Monica Eaton-Cardone is an international entrepreneur, speaker, author, and industry thought leader. Her determination to succeed began at an early age, graduating high school at the age of 16 and maintaining two jobs while working towards a college degree in art and architecture. She sold her first business when she was 19 and has continued to showcase her entrepreneurial brilliance, launching several successful business ventures since.
As an online merchant, Monica rejoiced over her ability to break through barriers and grow her business. However, when she was confronted with an unexpected challenge, her business nearly crumbled. While she could envision a simple, dynamic strategy to solve her payment processing issues, the technology didn’t exist. Service providers were not able to supply the solutions she required. Identifying a need, Monica set out to create a solution that would solve the previously unmanageable threat, launching Chargebacks911 in 2011 to offer a first-of-its-kind service.
Today, Monica possesses more than two decades of experience in the eCommerce space as both a merchant and service provider, and is one of the world’s leading experts on payments and consumer disputes. Monica is the Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks911®, a global risk mitigation firm helping online merchants optimize their profitability through chargeback management. Chargebacks911 has more than 350 employees globally, with offices in North America and Europe.
Where did the idea for Chargebacks911 come from?
The idea for Chargebacks911 came about during my time as an eCommerce merchant. I was selling luxury goods and cosmetics, but our credit card chargebacks were becoming such a problem that my business was on the verge of collapse. At the time, there wasn’t an established procedure in place to prevent and fight chargebacks. I knew that if I wanted to save my business, I would need to develop a solution on my own.
I met with risk managers, studied credit card company regulations, and worked my way through a list of customers who had filed chargebacks to understand why. My team and I created over a hundred rules and developed technology that predicted chargebacks and evaluated risk levels.
We saw a rapid decline in our chargeback issuances, and as the word spread, I found myself getting calls from other merchants dealing with the same problem. I realized that there was a real need in the industry for experts who understood chargeback management. I also knew that I wanted to help merchants avoid the same hardships I had experienced, so I created Chargebacks911 to meet that need.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
For me, the trick to staying productive is to avoid complacency. I’m always trying out new ideas, and I make it a priority to keep learning and innovating. My average day tends to be pretty packed between work and keeping up with my family, but I actually enjoy the hectic pace!
How do you bring ideas to life?
Personally, I usually try to first examine the situation from all angles. Once I identify a problem, I sit down and try to work out the best way to resolve it. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of turning my thoughts into actions.
I convince myself that, when I get a new idea, or am trying out a new concept, I simply have to put in the work and do what’s necessary to make it succeed. Naturally, not everything you try will work out. However, you have to approach each situation resolved that you’re going to succeed.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I operate primarily in the payments and fintech space, and I’m really excited by a lot of the innovation I’m seeing in digital payments right now. In response to COVID-19, many businesses have had to transform their operations on the fly, delving head-first into the digital payments space. Online ordering and in-store pickup were once novel ideas, but are now becoming the norm. This could present a lot of new opportunities to deliver services to customers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I honestly enjoy learning and picking up new skills. To me, learning about new topics and keeping up-to-date with new developments in my industry isn’t a chore; it’s something that genuinely fascinates me. As a result, I’m able to identify new opportunities quickly. Or, if I identify a potential problem, I will try examining how to resolve it again and again until I’ve either exhausted every angle, or I find a way to make something work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to make mistakes. One of the biggest problems I had as a young entrepreneur was that I did fear failure a bit. It was something I had to overcome, and the more experience I got, the more I realized that mistakes aren’t the end of the story.
I’ve learned to look at failure as an opportunity to improve and learn how to do better in the future. On that note, it’s very important as a leader that you allow space for others to make mistakes, too, and for them to learn.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that blockchain technology has a bright future in the payments space…but it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with cryptocurrency. Instead, I think it’s only a matter of time before we move from conventional automated clearinghouse (ACH) payments to a blockchain model, as that can help prevent a tremendous amount of fraud and improve efficiency.
A lot of people believe that cryptocurrencies are the best application for this technology, while others don’t believe in the blockchain model at all. I see the truth somewhere in between.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
One thing that’s really helped me is making it a priority to step away from work and disconnect. I can be pretty intense about work, but at the same time, it’s so important that I give myself time to recharge, and to strike that balance between work and life. I think everyone needs to do the same.
One of the ways that I decompress is being outside and spending time with my two girls. When I’m with my family, I try to totally disconnect from my in-office persona.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I think it’s less of a strategy and more of a mindset, but I’d say adaptability.
In this industry, you have to be willing to confront change and react in a way that keeps moving your business forward. For example, a few years ago there was a big shift in the way card networks handled chargebacks. If we hadn’t been willing to adapt, it could easily have caused us to lose a lot of business. Instead, we were able to treat it as an opportunity to adapt our solutions to fit the updates, and rolled out a new product in the process.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In a way, the prospect of failure is what eventually led me to start Chargebacks911. As I saw my chargeback issuances spike, I was in serious jeopardy of seeing my business go under. I wasn’t able to stop the losses, or find anyone who could.
However, I believe that the key difference between failure and success hinges on how you handle setbacks. Do you give in, or innovate to find solutions to problems? In our case, I was able to take failure, turn it around, and leverage it into a successful global business. That’s not to say it was easy, though; the process of learning how to defend against disputes was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. However, it definitely proved to be worthwhile!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There is a lot of inefficiency in payments and finance. Much of this comes from decades of labyrinthine policies and procedures, as well as outdated technologies on which major players in this space rely. You can find tremendous success in this environment if you identify an opportunity in the fintech space to improve efficiency and eliminate some layer of unnecessary redundancy. This is especially true if you can tailor that need to the digital market, which is a fast-growing segment.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Honestly, it was probably taking my kids out to dinner last week! As I mentioned earlier, the time I spend with my family is very important to me. I have a hectic schedule, but when I’m able to spend time with my kids, that’s really the definition of “time well spent.”
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We rely on Asana to enable inter-departmental cooperation at Chargebacks911. It’s a great tool for keeping track of tasks and projects, as well as for ensuring accountability.
Without some kind of project management software, it’s extremely easy for tasks to fall through the cracks and be forgotten. Asana helps our teams stay on top of everything, and also communicate effectively between one another. If something is falling behind, we can look to Asana and identify the bottleneck, or see where the ball was dropped.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My go-to business book is ‘Agile Project Management with Kanban’ by Eric Brechner. This book really helped streamline the way I ran my business, and taught me how to communicate and collaborate on tasks across multiple departments.
Prior to that, we were using a Scrum system, which just wasn’t cutting it for our needs. Adopting Kanban really revolutionized how we structured our departments and managed projects. I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with a growing business and figuring out how to work as a cohesive unit, or even for anyone who’s just looking to get more organized with tracking projects of any kind.
What is your favorite quote?
I have a few, but right now the quote that seems to speak the most to me is by Muhammad Ali: “I hated every minute of training, but I said ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
• Monica Eaton-Cardone shares how she was able to turn an unexpected problem into a new business venture.
• Knowing how to accept failure and learn from mistakes is one of the most important attributes you’ll need to succeed.
• Innovation and adaptability are keys to finding success as an entrepreneur.
• It’s true that you need to throw yourself into your work with passion, but you must also remember to prioritize family and personal time.
• The payments and fintech space is dynamic and fast-moving. There’s tremendous potential for anyone who can create efficiencies and deliver value.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.