First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vicki Turjan: We are doing great. After the initial shock to our daily routine, we have settled into the new norm. We are blessed that our circle has been healthy! Starting the new school year has posed yet another challenge, but luckily we have all come to be Zoom experts.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Versatile Credit?
Vicki Turjan: My career at Versatile began almost 20 years ago, starting at the company in an operational role. My career has been full of twists and turns; acquisitions and ownership changes, and with each bend in the road, I learned a new lesson that ultimately drove me to the position I am in today.
The company reinvented itself so many times over its history; starting as a Sun Microsystems reseller and morphing into a telecom consulting house; custom portal development firm and ultimately ending up a dominant player in the fintech platform arena. It was so exciting to see how we were able to adapt and adjust our path along the way to end up with such a strong focus and the success we enjoy today. As an owner of the company since last March, I am so proud of the organization we have become. I have a partner, Ed O’Donnell, that, like myself, is deeply committed to creating an employee-focused culture that fosters innovation and personal development. It is this culture that allows us to attract and retain top talent and thrive in a fiercely competitive environment. I love the John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) quote, “If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.”
How does Versatile Credit innovate?
Vicki Turjan: We are aware that we operate in a highly competitive and volatile market. Dozens of new, would-be competitors are launching every year. As a result, our company has operated and thrived on an “Innovate or Die” philosophy. We are ferocious readers on the markets we serve and understand that innovation doesn’t just happen organically. You need to have input from trusted experts — so we talk to our customers, partners and shoppers constantly to understand the problems and opportunities they are facing, and work with them to develop the tools, solutions and experiences so that they can achieve their goals. We focus on solving these problems and finding opportunities to make our partners “the hero” — whether it’s a company stakeholder leveraging our analytics tools to optimize the performance of the financing program, a sales associate assisting a shopper with finding a financing program that fits or parents buying a new bed set for their child.
And lastly, we are humble. We never feel or act like we know it all. Good ideas pop up every day you just have to be open to hearing them.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Vicki Turjan: We have a strong presence in retail, so I knew right away the pandemic was going to impact our business. Being proactive is my way of coping. I quickly got up to speed on all the stimulus options in case we needed them; sat down with our trusted advisors such as bankers, accountants, landlord, key suppliers, etc. to make sure I understood what the operational impacts would be on the organization. From a staffing perspective, as a technology company, our infrastructure easily supported remote work, and our crew was comfortable operating in that mode. Once our house was in order, we jumped into helping our customer base, many who had been with us over a decade. During this time, our team was focused on providing support for our lending partners and retail customers as they explored how they would conduct business during the pandemic. It is amazing to me how much we were able to accomplish in the early months of the pandemic in terms of developing and deploying solutions for our partners. I think in many ways it strengthened our relationships with our partners of all types and we never really skipped a beat.
Quite by coincidence, in late 2019, we had begun to develop a transition-to-mobile technology called Snap Sign. Snap Sign is a blend of traditional and digital signage used to instantly transition a shopper to a contactless financing application on their personal device while guaranteeing they are applying in the store, without the use of additional tracking or location services. With COVID-19, this technology not only became useful but a matter of public health as shoppers may feel uncomfortable or cautious about how they are interacting with public use devices and are beginning to use their mobile devices and other contactless experiences like “Buy Now, Pick Up In Store”.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Vicki Turjan: Running a business inevitably results in making difficult decisions. I was lucky enough along the way to work for people with whom I both respected and admired. The one trait they all had was to make decisions that were fair, regardless of whether or not they were easy. To always be prepared to explain why a decision was made and work as hard as everyone else to see that there is a positive outcome. Most importantly, own the decision and never pass blame, even if it ends up being the wrong one. Accept we will all make wrong choices along the way and it doesn’t mean you are a bad leader.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Versatile Credit in the future?
Vicki Turjan: The first way to deal with stress is to surround yourself with positive people! We have a family-like atmosphere at Versatile, and we share the good and the bad with each other. When things get tough in any aspect of the business, everyone pitches into help. My partner, Ed, is another calming influence — when the road begins to get hectic or arduous, he offers support to temper those situations. We also run the business in a manner in which we try to anticipate anything that could go wrong and prepare accordingly. Simply being prepared eliminates a great deal of stress and anxiety and definitely allows for a bright future.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vicki Turjan: The Fintech space is evolving every day. Banks are becoming Fintechs, while Fintechs are pivoting to become banks. You can view “competition” through so many lenses, but ultimately we have found the most success in “connection”. Our primary priority is providing our customers and partners (merchants and retail lending providers) with the best tools to drive applications, sales and customer satisfaction. We understand that our merchants are most successful when leveraging the tools and technology their employees and shoppers are comfortable with. Our decades of experience in complex system integrations enable our team to be confident when working with systems from industry-standard platforms to custom-developed solutions. This enables our team to provide our customers with novel and innovative tools and experiences while our customers and partners can focus on what they do best; selling fantastic products and building great financing programs and services, regardless of the infrastructure and technology they use.
Our business model is based on providing great products for our customers to help them drive sales, not harvesting application and customer data. This enables us to focus on success and inspires us to build a great
platform of tools for our customers and partners. Our innovation-based philosophy drives the Versatile team to look forward at the challenges merchants, lenders, and shoppers will face in the future. Snap Sign is a perfect representation of how this philosophy can ultimately pay off.
Our expertise and experiences enable us to take leads through a consultative sales process where we take time to explore and understand the issues they are facing and how, and if, our technology can help them reach their goals. By focusing on results, we have been able to develop long term, successful relationships with our customers and partners — where we often find ourselves taking a trusted advisor role.