Fighting for the right salespeople: London’s independent Zomaron Merchant Services takes on the big payment companies, but experienced sales staff are elusive
Tarique Al Ansari and Joseph Jongsma
credit and debit card processing solutions
16, plus 100 salespeople
$740,000, projecting $5 million for 2012
Pays $500 if it is unable to save a customer money by switching to their services. They haven’t paid a company yet.
The economy was tanking in 2008 when Tarique Al Ansari and Joseph Jongsma joined forces to launch their payment processing business Zomaron Merchant Services.
In a sector they consider recession-proof – “credit card and debit card use goes up every day,” says Jongsma – the business partners believed the country’s dismal fiscal landscape wasn’t an issue.
They were right. Zomaron’s latest two-year revenue growth was an explosive 640 per cent, and they now process millions of transactions, valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, every year.
“Because we run a lean operation and aren’t greedy with our profits, we’re able to charge 10 to 50 per cent less than our competitors,” says Jongsma, who worked as a sales manager at a major independent payment processing company in the late 90s.
But while the pool of prospective customers has proven to be vast and the company’s sales growth is impressive, it’s hindered by one persistent and critical shortcoming: an inability to recruit sufficient seasoned sales talent to exploit seemingly endless opportunities in the marketplace.
Zomaron’s current sales team focuses its efforts on the customers of the industry’s big players – Moneris, Global Payments, TD Merchant Services and others – who, according to Jongsma, have between 85 and 90 per cent of the market. To date, the independent company has enticed thousands of Canadian small and medium enterprises – a variety of retail, restaurant and e-commerce merchants – to make the switch.
Jongsma attributes the company’s success in part to its steadily increasing name recognition – they’re a 2012 Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards Finalist in London, Ontario, and rank 15th on Profit magazine’s latest Profit Hot 50 list.
He’s also quick to praise his salespeople for their efforts, but at the same time, he’s anxious to bolster the team with more experienced pros who can boost revenues even higher.
Currently, about half his salespeople are part-time independent contractors who, Jongsma feels, view their jobs as added income on top of another full-time job. The remainder are full-time contractors earning between $40,000 and $100,000.
An early attempt at a commission compensation approach and later, a base-plus-commission offering, proved unsuccessful at attracting candidates and motivating sales. The current model starts new hires with six weeks of non-paid training and moves them into a relationship with potential to earn base salary, commission and profit share — dependent on their numbers. Salespeople also own up to half their portfolio, even after they leave the company.
Why so generous?
“They brought us the business as a partner,” says Jongsma, “so we think that they should be rewarded.”
Though the profit sharing model is attracting and retaining high calibre sales reps interested in long-term relationships with the company, he admits the unpaid training period is a stumbling block.
“Many people can’t afford to work that long without a paycheque,” he admits.
Like business owners everywhere, Jongsma’s dream sales rep is a quick study superstar with 15-plus years of experience, plenty of connections, and a knowledge of how to push deals ahead.
“What we need are full-time entrepreneurial people who want to determine their own paycheques,” he says.
The current recruiting strategy relies solely on online job ads that are posted simultaneously on Workopolis, CareerBuilder and Monster websites. Jongsma, the company’s sole recruiter, spends about half his time on the task. He’s increased the staff by 30 people this year, up from 15 two years ago and 20 last year.
For every 100 resumes received, Jongsma estimates he interviews 25 candidates and then hires 10 to 15 people. But despite regularly tweaking job postings and adding social media to the mix this year, experienced candidates remain elusive.
Realizing the company needs additional support, Jongsma plans to start searching for a full-time recruiter soon.
Retaining control of every aspect of a business is a classic problem for many entrepreneurs, says Philip C. Wilson, a 30-year talent management expert and vice-chair of the Toronto-based Human Resources Professionals Association.
“A well-informed human resources recruiter can handle all the tedious pre-screening of candidates or manage the entire hiring process,” says Wilson. “Plus, many are highly skilled at seeking out candidates who are not actually looking for work.”
Many young business owners don’t have a lot of experience with the human resources field as employees themselves, he says, so they don’t understand the added value that a recruiter provides.
“Once a company gets to 80 or 100 people, there’s a need to have HR expertise as part of the evolution of the business.”
Zomaron’s founders recognize this, and despite their staffing issues, are anxious to grab more market share.
“The passion and drive to succeed is huge in our company,” says Jongsma. “To achieve greater things, all we need is more great people.”