SaaS Founder Interview with Samantha Ettus, Founder & CEO of Park Place Payments
Andy Halko 0:02
Okay, hey, everybody. It’s our weekly SaaS founders show. It’s me, Andy Halko, CEO of Insivia. Tony isn’t with us today. But we’ve got a great guest. And I’m extremely excited to talk to her about her journey. We have Sam Ettus from Park Place Payments. Sam, thanks for joining us.
Samantha Ettus 0:24
Thanks for having me. Andy. Tony, we miss you. We’re thinking of you.
Andy Halko 0:29
Or so you know, the best place to start out is can you tell us a little bit about what Park Place Payments does.
Samantha Ettus 0:37
That’s a tongue twister. So So I started workplace because I recognize that most people, most merchants, most business owners, whether you’re a doctor’s office, or a yoga studio, or you know, a restaurant really disliked their merchant services provider, most people cannot stand their payment processor. And I thought what’s going on here. And so when I dug into the industry, there were a bunch of things they didn’t like, they didn’t like the experience of dealing with a salesperson that reminded them of like the worst used car salesperson. They didn’t like the fact that they felt like they were being overcharged, which usually they are and under serviced. And so I realized it wouldn’t take that much to disrupt the industry. And the way we went about doing it, and we started three years ago, was to really take an entirely new kinds of Salesforce. So all of our account executives, which is what we call them, the whole industry calls them, you know, reps or agents, we try to do everything a little bit aboveboard, a little differently. So our account executives are all from outside of the financial services industry. So they have no bad habits, we train them from the beginning online. And then they sell in their local communities to the businesses, they already know. Because these people are already part of the fabric of their communities. So their dentist already trusts them, and their hair salon already trust them. And so that is, is your sales forces they sell locally, they’re part of the fabric of the community, they attend Chamber of Commerce meetings. And the the big thing that we’re building right now, which we’re super excited about is this account executive platform, which is essentially kind of like going to work every day at your laptop. So the one thing that we’ve been missing is creating a community among these amazing account executives. And once we create it, they’ll be able to log in every day and see how much money they made overnight. And see, you know, the latest sales training video, the latest product, what industry news is happening, everything, it’s almost like a rather log in there than slack or Facebook. So we’re super, super excited about kind of our next phase of growth. And then the other thing that we’re building right now is our Merchant portal. So one of the things that we saw that was lacking in the industry is that most of the merchants have to deal with really poor reporting systems, they’re arcane and, and part of the reason they are is because the way the industry works, there are so many hidden fees that people don’t want the merchants to have a really transparent view into what they’re charging. And so they’re intentionally designed to confuse merchants. And so we’re taking away all that and creating the Park Place merchant portal, which is going to be just super user friendly and all about the merchants and, and we feel like we would always rather be transparent and have this great relationship with the merchant for 5-10 years, the life of the business rather than kind of the churn and burn mentality that’s really prevalent throughout payment processing.
Andy Halko 3:41
While I definitely want to get back to a lot of those topics, but I’d love to go back to when you started. And I was reading online that there was a little bit of an epiphany at a conference at a conference and just kind of how you were out in the world. Can you talk about, you know, where this first came into your mind? And, and how it like coalesced?
Samantha Ettus 4:03
Yeah, I mean, I do a lot of public speaking. I’d been at a conference about 12 years ago now, that was kind of like a boondoggle for the payments industry. And it was the top 20 ISOs, top 20 sales organizations in the industry. Everyone had arrived on private planes, they were all white men, all of them, were kind of laughing about overcharging the merchants. And I remember saying to them, and they didn’t seem like people who just really cared about small business owners or cared about Main Street or, you know, cared about their customers. And I remember saying to them, you know, where, where are the women in this industry? Where are the people of color? And they kind of laughed at me and I, you know, I was a competitive athlete growing up and I was like, okay, one day when I come back and crush these guys, and I just didn’t know it’d be so soon honestly, because I thought, you know, I’ll do that in my 60s or 70s. There’s no rush. And then when I’d been on a book tour for my last book, which was my fifth book. And I was speaking at, you know, tons of companies and conferences, and the one group of people I couldn’t help were either the people who left the workforce and wanted to get back in but found very few opportunities. And then also this other segment of people that felt like they were financially capped in their careers. Like, there’s only so much they could make in their careers. And I thought, what if I could train these groups of people to sell payment processing, instead of kind of the other side hustles that were out there, which at the time, and actually still are, you know, selling vitamins, or makeup, or skincare, all these things that really when you dig into it, or actually, people are losing money on them, for the most part, they’re not even breaking even, because most of those companies make you buy inventory. And so you’re the one holding, there’s always someone left holding the bag at the end. And I thought, what if we could train people for free to sell payment processing to their local businesses, whether they want to work two hours a week, or whether they’re like me, and they’re hustling, and they want to work 50 hours a week, you know, they The sky’s the limit in terms of their earning potential. And, and that’s what we did. And we developed a program where they can get financial independent as quickly or as slowly as they want, based on their own goals, and how much time they put into it.
Andy Halko 6:20
So we talked to a lot of founders, what was it like making the decision that you wanted to start the business? And I always like to get into kind of the mental motional? Like, were you worried about the future? Was it you know, a struggle, you know, or did you feel really confident, dove in and made it happen?
Samantha Ettus 6:41
I’ve always been a very confident person, and I don’t, you know, the the nose, I don’t really take very personally, which I think is critical when you’re an entrepreneur, because I hear no, multiple times a day. And I just kind of think of no as a slower path to Yes. Or I also, you know, I have spreadsheets, and I think of like, every No, you get gets closer to that Yes. So, so I’ve always been someone who, you know, isn’t afraid of taking the leap. But I will say that when you’re an entrepreneur, it’s kind of like being on the roller coaster, every single day, right? And you know, no matter what’s going on, there’s something unexpected coming your way, and you’re going faster and flying faster, or you know, at a pace that you do not control. And so I think that probably until you, you know, exit your business, as an entrepreneur, you feel that way. Now, I’m a I’m a venture backed entrepreneur, right. So I am building the billion dollar business, I am not building a cruise ship, I’m building a rocket ship. So I have a feeling if I was happy, just with like a small little company and happy with the growth that we currently have. And, and just continuing on that path. It would be very different. But I’ve always been someone who has giant goals and intends to achieve them. And I think that, you know, there’s a lot of business owners that don’t have that feeling of oh my gosh, you know, what’s today holding? And how can I get there faster? You know, if you own the store on the corner, and you just want to have solid and steady revenue growth, that’s a very different business than writing business that relies on, you know, technology and, and all sorts of other things to grow.
Andy Halko 8:27
I think you know, that roller coaster analogy is so true. And every founder, we talked to, you know, talks about it, but I always think it’s good to continue to bring up because, you know, sometimes we’re in it. And we feel like we’re alone on the roller coaster. But the reality is, there are a lot of other entrepreneurs that are writing it with us. And so, you know, I always think it’s good just to repeat, like, look, we’re all in a similar, you know, mental space with this.
Samantha Ettus 8:55
Well, actually, Andy, I’m glad you bring that up. Because I think that being an entrepreneur is exceptionally lonely, right? I mean, it’s lonely socially. Because you know, you’re, let’s say you’re at a barbecue on the weekend or whatever you’re, you don’t feel like people there fully understand what you’re dealing with. When they’re going to a nine to five job or you know, dealing with their own lives. You don’t feel like they could possibly relate. So when they say how are things going, you just say they’re great, and you move on? You know, but I also think it’s really important that entrepreneurs build a community of other entrepreneurs. And if you don’t have one today, it is never too late to create one. There are entrepreneurs on LinkedIn inside your industry outside your industry. There’s you know, organizations that are designed to to bring entrepreneurs together, but I think it’s really important to have those people in your corner that you develop relationships with so that whether it’s you need a new accountant or you want to know what you would do with this employee situation or you want to grow your customer base, talking to other entrepreneurs inside and outside the industry is one of the best things you can do to grow your own business and keep your sanity at the same time.
Andy Halko 10:05
Right? Are there any specific groups that you’re a part of or that you recommend that you’ve come across over the years?
Samantha Ettus 10:13
I am involved with a women’s group called the Lists, which is an incredible group of 400 women in tech and media. That’s very, very supportive that I rely on for sure. And then, you know, I have a lot of close friends who are in EO Entrepreneurs Organization. I haven’t joined, are you in that?
Andy Halko 10:34
Samantha Ettus 10:35
Okay, great. Okay. So I haven’t it’s funny because my my best friend in New York is in it. And she’s always trying to get me to join. And I just feel like right now, given where I am, I don’t have the bandwidth, actually to even attend EO meetings. So I would not be a good member. But I’ve spoken at EO events in the past. And you know, I think very highly of it.
Andy Halko 10:54
Yeah it’s very true. Yeah, there’s a number of those out there. The other one I’d like to ask you about, and this has been a very common theme for everybody that we’ve interviewed, but mentors. Is that something that you’ve had in, in kind of your journey? Is folks that have served as mentors? Or have you done that for others?
Samantha Ettus 11:14
Well, I am someone who likes to keep in touch. Okay, so if I collect people, right, so Andy, you’re never letting go of me. Now. We’re friends. We’ll be in touch in 20 years. So I
Andy Halko 11:24
I know were already connected on LinkedIn.
Samantha Ettus 11:26
Exactly. I already connected with you on LinkedIn. You know, I, I do keep in touch with all my old bosses. And I even though most of them are corporate, I still, you know, when I go into their cities, when I’m traveling, I make sure to have dinner coffee with them. I mean, I really do rely on a council of people that I can go to for different things. In terms of mentors, you know, it’s really funny, there’s a lot of research in the last 10 years about mentors. And it’s more important to have sponsors than mentors. And what that means is a sponsor is someone who’s truly looking out if there is a position you’d be right for, or business development opportunity for your company. They’re people who will open up there, you know, I used to say rolodexes, that makes me ancient, but they’re opening up their networks to you. And they’re really, they’re really trying to look and seek out opportunities for you. It’s not just, oh, you know, young son, come to me for advice for 45 minutes, and you were lucky to get my time, I think what’s even more valuable is having people that really look out for each other and say, I can’t do this speaking engagement, but she or he would be awesome for it. And I think that that’s really important. And it’s funny, so So I would say in the last, you know, couple years, I have changed my tune on that. And I think of it often as my peers. So, you know, I don’t ever have all the answers. And I think as I get older and more experienced in my career, I viewer answers not more, right, I just have more questions than I ever had. And actually, you know, with age and with experience comes confidence. And you get more comfortable saying, I don’t know, or that’s not my wheelhouse. I’m really good at this, but I’m not strong in this, please show me the way. So I am always if there’s a knowledge gap, I am trying to fill it with other people. And it’s not always the same person twice. Now, are there young people that I are not even necessarily much younger than me, but people that I will, you know, spend time helping? Absolutely. But I would say that my value is more than saying, Okay, think about this opportunity. I’m happy to recommend you here, I will introduce you to this person.
Andy Halko 13:39
Now, that’s great advice. I think, you know, it’s interesting, your comment about being willing to admit what you don’t know, you know, it’s I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Johari Window, but this idea of, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. And as you grow, I think you learn like there is more that I just don’t know, and having that willingness to say, you know, I have a gap in knowledge I need someone to help me is is definitely one of those maturity pieces. And I think, especially for founders and entrepreneurs, to be able to get to that place where they can say like, I need other people, right.
Samantha Ettus 14:17
And by the way, I mean, what’s harder than having people on your team who aren’t open to that, right? So it’s one of the things I look for when I hire is someone who if they, you know, make a mistake, which we all do every day or they don’t know something, they’re not pretending to know it or not just saying, Oh, God, I screwed up. Let’s you know, how can I do better next time? I think that mentality is so important for everyone in a startup environment to to have.
Andy Halko 14:43
So something that you mentioned a little bit ago venture backed. So do you mind talking about that a little bit because I think a lot of the folks that we talked to and who watch this think about okay, do I want to start a business where I’m you know, on a train And you know, it’s smaller, and we’re moving at a steady pace. But do I want to try and make it a rocket ship? And should I get others involved in build capital? Can you talk about your experience there?
Samantha Ettus 15:11
Yeah, and it’s ever evolving. I mean, if you have me on the show any year, I’ll have a totally different perspective. I have raised two rounds of capital. I’m right now, launching my third fundraise. So so far, we’ve raised two and a half million dollars, our new raise is, is bigger, a lot bigger than that. I would say that I am someone who likes the team behind me, right, I was a, I was a division one college athlete, I love being part of a team. But I think of investors as strategic. So they’re not just about money, there are people out there that are just like you, they care, they’re invested now in your success, and they care about evangelizing your business, whether that’s looking for business development opportunities for your business, whether it’s you know, talking about your business, when they hear in my case, when they hear someone needs a payment processor, they think of us, or when they think of you know, a giant Salesforce, they think of my my team to sell whatever the product is, those are people that I really care about having on my, on my investor on my cap table, that’s really important to me. So when I look for investors, I don’t just look for the money, I look for smart money. And I would say that that’s critically important for entrepreneurs, when you’re starting out, and if you think you need to raise money, it’s very tempting to take any money, I have done that I’ve made that mistake. And it’s very important to take smart money. And when you have a smart investor, I would rather take less money from a smart investor than sort of, you know, what they called dumb money, because you you’re really tied to those investors for the life of your business or until they sell their their shares. And, and it’s really important that you like who, who your investors are. So in our case, we’re very deliberate about who invest in about making sure that it’s a two way street, that we’re as comfortable with them as they are with us. And I think that as entrepreneurs, it’s kind of like you always feel like you’re, you know, you’re not in the in a power position to make those decisions. And you just take any terms or anything that comes your way. And so I think the more deliberate you are, the better you are in terms of you know, building your company in it in a smart way.
Andy Halko 17:29
Yeah. Well, how and when did you decide to go that route? Because I think in conversations that I have with people that are in the startup spaces, you know, when do I want to start raising capital? Should I have, you know, consistent revenue and build a certain level? Or should I do it earlier? And that’s always a question. And I’m sure there’s never one right answer. But, you know, how did you come to that decision on, you know, when to do it?
Samantha Ettus 17:57
I mean, listen, there’s some days I wake up, and I’m like, I wish I just been able to bootstrap this and not to any outside money, because there’s so I feel the weight of the world, sometimes, I have so many people counting on me to make this a success, not just my employees, and in me and my family, but also the investors. So every time you take more money, it’s, you know, more weight on your shoulders. But at the same time, I was someone I had really big goals. I was looking at these multilevel marketing companies that were preying on people, and I thought, Okay, why shouldn’t I be as big as they are, you know, I’m doing this the right way. And I’m having people earn an honest living, and recurring revenue. So I should aim to be that big. And it’s funny because payment processing is kind of a cash cow business. And most payment processors do not take outside money because you start earning money right away, as soon as you sell your first merchant, I knew that I didn’t want to build a traditional payment processor, right? That would be super easy to do. That’s what a ton of people have done. There’s thousands of them around the country, I knew I wanted to build something completely different. And I also knew that the pace at which I wanted to build that, and the scale at which I wanted to build that would be impossible to achieve without outside money. So I had a ton of people advising me not to take money. This is the last business it’s not a capital intensive business. But of course, I’ve designed it in a way that is capital intensive, because our differentiator right now is our customer service, you know, we always say you, you know, most of the time were the best price option. And all of the time, we are the the best customer service. So, you know, that’s why people come to us. But at the same time, I knew that to build the company I want to be building we have to invest in this technology platforms that we’re designing right now and that we’re building right now. So because of that outside capital is necessary.
Andy Halko 19:54
Yeah, I know if you ask eight people their advice on when and how to raise capital, you’ll get eight different answers. It’s just the way that it is.
Samantha Ettus 20:03
Well, and I will say, you know, I know that the venture capital community has tried very hard or are saying actually has said that they’re intent on getting diverse founders from all over the country, not just the coasts and, and you know, people in all different industries. But at the end of the day, it is a very clubby atmosphere. And there’s a language that they expect the ducks have to be a certain way. There’s a process that if you are outside of that process, you will get penalized. And I’m, I’m stepping on landmines every day, because I’m someone who’s super open. You know, if I like you, I tell you, Oh, I think we’d be great together. That is not what you’re supposed to do. So I’m not very good at playing it. Cool. And I’m learning, you know, the way to do that.
Andy Halko 20:53
Yeah, we’ve heard that over and over about raising capital of it being a little bit clubby. And I think that leads us into a great part, because one of the other things that I read on the site was really this focus on the, you know, a woman owned female lead, you know, can you talk? I’m obviously a white male, but can you talk about that idea? You know, and why you wanted to have that as a central theme of the business and how that maybe even impacted this venture capital piece?
Samantha Ettus 21:25
Yeah, I mean, there are so few women selling financial services, that I wanted to change that. And now I would say that our account executive base, we now have over 1000 account executives in all 50 states. 80% are women, we have a lot of men, I would say 40% are people of color. Every one, almost everyone is a victim of some sort of ism, whether it’s ageism, you know, like we have, we have white guys who are in their 60s who are kind of kicked out of the workforce, even though they’re just as valuable as they were 20 years ago. So anyone has been a victim of ageism, of sexism, ageism, homophobia, you know, bring it on come to Park Place, we want you but at the same time, and we basically will train anyone, we don’t have a, you know, it’s up to you whether you want to be successful. So, naturally, people get weeded out, they go through a training program, and they’ll fall like weeds on the side, because it’s, you know, too tough for them, or they’re not as interesting as they thought they’d be, you know, or they get launched, and then they just never get off the dime. And then we figure out who the, I always say you’re interested in my team, you’re mining for gold, who are those people that are really going to invest their time and hustle in this and be successful now. So because of that I intentionally designed a very diverse account executive team. And our full time team is also diverse when we have, we have, you know, a couple of white guys who work on the team. But we also have a lot of women on the team, and a lot of people of color, and just people from all different backgrounds. And that’s been really important to me, as I grow. I think that most founders, whether you are a white dude founder, or whether you’re like me, or whether you’re a person of color, you have to be intentional about creating a diverse team. Because if you want to appeal to a diverse group of customers, you have your team has to look like them. And there’s so much data on how diverse teams perform better. And it’s, it’s, it’s good for you financially, it’s not a charity thing. So that’s always been important to me. And then raising capital from diverse capital sources has been very important to me, it’s a lot easier for me to raise money from all white men, I’m proud to say that half of our cap table is women and people of color, which is very rare. But I do think that if you’re expecting diversity, in terms of investments, you also have to demand it from the entrepreneur side. So I think that entrepreneurs need to be intentional about who they raise money from. And then the third piece of that is that, you know, there’s all these gloom and doom statistics that you know, last year was the worst year in years for women raising money that only 2% of venture capital money went to women. I am so sick of hearing that statistic. I know I’m part of that 2%. But I also think that it makes it it really sort of pushes people to stay away from raising money and, and when you constantly perpetuate those statistics and talk about them all the time, they end up really being a deterrent for people. At the end of the day. If you are committed to raising money in VC money, you’re gonna make a lot of mistakes, but there is now so much money and there are so many VC firms that if you are intent on being successful there and you have a really solid, great business, you probably won’t be successful. And that’s that’s how I think of it.
Andy Halko 24:57
That’s great. So do you mind sharing maybe some advice for maybe a woman that’s in an organization or wherever they are in life, and they’ve got an idea for something, you know, they’ve got that inner drive, and they’re, you know, staring in the face. And I guess that decision, what would you kind of encourage?
Samantha Ettus 25:19
Well, in general, I would say this to all potential entrepreneurs. You know, I think that, you know, I used to be partners with Gary Vaynerchuk, in a business years ago. And I, I really appreciate a lot of his message. But I do think that he also has launched this thing where everyone should be an entrepreneur. And at the end of the day, you have to be such a hustler to be an entrepreneur. So you have to really look inside and say, am I someone who can take risks? Can my family afford right now for me to take a risk? You know, financially? Am I in a position to do that? Or should I wait eight years when my last kid is, in college, you know, or, you know, like, figure out is this the time in your life to be taking on a financial risk? Have you done a lot professionally that will help you in this business? Do you have good contacts? Are you someone that’s comfortable networking? Are you someone who, who doesn’t get defeated by a lot of nose? Are you someone who believes in yourself and has an inner confidence? Those things are all really important to figure out before you decide to take the leap? And then the other thing is really do your homework on the industry? Is there a need for what you are building? Do you know how you would go about acquiring customers? What kind of capital will you need, you can do all of that research while you’re in another position. So I always recommend really thinking thoroughly, and researching heavily before you take that leap. Don’t just wake up one day and say, I hate my boss. I just want to go and I think it’s easy to get in that mindset, because there’s so many gurus out there saying, you know, go for it, you’ve got this. And I’m the first cheerleader, you know, in your corner. But But I think you should be smart about that decision.
Andy Halko 27:03
Yeah. I’m curious as we i this came up, I think a show or two ago, but nature versus nurture. For entrepreneurs, what do you think? Is there an impact to that in success? Obviously, I think every entrepreneur has a sense of constantly growing and learning, which obviously, is that nurture. But you know, there are definitely folks that think that there’s, you know, personality traits and some inherent things that just make you more likely.
Samantha Ettus 27:35
You know, Andy it’s so funny because I’m, I’m obsessed with, like studying people and, and figuring people out, and I’m pretty good at that I have a high EQ. However, I still to this day, I would not say there is a cookie cutter person who is a successful entrepreneur, or a successful salesperson or successful anything, I think it comes from your inner drive. And that’s something you can’t necessarily see, I think that if you are someone who just is always wanted to be the best, whatever you’re doing, right, like, if you go to Japan, you will notice that the person who is sweeping at Starbucks in Japan takes their job so seriously. They want to be the best they want to come to work every day and do whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it the best they can do, right? If you’re that kind of person who’s always trying to do your best, whatever position you’re in, you are more likely to succeed as an entrepreneur. Because entrepreneurship entails you doing everything from sweeping the floor, to you know, crunching the numbers, everything is going to at some point be in your in your lap in your wheelhouse and you’re going to have to be responsible for all of it. And so having that inner hustle that even on the tough days, or even when you hit the speed bumps, gets you continuously going. That’s probably what is needed to be successful.
Andy Halko 28:59
You mentioned competitive nature to and background was sports. You know, I always wonder how that plays into this personality thing. Because you see that a lot is, you know, someone that’s come from a competitive, you know, they said, Look, I was in competitive sports, I like to win, you know, how much is that a play for you. And in this idea of being an entrepreneur?
Samantha Ettus 29:22
A huge you know, I think, for me, like I love, I love the fact that I was an athlete, it helped me so much as an adult. And I tend to a lot of my girl friends are former athletes as well, I would say and I think that that that there’s nothing better for preparing you for life, right than sports and, and feeling confident in in how you know, in in trying to win and and doing all that they’ve been losing. Exactly. And losing and getting up again, right and so what better metaphor for life than sports where you’re losing, you’re winning, and you keep trying every day and you keep practicing, and you’re putting in the hours of practice in advance of the competition. So, so I think that, you know, sports are a great analogy for what you’re up against in business. And, and, and entrepreneurship, whatever, whatever form that takes for you. I also though, it’s funny, because I often think like, I was a little bit pressured as a kid, you know, my, my mom was super invested in my tennis career. So and I resented her for that a lot of the time. However, I don’t know if I would be as competitive as a person as as an adult, if I hadn’t had that training. Now, I’m a parent of three. And I do see that, like, all of my kids have such vastly different personalities. And so they’re all being raised the same way all being raised in the same home. So so much of it is, is nature, right? I mean, like, I can’t get over how different my three children are from one another. And it’s not something I did. It’s who they are. It’s who they came out as, yeah. And I already sort of can see who this who might be the CEO who might be the the public servant. I mean, it’s it’s kind of, you know, pretty evidence. So, and then obviously, that can change at any moment. But I do think that that nature certainly plays a big role.
Andy Halko 31:18
Yeah, I have two young daughters, and they have very different personalities, but it, it was not learned. It’s just who they are, right.
Samantha Ettus 31:27
Exactly, exactly. And I guess, you know, as parents, our biggest challenge is to help them blossom into who they’re supposed to be right? And not stop them from that, because our parenting style can’t be one size fits all, because you realize that these kids are, are who they are, and they have different needs from one another.
Andy Halko 31:45
So if you don’t mind going off on this tangent a little bit, because I don’t think it’s something that we’ve ever talked about on the show much is the influence on kids and family. You know, as an entrepreneur, obviously, we’re busy I work a lot hours, I admit that, but and I’m loving working from home, because it has changed that dynamic for me. But, you know, how has it impacted family life? How do you see it potentially influencing your children and what they do in the future? What’s that kind of personal life impact of of entrepreneurship?
Samantha Ettus 32:21
Well, before I answer this question, I will ask you a question, which is, why haven’t you asked the men on your show this question?
Andy Halko 32:31
I actually, you know, what? It’s, I have asked one other person, but I can’t remember who.
Samantha Ettus 32:38
Alright. Well, Andy, my challenge to you in the future
Andy Halko 32:40
I don’t disagree with you. I, like I hear what you’re saying. And I would say that I have not seen this as a question that’s specific to you as a model.
Samantha Ettus 32:50
But but but the reason I bring this up is because I think it’s so critical, especially what you just said, now you’re working from home, right? And you’re in this constant juggle of the kid wants your attention, and then you have to get on a call, or whatever it is, right? We’re all living that right now with COVID. And I think that we don’t talk enough to men and women about this question. And so I think that you’d be doing a service to your listeners to actually ask all the men on your show this question, because I think that you know it now, thank God, people are talking about it more, right? Like you’re mentioning your kids on the show, and, and people are more comfortable doing that than they were 10 years ago, or even five years ago, I think there is no better role model for a child than to see a hard working parent that is also a caring parent, right? So you can be both. And I share my career with my kids at the dinner table. I’ll say, you know, what was the highlight of your day? And then they’ll say, What’s highlight of your day? What was a low light, and I’ll tell them, Oh, my gosh, guess who I got to meet today, I got to meet Andy how, like, you know, I’ll tell them all about our interview, because I want them to feel invested in what I’m doing and not to feel resentful. I think that when you hear about kids who are like making their parents feel guilty for working, or for traveling, or whatever it is, it’s typically because those parents haven’t shared anything with their kid. They’re not saying to them, I’m going across the country to close a big deal. And I’m so excited, wish me luck, cheer me on, right. If you get that buy in and your children’s, I mean, they’re not only supporting you, but they’re learning something. And that’s kind of what they’re gonna grow up to be in terms of following their dreams and reaching their goals. So I think it’s, it’s phenomenal, to share your career to share your dreams to share your losses and your wins with your kids. I’m a big, big believer in that and, and, and at the same time, I think that you know, you have to have some boundaries, right, you are at work and you can’t always be bringing all your personal problems to work right. None of us want to hear endlessly about someone’s issue with their car payments or the problems with their you know, with their, their their mom or with her kids or whatever, like, I think there has to be some boundaries. But I do think that what we’ve seen in the last few years since COVID is, is wild just what’s happened. I mean, you know, I’ve been on on speaking engagements where there’s a panelist with their bed in the background, right? Like, it is just it’s a, it’s a very different world now. And so I think that we don’t really know how it’s going to shake out in terms of how it’s permanently affecting the workplace. And, and I think it’s tricky. We’re all just figuring it out together.
Andy Halko 35:32
Great. Yeah, you know, it’s it for me is a father of two young daughters, six and eight. And one, I want to see him take over the world. That’s just as a father. And so you know, as an entrepreneur, I love to share the, you know, idea of hard working innovation, solving problems, all these things that come with owning a business that I hope, through osmosis and through discussion are influenced them. But the work from home thing, like you said, for me, I always wanted to go in the office, and I have completely changed my tune. And I love being here at three o’clock when they come home from school, so I can have a quick conversation with them.
Samantha Ettus 36:14
Yeah, you know, it’s very different. It really is, it’s wild. I mean, you know, I used to have to travel a lot. And obviously, a lot of that has been taken off the table, because people are like, we can just have a zoom, you know, you don’t need to fly here. It’s just, it’s wild. And when I’m raising money from from my home office, and it’s just a very different, different world than we used to live in. I mean, we have an office park place, and we haven’t been there in a month, just because the rates in Los Angeles have been so bad. But even when we have the office, we had a hybrid model where people go in three days a week, they work from home two days a week, because the expectations of the workforce have also changed, right? You can, you can no longer expect people to be in the office every single day, because that’s not what other companies are doing for them. And that’s not what they want, you know, to, to your point with your girls, you know, it’s funny, because I, when my kids were much younger, I hosted a college radio show, where people would call me with their problems. And it was every Tuesday, and one of my favorite things was I would sort of put the problems people had in very rudimentary terms and terms that kids could understand. And I’d say this was a problem someone called in with today, how would you solve it? And it was so interesting hearing the three kids saw that based on their ages, right, so my three year old son would say something, and then my, my six year old daughter would say something, but it was a way to engage them and to feel like to make them feel like they had agency and they have the power to think about things critically, and that someone’s listening to them. And I think that, you know, sharing your work challenges with your daughter, strengthen them for sure. Yeah.
Andy Halko 37:53
Yeah, I almost want to, you know, repeat that point. Because I think it is so powerful is sharing and engaging with your kids, family, whatever it might be. It doesn’t have to be that you’re an entrepreneur, but just generally, you know about your work life. And, you know, I think that would probably give more people self satisfaction and help, like you said, their family understand what they’re, you know, doing and why and how it fits into the world. So let’s turn just a little bit into culture, because you started talking about, you know, the new expectation, can you talk a little bit about the culture at the company, and have you crafted it that it crafted so naturally? Tell me a little bit about that?
Samantha Ettus 38:44
Well, I mean, you know, this, because you’re talking to so many entrepreneurs, Andy, but I think that, you know, our, our culture at workplace is ever evolving, right? Because you have turnover, when you have a start up of turnover, you realize, actually, this is not the right position for this person, or, you know, I need this now. We’re now we’re moving into technology. So we need a tech team. I mean, you know, it’s funny, because I interviewed someone yesterday, and she was like, what’s the culture like? And I’m like, Well, it’s funny you ask, because what it’s like today will be very different than when it’s like a year from now. And it’s it’s ever evolving, and every person that comes on board is going to have an impact on that culture. So I would say that, especially because of the work from home situation, it’s changed so dramatically, because now you can really hire from anywhere, right? You can get talent in Wisconsin, or you can find talent in Maine or you can find talent in Texas, it just doesn’t matter as much having people that are local. So that’s changed the game a lot. One of the things that we do at workplaces, we have a daily morning meeting at 9:30 everyday, and it’s a chance for sort of also to see like, who’s feeling great who seems a little pissed off today. You know, you can kind of get the temperature of what’s going on more than you would I think with a phone call, I just I really like the fact that I can see my team and see what’s going on with people and see how people are reacting to each other. And it kind of helps me head off issues or problems that that might exist. And then at the same time, I think it’s really important for everyone to have that check in point and, and that’s actually how we evolved into realizing we needed this tech platform, because our account executives don’t have the benefit of having that daily meeting. So they might drop off their kids in the morning, or they might, you know, come off their shift. And then they sit down to sell and they’re just alone, right and, and at the end of the day, it’s really lonely to be a freelancer. And so because we have an independent sales force, we realize like, it’s our job to create a sense of community for them to make them feel like they’re part of something important and part of a community that cares about them. So that if they sell their first deal, there’s a bunch of people waiting to say, congratulations, we’re so excited for you. And there’s only so much you can do manually with that. There’s so much now we can do with this tech platform in terms of making it so that we can connect all of our thousands of account executives to one another. And they’ll feel like they’re they’re really part of something important and special. And I think that’s so critical. So you know, it’s funny, we have like two cultures, we have our in house full time culture, and then we have our independent Salesforce culture.
Andy Halko 41:24
Yeah, that’s really interesting. Tell me a little bit about the, you know, building this tech platform? Do you have a technology background? Do you think that’s impacted it? How have you gone about from like, idea to reality? Can you share a little bit?
Samantha Ettus 41:42
Again, it’s one of those things where I do not have a tech background. Okay. I once sold advertising for PC computing magazine for two years. So that’s like the closest I have totech background. No, so I really do
Andy Halko 41:54
The holiday. And
Samantha Ettus 41:57
So, so yeah, so So I, again, know where my gaps are, and know how to hire around them. And so you know, the first thing I did when we decided to launch this tech platform and creating it and, you know, understanding that I like to move at the speed of light, when you’re creating a tech platform, you have to breathe and realize it’s going to take 12 to 18 months to get your vision to where it’s supposed to be. So we’re, you know, in the early stages of that. But the first thing I did was actually connect with someone who has been like a consultant to me, who is a CTO at another company full time. I’d worked with him on another project two years ago. And then we were reintroduced by someone. And having him has been super valuable to us in terms of just thinking through exactly what our needs are. So I think there’s so many people out there like that, that you can get as advisors to your company, as you’re creating something like this, it didn’t want to make a mistake, there’s such a huge difference between like CPOs, Chief Product Officers and CTOs, Chief Tech Officers. I mean, there’s so many subtleties, right? So like, we now know that like, we just, you know, head of product is what we needed to hire. So, so a lot of those things are things that you don’t know, when you don’t talk to people who are experts. And so I really had to bring in a team of experts to advise me on how to go about this, and how to make it work. You know, I know how to recruit the women, I know how to recruit the, the the people of color, or the the guys who’ve been victims of ageism, like, that’s my sweet spot, right? I know how to recruit our sales team. But my sweet spot is not building technology. And so I just know what needs to be built, I know what features need to be in it. That’s the part I can really contribute to. But I needed an expert tech team around me.
Andy Halko 43:45
And I’ll say, you know, having interviewed now I think about a hundred different founders, it’s about 50-50, you know, where there are 50% of the folks that come from a tech background, maybe even less, and the rest that really have to build that around them. But they’ve got a great idea. They’ve got that drive, you know, you know, the sales skill, because that’s such an important piece. So I mean, it’s a common story, for sure.
Samantha Ettus 44:08
Yeah and you know, more than 50% of entrepreneurs have never had any experience in this specific space they’re in. And I think a lot of people get spooked because they want to open, you know, a window shades business, and they’re like, but, but I don’t know that much about window shades. But if you know about people, and you know about, you know, so I think that that, um, that it makes sense, someone who’s passionate about something who works really hard and knows what it’s going to take to build something that’s more important than this specific industry expertise.
Andy Halko 44:45
So as we’re kind of wrapping up, I’d love to ask. This has been a great conversation, but what’s the future the company what are you seeing in the next couple of years?
Samantha Ettus 44:56
Yeah, so if you know in two years from now our tech platform will have been, you know, off to the races for a long time we will have boarded are probably at that point 10,000 account executives on the platform, our engagement rates with them will certainly have gone up tremendously, because we know how to keep people engaged and make them feel important and, and like they’re part of something that’s not just about sales. But also about, you know, we’re kind of like a giant account executive family, our merchants will not only love us because of our customer service, but they’re going to love us because of our Merchant portal. Our churn rates right now are well, well below the industry average, the industry is about 3%. And we’re 1.5% Based on our extraordinary customer service, so I feel like the the merchant portal will just strengthen that even more for us. And we’ll definitely, you know, we’ve been fortunate we have a ton of press Park Place payments, we get a lot of recognition with industry words and press probably because we’re women lead. And that’s definitely helped us. And we do things a little bit differently, we have a fun name, you know, there’s a lot of things going for our brand. But I do want people to know us as an opportunity for them to not only fill their two constituencies I really want us to be a household name with one is these people that are looking for a side hustle or looking for a full time thing that gives them sort of, you know, an unmatched financial opportunity in terms of earning potential, I want people to think of Park Place faster than they think of whatever the MLM is, or whatever, you know, else is out there. And then I would love for merchants to think of us first and to think, you know, I want to be with a company that’s going to offer me great customer service, but also is focused on doing good. And, and that’s Park Place today.
Andy Halko 46:51
So before as my final question that I always ask everybody, where can people find you? Or where should they connect?
Samantha Ettus 46:59
Well, they can find us at parkplacepayments.com. And I’m very active on social media. So they can follow me at Samantha Ettus on Instagram, or connect with me on LinkedIn, or on Twitter so.
Andy Halko 47:14
So my final question that I asked everybody, if you could go back in time, you know, before you started the business and have coffee with yourself, what advice would you give?
Samantha Ettus 47:26
Oh, you know, this is a really hard question for me. And the reason is not what you think my whole motto is like, Don’t live life in the past lane, like no regrets. You know, I’ve made tons of mistakes, but I really don’t have regrets. I would say that, you know, just keep going for it. And like, you know, life is not linear. Maybe realized earlier on that whatever your circuitous path is it’s going to all work out in the end. And it’s always a work in progress. So, you know, I feel like I’m a work in progress. The person I was the person that’s having coffee with me, is so different than who I am today. And I’m sure that the person will be in 20 years, it’s going to be also a lot more evolved. So, you know, it’s hard to say.
Andy Halko 48:11
It’s amazing. Well, Sam, I really appreciate the conversation. I think it was fantastic. A lot of great topics. So thank you so much for joining the show.
Samantha Ettus 48:20
Andy, thank you so much for having me. This was so fun. And Tony, I’m sorry you missed it. But Andy did an awesome job.
Andy Halko 48:26
Yeah it was. It was good. We had a good little one on one conversation. I enjoyed it. So. All right, everybody. Thank you for joining and we’ll see you next week. Thanks, everybody. Thanks again, Sam.