Many people avoid transparent communication. Some think that they are transparent enough. When you value transparent communication, you are open and honest to a fault. You dare to share more than most feel comfortable. Your team begins to trust you because you have transparent communication. My guest today is Saint Hung, CEO of Universal Processing. His company was ranked #500 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. We talk about the importance of transparent communication and what it means to share everything that you can legally share. Fast-growth companies tend to be more transparent than most companies.
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Saint Hung: The Transcript
Target Audience: Saint Hung is the Owner of Universal Processing. Universal Processing offers a comprehensive line of payment solutions for your business – credit card, T & E card, debit card, EBT, and check acceptance – for all types of businesses including retail stores, restaurants, e-commerce websites, mail order, and telephone order companies, lodging establishments, petroleum service stations, and more.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Nowadays, the first thing we do to check in with one another, how’s everything at home? How’s the family’s everybody healthy? Is everybody safe? How are you feeling? Has this thing gotten you down, you know, just a more compassionate side and just realizing everybody’s got, everybody’s an individual, everybody has their own challenges. Everybody is vulnerable to fear. And fear that’s out there, and the concerns of mortality, obviously.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:50]
When you think about trusting your employees? Do you think about how transparent you could be? Or do you think about what they need to know and what you need to hold back? Transparency is one of those lines where a lot of people will go just as much as they need to. And some special leaders will go as far as they can. Today, we have a very special interview about transparency with Saint hung. He’s the CEO of universal processing. They’re a processing company for small businesses, and those underserved, we talk about what he sees is the core factor for the reason why they grew so fast. They were number 500 on the Inc list when I talked to St. He really shared some of the things that he’s compassionate about and why that’s important inside his leadership and why it contributes to the growth of the company. But we also talk about transparency, what it is, why it’s important, and why you must go as far as you can, to be as transparent to build trust with your people. Here’s the interview with St.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients With for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool this gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com. That’s pretty easy, right? theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that you will answer a few questions, you will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it you will get insight into where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.
Gene Hammett [2:47]
Hi Saint, How are you?
Saint Hung [2:48]
Hi, Gene. Very good. Very good.
Gene Hammett [2:51]
Excited to have you on the podcast.
Saint Hung [2:54]
Likewise, thanks for having me. Yep.
Gene Hammett [2:57]
Well, I’ve already told our audience a little bit about you in the open Intro but I’d love for you to kind of tell us about the company. So what is and what do you do at Universal Processing?
Saint Hung [3:08]
Well, Universal Processing is a financial technology FinTech company that handles payment processing. People think, Oh, are you like PayPal? Are you like a square? Are you like, Chase Paymentech? That’s exactly what we do. But early on, I had felt that there were a need for small brick and mortar mom and pop businesses to have their servicing concerns addressed and I formed a company specifically to help them out. The mom and pop business owners, the female own business owners, LGBTQ business owners, and minority business owners.
Gene Hammett [3:48]
Well, I know businesses needed to take processing and it’s good to have you on their side. You have grown really fast and I don’t ask everybody this question but beyond just fast growth. What are you really proud of there at the company?
Saint Hung [4:03]
I’m proud of the people at the company. I’m proud of the people that start with little to no work experience. And they grow and become leaders they grow into their own. And, you know, it’s as we scale, it’s very tough to say that we only rely on each one teach one type of mentality. But we really do take a handful of people that we see have potential and we foster them and we develop them. We cultivate them as the most essential resources of our company.
Gene Hammett [4:38]
You work in an industry where you are required to it’s not just like a body shop, you don’t need a person to handle this. You need their thinking mind and brain. Is that fair to say?
Saint Hung [4:48]
Gene Hammett [4:49]
There’s a lot of background back in like processing and all the work that happens technology, and you have to build people that have that kind of skills, but also can Indicate together?
Saint Hung [5:01]
Correct? Correct. We have to cultivate those people one by one.
Gene Hammett [5:05]
I know you were talking with my team a little bit saying about some of the important factors to growth, and one of them that came out was transparency. Why do you think transparency is important for your company?
Saint Hung [5:16]
I think transparency becomes more and more important, especially in this day and age and with even with what’s going on right now. Individuals, certain leaders without touching some touchy subjects. If there was more transparency, maybe society as a whole in the United States, the entire world could have done a little better to react to the situation that we’re currently experiencing. And, you know, quarter one now quarter two of 2020.
Gene Hammett [5:51]
I hundred percent agree with that. And transparency is one of the key themes that keep coming up. When I keep talking to founders like yourself that are growing fast-growth companies. Why is transparency so kind of critical to growth?
Saint Hung [6:06]
Well, transparency is actually one of our primary principles, one of our six core principles. And I think the reason why it’s so integral to growth is that I’m, the more clear cut you are to your individuals to your talents, the more clear cut you are to the public at large. The simpler it becomes because every single company out there these days, their marketing is like, Oh, we want to save you money we want to do right by you. We all want to do that. And everybody can say that. But if we cut out the Bs, so to speak, then we can just make things simpler, and we can just, you know, do business, the way business was intended many decades ago. Give people smile, give them a sincere handshake, and do the very best you can for them. And I think a lot of that is lost in the corporate world. a culture that we see around us in corporate America.
Hold on, Saint just talked about core principles, you may know them as the core values of your company. It’s very important for you to understand what they are, but not just what they are, how to use them, how to create rituals inside the organization, a lot of you operationalize them to live by them day in and day out. When st talks about transparency, it’s not something you do every once in a while. It’s a common theme throughout everything you do. And it’s apparent everywhere in the organization, at every level. That’s what core principles are. And we call them core values here. Back to Saint.
Gene Hammett [7:39]
There’s a big quote that I often remember when it comes to Mark Twain. I love some of the things he’s talked about before but yeah, you don’t have to remember that. The truth. Do you remember this?
Saint Hung [7:52]
Yeah, yeah. If If you don’t lie, you don’t need to remember anything because you’re always just telling the truth and you’re always just being yourself. And it’s refreshing to be able to do business like that.
Gene Hammett [8:04]
When you think about leadership, why don’t you? You know, there’s people out there that say we know the financials, I’m gonna hold back. Maybe I’ll start there, where do you draw the line? There are certain things that you probably do hold back. And there’s certain things you’re legally required to hold back. But where do you draw that line of transparency?
Saint Hung [8:22]
I try to tell my colleagues, everything possible, everything that we’re legally allowed to tell them, obviously, I report to a board of directors and, you know, quarter x numbers before the actual release date. That’s, you know, that’s got to stay within the shareholders and the board. But just like this crisis, before, you know, the moment we saw the iceberg, we told everybody Hey, guys, we’re seeing an iceberg ahead. We’re going to do our best to gather all the information and let you know in advance and we were fortunate to come to the decision of transitioning, taking a full hard pivot to work from home. About a week, a week and a half before the governor of the state of New York and the mayor of New York City decided to do that make that call for everybody. So, you know, throughout all points, full transparency. We’re thinking about it. There’s a crisis. Hey, guys, there’s a crisis. We’re being honest with you.
Gene Hammett [9:25]
I didn’t realize you were in New York. I know that.
Saint Hung [9:28]
Gene Hammett [9:28]
I told my team but you’re, you’re kind of at the heart of this thing. And the US. Has that been anything different as far as to how your communication or the rhythms of communication for the business?
Saint Hung [9:40]
Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I’ll be transparent right now. We were one of the fastest-growing companies in the US and we were approaching the end of quarter one, making a blowout quarter. And then we get hit by this and wow, I mean, just as an entrepreneur, that’s never seen anything I couldn’t handle any challenge insurmountable. Here we are getting hit with, you know, 80-75 to 85% of our revenues just disappearing, small business owners going by the wayside. Once proud and strong brick and mortar businesses, even chain franchises, being reduced to cowering, very vulnerable individuals that are stuck at home. That’s what it is right now.
Gene Hammett [10:32]
I want to get specific with this because I like to go deep into this. What are you what are your communication rhythms in a virtual work now? Have they changed much? What could you share with us that you think you do differently that allows people to align together coordinate action and all the things that we need to deal with as we work together?
Saint Hung [10:50]
Well, we used to be a face to face firm face to face consultancy for the most part. I’m going to our business owners meeting them face to face and Being in the office having a pretty sizable sales staff, having small meetings, face to face discussions, face to face, eating, you know, productive lunch hours, and whatnot. Now we’re checking in with each other via zoom, we’re having a lot more phone calls because obviously social distancing going on. And I think just recently, there’s a lot more care. We’re a loving, kind of family-oriented company. But nowadays, the first thing we do is to check in with one another. How’s everything at home? How’s the family? Is everybody healthy? Is everything safe? How are you feeling? Um, this thing, has this thing gotten you down, you know, just a more compassionate side, and just realizing everybody’s got into, you know, everybody’s an individual, everybody has their own challenges. Everybody, you know, is vulnerable to fear. And, you know, fear that’s out there and the concerns of mortality, obviously.
Gene Hammett [12:02]
Saint, when you think about creating this environment for employees, it’s one thing for you to be transparent and believes in that. How do you ensure that your employees are transparent with each other where they need to be?
Saint Hung [12:16]
Well, we take a lot of steps to ensure that we’ve got, you know, the normal company bonding events. Some companies do it twice a year, we like to do it, monthly, quarterly, happy hours, all of that. You asked me if that’s the if that’s fully effective, I don’t know. But it lets people communicate with one another and it opens allows people to open up Have a good time and just be themselves relax a little bit. We also have an open workspace, which is no longer novel, but we’ve maintained that since Oh, three and I mean, we have The conference rooms have been really, really sensitive phone calls and communications. But other than that, I think it’s always been that type of mentality in our organization to be flat. And if you have a question if you have an idea, just speak your mind. And let’s not let the hierarchy or corporate politics get in the way of anything.
Now, hold on for a second. Saint, just said he draws the line on transparency where he’s legally allowed to share. This reminds me of something I share on stages when I talk to big groups about culture and transparency. I share the story of HubSpot. HubSpot is a fast-growing company out of Boston. They grew really fast, but they knew that transparency was a part of their communication, a part of their rhythms and part of who they were. When they became public. They ran into a little bit of an issue. They could no longer be as open and transparent as they had been in the past. Unless they made a big decision that day. the decision was to make every employee a designated Insider, which means they could share openly with these employees. And they’ve continued that since then this has been years ago. They thought so much transparency, that they’re willing to do something that no other company I know have has done to make every employee a designated Insider. Back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [14:22]
One of the things that you have talked about is trust. And I think transparency is one of the factors of that what else do you see drives and improves trust amongst your people?
Saint Hung [14:34]
I would say that see, integrity and being an ethically solid, or everybody being ethically solid individuals for a consistent period of time, fosters trust, and we screen pretty, pretty diligently for that with our software with metrics But we also have, you know, our normal quarterly reviews, and maybe month monthly face to face conversations just to have wellness checks with individuals. And I mean, nowadays, I think the wellness checks, given the crisis, are a lot more frequently than they were before.
Gene Hammett [15:22]
I don’t want to make assumptions. What do you include in that wellness check?
Saint Hung [15:26]
Oh, the same open friendly communication. Just How is everything? Are you okay? Is your family okay? Just first, making sure that everybody’s in the right mindset to do what they need to do for the business owners that they support and for society at large.
Gene Hammett [15:47]
When you think about mistakes that you’ve made along with this because I know being transparent can have its drawbacks. Is there anything that you feel that you can share with us about any of those mistakes?
Saint Hung [15:58]
Ouch. Yes, we had a very torturous, painful, and very public to the company lawsuits between partners and we announced that it was happening because I like to be a straight-up guy Hey, we’re getting a suit our pants off and let’s be strong. We’re letting you guys know that’s what happened. That’s what’s happening. There’s a shareholder dispute and these things can be very painful and rip apart, potentially even the existence disrupts the continuity of the company. And what we thought was going to be a six-month lawsuit became a three and a half year lawsuit and that was a was tough but we stuck to our guns and when things were, you know, when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, we also explain that to our colleagues and our team and I think we came through much, much stronger.
Gene Hammett [17:13]
I’ve seen that difficult situations have a chance to have everyone rally together. I’ve seen that through this COVID-19 issues. You probably went through it with this lawsuit. Have you seen that people are rallying to work a little bit more creatively innovatively put a little bit more care in their work?
Saint Hung [17:36]
Yes, absolutely. Especially recently. We, as I said, we serve the underserved community, minority business owners, women-owned business owners, small business owners, and we literally collectively put aside our thoughts of our bottom line revenues or profits. And we said what can we do right now that will make the biggest impact. So we shifted our focus to education rather than client acquisition. And we started Instagram channels YouTube videos, we started a help desk, and we repurposed many individuals to educate and assist the small businesses nationwide on how to get signed up on this stimulus package. I mean, we experienced the modicum of success and they’re the bad actors out there like my, my home team, the LA Lakers, they, you know, did some, I don’t know, unenviable acts and men many of these companies took the wrong actions but I think we were on the right side of history by helping out the guys that actually needed it. Go out and you know, at least apply put their name in the hat to get up Part of the small business benefits on the stimulus package.
Gene Hammett [19:03]
Well, Saint. I really appreciate you being here talking about trust and communication. I want to turn just a little bit to you, you’ve had, a long journey of leadership along with your career. Is there anything that you would think was a defining moment really causing you to rethink your own mindset, your own transformation?
Saint Hung [19:26]
Absolutely, yes. I’m probably the day after. Probably the day after I resigned from JP Morgan. I was with a couple of other banks Fifth Third Bank, US Bank, and then JP Morgan Chase for four straight years. And it was still in my early 20s then, but I was like, You know what, I can’t do this anymore. You know, it’s been a good run for seven years and financially, the upside is Good, but I don’t like what corporate America is doing to me as an individual. And I have to go out there and do it my way no matter how challenging it can be. And I mean, when you’re a when you’re a business owner of one, it’s got to be my way right nowadays, it’s no longer my way. You know, nearly two decades later, it’s you know, what the group thinks, what the panel thinks, what the senior leaders think. But yeah, that was a defining moment resignation, and just saying, I have to succeed no matter what I have to go out there. I have to punch a hole in the universe for myself and make this vision a reality.
Gene Hammett [20:43]
Well, Saint. I appreciate you sharing that with us. It takes a lot of courage to be the entrepreneur break away from that, that salary. I’m sure you’re glad you did. I’m sure the 85 plus people that work for you and you’re growing underneath your the umbrella of this organization, and I appreciate it too. So thanks for being here on the podcast.
Saint Hung [21:02]
Appreciate it. Thanks.
Gene Hammett [21:05]
Another fantastic interview here at Growth Think Tank. I really love talking to leaders that are on the frontlines doing this and living it every day. st talked about some of the things that are different because of COVID-19. It’s all different for us, we can’t continue to run the same playbook of leadership that we used to, we have to slow down a little bit. We have to be more compassionate, and we have to be a little bit more transparent than we probably are comfortable with. When I think about my own leadership and how it’s grown over the years. I can move between different styles when necessary, depending on the moment but also depending on the employee. And this is important for you too. I work with leaders that are really focused on their defining moments and really rising to the next level. If that’s you, I’d love to connect with you and get to know you.
Gene Hammett [21:53]
My name is Gene Hammett. You can find me at genehammett.com. You can look at details there. You can find more about who I am what I’m doing. But the key here is, do you want to continue growing as a leader so that you can grow the people so that the people will grow the business? That’s what I do. I do it every day. And that’s what I love doing. Make sure you keep tuning in here to the Growth Think Tank podcast. As always, leave with courage. We’ll see you next time.
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