Reprinted with permission from the publisher of MBJ Inc. from the February 14, 2020 issue of the Midlands Business Journal. Article by Richard D. Brown
From fintech startups to Fortune 500 companies on five continents, clients of Omaha-based The Strawhecker Group are being offered the consulting expertise and vital decision-making data to successfully operate in the volatile global payments industry. The father-son duo of Kurt Strawhecker — managing partner and board chairman—and Mike Strawhecker — president and partner — is enjoying an annual 20% increase in revenues in an industry where the average is half that.
The Strawhecker Group has grown from 15 to 40 employees over
the past decade and recently moved its offices from a 6,500-square-foot suite
into 10,000 square feet on the third floor at 11605 Miracle Hills Drive.
Satellite offices are located in Sacramento, Denver and London.
Fortune 500 companies served by the 14-year-old firm include
JP Morgan Chase, Mastercard and Visa Worldwide. Kurt Strawhecker, an award-winning
University of Nebraska at Omaha advertising and photojournalism graduate,
started the family-owned firm after employment with First Data (now Fiserv)
where he was introduced to entrepreneurship opportunities within the then-nascent
credit card/payments industry.
“I tested a concept,” he said simply. The Strawhecker Group
is now one of the largest global analytics and consulting firms focused on the payments
Kurt Strawhecker, Managing Partner & Board Chairman
“In one year, we want to be the preeminent firm in our space
globally,” said Mike Strawhecker, a three-time championship wrestler at Skutt
Catholic and 2006 marketing and management graduate from Bellevue University.
The younger Strawhecker, who ran kid camps for the Chicago
Bears and interned for former U.S. representative Lee Terry, said perhaps the
biggest asset he brings to the family business is, “I’m the most competitive
person you’ll ever meet.”
Kurt Strawhecker and key members of his team were keenly
monitoring breaking business news the morning of the Midlands Business Journal
interview: swiping a Visa card is about to be more expensive as early as April
due to a planned hike in the interchange rate — the amount a business is
charged whenever a customer their card.
“It’s one of the biggest changes in about a decade,” he
said, noting that while the charge will vary by merchant, the impact can
include a major change in how much a consumer is charged at some of their
favorite firms — and the type of card they will choose to swipe at the counter.
Kurt Strawhecker, an Omaha native who began his career at First
National Bank of Omaha and who later worked for the Ellis & Guy ad agency
where back-end work was done for Godfather’s Pizza, an Omaha firm that grew
from 40 to 700 locations during his tenure, began an 18-year stint in 1985 with
First Data, a credit card electronic processor. He spent three years in England
in the early ‘90s when First Data was establishing FDR Limited, a UK division
in Brighton, England.
The Strawhecker Group, which closed its first significant
transaction in 2009, began a global expansion in 2014 to reach companies on multiple
continents. By mid-2015 the firm was providing services to nine out of 10 top
merchant acquirers in the U.S.
In 2011, The Strawhecker Group launched Acquiring Industry Metrics, an innovative industry-wide performance platform.
“We had launched an industry first,” he said. An assessment done
in April 2018 found that payment companies realize more than $500 in additional
revenue per merchant by utilizing AIM.
Kurt Strawhecker said the introduction by his firm of Gateway Enterprise Metrics, an industry first and five-year-old platform offering gateways to benchmark uptime, transaction time and decline rates, was an important element in The Strawhecker Group’s growth.
Mike Strawhecker, President & Partner
Mike Strawhecker has taken the lead in overseeing the
development, design and creation of the platforms and other technological tools
led by a 20-person development and sales team operating out of Omaha.
“I learned from GEM that nobody else can do this because of
its difficulty,” he said. “The first two years we worked on it were touch and
Projects require investments from as little as $10,000 to
hundreds of thousands of dollars, from 50 to 2,000 hours and from as little as two
weeks to three months.
Just as the payment industry has designed software for fast food
establishments to take credit cards, the younger Strawhecker is confident that
software will be developed to enable renters in large apartment complexes to
use cards for their monthly rent payments.
“If money can be made off that payment, the apartment
complex managers are going to be for it,” he said. “Our technology could help
them monitor it and turn it into a new revenue source.”
Kurt Strawhecker said that while the technology can excel in
the rent payment function, it could also be used to track leases, pay utility
bills, among other functions.
“It could be used in 350 industries in the U.S. from restaurants
to optometrists and the merchant could pick the level of depth,” he said.
Software used to collect rent via debit card at multiple
building sites, for example, could have a 2.7% transaction charge.
In the future, Strawhecker sees electronic transactions
being used for the payment of parking tickets, license taxes, and expanded
For example, they said they can work with independent
hardware store owners about “frictions” that need to be overcome to get
different constituencies on the same platform.
“We can incentivize them and show them how we can make
things easier for them,” Mike Strawhecker said.
About a third of The Strawhecker Group’s revenues are generated by market intelligence work. Clients are looking for competitive intelligence on their rivals. The Omaha firm employs seven analysts full-time to keep pulse on relevant news. That division is headed by Jared Drieling, senior director of market intelligence and consulting.
The Strawhecker Group publishes a monthly newsletter, NewsFilter, which goes to more than 45,000 subscribers in the payment industry.
“The Strawhecker Groups’ success has been helped by its
uniqueness and focus,” the senior Strawhecker said. “We specialize in one part
of the payments industry and we’ve striven to become experts in that part.”
Attracting the needed talent to Omaha and facilitating
partnerships with international companies where necessary are other important
elements of the firm’s success.
The Strawhecker Group has also used “bootstrap financing” to
build its human capital. Those coming on board are told they will get
experience and if it works out, they will be given more responsibilities.
For many, Kurt Strawhecker’s offer launched their career’
with the firm.
He even admits using the “I’ll hire you if you can pay for
yourself” promise on his son when he was hired 15 years ago.
Recently, The Strawhecker Group rolled out Transaction
Watch, a weekly newsletter aimed at cutting-edge payment executives, corporate
strategists and private equity groups seeking to learn of the most important
and relevant merchant news impacting the industry.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher of MBJ Inc. from the February 14, 2020 issue of the Midlands Business Journal.