Announcing the Evolution to BizzGrizz!

Cornerstone_bug_blueBizzGrizz symbol1_4cFinally, it can be revealed!  The complete transformation of Cornerstone Business Solutions to BizzGrizz!

If you’ve followed my post over the past few years or happen to be dropping by this site for the first time, you’ll notice that there has been little to no new activity here.  That doesn’t mean that my dedication to small businesses has dissipated or that I’ve been taking a long vacation.  The reality is that, my vision became much larger!

The second quarter of 2014, I began to formulate an audacious goal to reach a multitude of business, and reinvent Cornerstone to be more than just another merchant services provider.  Little did I know then, the path that it would take me down and how much would be involved in setting up the framework for this new venture!

If you were to look at my pasts posts, although they were written as Cornerstone Business Solutions, it’s easy to tell that the underlying theme was that it was centered around me.  Whether it was about me being the expert on merchant services, my experience as a Certified Payment Professional, my personal clients or my background with the company.  Essentially, the company was built around my expertise, client/friends and my observations and experiences as a payment card specialist.  Although I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with my desires to share my wealth of knowledge in this field, the fact is, when a company is integrated so much around one individual, then there is little room for anyone else.

So, when I set out on this journey to create something that could grow and provide more value to more businesses, the first epiphany was that I wasn’t going to get there alone.  All great companies have a team with unique strengths that together create something special.  In fact, I’ve been told that the best thing you can do is hire somebody better than yourself.  When I thought about this, many great people came to mind.  But when I asked myself who was the most respected connector, speaker and sales coach that I knew, one name stood out.  Brent Kelly!  Quite honestly, getting somebody of his caliber to join me, seemed initially like a long shot.  However, after months of collaboration, planning and sorting out details, we emerged with a shared vision and became partners in a new venture, BizzGrizz, Your Bear for Small Business!

With Brent’s incredible coaching, marketing, speaking and sales skills and a shared passion for empowering small businesses, we are bringing much more to the table than Cornerstone ever could for the small business community.  We will be the resource for small businesses providing extra value to merchants with innovative solutions, integrating POS payment processing, marketing and training.  Our program will be second to none when it comes to Point of Sale systems, merchant services, marketing programs, business loan funding, loyalty plans and energy services.  In addition to this, Brent Kelly as our CEO, promises to bring more to the small business community by reaching out in a variety of media formats to provide top-notch training and tools for the success of small businesses.  From day one, our shared vision has been to be the best in helping small business maximize revenue and optimize efficiencies leading to greater profits!

A big change with the new shared vision is, we intend to share this growth with a team.  Where before, I insisted on being the sole point of contact and the expert, now I’ll be passing my knowledge along.  With Brent’s great coaching and leadership skills and my in-depth knowledge of providing business services, we’ll look forward to training a team of highly qualified sales representatives that share our core values.

So, as of today, with our official launch party video posted, so begins a new chapter.  I’ll admit a small part of me can’t help but be sentimental about the closing of the door of Cornerstone Card Processing, dba. Cornerstone Business Solutions.  But, knowing that is the next evolution and I’ll be taking friends/clients and all my great experiences with me to the next adventure leaves me nothing but excited about the open door ahead of me!  I sincerely hope you’ll join me and my new team as we begin this new journey, at our new site, www.BizzGrizz.com!

 

 

Humane Society of Central Illinois’ Annual Dinner Auction A Huge Success!

Central Illinois Humane Society Auction Corporate Sponsor, Cornerstone Business SolutionsIn my opinion, one of the greatest benefits of owning a business is the feeling that comes with being able to contribute something back to the community.  A few years ago, my wife, Krista McBeath and I both decided to become corporate sponsors for the Humane Society of Central Illinois.  It was actually our “Christmas presents” to each other and it was an easy decision.  We both have a heart for animals and after touring the location when knew what a great organization and cause it was.

We’ve been very fortunate from the very beginning to meet an incredible woman who is an active board member for the organization, Kathy Schniedwind.  Her passion and commitment to the organization has really been the driving force toward helping my wife and myself get more involved.  I can’t say enough good things about her, just that she’s one of those rare, unbelievable individuals that makes those surrounding her do their best and feel great doing it.  It’s no wonder that she had such a successful career in the ISU athletics department.

Anyway, one of the annual signature fundraising events for the HSCI is the annual charity auction and dinner.   What’s incredible is the efforts and contributions that so many community members give to raise so much to help this charity.  My wife and I personally collected donations from dozens of generous local business owners who contributed to the cause and that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to all those that donated time, money and gifts.

It all came together Saturday night, May 17th at the Double Tree in Bloomington, IL and it was an incredibly magical night.  As corporate sponsors, we were provided a dinner table for ten.  I can’t think of a better event than raising money for a great cause while enjoying a wonderful evening of food and laughter with great friends!

Monday we got the exhilarating news that the fund-raising goal and previous record had been shattered, which was the icing on the cake!  This has left Krista and I are exhilarated and looking forward to becoming even more involved with this great cause.

Ingenico iCT220 Receipt Delay and Time Change An April Fools Joke?

Yesterday it seemed that the universe conspired together to make the day one continuous April Fool’s day joke upon me.

It began in the morning while looking out my front door to watch in disbelief as a large backhoe tractor rolled right onto my soggy front yard in front of my very eyes!  In shock, I screamed for my wife to come get the baby as I ran barefooted onto the lawn, wide eyed and arms waving in a valiant effort to save my lawn from the ravaging effects of this heavy moving equipment!  Ironically, I found that he didn’t have the wrong house, but he was there as a result of me hiring a guy to fix a fence and repair a few minor ruts left from a previous landscaper.

The day continued much like this with the coupe de grace occurring during a simple task before bed.  I’m about 6 months behind schedule on changing my furnace filter and my wife reminded me once again.  Now, as you know, this isn’t such a big deal. 30 second job, right?  The biggest issue is just buying one that fits.  Viola!  I looked and I actually had a brand new one in the furnace room, so my troubles were over, right?  Wrong.  Forty-five minutes later, I emerged from the basement, grasping a mangled, dirty, used filter in bleeding fingers, covered in dust and sweat.  Somehow the dang old filter had become wedged in the furnace and stuck.

Along the way, my curse even seemed to touch down on my one of my clients, but it was a learning experience that I can share.  Signature Card Services and Cornerstone Business Solutions is now offering EMV compliant state of the art credit card terminals under a free terminal program for its clients.  Just this week, we upgraded one of our clients for free and helped them take advantage of speedier and more consistent high speed internet transactions as well.  These Ingenico iCT220 terminals are still fairly new to me.  And of course, as a result I got a call with two issues that happened yesterday that are easy fixes in the future.

The first issue was that the terminal automatically batched out at 2 O’clock.  That’s 2pm in the afternoon.  It was set to autobatch at 2am but the time in the terminal was off by 12 hours and needed to be reset to the correct time.

Instructions for setting the time and date for the Ingenico iCT220 are:

1.         Press F (function) key

2.         Put in the Password 1234567 F (function) key and then Enter

3.         Press Enter on TELIUM Manager

4.         Press 3 for Initialization

5.         Press Enter for 1 parameters

6.         Press Enter for Date/Time

The other issue that he was having that is common with the factory settings on the Ingenico iCT220 is that the customer receipt was printing too quickly before the merchant could decline or pull off the first receipt.  We needed to increase the amount of time before the default of automatically printing the second receipt.  That was also a very easy fix.

The steps for updating the RECEIPT DELAY are:

1.         Press the # button

2.         Select SETUP

3.         Select RECEIPTS

4.         Select RECEIPT OPTIONS

5.         Select RCPTDELAY

6.         Input the seconds you want the customer copy prompt to be delayed (max 99 seconds)

With those two quick fixes, my client was happy with his improved terminal and I was able to gain some knowledge to pass on to my other clients and for all my troubles, maybe at least my April Fool’s Day curse can offer some entertainment for others!

Robert McBeath is a Certified Payment Professional and President of Cornerstone Business Solutions.  Robert has extensive experience offering merchant services and cash advances to business owners. Visit www.CornerstoneBusinessSolutions.net or call him at 888.979.4731.

 

 

State Bank of Speer’s Jay Glatz on Relationship Banking

 

For over a decade,  State Bank of Speer has entrusted Cornerstone Business Solutions in referring their business customers for merchant services solutions.  But if first impressions are everything, I’m not sure they would have chosen us based upon our first meeting!

I remember the meeting like it was yesterday.  As a much younger and enthusiastic bank card representative, I rode along with my partner for our first meeting with this expanding, well established bank.  All along the way, I drank coffee (a lot of coffee) and became more and more excited about the meeting.  I had over an hour to think of everything I had to say.  We arrived and were escorted to the board room where we were seated with bank President, Mike Stahl and Jay Glatz as well as a few others.  So of course, nearly exploding with excitement, we had barely finished shaking hand and sitting down when I burst into a torrent of my sales presentation at about 120 mph!  For the nearly 5 minutes (for a 30 minute presentation) that I could rapid fire talk without taking a breath, they all just sat there wide-eyed, gripping the arms of their chair in astonishment!  I was completely oblivious, until I finally took a breath and Mike made a hilarious comment about it that broke the ice for everyone.

I learned a valuable lesson that day that business isn’t about fancy, fast talking presentations, but it’s about people, and relationships.  I’m grateful that Mike and Jay took the time to get to know me as a person and gave Cornerstone the opportunity to serve their clients.  I’ve always felt an extra special commitment to serving their customers as I’ve learned that they have very high standards for customer service.  Their customers are more often than not, friends of the business.  It’s a philosophy I’ve seen and adopted myself.

Jay Glatz , Vice President of Marketing,  particularly embodies that core trait and I’m proud to call him a friend now as well.  I hope you appreciate this few minutes of him I’ve captured on video.  You may also notice, I’ve learned to actually listen occasionally and I also kept it to one small cup of coffee for this interview!

Robert McBeath is a Certified Payment Professional and President of Cornerstone Business Solutions.  Robert has extensive experience offering merchant services and cash advances to business owners. Visit www.CornerstoneBusinessSolutions.net or call him at 888.979.4731.

Could Square’s Customer Service Issues Affect Their Future?

Phone SwipedSquare has been great for helping micro merchants accept credit cards and has had a largely positive impact on the merchant services industry.  However, their much maligned customer service issues seem to really be catching up to them just as they are gearing up for an IPO.  I thought this recent article with the details that was in the LA Times was important enough to share.  You can read all about it here.

I personally think they have a great concept that is great for very small business owners to accept credit cards.  These are businesses in the past that would have found accepting credit cards cost prohibitive if they were to only take an occasional card.  However, it’s important to service your clients, no matter what size they are.  I personally think that Square will listen to their customers and start providing a service, or suffer the consequences.

For customers that want the convenience of mobile card acceptance at a better rate, with actual live customer service, there are choices available.  I personally recommend Phone Swipe.  For more information, go to www.myfreeswiper.com .

 

Robert McBeath is a Certified Payment Professional and President of Cornerstone Business Solutions.  Robert has extensive experience offering merchant services and cash advances to business owners. Visit www.CornerstoneBusinessSolutions.net or call him at 888.979.4731.

Automotion’s Russell Herman: Auto Repair and Earning Customer Loyalty

Automotion is not only a valuable customer, but owner Russell Herman has also been a major influence on Cornerstone Business Solution’s Gift and Loyalty card program offerings.  Russell started as a Cornerstone Business Solutions credit card processing client.  Shortly after, I became a loyal customer of his as well.  Not too long into our relationship, he began asking me about specific loyalty programs and with his direction, I’ve been able to provide some unique loyalty solutions.

What I love about Russell, is although he is incredibly skilled as a mechanic, he’s just as talented at marketing, building a business and customer relationships.  I’ve learned so much about the value of long-term customer loyalty from him, and how programs can be implemented to foster life long customer relationships.  I’m always grateful when he takes the time to share with me, particularly on how other retailers can utilize my loyalty programs.  On this day, I was particularly excited that he allowed me to capture him on film as he shares for everyone his customer philosophy.

Business owners will learn a little bit from this interview on an effective use of a loyalty program that keeps customers coming back.  Everyone else will appreciate his tips on choosing an auto mechanic, as well as his story about the craziest thing he’s ever seen in the business, as well as my own personal confession.

Robert McBeath is a Certified Payment Professional and President of Cornerstone Business Solutions.  Robert has extensive experience offering merchant services and cash advances to business owners. Visit www.CornerstoneBusinessSolutions.net or call him at 888.979.4731.

McLean County Chamber of Commerce President, Charlie Moore

Cornerstone Business Solutions has a long history of participation in the McLean County Chamber of Commerce and I’ve written past articles about the impact the organization has made upon my business.  So needless to say, the MCC is much more than a merchant services client to me, but a big part of my company’s success.

I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to interview the face of the MCC, Charlie Moore.  He’s just celebrated five years in his role as the President and CEO of the organization.  It’s been incredible the advances the organization has had in that time, with Charlie at the helm.  After spending this time with him, I realized that his intelligence and gift for eloquent communication is only surpassed by his passion for the business community here in central Illinois.  I was literally overwhelmed by these traits.  However bad my camera, editing and interviewing skills were represented, I believe his message and delivery are extraordinary in the contrast.

I particularly enjoyed hearing about Charlie’s successful path to the MCC as well as the organization’s strategic mission:  To support our members, the Mclean County Chamber of Commerce promotes local commerce, advocates business perspectives, creates relevant programs and establishes relationships for business success.

The time I spent with Charlie certainly renewed my own passion for the organization and I’m looking forward to finding ways more ways to contribute so I can get a closer view of where he leads this great organization in the future!

Robert McBeath is a Certified Payment Professional and President of Cornerstone Business Solutions.  Robert has extensive experience offering merchant services and cash advances to business owners. Visit www.CornerstoneBusinessSolutions.net or call him at 888.979.4731.

 

What Orbitz Taught Me About Customer Appreciation

Orbitz Customer ServiceSunday night I find myself on the phone and my mind begins to wander.  I have that luxury, because I’m on hold, listening repeatedly to a message that tells me how much my business is appreciated.  At this point, I’m in an apathetic state, so I’m resignedly thinking that if Orbitz really wanted to keep me as a customer, they would treat me much better.  See, I’d already spent an hour and a half of repeating a process most have been through.  It’s the loop that starts with dialing the number and listening to a message and selecting an option.  Then, you listen to another message, and wait to find the option that sounds the best fit.  Kindly, they allow you to say which option you prefer with a recorded message, but somehow the automated systems never seem to understand my version of English.  Not surprising considering when I actually am able to get ahold of a live person, I usually have difficulty understanding their version of English.

So after being routed through many different options and giving my name to a recording, I’m put on hold to talk to a live person.  Ten minutes later my ‘english speaking’ customer service person picks up, asks me to verify a dozen questions to ensure that I’m not an imposter.  (Apparently there must be an abundance of people that love frustration and have a lot of free time to pretend to be other people and book flights for them).  So, after verifying the middle name of my great grandfather’s milk maid, I’m cleared to actually talk to the department that can help me with my issue.  So, I’m put on hold and (pretend) transferred.  After 20 minutes of waiting and listening to how great they are and how much they like my business, I’m abruptly disconnected.  At this point, I find it ironic that they also had the recording repeatedly inform me that “To ensure superior service, this call may be recorded for quality control and training purposes.”  I’m almost certain that some sick employees go out of their way to get the customers fired up so they have entertaining recorded calls to listen to in the break room!  This entire process was repeated.  Twice!  The third time, I get wise and before being ‘transferred’ and subsequently disconnected, I request the number I’m being transferred to.

I call that department directly and after only 15 minutes I get ahold of an indifferent agent.  The good news is that I’ve resigned myself that Orbitz is going to be absolutely no help, so I’m no longer even angry.  I’m like a comatose zombie through their questioning process that ultimately leads the agent to tell me that I will not be receiving any credit at all for two round trip tickets that I was forced to cancel.  Using Orbitz was a $500 mistake that also cost me several hours of my time.

However, it was a good lesson for me and made me realize again why I go to the lengths I do for my customers.  A perfect contrast was the service opportunity I had earlier that morning.  I woke up at 7am and while having coffee before getting ready for church, I scanned my email, including my work email.  I had a frantic email that was sent by a customer late on Saturday night.  She had an urgent request to help out beyond what she felt my 24/7 customer service could do, so that she could ensure her terminal was operational for her busiest time of the week, Sunday brunch.  Immediately I was on the phone with her and had the issue resolved to the best of my ability before 8am on Sunday.  Although, I can’t do much about weather and phone lines, the fact that she knew she could count on me to call her on a Sunday morning and do everything I could for her tells her how much I appreciate her business.  Actions speak so much louder than words.

So I thank you, Orbitz, for reminding me why I go above and beyond expectations in servicing my customers.  They know they can count on me and that’s how I let them know they mean so much to me!  One of the most gratifying parts of my job is when my customers thank me.  I cherish the reviews my customers have written about me and you can see them right here.

Please post below if you have a story of your own about a company that has shown (or not shown) how much they appreciate your business.

Robert McBeath is a Certified Payment Professional and President of Cornerstone Business Solutions.  He has extensive experience offering merchant services and cash advances to business owners. Visit www.CornerstoneBusinessSolutions.net or call him at 888.979.4731.

Merchant Services Advice From Industry Expert Bill Pirtle

This is part 2 of my phone interview with  Bill Pirtle , author of Navigating Through the Risks of Credit Card Processing.  Part 1 can be found easily by clicking here.  I appreciated the chance to heard directly from a foremost industry author and trainer, his thoughts on the Certified Payment Professional (CPP) program.  I believe listeners will appreciate his top three pieces of advice in choosing a merchant services provider and I’m certain everyone will enjoy a laugh at his entertaining stories of his personal experiences.

I appreciated him taking the time to share with me for this interview and I always enjoy the camaraderie.   I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where the future takes him!

Cornerstone Providing Merchant Services in Bloomington IL, from 2000 into the Future!

Cornerstone Business Solutions Ushers in New Payment SolutionsI began detailing my history in the evolution of merchant services in Bloomington Normal Illinois in a previous post.  Credit card processing was definitely a mature market in central Illinois when we opened our business, Cornerstone Card Processing, Inc. in March of 2000, on the corner of Empire and Towanda avenue in Bloomington, IL.  As the owner of the growing business, most of my time was spent in hiring, training, business management as well as networking events.  My role as a sales consultant had certainly changed, as I went from spending my days cold calling and doing presentations to interacting with merchants only on a referral basis.

At that time, one of the market trends having an impact was the growing popularity of debit cards.  Debit cards allowed access to customer funds only with the use of a Personal Identification Number (PIN).  Early versions were used primarily for ATMs, and had no Visa/MasterCard logos.  When a PIN key pad was added to a credit card terminal, merchants could accept these cards.  This enabled another payment option for the customer and had a side benefit of making less expensive transactions for the merchant.  Debit network fees were always less than Visa/MasterCard interchange fees until the Durbin Amendment.  When these check cards started working through the visa/mastercard network, the PIN and keypad was no longer required.  However, it was still functional and a savings to merchants when actually used, but most customers opted to ‘skip the pin’ out of convenience.  In just a few years we saw credit card usage soar in Bloomington IL.  Customers seldom carried checks anymore and the volume of offline (no PIN) credit card transactions grew until in 2008, check card transactions surpassed credit card transactions.

Prairie_Commercial_Park_BuildingThey say hindsight is 20/20 and I wish I’d foreseen the impact that the internet would have on the merchant services industry in central Illinois.  Our business continued to grow and in 2003, purchasing a building just east of Bloomington seemed like it would be great idea to house more staff and sales people to serve the local market.  What actually happened was my sales people had a more and more difficult time leasing terminals in the global market created by the internet.  Unfortunately, they usually didn’t have the relationships I had and couldn’t compete on price alone.  We found ourselves with huge overhead due to our commitment to local service and the leasing of terminals was an issue.  We hadn’t transitioned with the market and were less competitive.  The customer base no longer seemed to care that my cold calling representatives were local.  Furthermore, I missed the hands on relationships I had when I was a sales representative.

The solution was a complete overhaul of Cornerstone Card Processing, Inc., that allowed me the interaction I craved with my clients and a more competitive pricing model.  By eliminating Cornerstone’s local staff and moving out of the large building we drastically cut the expenses and were able to be competitive with any credit card processing company anywhere in the country.  Cornerstone was able to still maintain an incredible customer satisfaction level by outsourcing much of the administrative duties to our processing partners.  I also found that when I was personally responsible for the sales and the local customer service, there were far less issues.   I was also happy to get rid of leasing entirely and was able to deliver even more value to my payment card services clients by giving them terminals to use and waiving all start up costs. As for the sales staff, instead of spending endless hours recruiting, training and managing, I was able to jump back into that role I loved.  I found that I had much more time to know my customers and the referrals came pouring in.  Profits doubled within the first year under this new model.

As a result of the new nationally competitive rates, Cornerstone began getting more referrals for those wanting our merchant service from outside of Bloomington/Normal IL.  With new technology available, it was no longer imperative that business be done in person.  However, due to the relationships that I’ve built over the past 17 years in credit card processing, I still get many referrals from the local area and it’s still fun to get out and shake hands in person.

Cornerstone Business Solutions in NormalIn 2010, Cornerstone Card Processing, Inc. changed to it’s current location on Landmark Drive in Normal, IL.  At the same time, the dba Cornerstone Business Solution began being used to better reflect further changes in the industry.  Merchant payment processing is now more about overall solutions than just accepting credit cards.  We are now seeing more businesses looking at POS Solutions, Virtual Terminals, e-commerce solutions and mobile solutions.  We are also providers of gift card, loyalty card, check guarantee and even working capital with Merchant Cash Advance options.  The cross over into marketing has even graduated into the collection of customer data analytics that gives merchants more information than ever before on their customers.   And more than ever, a good payment professional is going to act as a consultant, especially with the impact that PCI Compliance and the Visa MasterCard Interchange Settlement have on merchants.

Moving into the future, we are seeing more changes than ever where mobile payments and Near Frequency Communication (NFC) are quickly changing the landscape of payments.  We’re also seeing more big players than ever breaking into this industry.  Some of the big names at a recent Money2020 show were Google, Amazon and Apple that are set on revolutionizing the next generation of payments.  It’s certain this evolution of payment solutions will be unlike any we’ve seen before.  Some of these changes will soon be seen in Bloomington, IL.  Next week, I’ll be upgrading a local long time client to a Euro MasterCard Visa (EMV) capable terminal for processing merchant services at J. Considine’s Hair Salon.  I’m looking forward to helping them and the rest of Bloomington usher in this new age of merchant payment processing, whatever it brings!

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