Dan Geraty - CEO of Clearent

Don’t idolize innovation. If you instead work as a team to solve problems for your customers and the people who support your customers, you will be rewarded with success in the end — and you might just find you’ve done something innovative.

Dan Geraty is the founder and CEO of Clearent, a St. Louis-based full-service credit card processing company that was founded in 2005 and built its proprietary platform from the ground up. For the past five years, Clearent has appeared on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies, as well as the Nilson Report’s list of Top U.S. Acquirers.

He has more than 20 years of senior executive experience in both startups and established companies. Before joining Clearent, he was president and COO of DynamicSoft, a venture-backed network software and systems company that was purchased by Cisco Systems..

Dan lives in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, with his wonderful family. His hobbies include playing squash, adventure cycling, and skiing.

Where did the idea for Clearent come from?

After selling a telecom software company to Cisco Systems in 2004, I started looking for my next opportunity. I was fortunate to meet some experts from the payments industry who introduced me to the opportunities in merchant services. Specifically, they felt the legacy providers of back-end payment processing services were not meeting the changing needs of the market. With better, cheaper, faster systems, we felt we could take a share of the market from the entrenched providers. Many of the people who helped hatch the idea still serve as Clearent board members.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

I start each day by clearing my email and then reading The Wall Street Journal and a few other news sites. Next, I work out so I can arrive at the office energized. Once in the office, I like to make a few trips to the break room to greet team members and make my presence felt. If I don’t do that in the morning, I risk getting swallowed up by my day. Most days, I try to have lunch with colleagues so we can informally discuss anything from near-term objectives to strategies that might take a few years to realize. When it’s time to go into individual contributor mode, I put on my noise-canceling headphones and listen to music while I crank out whatever’s on my plate.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Bringing ideas to life is a team effort, so conversations and collaborations with customers and subject matter experts are key. My job is not only to create an environment where people come forward with ideas; it’s also to nurture their good ideas — to help them vet the ideas and move any roadblocks in their way.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I am really enthusiastic about some of the new and interesting ways to measure the “soft” things. For example, this allows us to replace “We have great customer service” with “We have a net promoter score of 60” or replace “We have a really strong culture” with “We have a 4.7 out of 5.0 on Glassdoor.” Customers, employees, and Clearent all benefit when you can benchmark and work to improve scores that accurately represent the quality of things like employee engagement.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I don’t really think about being productive as the CEO. My job is to help my team members be more productive. I strive for efficiency and constantly re-evaluate what’s important and where we should focus our efforts. I try not to bog anyone down with requests that are not aligned with our objectives.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t fear failure. It may be painful in the short run, but it’s the only way to really learn. It’s easy to shut down or go to a dark place when things aren’t going your way. But if you keep a long-term view, you’ll accept that overcoming adversity is the best way to grow. Know that when you look back at the failure in time, if you’re open to it, you will realize that it was an intense learning experience.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Don’t idolize innovation. If you instead work as a team to solve problems for your customers and the people who support your customers, you will be rewarded with success in the end — and you might just find you’ve done something innovative.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Tell your team members and employees that you value what they do. People thrive on recognition, and recognition reinforces the things we value. It calls out the behaviors we all want to emulate.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

In our business, you have to own the technology. It allows you to control your own destiny and the user experience. Our platform is the basis for our differentiation in the market.

The thinking behind this is simple: When you control the road map, you control the service you deliver. If you’re beholden to others to deliver features, they may diverge from what you think is right for the market and for your customers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I fell into the trap of equating entrepreneurship with a solo act — putting too much pressure on myself and underestimating the value of the team. After seeing team members rise to the occasion again and again, I saw the value of stepping back and collaborating rather than feeling my place was to be out in front, setting the agenda on my own.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Find a scalable way to let people know what information is available about them in the deep and dark webs.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

We use Bonfyre to keep our remote sales teams connected. It is a great knowledge-sharing tool and has a ton of features to recognize achievement. The data the app generates is incredibly useful for assessing employee engagement.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Quiet” by Susan Cain helped me see that there are many styles, and they can all be effective.

What is your favorite quote?

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” — Peter Drucker

When you go through bad times, it’s culture that keeps the team going. When you look back on the good times, you’ll see that it was the people and the culture that got you there. Strategy is great as a framework — a set of guardrails — but culture gets things done.

Connect:

http://www.clearent.com/
Dan Geraty on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dan-geraty-9569841/

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