Deluxe CEO Barry McCarthy said the country's economic success depends on strong small businesses.
"It takes courage and vision and hard work to start a small business," said McCarthy, whose company provides small business services. "I don't think people honestly respect how hard it is to start a small business. We should treat small business owners as heroes among us."
McCarthy is author of a new book that draws upon what Deluxe has learned while producing its business makeover series, called "Small Business Revolution" and working with clients, plus his own history as an entrepreneur and chief executive.
"Small Business Revolution: How Owners and Entrepreneurs Can Succeed" gives practical advice to small business owners and has reached No. 2 on the Wall Street Journal's bestselling business books list.
The TV show's sixth season, focused on Black-owned businesses in the Twin Cities, launches Nov. 9 on Hulu, Amazon Prime and the series' website.
Last week Deluxe held a grand opening for its new headquarters in downtown Minneapolis. The new space has no private offices and is designed around the concept of collaboration, McCarthy said. The company's 600 to 700 workers will filter in slowly, starting mid-November, with the goal of being at the office "more often than not" at the start of the year.
The company with about $2 billion in annual revenue reports its latest quarterly earnings on Thursday.
McCarthy recently answered questions about the book, the company's TV show and his leadership style, in a Zoom interview from a Deluxe office in New York. The following are excerpts from the interview, edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why did you write the book?
A: We see the book as part of Deluxe's 106-plus year commitment to our communities and small businesses. The profits of the book are not coming back to our company. The profits of the book are going to the company's foundation so we can invest in communities. It is absolutely a way to give back to the community with knowledge.
I hope people find some inspiration in it. You can do it, you can build a fantastic business, and we've given you a how-to guide. Hopefully we've inspired some people to go and try.
Q: What are the advantages of putting these stories in book format?
A: Deluxe has 106-year history of supporting small businesses and we help 4 million small businesses today. That gives us a really unique vantage point of what it takes to be successful, and we've turned some of those stories into episodes of "Small Business Revolution" on the television program. But with the book format we have so much more room than you can cover in a half-hour episode; you can cover so much more material and a much more practical how-to guide.
Q: What are some common mistakes that you've seen small businesses make?
A: One of the hardest topics to bring a small business owner along on is finances. Because it's the thing that people are least excited about but it is so foundational and it's the place where most small businesses fail. If you don't know your numbers you are just dead.
Q: What have you learned about your own leadership of Deluxe from a legacy check-printing business to one focused on small-business services?
A: Leading a historic transformation of Deluxe into a trusted payments and business technology company has forced me to consider all aspects of what I'm doing. The first lesson is the importance of clear and precise communication. The second is your mission and values must be clear. And third is the importance of trust. Trust is one of our core values, and we do our best to live it every day.
Q: Over half of small businesses don't make it to the five-year mark. You included an epilogue on when to abandon the dream. Why include that section?
A: First of all be proud, really proud that you took a chance. You tried something that so many other people didn't have the courage, the grit or the gravitas to try. But you did. Hold your head high.
When do you know it's time to stop? If you can't pay your taxes, if you can't pay your rent, if you can't pay your people for what they've already earned, you have to stop. Because you are going to a space that is lacking dignity, lacking respect. You want to end a business with your reputation intact, having tried to do the right thing.
It was hard to write. You don't want to look at that sober reality, but you have to.
Q: How did you organize the book for small business owners?
A: I wrote the book in such a way that you could read a chapter and then go put that to work; come back and read another chapter and go put that to work. Because small business owners, the biggest premium that they have is their time, so they have to take things in bite-size nuggets.
Q: The tone of the book is very conversational and you share plenty of anecdotes. Why that approach?
A: That was absolutely by design because I wasn't going to write a textbook. People don't have time for a textbook, they don't have time for an academic book. They just want to know what they need to do to be successful. "Here's a problem that I have; how do I solve it?" We tried to be practical.
Q: What can viewers expect from season six of "Small Business Revolution"?
A: We brought the series home to the Twin Cities, and we focused on Black-owned businesses and the special challenges that they face, which are in addition to the challenges of all small business owners. We talk about that and showcase those businesses. I've seen the first cut of all the episodes, and they tell a really compelling story about business ownership, entrepreneurship, about courage. And we are helping each of those businesses improve. They are inspirational stories.