In the Executive Seat: Steve Bryson

Anne Winter
Steve Bryson, CEO of one of the most prominent online billing companies in the adult space today, has his hands in so many industries and so many projects, there's a chance he might forget one or two while listing them. And at the age of 49, after having helped raise two grown, self-sufficient children, found and develop a large handful of projects in the mainstream, adult and nonprofit worlds, he's not planning on taking a break anytime soon. Bryson says there'll be time for rest later.

Before founding Global Electronic Technology (GET) almost two decades ago, Bryson's entrepreneurial spirit and business mind was steeped in online e-commerce and credit card processing. He started Deluxe Data's credit card division before moving on to own an online retail cardswipe processing company, and then came on board with Lynk Systems where he built its western division.

Then came time to develop his own online processor that would handle high-risk accounts in ways that, at the time, no others were.

"We encountered a few people in the adult space, wrote some adult accounts, and realized there was a strong need for what, at the time, was perceived to be a more traditional management style, if you will," Bryson said.

Bryson said in those days, there were online billers that were having problems, losing track of people's money, not returning reserves, and spreading fines out among groupings of merchants' portfolios, rather than fining each one separately — the companies simply didn't know who owed how much.

"I came from a mainstream banking background and realized the need for accuracy in reporting and so we felt as though if we came up with the most accurate reporting, and were good stewards of people's money, we'd be successful," Bryson said.

After signing some larger companies in the adult space — and successfully removing several from the Terminated Merchant File list — word spread about GET's abilities.

"You can run a commercial on TV and get 100 small mom-and-pop merchants to sign up but you can't run an ad in an industry publication and get people to sign up unless other people can vouch you can do a good job," Bryson said. "Word of mouth has been the strongest marketing tool we've employed in my entire career."

Bryson has understood the need for a strong will, strong business mind and stellar reputation since he was a paratrooper in the 82nd division — of which his son also has been a member, having served in Iraq during some of the most dangerous times of war in 2007.

Bryson said he hitchhiked to California in 1980 with a dollar in his pocket and, after having spent much of his free time in the service and his youth reading books about sales, self awareness and positive thinking, he set out immediately to find a sales job.

He landed his first sales job within minutes of his interview. The gentleman he met with tossed him an old ash tray and said simply, "Sell this to me." Bryson said three months later, he was running the man's sales team.

Now Bryson mans a solid team and, following the success of GET, has founded three major organizations, each involved in a very different part of the business world. Eighteen months ago Bryson formed OrbitalPay, an online billing company that provides scrubbing, affiliate tracking hooked to MPA3 and NATS, and handles international merchant accounts.

Bryson said his goal was to open a third party processor that would take any size merchant, but take itself out of the flow of money, leaving the money exchange among the acquiring band, federal reserve and the merchant. Because GET owns its own bank ID numbers and interbank card associations, and issues its own merchant accounts, as well as handles its own risk management, customer support and technology servicing in-house, the company is able to offer lower rates than some of its competitors.

"We don't have a job without our customers," Bryson said. "We are founded on the principles of technology with a human touch."

With this in mind, GET maintains open communication with its customers as well as its employees. Every message is returned before the end of the day, a live human answers each phone call, and employees regularly fill out evaluation forms to discuss their own performance during company-wide meetings.

Bryson maintains this "human touch" focus with his other projects, and devotes much of his life to charitable work. Around the time he founded OrbitalPay, he formed the Never Forgotten Foundation, an organization that benefits orphaned children of war and poverty.

The group so far has sent a handful of students to Ethiopia to teach English and volunteer in an AIDS orphanage, and last Christmas filled a 27-foot truck full of supplies and fed 8,000 hungry people at the Long Beach, Calif., Rescue Mission. There are plans underway for another food drop-off this summer, and Bryson said some major mainstream companies are currently in talks to make some major donations.

"GET manages the nonprofit for me in terms of administration, and in doing so we are able to give 100 cents on every dollar donated and put it into the field," Bryson said. "It's most important to always give back; if you give, it comes back, and if you give till it hurts, it'll come back tenfold."

It's this mindset that has helped give Bryson and his brands their positive reputations within the industry and beyond. He credits his ability to maintain his vast portfolio of projects to his management team, most of which has been with him for at least 13 years.

Bryson also said he's currently in the process of acquiring several smaller companies, including one domestic bank, which will allow him direct involvement with the card associations, something he said has pretty much changed the world for him.

"Instead of going through banks who don't understand, or even if they do understand, you're still a step removed," Bryson said. "By being a member, I have a voice."

Having a voice is another mantra Bryson lives by, and after his son returned from Iraq in 2007, he threw himself into Democratic politics and committed himself to bringing an end to war.

"I shed my old conservative ways, put my earring back in my ear, and started lobbying like a big dog," Bryson said.

His activity in politics leads him to co-host a number of Democratic fundraisers, including a recent event for Democratic Senators.

He also founded and runs i55 Productions, another result of Bryson giving back to his community and making a dream a reality. i55 Productions is a Memphis, Tenn., (Bryson's home town) record label devoted to the blues and bringing local artists in to produce classic blues albums. Its first record, artist Billy Lavender's "Memphis Livin,'" is now available for purchase, and Bryson said the label is in the process of signing 10 other musicians.

"That's the whole point, to give, give give," Bryson said. "It's the only way to have a voice, and it's a good example to the world."