Payment Solutions grows, charges ahead

Loveland – It sounds like an over-simplification, but Payment Solutions’ Ken Salazar insists the key to his company’s growth is in finding a need and filling it.

Salazar, a former investment banker, and his wife Amy decided in 2004 that they wanted to try their hand in the market for connecting merchants with banks to handle their credit-card transactions.

The Salazars procured a $10,000 loan from Amy’s parents to start the business. While Amy was working for her father to bring in income, Ken launched the business in Greeley in 2005 and moved it to Loveland in 2010.

The gambit panned out.

“We were able to pay them back and buy them out a couple years into the business,” Salazar said. “They gave us tremendous support and guidance in how to run a company in terms of cash-flow in those early years.”

Since then, the growth has been better than average – far better, in fact. The company has jumped from about 37 employees at the beginning of 2010 to about 85 today.

Sales grew 86 percent in a year, rising to $10.75 million in 2011 from $5.78 million in 2010. That performance earned the company the No. 1 spot on this year’s Mercury 100 among companies with revenues between $7 million and $18.9 million.

Payment Solutions handles credit card transactions, setting up the hardware to process them through credit card terminals and mobile devices. In other words, the company helps “move money,” Salazar said.

The company adds value by promising reduced credit card processing fees and helping merchants get their money faster, he said.

Payment Solutions has about 30 agents working full-time to generate new accounts over the phone at its call-center operations on St. Cloud Drive in Loveland.

Salazar has added about 10 field agents in key markets across the country, including California, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma, who make personal calls and telephone contacts with businesses in those markets.

The company now has about 6,000 merchant-clients nationwide. Growth in the years ahead will mostly come from its call center workers.

“More and more of our sales are being done without face-to-face interactions with clients,” Salazar said. “We used to be 100 percent face-to-face when we were local, now we’re about 50-50.”

Salazar said Payment Solutions is different from many of its competitors because his workers are full-time employees as opposed to contractors.

“(Many companies) just hire 1099 agents and send them a DVD on how to send contracts,” he said. “Our people work for us full-time so we have greater control over their training and we help them develop into career professionals.”

Technology is also helping the business expand. Facebook is giving merchants the ability to track who their customers are and communicate with them while Google apps are enabling customers to use their cell phones as wallets.

“We’re finding cost-effective solutions for the small and mid-sized merchant to be able to adapt to new technology,” Salazar said. “If we can’t help these merchants save money, we let them out of their contacts.”

Salazar has a goal of expanding the company’s business outside of the local area by about 30 percent and adding 40 to 50 employees over the next 12 months.

“I get a lot more excited talking about the future than the past,” he said.

Like many successful companies, Payment Solutions is giving back to the community with a goal of donating $1 million in three to five years, Salazar said.

The company also gives paid time off to employees who volunteer with the United Way, Junior Achievement and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“We’re striving for mutual profitability,” Salazar said. “It’s something we absolutely live by.”