Brent Rose Transcript

Clint Betts

Today, I talked to Brent Rose, the CEO of EPSG. He's had this position since 2023, but he's been in the industry for over 30 years. He played college football. We had an interesting discussion about how artificial intelligence is affecting his industry. We had an interesting discussion about who helped him get to where he is today, his routines and habits, and how he decided to spend his time as a CEO. I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you do, too. Here is Brent Rose, CEO of EPSG. Brent, thanks so much for coming on. Tell us about EPSG and how you got to where you are today.

Brent Rose

Sure, absolutely. So, first of all, thank you for having me today, Clint. Looking forward to joining you on the call. So EPSG company, we're based out of Long Island, Melville, New York, with offices kind of throughout the US. EPSG is actually in the process; what we do is move money from transactions. So if you shop with a credit card online, in-store, at a restaurant, at whatever events, whether it be pop-up events and so forth, we move the money through from the customer through the interchange process and then actually settle the funds back to the business owner and the business. And with it, trying to simplify it as much as I can because there's a lot of technology that gets involved through the process, but we authorize that the transaction is good. We measure it for risk, compliance, and so forth before we settle funds. Then, we watch the merchant's account to make sure that everything is in accordance and the risk is associated with the transaction and matches up accordingly and continue to monitor those transactions in the merchant account on a daily basis from the time that they join EPSG. And hopefully, they have a long life with us as a company. We manage our accounts well, and that's very simple. We kind of move the money from the consumer to the business owner.

Clint Betts

How did you get engaged in this particular industry?

Brent Rose

Well, it's a long story. I think we all have stories of how we got to where we're at. If I go back, probably 30-plus years ago, I had the opportunity to play football in college and, along the way, met some friends who were involved in the early days of electronic draft capture. If we remember the way, way back, we used to have the imprint slips, and those would go to the bank, and then the bank would fund the merchant, and you'd look up the numbers in a book. It also started to evolve into electronic draft capture for merchants so that merchants could get paid faster. The authorization could be done in somewhat real-time, and we started installing these little boxes for merchants 30-plus years ago, which looked like calculators and so forth. Along the way, you start to realize that every time a transaction occurs, someone's making a little bit of money to handle the risk and settlement, and so forth. And I understood that there's a little bit of residual income, a few cents of the transaction, and so forth that someone shares, whether it be the card issuing bank, the merchant settlement bank, or the processor as we do. Then, the sales partner that facilitates those relationships shares a small percentage of it. So it's really about the residual income, and this is how a lot of our sales partners, people I've worked with, and companies I've led throughout my career have built sustainable income and financial freedom for themselves. And so, I spent a good part of my career, probably three decades, if you will, in this business in multiple different roles. I started my own companies, ran other companies, and learned a lot along the way. Now, the focus is on technology, infrastructure, and security around all the transactions. So, it becomes more in-depth and more complicated. EPSG, the co-founders, we've known each other 27, 28 years, and we tried to work together a couple of times along the way, and the timing just worked out well. I had left my former company a little time away, and they asked me to join them. I looked at the opportunity that they built, and EPSG is entering our 18th year of business. So they were focused on building the last stop for a lot of our sales partners to come join us, and they've done business ethically. I'm just a farm kid, if you will, from the Midwest that still has values and so forth, and I think that's what's sustained in my career. They were measuring up to the same ethics, integrity, transparency, and so forth, so it was a perfect fit. So, I joined EPSG just a little bit a year ago, and now we're focused on rebuilding the infrastructure and setting up for sustainable growth.

Clint Betts

We talk a lot about self-leadership at CEO.com And what it means to lead oneself in everything that that entails. What does that mean to you, and how do you implement it in your daily life?

Brent Rose

Very simple. I think leading by example, which a lot of people say, but I think your personal, your business life, your faith life, if you will, have to kind of be in unison. And if you do those things consistently, if you have a daily routine that you kind of follow, that starts your day, finishes your day, I try to learn a lot from the mistakes I've made, mistakes that I've made in leadership roles, and so forth. And I think over time, being patient a little bit, sometimes companies are so focused on where are we going to grow tomorrow that sometimes you have to take a step back and say, "Okay, where have we been and how do we want to get there?" I kind of back into it. And I guess my colleagues around the industry and the people that I've worked with before, I've become very methodical about it and very consistent with it. And sometimes that's even hampered our growth a little bit, but I'm really focused on building an infrastructure where not only myself but the leaders that I work with that I've brought in to manage the different components of the day-to-day business, they all have the same mindset, that we're kind of all rolling in the right direction. We have regular checkups to make sure that we're meeting the needs of not only our sales partners but our merchant clients. It stays consistent, and we have a path that we're growing to follow.

Clint Betts

What does a typical day look like for you?

Brent Rose

Again, cadence and routine are really important to me. Start every day fairly early. My natural alarm clock is generally about 4:45, five o'clock in the morning. I do my morning walk, I check some of the emails I had from late in the day. You have some news outlets and some things that I look at on a daily basis. And then, from that point on, it's usually a check-in with a couple of departments, whether it be our sales leadership team or our operations team. Usually, something pegged from that happened the day before, the week before, and getting an understanding of whether we are meeting the needs and challenges of our sales partners and our merchants, which I put together. They're all kind of working together to achieve the common goal. From there, it becomes a little bit more nimble. Every day is a little bit different after that. There are different challenges that we face, and going through that and making sure that we have the support from our leadership that things are being handled. The typical end of the day would be a late afternoon walk and just recap the day and then start to re-forecast for the next day, but it's a pretty consistent cadence from start to finish. There are some gaps in between that; again, you just have to be agile and nimble, too.

Clint Betts

Another interesting challenge as CEO is deciding where to spend your time because there are so many different areas of the business that you could be focused on, be looking at, be trying to figure out, and even want to spend. Maybe you're way big into a product, or you're way big into sales or anything like that, but as CEO, you got to look at the whole business and decide, hey, what's the best use of my time? How do you make that decision of how to spend your time?

Brent Rose

Again, I think it goes to the basic cadence. There are certain calls that I have every day that kind of measure where I need to be more impactful or maybe provide a little bit more support and so forth. I've been on the operational side, the leadership side, and the sales side. For a long time I sold merchant accounts. I was that last leg, that connection between the merchant and the bank. So I still have a big passion, a deep passion for the salespeople, so I like to spend a good amount of time every day, every week, just connecting with new sales partners, connecting with regional sales directors that might be in different areas and parts of the country, understand what challenges they're facing. It's been said to me, and I think probably echoed before, that I'm a very hands-on type of operator, CEO, if you think about it. And I'm always focused on making sure that we're giving the people within our organization, whether they're in sales, operations, risk, finance, whatever department, really a career opportunity that they can grow within us and trying to create that company experience. But I'm very involved in the day-to-day operations, just being supportive so that the leadership can go about and help train down to their managers and their people. How can they do better? We can all do better every day.

Clint Betts

What do you read? What reading recommendations would you have for us?

Brent Rose

It's a question I get quite a bit, and the simple answer is that there are certain books that I'll go back and reread. A lot of them are really focused on just executing the vision, being more of a compassionate leader, and so forth. But I think beyond just the normal library of books that I'll cycle through; there are some that come to mind, like Tribe, which really talks about the whole ecosystem of how things work. Not even really related to the Xs and Os of business and finance, but I think more importantly, when it's over the course of my career, building relationships with groups of people that I've met throughout the industry. And there are a few calls that, for example, I have a leadership group call that I do every month with a group that's based in London. And getting a perspective on what happens in different countries, what's happening there, and how it's going to impact what happens here. And I think forming those groups and just kind of that soundboard of good discussions, and then you learn a lot from that, and that's how you strategize more so than because it's real-time. It's kind of looking at where we think we're going to go and understanding what happens in what part of our country could affect what's going to happen in a different part of our country and from one country to the other. So I think my recommendation is to form or join those groups. Some are advisory boards, but some are just good groups of people that have similar interests and similar backgrounds around finance and so forth. They don't always have to be specific, given the same industry or vertical, but understanding money moves a lot of different ways, as well as understanding how to project and forecast what we need to do today that's going to impact us in the future.

Clint Betts

What do you think about AI, and how does it affect your business? I mean, it's going to affect every business; it's going to affect the entire world. I'm sure it's brought up to you all the time as it's brought up to everybody. How are you thinking about it? How are you thinking about implementing it at your company?

Brent Rose

Great question. We're just at the very tip of what this is going to evolve into over the coming years. From my perspective, there are a lot of positives and negatives. The positives are it helps us from a workflow standpoint, specifically from a technology standpoint. It writes a lot of code for us that we direct it to do. It simplifies a lot of our processes, and I think that's why we're embracing it. Also, from a training perspective, the service center that we have supports our merchant base every day and our sales partner base every day to bring them up to speed, help diagnose problems, and so forth. We're using it from a training standpoint, but we're building a database of AI, and we're using the technology based on what we put into it. I think where it gets really challenging is a lot of times it's utilized or, what I'm seeing, it's diluting the brands and the voice that companies have. Everyone kind of looks the same. And when I talk to our marketing team, this is a big discussion. We've got to keep our own voice. We have to all be unique, and I think it's easy for a lot of companies to say, "Okay, make my picture look like this or make my brand look like this," and we lose our identity. From the risk and compliance standpoint, it's a huge challenge, and we've taken a major undertaking on our risk side of the business to build negative and positive databases because we're managing transactions. I mean, we process nearly $8 billion in payments every year. I mean, we're processing three and a half transactions every second, so we're using AI to decipher if there is a risk involved in those. But more importantly, we have to look at when we underwrite an account because there's a liability aspect of it; we're seeing more and more of, call it, the fraudsters that are using fake information and driver's license verifications and all the things traditionally in underwriting are really difficult to stay ahead of. So, from the tech side, we're using AI to actually build this database, which is a negative-positive database. On the flip side, it's also combating what they're doing to try and get around it. So it's going to be interesting to see how it changes not only our industry but also the way other companies move forward. There are massive opportunities there, but there's also a lot of risk associated with it.

Clint Betts

What about the whole work-from-home, hybrid, everybody-in-the-office debate that so many leaders and CEOs are going through right now? How have you handled that?

Brent Rose

So I think we're a little unique. There are some components. We're a sales organization, so we've typically had ... Most of our sales partners are remote in different parts of the countries, working from regional hubs and so forth or just being kind of individual salespeople. So that's always been there. Where from what I look at it, we're never going to turn away some of the best talent that we can find, whether it be in marketing or product or something else. Whatever's going to help our business, we're going to look at it. And can it be done from a remote standpoint? And I think those are the two questions. Our product leadership team is out of Phoenix, and our marketing team is out of Chicago, so we do all of this today. Now, on the flip side, we do have security requirements around transactions. We have what we'll call a cardholder environment, a card data environment. And those people that manage the risk have to be in the office. It doesn't work any other way. So we manage both sides of it. And I think it's really driven by the type of business that you're involved in and the type of vertical you're involved in, but we've always managed it that way here.

Clint Betts

Speaking of your voice and maintaining a voice and keeping that unique, how do you define culture inside of your company? What is the company's culture?

Brent Rose

Instead of culture, I focus on the company because I think the company drives the culture. The culture doesn't drive the company. So, it gives everyone a full understanding of where they want to be. What is their goal, whether you're working in a service center, diagnosing problems, or whether you're on the finance side of the business? Where do you want to go? And creating a career path for everyone creates that company-type culture. We have people who regularly work in one department of the company, and they may say, "Okay, we have a job posting or a job wreck in a different part of the company." And they want to move from operations to sales or sales to finance. So understanding that people within our company have the ability to move around a little bit and maybe they will see something. That kind of creates that whole cultural type experience. We do a lot to bring people in the company together, whether it be on monthly calls and town hall calls, keeping everyone in the know, so to speak, of what's on the horizon, where have we come from, what are we doing? And it really comes down to the leadership teams that we have. We have amazing leaders, coaches, and mentors in every department of the company who have that same mindset that I believe I do, as well as trying to make everyone better every day. And if they're going to put in the work, we're going to give them the opportunity.

Clint Betts

Who's a leader or an example of a leader that you admire?

Brent Rose

The easiest way to answer that is we have family that always kind of leads us. And my father has been kind of an inspiring factor. He was in the banking business, and he built some different companies and had some other ventures. So, I learned a lot of even tools and tricks of the trade. And obviously, it's a little cliche, but it's really the truth. I think your father and your family are kind of inspirations. If I look at it, I happen to be a big sports guy and sports fan, so I grew up around it, had the opportunity to play sports, and it's something that, aside from my work life, I spent a lot of time coaching, mentoring kids and so forth. But I would look at someone like a Cal Ripken Junior. Kind of the test of time to 2,600 plus games. Had the opportunity, he actually played for his dad, who was a coach, and they built that. So he just kind of went about his day every day, showed up, did his job, always knew someone was competing against him, and always tried to do a little bit better. And that test of time is kind of the way that I'm trying to lead EPSG. Again, a sustainable company for 18 years, doing business the right way and trying to get better every day throughout the company. I think that's kind of my answer. There are obviously other individuals that you cross paths with over the course of your career and so forth. You learn from them, and you understand they make mistakes. I make mistakes, and we make mistakes. And you try to get better every day from them, but resiliency is a test of time, just building long-term, sustainable growth. I think the similarities there between Cal Junior are very, very unique.

Clint Betts

Yeah, that's actually really interesting. Finally, at CEO.com, as you know, we believe the chances one gives are just as important as the chances one takes. And when you hear that, I wonder who gave you a chance to get you to where you are today.

Brent Rose

Great question. There's been a few people. Again, if I think about the opportunities around my entire life, from growing up as a kid playing sports or doing things in school and doing things in business, I've been fortunate to have a lot of mentors along the way and coaches who gave me an opportunity. It's hard to single out one individual because I think there have been different people in different steps of my life, personally and business-wise, who gave me the opportunity and different opportunities and also allowed me to fail and then be the support around. You learn a lot when you fail. And I think one of the things that I focus on, we do here, is both positive and negative feedback on calls. All positive feedback means we're probably not doing something right. I mean, I'd rather have negative feedback and say, "Hey, this isn't going to work." And I think back, there's been a couple of times in my business career I've thought about an idea and a strategy for months and put all these things together, and then I kind of pitched it to everyone, and I said, "Just give me your honest feedback." And they're like, "This is a bad idea. It just doesn't work." And I said, "Makes sense," and we move on. And I think 20 years ago, if I had gotten that feedback, I would've been too bad; we're going to do it my way. I think being adaptable and understanding, hey, everyone's voice counts. And that's how we get better together.

Clint Betts

That's incredible. Brent, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on all your success. I'm sure we'll see you again. Really appreciate you coming on the show.

Brent Rose

Of course. Thank you, Clint.

Edited for readability.

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