a small project about a year ago, and I saw a lot of the things he writes about first-hand.  Needless to say, when I heard he was writing a book, I could hardly wait to read it.  Now that it's available, I recommend you pick up a copy right away.

This book is designed to help you create an environment or culture within your business that aligns people for execution, then empowers people to make a difference.  There are some great stories in here comparing and contrasting "Now" cultures with much slower, more bureaucratic ones - some of those really hit the mark for me, and will stick with me.

The book also includes a number of tools to help you assess where your business's thinking is currently, as well as tools to help you take deliberate action to move toward a Now way of doing business.

According to this book, management must provide the rest of the company with 5 critical pieces of information for them to function in the now:

  1. Context ("Where are we going?")
  2. Accountability ("What role do I play?")
  3. Skills ("What abilities must I possess?")
  4. Facts ("What data must I access to make decisions?")
  5. Authority ("Do I have the freedom to act without fear of reprisal?")

From my experience, #'s 4 and 5 are the hardest transition for control freak organizations.  Fear not, there are some good tips & tools in this book to help in all of these areas.

Guidance when you need it

I read the book all the way through, and it went quickly.  Going forward, I plan to use this as a reference guide to help me focus on what I believe is the "hottest fire" in whatever situation I'm experiencing.  If you scan this list, it not only helps you pinpoint specific challenges, it also guides you to the right chapters to find the help you need.

Seven deadlyIf you're anything like me, examples and stories are among the best ways to learn. Not only does John share stories he's learned through working with companies, he also uses a ficticious company known as "BearPaw" to show you how some of these ideas work in practice, as well as show you how to create a tracking and alignment system that keeps everyone in the business on the same page about what is important.

The most important thing?

Want to get something done? Use this book to create your "Breakthrough Plan."

I got a taste of this while working with John, and he tells you how to create one in this book.  A breakthrough plan keeps you focused on a specific objective and provides triggers to ensure that resources & dependencies are identified and dealt with,  This is one of the highest-leverage activities in this process, in my opinion (and it isn't as hard as you think).

My favorite part

Yes, I liked the part about Breakthrough Plans.  But I must admit, my favorite chapter in the book was Chapter 8, in which we're exposed to the "Seven-Step Problem Solving" approach.  This is a fantastic model to guide you through a data-driven process to get everyone on the same page about the problem, the desired outcomes, the approach you'll take, and how success will be measured along the way.  Of course, a big part of the formula is accountability, which is well-handled.

If you want a taste of the book, they are offering a sample chapter of Business at the Speed of Now at the author's site. If you really want to jump into the Now, you can click one of the following links to order it on Amazon in either hardcover, or Kindle formats.

The Image of Success

I've been quiet here lately due to some hectic schedules, but I have had the opportunity to do some reading so you'll see a few book reviews pop out here soon.


I'm starting with a book I really enjoyed - Lizandra Vega's "The Image of Success: Make a Great Impression and Land the Job You Want."  A long time ago, I read a book called "Dress for Success" but the copy I had was written in the last era of 70's attire.  This book reminded me of that, but was far better than I expected.

Put your best foot forward (and keep your shoes on!)

As you can tell from the title, Vega's book is focused on helping you make a great impression as a job hunter.  I was impressed with how holistic her approach is, as it covers everything from soup to nuts.  For example, you'll become educated on:

  • how to market yourself;
  • what to wear, and how to match your attire to the company where you're interviewing;
  • how to make the most of your physical characteristics;
  • how to prepare for a job interview;
  • how to behave in the interview;
  • how to follow up, and more.

Vega is clearly an expert in her field, having spent many years in recruiting and working as a career and image coach.  The practicality of her advice is definitely rooted in real-world experience.

The style is very clear and easy to read, and there are plenty of visual examples in each part of the book.  Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the book is Vega's collection of horror stories, which show just how much some people need this kind of help!

For example, you might be amused with stories of coffee spills, foot odor (hence the admonition to keep your shoes on), shocking remarks people make, and other interesting things she's encountered in her career.

Not looking? It's still applicable.

I'm not job hunting at the moment (I received a review copy of the book), but I still found a lot of value here to help me re-think the image I portray at work.  There are some things I can do to "up-level" my image and remove some of the rough edges for sure.  I may not do them all, but at least I'm more conscious of the areas I can improve.

If you want a full run-down, check out the table of contents from The Image of Success, or visit Lizandra Vega's web site.

Don't forget to use your Spock brain

In my last post, I encouraged people to use their Kirk brain in business. Now, let's look at the flip side - engaging your Spock brain.

In many organizations I've worked with, people often make decisions using "gut feel," or based on who's complaining loudest, who's got the most compelling story, and things like that.  Guess what - there is another way.


Give me the facts

With many business decisions, you can learn a lot just by looking at what's already happened.  Gather data on the current situation, look at historical trends, and see what patterns may emerge.  This is often a good way to identify root cause of past issues, and sanity check your hypotheses for the future.

Go beyond the hype

How many times do you choose to do something because "everybody is saying x," or "I just talked to Joe, and this is a big problem," or some other seemingly compelling claim?

It is easy, particularly when you are working with someone who knows how to push the right buttons, to make decisions based on emotional pleas or drama.  While these claims may be a good indicator of where problems exist, don't just rely on "latest & loudest" to drive your actions.  Gather data, assess the situation, and determine whether you really have a good handle on the problem (both in nature and magnitude) before you jump to action.

This is also a place where it makes sense to document the evidence, rather than relying on word of mouth - as the saying goes, sometimes the story grows in the telling.  Forcing the discipline of writing down the problem, steps taken, and other aspects of the situation can serve well to take some of the emotion out of the discussion.

Sanity check (aka "Use someone else's Spock brain")

When you're too close to a problem, your perspective can deceive you.  It may be helpful to join forces with someone else who can take a more detached, objective look at the situation.  Often, they will ask questions you haven't asked, identify pattern you didn't see, or bring a different set of experiences to bear on the problem which can help you come up with new solutions.

How do you know if you aren't using your Spock brain enough?

There is not one litmus test, but some good indicators that your organization may be ignoring the facts are:

  • It feels like you are making the same mistakes over and over again, which means you are ignoring data from the past;
  • It feels like certain people always get their way in your organization because they know what emotional buttons to push to derail the current plan in favor of their new pet project;
  • Your priorities keep getting changed based on fire drills and crises;
  • You find that no matter how hard people work on fixing problems in the business, they never seem to get better.

The bottom line is that you should ensure you aren't letting the Tyranny of the Urgent, or Management by Hype cause you to do things that perpetuate the problem.  Taking a step back and using your Spock brain to look at the facts is a useful skill for any manager.