Hawthorne Search Adds Merchant Service Effort

For the past year Hawthorne Executive Search (HES) has been working with Century Payments, the excusive credit processing/merchant services provider in the United States for Royal Bank of Scotland to help them grow and develop their sales teams.  Century Payments has been backed by leading venture capital group Austin Ventures, and offers its customers credit card processing, gift cards, loyalty marketing programs and electronic check verification.  Initially HES has been working with Century to help them build a nationwide sales organization that will service the local SMB marketplace.

Now in the latest twist, Hawthorne Executive Search has just announced it will build and manage its own team of sales professionals as a “sub-ISO” to Century.  This new effort will allow then to sell the same services directly to the SME marketplace, and for the Yellow Page industry, to be able to work directly with publishers and local search providers that use these core  services in their business to receive payments and deposits.

We asked Robert Hawthorne, the President of HES to provide additional insight into this new effort.


YPT:  What caused you to expand your offerings beyond just recruiting?

Hawthorne:  It was really more of a natural extension of what we have been doing for our clients that it might appear.

For years we have worked with clients to help them find the best sales and marketing professionals for their team.  This new effort allows us to offer our clients an additional level of services directly, one that should help them obtain some of the lowest rates in the industry on credit card processing.  In this tough economy, why wouldn’t any company want to save some money.

Just as our publisher clients are moving to be true multi-media consultants, we are evolving our efforts to be a full service business consultant to our clients, offering a wider range of services such as credit processing, in addition to our core consulting and recruiting efforts.  We have already been working with several CMRs as consultants, helping them sell or buy other accounts.

YPT:  What does this mean for the Yellow Pages community?

Hawthorne:  Three things.

1)    We can save every company in this industry money on their current credit card processing rates. Even if they don’t switch to RBS, we can show them things they can do that will reduce their monthly processing costs.

2)    If a publisher doesn’t want to market these services directly to their client base themselves, we are willing to pay up to a $250.00 bonus to both publishers and reps just for referring us to a client that we are able to close.  For just an introduction, we are willing to pay a bonus on any deal we close.

3)    For reps who are looking for a different career path, we are hiring in all markets.

YPT:  But doesn’t this effort conflict with the recruiting services you currently offer your publisher clients?

Hawthorne:  No at all.  Publishers have several options.  We will be reaching out to each publisher to see if they are interested in marketing these services directly to SME’s using their existing sales team.  These SME businesses are already paying tremendous fees to payment processing companies, and Century offers typically a 10-20% reduction in those fees, as well as a more personalized customer service experience than the larger banks provide, along with a unique suite of features includes gift cards, loyalty marketing and anything the local merchant needs financially at point of sale.

In exchange for a 60 second “oh by the way” type introduction at the end of the sales call, the merchant would be given a unique call in number to reach a Hawthorne sales associate.  We would follow up with that business to close them.  Century has historically maintained a 65% plus conversion rate on all warm leads of this type.  If a rep hasn’t been able to make any progress with a non-advertiser on any of the services they are offering, by offering lower costs credit processing services to the SME, at least they have a chance to start a relationship which could prosper from there.

A second part of that dialog with publishers but equally important, is specific to their own corporate processing.  They too could realize the same cost reduction for their credit process services as well.   We have one good sized CMR that is looking at a cost savings of nearly $100,000 a year in their processing costs by changing.

YPT:  Is Hawthorne Search still recruiting directory professionals then?

Hawthorne: Absolutely!  These are separately staffed efforts.  Ken Clark continues to work with publishers recruiting reps and managers in markets across the country, and was just on a panel regarding the changes we see in rep recruiting at this weeks ADP conference.  Having working in the industry for 20+ years before moving into recruiting, Ken can be a real resource for clients no matter whether its recruiting for them, working with them on compensation studies, helping them with better interviewing techniques, and other consultative type reviews.

Jenny Ciappa continues to be very active in the National Channel in both recruiting and in working with those CMRs looking to sell or acquire other agencies.  When you have someone with Jenny’s background and knowledge of the National channel, she is able to quickly identify candidates that will work for each clients unique culture, or even just provide some coaching on how to improve their operations.

Each of us have worked with various industry suppliers on everything from sales talent to CFO’s over the last year.   Again, out teams actual working knowledge of the industry is a huge advantage for our clients.  They don’t have to explain their business to us – we already get it.

While there is no doubt that this has been an economically challenging year for everyone, we are noticing a definite uptick in hiring activities.  We’ve also been asked to review staff and compensation levels for clients that just want another set of eyes looking at their business.

YPT:  What are the similarities in the reps you are managing and the directory reps you recruit?

Hawthorne:  First let me be very clear that we do NOT proactively recruit people out of existing clients.  We never have and never will.

But if someone is already looking to make a move and has posted on a public job board, or has sent us a resume in confidence, then clearly it’s just a matter of time before they will be making a move anyway.

For those people we are adding to our merchant services team, we look for many of the same things our publisher clients look for:

1) smart people – people who can think on their feet, assess the situation and bring solutions that will help a SMB

2) hard workers – there are no layups in the merchant services business

3) people who are money motivated

4) people with high ethical standards.

If you can get those 4 criteria, you will likely hit a home run in sales in this industry.

About Hawthorne Executive Search

Hawthorne Executive Search, is a full service executive search and consultancy with a focus on the advertising, publishing and media industries. With decades of experience, Hawthorne Executive Search is an executive search and management firm that has assisted companies of all sizes in the recruitment and selection of top talent across North America and beyond. Every assignment managed by our firm includes the involvement of an experienced principal to help our clients build high performance management teams.

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