Growing Public With Nathan J. Reis

December 27, 2010 | 11:19 AM | People | By Staff

Well, it’s the third fourth Monday of the month. Which means it’s time to talk money (and the joys of money for nothing) with CEO and blogger, Nathan J. Reis. This month: The Ugly Twin

A Guide to Online Dating or Brand Marketing. I’m not really sure …

Wisdom from Jamaica
Just when I thought the only good thing to come out of Jamaica was Usain Bolt, I now have taken to the Jamaican’s to save my dating life and guide me through an investor pitch. Red Stripe Beer has been advertising the path to success for years. To illustrate a grand slam in this marketing concept, watch this video of genius.

Beggars Can’t be Choosers

I’ve spent a lot of time recently doing two things.

1.    Pitching Investors.
2.    Cruising the Internet’s abundant resource of online dating sites.

Each one of these activities, as opposite as they may seem, are very similar in what it takes to succeed. Being successful is somewhat about trial and error. You realize what works, what doesn’t, and depending on your core competencies, you learn what you should never do. I boast that my greatest quality is the number of mistakes I’ve accumulated and overcome in my life. Now, I’m not a habitual loser; eventually, I always end up on top. There simply isn’t a “how-to” manual or treasure map of the path to success in most of life’s meaningful pursuits. If I were much older, I’d say I was wise.  I’m not, so I’ll just stick with the fact that I try to learn and teach others from my mistakes.

I had one of those eye opener’s during an investor pitch last week.While delivering our message, I realized just how many darts we were throwing that weren’t even hitting the board.

The Standard Questions
When opening a set with that loser at the bar, you’re guaranteed to be asked “Do you come here often?”. When speaking to investors, undoubtedly you will be peppered with these:

1.    Who are your competitors?
2.    How much competition is there?
3.    What makes you different than your competition?

I had a typical of entrepreneurial response. We all believe that we are one of a kind. We are inventive, we innovate, we work hard, and we believe we’re more industrious than most of the competition. So when asked these questions I would say: “We are different. Honestly, we don’t have a lot of competition. Entrust Bankcard is the only company that actually covers small business owners chargebacks.” The response, while valid, didn’t really answer my investors’ questions. More important, I wasn’t communicating how bad ass of a company we really have.

With nothing visual to compare to, how do you know something is just that good?

The Credit Card Biz
I am in one of the most competitive marketplaces that exists. Entrust Bankcard markets merchant services, which consists of merchant accounts, gift cards, and credit card machines to small and mid-sized business. Our industry is extremely attractive because of residual income. Every time someone swipes a credit card, we make money. It’s genius.

Naturally, everyone and their mother that discovers the credit card business begins to dream of the holy grail: money for doing nothing. So here they come, wide eyed dreamers pouring into the credit card business ready to realize the American dream singing a Dire Straights hit from 1985 …”Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free … Now that ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it.”

There is a common joke in our office that describes most of our competition’s marketing strategies.

“Yup, those guys are working the MCI Friends and Family Plan … You know, when the guy who was paving driveways last week is now a credit card “expert”, calls his uncle who owns a sandwich shop and his college buddy who has a sporting goods store to race over and sign em’ up …. Got it? The MCI Friends and Family Plan.”

After signing up their first 3 customers, interrupting 8 days of credit card transactions in their friends’ businesses, and looking like a complete idiot because of the complexity of the business, the new found grail seeker say’s, “Man, that really sucked, but it was worth it, here comes the money…”

Approximately 90 days later, the magical residual payday hits.  He jumps on his computer, pops open the long awaited residual report, and sees a whopping $87.32 in his account.  A week later, his buddy switches back to his previous provider because his terminal still isn’t working and his other account has called him 15 times for service issues.  Needless to say, 30 days later, Mom is now back to volunteering at Walmart and the Paving Engineer is back slinging asphalt.

A Statement That Couldn’t be Further From the Truth
“We do things differently …We don’t really have any competition.”

A Lack of Patience is a Virtue
After my 3rd road show pitch, I was frustrated.We were fully prepared. We have been following my Fortune 500 CFO’s agenda for us to cover point by point.  Given the opportunity to talk about my favorite topic, Me, I usually jump at the opportunity to speak.  I’m a energizing speaker.  I’m an entertainer.  I have as much fun if not more than my audience.  However in this case, I took a back seat.  My numbers guy convinced me that “These guys are here to see the numbers.”.  By the end of the third pitch, I was feeling completely exhausted, run down, unfulfilled, and winless. Things weren’t working the way I’m accustomed to.  My potential investors were feeling just as dazed as I was.

We began our 4th pitch, we started down the same song and dance. My CFO nailed to extreme detail the level to which we understand our marketplace, our niche, target customer, and how fundamentally sound of an offering we have. Then, like clockwork, came the three magic questions.

1.    Who are your competitors?
2.    How much competition is there?
3.    What makes you different than your competition?

As my CFO began to dive into more market data, I couldn’t sit still any longer. My lack of patience got the best of me.  I blurted out:

“To better answer your question on competition and what makes me different than the competition, I’ll make it simple. We have tons… We have so much competition it’s crazy. If you are looking for market data, roll with this: Take whatever competition you think exists and multiply it by about 100. As to what makes me different. Entrust Bankcard is just that good. When I say our core competency is sales, I mean we make it rain. You know when you walk into a bar, and there’s that one really hot girl in a sea of mediocrity? Yeah, I’m her…”

I went on to explain how professional our reps look, their 5 weeks of training, the custom software they use to do analysis, etc, etc, etc…. My blood was pumping and the crowd was cheering.  I grabbed their ear and their heads started bobbing like they were in a Snoop Dog video.

My “rap” game in this pressure situation was nothing short of B-Rabbit in the movie 8 Mile. In my prior three meetings, I had taken a back seat my numbers guy.  My impatience reinforced what I knew all along.  Crowds come to the show to see you perform, not to analyze your lyrics.

Shortly after we received a letter of intent from this group not only to invest in the company, but to take our company public.

The Ugly Twin

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with online dating. I’m not sure if you’ve checked out an online dating site recently, but there is more competition in that female made to order catalog than there is on eBay.  I’m a member of a rather exclusive website catering to successful professionals between the ages of 25-40. Yes, believe it or not, real people really do this.  I have met a few women through electronic commerce. While there have been no love connections, I’ve made some good friends and met amazing people that would have otherwise gotten lost in the shuffle at happy hour.

Shortly after seeing how my outburst won over a group of investors hearts, I came across a page of a girl named Katheryn.  She was adorable. Without describing my weaknesses, she met all of my surface criteria. I clicked through to her profile.  Immediately saw three pictures of her and her identical twin sister. Well, almost identical.  Somehow she forgot to mention in her profile that her twin sister was way hotter than she was.

Yes, I admit, I’m shallow.  I didn’t send a message.  Somehow she just didn’t seem that attractive anymore.  Shamefully I thought, “Can I really be the guy who dates the ugly twin?”.  Can you?

Valuing Beauty – The Secret to Entrust Bankcard Success
So what happened to Katheryn? Quick Lesson – Don’t post pictures with your friends on the internet trying to get dates if your friends are that are much better looking than you are. You are more likely to get a message asking if your friend is single than obtaining a new love prospect.

This is the same fundamental mistake I was making with investors in a bit of opposite direction.  No, I didn’t bring a sexier company with me to the pitch, but I hadn’t done anything to make us attractive and sexy. Great numbers are like a girl with a great personality.  Nobody dates the girl with just a great personality. Cavemen want the hot girl. Once past shallow criteria number one, if she happens to have a great personality, then you marry her.

Dating, like sales, is trying to establish a dominance of beauty relative to your competition.  A person, a sale, a touchdown pass, artwork, and even a sunny day, can be perceived as beautiful or ugly depending on an individuals life experiences.   If your target market doesn’t have an experience of true ugly to reference, how could your target market have any idea what they want or how beautiful you really are?

Entrust Bankcard succeeds because we just look that much better than the next guy. Like Apple vs. Dell, our products are basically the same, but you just feel that much better buying from us. Dating and pitching investors in no different. If you are going to sit on the shelf next to your competition, you’d better spend as much time on your personal brand as you do the widget in your business.

Tip: You may want to rethink who your best friend is, or at least who you take photos with.  By the way, I have a new best friend … he’s a little better looking that I’d hoped, but he’s Picasso with Photoshop.

About Nathan J. Reis
Entrepreneur | CEO | Blogger | Rockstar, the once small town Wisconsin native, now Valley Resident, Reis fine tunes his business skills at Harvard Business School with 160 of the world’s leading entrepreneurs. He is quoted as saying, “The business of being in business is what puts most people out of business,” and shares his entertaining experiences through his blog, Growing Public. Become a fan at



  1. Jeff Block
    December 28, 2010 8:42 AM

    Love it! Good work. Hope you had a good Christmas. I was gonna try to get a hold of you because I was pretty sure you were back in PCity. I was there for only a day and a half and didn’t have any free time.

  2. david look
    January 8, 2011 11:10 PM

    I can not possibly express how badly ripped off
    I feel by doing business with Entrust. I truly wish that I never switched from my prior
    merchant company. Entrust has lied about everything from the rates, methods of doing business, equipment, etc. and the Rep. that set us up, has refused to return all my calls to face up to all his lies. TOTAL FRAUD!!!

  3. Victoria Willmy
    February 17, 2011 9:41 PM

    I’m impressed. I’ve worked for several other credit card processors before, but none like entrust. I tell Steve and Mike how much I appreciate my opportunity here. It’s really neat to see that the president is just as good as the company. That’s a vague statement, what I mean with it is: when I come to work I’m excited. I know I work with good, hard working people, at a genuine company with a chance to grow. After finding your blog I can say you’re a solid leader and backbone for our company, and I’m equally as excited about working for you as I am for your company.

  4. Elva
    March 20, 2011 5:28 PM


  5. Duped Business Owner
    July 10, 2011 11:26 AM

    Top down scam….take a look at the CEO’s background proudly boasting being a VP of the “sub prime” division of Lehman Bros…lol!!! And we, the business owners, wonder why were getting ripped off by this company. Revoked BBB status basically tells all. Stay far away from these crooks as they will try anything to steal money from small business owners!!! BEWARE

  6. Jay Miller
    August 11, 2011 10:56 AM

    Sadly, Entrust is yet another scam foisted on hardworking small businesses. Your costs will skyrocket with Entrust. Steer clear or this company and all its sales people. Heed the warnings about this company. This is not a credit card processor in the service business. This is a ripoff. Buyer beware. Sorry to report this.

  7. Paradigm
    February 3, 2012 8:36 PM

    I am currently an employee of this company. Until i randomly decided to do a google search of entrust bankcard I had absolutely no idea what I was working for. I hope something is done about this soon, I feel terrible about what I do now. Business owners beware, but also be informed that only a select few know of entrusts deception

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    December 28, 20101:02 PM

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