Long time lurker here, fairly new to self directed investing and stock selection as I am a small business owner and my last 25 years have been dedicated to growing and maintaining my business. I wasn’t even able to start an IRA until 10 years ago and that is just a target date retirement fund from T.Rowe Price which didn’t require any knowledge or effort on my part. Since finding the Motley Fool and this board a few years ago, I’ve been learning as much as I can and waiting until I’ve had extra funds to invest which started almost a year ago. Many thanks to all here as your generous sharing of your knowledge and time makes newcomers like me feel that “hey, maybe I can do this too”.
I’ve never posted here as I’ve never felt like I had anything to contribute to the board until now. Having used traditional payment processors in the past quarter century I was used to the lack of services they provided and thought that was all there was. You would lease or buy an overpriced terminal, you’d negotiate the best rate you could and that was it. If you had technical problems you’d call some centralized merchant services # in a foreign country and hope they could help you. It was confusing as to who you actually were in business with. 3rd party middleman would sell you service for some generic sounding processing company, another company would lease you their crappy equipment (many times requiring you to purchase some bogus monthly insurance plan on it) and the paperwork was so arcane and confusing you needed to have an MBA to figure it out. And heavens forbid you have a chargeback, you were on your own. That required basically a book report of paperwork that had to be produced within a certain time frame (usually you’d receive it with like 3 days to complete it because your processing company took 2 weeks to send it to you. And if you own a small business you already have a to do list that’s way too long so this just adds to it). 90% of the time you’d lose anyway and your processing company wouldn’t do a thing to assist you.
5 years ago, I purchased a 2nd location (I’m a glutton for punishment) and decided to try Square since we needed to put our own processing system in and I had seen some smaller businesses with the little white reader and it looked cool. Unfortunately it didn’t always connect properly, it was hard to print receipts and they charged more than our current processor at our other location so we switched back.
Fast forward to this past fall, having been following this board and SQ as an investment opportunity I began to see more businesses using Square but with a dedicated terminal that looked cool and was super easy to use, it even texted me receipts (or emailed if I preferred) you could opt in at the store or restaurant if you wanted to join their marketing list for future specials or promotions. But change is hard and scary so I stayed with what was working.
I was on vacation in November when I got a call from one of my employees that the credit card terminal was flashing an error message when they opened that the batch from the previous night had failed (so the funds from the previous day were somewhere in limbo) and that they couldn’t process any new business until it went thru. To make this terrible long post slightly shorter, we called merchant services who couldn’t help, gave us a # for the terminal manufacturer who told us that the model we had been sold -just a year ago- was an old model that was phased out and had “issues” like this connecting to the internet and that it couldn’t be fixed. Thankfully my one employee figured out a way to connect the terminal to one of our phone lines as a temporary fix. I wasn’t happy.
I called Square that same day, explained my situation to the sales tech they put me through to and we started working on a plan to port me over. I mentioned that our gross sales were in the $800000 - $1000000 range and that we had a much lower rate than the advertised Square rate and about the experience 5 years prior. He assured me that much had changed, and said if I could send statements with my current rate info he could forward it to the finance department and probably match them as they are aggressively targeting medium sized businesses like mine (they did match the rates). He also gave me a list of what I would need to buy to create my own “Square register”. It came out to be around $700 which is comparable to the crappy terminal I currently had and part of that was for an iPad which can be used as a web browser when we are looking up things for customers. (since then Square has started selling and financing their own dedicated register that looks really cool but I haven’t used- yet)
We set a date for early the next week once my equipment arrived for a training session on setting everything up and how to process payments. Then we scheduled an hour training session on the back-end, the part that separates Square from every other traditional processing company that I’ve ever used. You have access your own portal on Square.com where you get reports on hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly sales. You can break out individual items to see how they are performing on a week to week basis. How certain employees are performing. How many new customers vs. repeat customers. How this month compared to last month. You get the idea…it’s a ton of info I was tracking manually and some new stuff I didn’t think to track, all accessible in seconds. They have a ton of extra services available for a reasonable fee as well: Payroll, Loyalty Program, Gift Cards, Marketing, Capital loan and new things on the way I’m sure. You also get an 800 number for 24/7 support that is run by Square, not a 3rd party. And the deal maker for me, if you have a chargeback, THEY handle it for you.
ok, for the TL;DR among you, here’s all you need to know:
Square is a game changer for small merchants like me. Everyone I interacted with was super friendly and more importantly super helpful. They are aggressively trying to improve my experience as a business owner and offering things that I actually need. I would never in a million years go back to the old systems/processors. I have ported my other shop to Square last month and have referred them to every merchant I know (they even have a referral bonus) So far the 2 that have made the change echo my sentiments on the product and service.
I am LONG SQ the stock and LONG SQ the company.
Thanks for reading, sorry for any typos and run on sentences, its quite early here. Now back into the shadows for me.