[quote style=”boxed”]Do not ask someone to do something that you have not done yourself. If you are not willing to invest “your own” time and effort, you should not ask someone else to do so either.[/quote]
Nasir Shakouri is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Encore Payments. With a background in finance combined with over 10 years in the merchant acquiring industry, Mr. Shakouri has extensive experience in both ISO and merchant portfolio acquisitions, as well as broad industry management and finance expertise. Prior to starting Encore Payments, Mr. Shakouri served as an Auditor at Arthur Anderson and Ernst & Young. He holds a B.S. in Accounting & Finance from California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, CA. Mr. Shakouri is a member of the Electronic Transactions Association & the Western States Acquirers Association.
What are you working on right now?
I am in the process of launching my new venture, Encore Payments. We are a provider of merchant payment processing services. We deliver credit and debit card based payment processing solutions for small to mid-size merchants who operate either in a physical business environment, over the Internet, or wireless settings.
Where did the idea for Encore Payments come from?
I have been in the payment processing business for over 10 years and it was always a vision of mine to build an organization of my own. So what better business than the one I have been involved in for the majority of my professional career.
How do you make money?
Encore’s revenues are generated from the electronic processing of credit and debit card transactions that are authorized and settled through third party systems. Fees are charged to merchants for these processing services that range from 2 to 3 percentage points of the dollar amounts of each transaction as well as a transaction fee which typically range from 10 to 25 cents per transaction. So, it is a low margin, high volume business model.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day requires me to communicate to our existing and future prospective customers. In order to properly execute our strategy, I spend lots of time seeking strategic acquisition opportunities. These types of meetings require lots of traveling and lots of time on the phone. On average, I go through two iPhone batteries per day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As with many other industries, the payment processing industry is a relationship driven business. The objective is to effectively and efficiently build a quality portfolio of merchant accounts. The only way I know how to bring that idea to life is to properly service and care for the individuals (employees) as well as the independent agents and merchants that will help me achieve that goal. The key is to properly communicate and incentivize your resources and to understand their goals in order to provide them with the proper tools for their success, which in return will result in your success.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The payment processing industry is a high growth industry that provides an essential service to the economy, enabling merchants to accept electronic payments. Since 2006, the transaction volume of credit and debit cards has grown from approximately $2 trillion to $4 trillion in 2012, a 14% compounded annual growth rate. Many experts believe that trend is expected to continue during the next several years. This trend further supports the future predictability of our company’s cash flows.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I have learned something useful from each one of my experiences. My resume is fairly simple. I started my professional career at an early age by washing my neighbor’s cars for $5.00, which was a good amount of money in 1986 when I was 9 years old. I remember a scoop of ice cream at Clark’s Drugs only cost $0.30 cents. I had a partner (my older brother) and as the CFO of the car wash business, I was responsible for distributing the profits. (that was lesson 1).
Initially I compared washing 1 car to 3 scoops of ice cream, leaving about 6 quarters for the arcade. So extrapolating that model over 8 or so cars in a given weekend during the summer months, resulted in a happy kid! What I forgot to consider was the “costs” associated to running a car wash business, such as supplies. So the definition of “Cost of Sales” was introduced to me at an early age. Which lead to my 2nd lesson: You cannot spend the amount of your Sales Revenue, it should be netted against your costs. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about taxes back then.
Whether it was washing cars, having a paper route in my neighborhood, working at the ice cream shop, being hired at one of the top 5 largest accounting firms in the world and later an executive of a billion dollar organization, the constant at each stop was that I loved what I did and I loved the people I worked with. I have met the most amazing people during my professional career, and I have learned something from each one of them, and I feel blessed for that.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I love where I am in my life, so I would not change a thing. From a personal and professional standpoint, I believe everything happens for a reason and although one may not like the outcome of an event in that particular moment, the answers will come in the future. You have to remain patient.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
In my opinion, it is most important to be honest, stay humble and to believe in your vision. Do not ask someone to do something that you have not done yourself. If you are not willing to invest “your own” time and effort, you should not ask someone else to do so either.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Encore is my first venture as an entrepreneur. What I am attempting to repeat (with Encore) are similar accomplishments that I was privileged to be a part of during the past 10 years. We had an incredible team and I am attempting to provide an Encore performance with my new venture. In regards to failures, as I have in the past, I am certain that I will have many failures in the future, but one thing is for sure, I will continue moving forward.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
That is a tough question. There are many things that I would like to change, but the implementation would be quite challenging given the different beliefs, cultures and social classes. So I will offer free education. The requirement would be to maintain a B average.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I am probably the only person in the world with a Facebook account and only 1 friend, and that friend is my wife. So all you people who have asked me to be your friend, I have seen your requests, but my Facebook account is reserved for my one and only love!
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I am a big google fan, so:
- a href=”http://google.com” target=”_blank”> Google.com: I can get the answer to any question.
- Google Drive: It is the most efficient online tool for a business. It allows access to all your tools (contracts, documents, reports, etc) regardless of where you are.
- Last but not least, the website www.encorepayments.com
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
For the Entrepreneur, I would suggest Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It is filled with lessons about innovation. One could argue that his passion for perfection and his “put nothing off limits” mentality is going a bit overboard. However, the fact is that he was a visionary that changed the way we live our lives today and for many years to come. One particular quote of his that I admire is the following:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”
Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech, June 2005
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Today. My son (our first unborn) who is expected to join us in this world in less than one month, manages to kick and punch his mother every chance he gets, causing her to yell “ouch” out loud several times throughout the day, and although I shouldn’t laugh out loud, I cannot control it. I will get in trouble for this answer.
Who is your hero?
I have two. My Father and my Mother. I can never repay them for what they have done for my brother and I. I can only learn from it and hope to pass it on to my children.
What is the timing of the launch of Encore and why do you think you will be successful?
We are in the process of evaluating a few partnerships now. I expect to execute on those opportunities by mid 2013. The main factor that will lead to our success is the management team that we have assembled. All members of our team bring a unique talent and skill to the plate. Most importantly, we all have similar visions not only with the execution of our business strategies but in our day to day lives as well. In a nutshell, our priorities in life are in line with one another.
What has been the greatest blessing in your life?
Meeting my wife that I love and respect so much as well as starting a family together are the two most amazing experiences of my life, and I feel blessed for that.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.