Interview with Nasir Shakouri – the payment solutions industry

Cristian: Hi Nasir Shakouri, welcome to entrepreneurship-interviews. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Nasir: Hello Cristian, thank you for having me today. Well, my family is originally from Iran, but my parents immigrated to the United States to start a better life for ourselves. They felt that the United States would be a place for more opportunities and better access to top quality education. My mother and father worked very hard when they came to America and it influenced me as a person to try my best in everything that I do. My father would say that if you’re a janitor, be the best janitor that you can be. I grew up and went to high school in Westlake Village, Ca; a small suburb near Los Angeles. I played high school basketball and even made it in the newspaper, which was super exciting for me at the time.  I graduated from Westlake High and attended Cal State Poly in San Luis Obispo with a major in finance and business. I really liked what I was studying and couldn’t wait to get out of school and into the real world.

Cristian: You recently became an entrepreneur by opening your own company, Encore Cardservice, after years of working for the corporate World: Arthur Anderson and Ernst & Young. How did this happen?

Nasir: At Arthur Anderson and Ernst & Young I learned a lot and met many interesting people that I still keep in contact with today. I enjoyed my time at Arthur Anderson and Ernst & Young, but I felt that I should do something for myself.  Encore Cardservice was started in 2012 and we have been lucky to find a nice niche in the industry.

Cristian: As I worked in the online payment industry 7 or 8 years ago I’m curious to know what has changed in the last few years?

Nasir: I think the payment industry has changed a lot in the last few years. Mobile payments are on the rise and cryptocurrency transactions are becoming more widely used than ever before. Companies like Square and Bitpay are really changing the industry and I feel that we are entering a new age of payment processing. It is really interesting to see the changes that are happening to make payment processing more frictionless and easy for vendors and consumers.

Cristian: I remember back in the days there were still businesses that needed to be convinced to accept online or credit card payments. Did this change?

Nasir: There are still some businesses that rely on cash only business, but we are seeing a growing demand for credit card processing. We are even seeing vendors at the local farmers market using credit card terminals to sell organic fruits and vegetables. This is something new and something that would have been rare to see 7 or 8 years ago. Times are changing and we are trying to keep pace with a changing world.

Cristian: Do you think mobile payments will continue to evolve and grow in the next years?

Nasir: I think the mobile payments industry is only going to grow. Apple’s acceptance of NFC technology is only going to move this industry faster. People are less afraid to use new technology and this will make adoption rates skyrocket. I am curious to see what the future holds for mobile payments, but I am sure that we will see it grow exponentially over the next few years.

Cristian: And one important question. What happens if you lose your phone? I think is far easier to get your phone stolen than your credit card. Isn’t this a big risk?

Nasir: There is always a risk of getting your phone stolen, but there is also the same risk of getting your wallet stolen as well. Our phones have passwords, tracking technology and an easy way to wipe data if it ever gets stolen. Unfortunately, wallets don’t have passwords so I believe saving your credit card information on your phone is safer in the long run. There are always risks involved in whatever we do, but being afraid won’t solve anything. I always like to look at the cost versus the benefit and the benefits of mobile payments far outweigh the risks or costs, in my opinion.

Cristian: What about bitcoin and other virtual payment solutions? Are these to stay?

Nasir: The jury is out on this one. I think bitcoins are an amazing new solution to frictionless pay. It is currently backed by speculation and the high volatility do not make it an ideal payment solution, but I think if it ever becomes more stable, we are in for a real treat.

Cristian: How should a start-up choose the payment methods and the provider? Is it only about the price?

Nasir: Price is a big consideration for businesses, but I think having good customer service is key in keeping a customer in the long run. Choosing a payment processing company purely on price isn’t the best choice, in my opinion.

Cristian: What should a start-up avoid in payment solutions?

Nasir: Make sure the company you are signing up with is reputable. The last thing you want is to sign up with a fly-by-night company that cuts off your service without any notice for one reason or another. Make sure to find references and do your homework. There are a lot of options out there.

Cristian: Coming back to your entrepreneurial path. They always say it’s better to work for yourself than to work for the MAN. You get to do your own schedule, be your own boss and so on. But my own experience tells me that you don’t get exactly to stay on your butt and let the money flow your way. So how is the entrepreneurial life?

Nasir: Entrepreneurial life can be a LOT more work than working for someone else. You get what you put in and there are long nights and sometimes there are no weekends. If you really believe in something and you work your butt off, more often than not, it pays off in the end. I think it is important to stay focused and have a schedule that keeps you accountable. Staying self-disciplined and self-motivated are the toughest parts of being an entrepreneur. I like to blog about keeping yourself motivated and disciplined and it helps me to remember to stay the course.

Cristian: How do you get to balance life with work?

Nasir: I like to make sure that I separate my time for work and for family. As a new father, I think it is very important to make sure that you remember the important things in life. I love watching basketball, especially the Lakers, and I write a sports blog to keep track of the games I watch. I also like  and to make sure that I am not always working when I sit behind a screen. I like to play basketball with my friends and go running or hiking with my wife. We make time to go outdoors and enjoy nature as much as we can. My wife and my son mean the world to me and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for them, which includes financial success.

Cristian: What would be your best advice for wanna-be entrepreneurs?

Nasir: Always be disciplined. Motivation will come and go, but being disciplined will get you further in your business and in life. Thank you Cristian!

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