If you’ve recently walked the halls of MPX’s corporate offices—past the reception desk and the packed support team bullpen, where people are almost literally sitting on top of each other, all the way to the back corner office—you undoubtedly heard MPX’s Chief Operating Officer Sean O’Neil barking into the phone pitching a new prospective sales agent.
O’Neil has been doing his prospect pitch about 3 times a day since the end of September, so he has it down to a science now. It’s New York fast and frantic and frenzied, like he can’t wait to stuff all his words into the willing ear at the other end of the line. He speaks with the excitement of someone who’s sharing a very special and little-known secret.
“I honestly can’t wait to get to the office in the morning,” pants O’Neil between pitches one chilly December morning. “We’ve created something really good here for independent sales agents, and I have this insatiable desire to tell everyone I can about it. And from what I can tell, the agents seem to like what they’re hearing.”
Indeed, through December, MPX has more than doubled its roster of sales agents from its 2015 ranks.
The Audacious Idea
When MPX opened its doors in 2009, O’Neil and CEO and Founder, Chris Briller, had the less-than-inspiring goal of becoming profitable. After some white-knuckle moments, that finally happened in 2011. And then in 2013 O’Neil and Briller raised enough money to buy out the company’s initial investors. By then, they had begun recruiting a steady flow of industry giant First Data sales agents (Briller had worked for Firsts Data as a sales executive for 7 years) who had become unhappy with their compensation plan and had heard enough good things about the MPX culture and opportunity to venture into the world of independent sales.
Then in late 2015, after having added a couple of key executives who were able to quickly grow teams serving specific verticals, Briller and O’Neil were chatting— something they’ve done about 5 times a day, even on the weekends, since they began working together in 2009— about where they wanted to take MPX next.
“So Sean must have had some extra coffee or something,” Briller recalls. “Because in a moment of enthusiasm, he blurts out, ‘We could become the next Heartland!’ I literally burst out laughing. Heartland was at the time one of the biggest and most respected processors in the U.S. Sean was clearly annoyed with my response, and said, ‘No, really. We work our butts off, we are smart, and we treat our merchants fairly and our sales agents like gold. If you were a sales agent, you would come to MPX. And so would I. And so would anyone. Most of them just don’t know who we are…Yet.’ And when he put it like that, it made total sense. There was no reason we couldn’t get there. And if I’ve learned anything about Sean over the past 8 years, it’s that once he sets his sights on something, he doesn’t stop until he achieves it. Now, this is starting to get very interesting for us.”
The Three-Part Plan
1. Creating the Buzz – Engage Morey Publishing
All of this happened to coincide with a somewhat random meeting between Sean O’Neil and Jed Morey. Joe Doyle, a 20 year industry veteran and a newly-minted Partner at MPX, has built a network of superstar sales agents and a portfolio of large merchants with sophisticated processing needs. Doyle, who is a Long Island native, arranged a meeting with Jed Morey through one of his business connections. Doyle asked Sean to attend the meeting with him, as he felt there could be something more here than just an exploratory meeting.“ Jed Morey is a huge name on Long Island – he owns and operates the Long Island Press and his family had owned a number of Long Island radio stations, so I was excited to meet with him” recalls Doyle. “I really just wanted to tap into Jed’s massive network to land new business, but it occurred to me that he might be able to help MPX get to the next level, and I wanted to make sure Sean was involved from the get go”.
Jed had just launched Morey Publishing, an ambitious and innovative website development company that also created content and enhanced its clients’ online presence. MPX had always thought of marketing expense as a pure luxury, so their website was plain vanilla, and they had virtually no online visibility. “We were hungry for new clients,” Morey remembers. “When Joe reached out to me, my team and I did a little diligence and realized MPX would be a perfect fit for our services. They had a desire to grow and needed a much-improved online presence. So in walk Doyle and O’Neil— two loud, brash, confident personalities— and I knew almost instantly that we would be partners.”
But Doyle and O’Neil didn’t see the fit at first. “We went there to pitch him,” recalls O’Neil, “And this guy starts selling us. I was kind of pissed, and found myself glaring at Doyle, wondering what the hell he had gotten me mixed up in. But the more Jed talked, the more I liked him, and I started to see that he and his team could create the buzz for MPX that I felt we needed to scale.”
And so it began. Morey Publishing and MPX inked their deal—in 6-month increments, at O’Neil’s insistence. And in no time, MPX started surging up in the Google search engine rankings. And O’Neil was hooked: “In a remarkably short time, Morey helped us overhaul our website and develop an impressively steady stream of relevant, helpful, and informative articles that we pushed out through social media. We started getting unsolicited inquiries from merchants and sales agents—something we had never before experienced. It was so exciting. And then it became terrifying.”
2. Harnessing the Buzz – Find the Field General
O’Neil found himself working harder than he had when he once practiced law in a large New York City firm. “I was exhausted and overwhelmed,” recalls O’Neil. “Jed had repeatedly asked us if we were ready for the inevitable rush from the internet referrals, and clearly we weren’t. I think in my mind I remained skeptical until it actually happened. Briller and I still had to run the rest of the MPX operation, and this Morey-driven activity needed attention and focus. This was a good problem to have—what I had hoped for was coming to fruition—but it was a problem that we needed to address.”
Briller started to see where this was headed and had an idea: “The traction that the Morey relationship was achieving was amazing, and saw Sean going at an unsustainable pace. I had played college baseball with a guy who had worked at First Data, and had heard he was no longer fulfilled there. He was looking for a new challenge and I thought he’d be a great fit. So I reached out.”
Enter Chris Rojas. Rojas is an impressive physical presence, and his personal story could inspire the most hardened of souls. Rojas had met Briller when he walked onto the baseball team at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), where Briller was already a scholarship player. Briller couldn’t help but notice Rojas’s natural, raw talent, and had wondered why he wasn’t more heavily recruited in high school. The answer was simple: Rojas had a difficult childhood, and bounced around some tough New York City schools until he landed at Great Neck High School for his senior year— too late to land a college baseball scholarship. But Rojas had determination, a live arm, and learned so much from the coaching staff, he was granted a scholarship at NYIT after his first year. After a standout collegiate career, Rojas spent several years playing minor league baseball, eventually topping out in Triple A ball.
After that, Rojas needed to think about a career outside of baseball. He reached out to Briller, who after a slightly shorter stint in minor league baseball, had become a rising star at First Data. “Briller was like a big brother to me ever since I met him at NYIT,” recalls Rojas. “He was preparing to leave First Data when I reached out to him, but he helped me get a job there before he left. It didn’t occur to me then, but I think Briller had an idea that we’d work together some day.”
Rojas took to merchant services like a little kid to an ice cream truck. He learned the business inside and out, sold like he had been doing it for his whole life, and rolled easily with the many management philosophical shifts at First Data. He was becoming a master at his trade, and he was starting to think he was ready for a new challenge. And that’s when Briller called him about the MPX opportunity. Briller remembers telling Rojas, “My business partner Sean is doing some interesting things, and I think he could really use you.”
Rojas’s head-down, steady-the-ship mentality would complement O’Neil’s excitable nature nicely. O’Neil liked him immediately: “I told Rojas what we were doing with Morey, what was happening as a result, and that I had absolutely no clue where it was going, but that the objective was to become the biggest and best processing company in the industry. And that I needed a field general to marshal us there. He didn’t laugh. He just nodded his head and coolly and confidently said, ‘So we should get started then.’”
Rojas left that first meeting excited about what he had heard: “So here’s this likeable little guy Sean who’s talking so fast and getting so excited that he’s actually sweating. But he seemed smart and passionate and wildly ambitious, and I thought, ‘Wow, we might be able to pull this off!’”
3. Make the Most of the Buzz – Hire a Killer Recruiter
The last piece of the puzzle was finding someone who could help MPX promote its unique, agent-friendly program to merchant services professionals outside the First Data family of agents. “We had become known as a safe haven for unhappy First Data reps,” says O’Neil, “And we got constant reassurance from them that we were offering an exceptional agent experience. We just needed to get the word out in a targeted fashion to sales agents outside of First Data.”
O’Neil started combing his LinkedIn contacts for merchant services recruiting professionals and reached out to a few. “Most of them had their own recruiting businesses and wanted us to be a client of theirs,” says O’Neil, “But I wanted someone solely focused on MPX. Someone who really bought into the fact that what we were offering was really something uniquely great. And then I met Crazy Jill.”
Jill Pineault had spent years in a variety of human resources roles in many industries, but really found her passion in recruiting. Her most recent role was with a merchant services company similar in size to MPX. At first she liked it, but soon realized that management was having her sell an agent program that they weren’t delivering on. “I had built a rapport with these people I was recruiting— they had become friends— and was selling them something I believed in,” recalls Jill. “So when I started checking in with recently-recruited agents to see how their experience was, and they started complaining that my employer was not keeping its end of the bargain, I knew I needed a change. And then I get this random LinkedIn message from Sean.”
O’Neil and Pineault chatted by phone, and O’Neil initiated a dinner meeting. “I walk into the restaurant, and there’s this quirky, off-beat, confident woman,” O’Neil remembers. “Jill made a series of outrageous claims about the number of agents she had access to and how many she could recruit to MPX. The numbers seemed unachievable but something about her made me think she could actually do it. When I expressed skepticism, Jill urged me to contact her past employers. I did, and each one raved about her unwavering persistence and uncanny ability to deliver a multitude of spot-on candidates. She just made me promise that we could and would make good on what we were offering. That was easy.”
Pineault sat in on a few early recruitment calls led by O’Neil and Rojas, and refined her pitch. She worked closely with the Morey Publishing team to craft her initial email outreach campaigns, and off she went.
“Before I knew it, Jill was scheduling 2-3 agent recruitment calls a day for Sean and me,” Rojas says. “And we were consistently struck by the quality of the agents and how well Jill had qualified them and laid out the MPX opportunity. We refined our pitch and it really resonated with almost everyone. We knew the pain they were experiencing with the other merchant services companies they’d dealt with, and we had a program to remedy just about all of them.”
Heartland or Bust
The three-headed monster of Morey, Rojas and Pineault has already produced eye-popping results. Since late September, Jill has helped recruit over 40 new sales agents. But O’Neil isn’t satisfied. “We now have the platform and players to promote our message to the right audience,” he says. “When we talk to agents, we hear things like, ‘This sounds too good to be true.’ We can overcome nearly all of their concerns. And thanks to Morey and Jill, we’re getting to the right audience. But we still need to fine-tune our process for quickly converting signed up sales agents into merchant accounts. We can improve the frequency and quality of our communications out to them so when they have a deal, submitting it to MPX is a no-brainer.”
“That’s Sean alright,” says Briller of O’Neil’s expressed concern. “He wants to become Heartland overnight. The strides they’ve made to date are incredible. Success is inevitable.”
O’Neil and Briller are indeed bracing for extraordinary growth. A year ago, they signed an office lease for space that was twice as big as their previous space. And they’re presently searching for space two-and-a-half times the size of their current space for spring 2017 occupancy.
“We have a world-class company here,” O’Neil says as he takes in a view of his growing support team. “But we’re preparing to become the very biggest and very best there is. What Heartland became is in our sights, and it will soon be in our rearview mirror. I can’t wait.”