Meet the CEO: Robert Wechsler
The co-founder of Century Payments says he has focused on independence rather than money to guide his career.
When Robert Wechsler founded Century Payments in 2006 with friend and business partner Eric Frazier, the pair had a specific business model in mind. “We wanted a company that focused on people, especially salespeople,” Wechsler says, “and we wanted to give them the freedom to flourish.” It has been a winning strategy for the Frisco-based payment-processing firm, which has 100 employees in North Texas and another 75 throughout the country. The company, whose clients include NCR, Office Depot, UPS, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, chalked up more than $250 million in revenue last year—a big jump from the more than $40 million generated in 2009, and $100,000 a year in 2006 through 2008.
Title: Co-founder and CEO
First job: I was a stock boy at a discount pharmacy retailer in Upstate New York, where my dad was the pharmacist. After that, I worked as a cook and as a bartender, which I enjoyed because I loved interacting with people. Successful interaction with people is such an integral part of business, and it’s a skill that’s so hard to teach.
Previous career: I was an attorney in Miami. It has been a huge asset for me because it taught me persistence, but all I wanted to do was argue cases. I didn’t like all the paperwork.
Capital boost: We secured an investment from Austin Ventures in 2009. That’s when the fuse was lit.
Management style: Empowerment. I give people total freedom and the time to do their best work. That can present challenges if you have talented people who need more structure.
Weaknesses: I have grown more impatient over time, and I struggle with people who lack motivation and who limit the effort they’ll put in to accomplish something.
Biggest challenge: Finding really talented people who have passion and who want to pursue excellence. You can come in and become a millionaire at this company, but if you want to have rock star pay, you’ve got to be a rock star.
Motivation: The biggest impetus for me in becoming an entrepreneur was that I didn’t like authority or being controlled by other people. I didn’t chase money. I chased independence, and the money came along.
Family: My wife, Melissa, and I met in our freshman year of college and we’ve been married 13 years. We have three children—two sons, Keegan, 8, and Sutter, 3, and a daughter, Camdyn, 7.
For fun: I play with my kids and coach some of their sports teams. I’m a homebody. If I have free time I want to spend it at home with my family.
Books: I don’t enjoy reading, but I’ve read many books because my mentor told me to read them and then we’d discuss them. Some of the best ones have been The Art of War, The Richest Man in Babylon, Tipping Point, Outliers, and The Little Red Book of Selling.
Typical day: I’m up at 6 a.m. and I check email, then I make breakfast for my kids and take them to school. After that, I either work from home or head in to the office. I work really hard, but my family always comes first. I have pockets of time that I spend with them throughout the day.
Television: My favorites are reality shows, especially Big Brother and Survivor, because of the psychology of the people interacting with one another.
Dog or cat: I’m a big dog lover. I grew up with Great Danes and now I have a Boston terrier.
Secrets to success: I don’t wing important things in my life—ever. I prepare.
Best advice: Family should always come first; remember that the people in a deal are more important than the terms or the amount of the deal; and don’t screw up.
Opportunities: Everyone thinks that I always took some massive risk at every point in my career, but I never really took risks. I took a chance when opportunities presented themselves.