Executive Seat: Farber's Market

John Stuart
In January 1997, Mitch Farber entered the online adult arena with his own website, and was surprised to learn that there was no decent credit card processing company to be found that provided all of the services to handle realtime processing and customer service affordably.

All of them charged a usury-like fee of 15 percent and more. He obtained his own merchant account, but after a year the company they used for credit card processing decided to exit the adult business. Mitch and his partner saw a big opportunity, and NETbilling was born.

“We wound up buying the usage rights to the software of that credit card processor,” says Farber, president of NETbilling. “We took over all of their adult merchants. There were about 100 of them. After we did that for about a year, we worked very hard to have the new gateway software developed, which was a real need for webmasters at the time because the adult Internet was really starting to grow and we saw a big gap in the features and functionality of what was available at the time.

“We had a feeling that merchant account processing was going to be the way of the future for both adult and mainstream and made it our mission to provide cost effective processing with an extreme amount of control and flexibility.”

The Farber’s began their small new company from the cozy confines of their master bedroom.

“We didn’t have a ton of money at the time to get it rolling,” Farber recalls, “so we had to borrow money from family. But we started well with the 100 clients we inherited and soon after that many of those clients started to take off in terms of the volume they were doing. Video streaming and live feeds were just starting to come around, and that really helped the adult internet to grow.”

With that, NETbilling also grew. Initially, Farber was able to expand his business by one person, hiring a sales manager who set up operation on the couple’s living room couch. NETbilling had become a two room business. Today, 12 years later, NETbilling employs nearly 70 employees. “Everyone works in-house,” Farber says. “We don’t have any remote employees. Our call center is in-house as well, which helps to manage things much better. We could outsource a call center for much less money, but we really believe in the quality control and we wanted to keep that.”

Farber’s schedule as company president obviously is fairly hectic eeven after all of these years. His typical work day begins at 6:45 in the morning and often does not end until after midnight. He begins his blizzard of phone calls while driving to the office and still manages to spend plenty of time with his family in between.

“I typically go until late afternoon, take a break for a little while, and then I work in the evenings,” Farber reveals. “My duties haven’t changed over the years. I still oversee marketing, sales and customer relations. I also personally handle a lot of our promotions and oversee our advertising. We have great managers to run the office when I’m not there. I try to find time to spend with my family inbetween all of that.”

NETbilling ow is the largest payment gateway in adult online for merchants with their own accounts. And Farber keeps adding new clients to the NETbilling fold with innovations like the new iPhone application which debuted a few months ago.

“A lot of our merchants asked to be able to process transactions on the go,” Farber says. “Since we do a lot of product sales and retail merchants, they wanted to be able to process transactions without having to use a swipe terminal. We developed an iPhone app that allows them to quickly pull up the virtual terminal and process transactions anywhere they have cell phone reception. It’s worked out really good for us. It’s free for the NETbilling merchants. We’ve actually got some pretty good new business out of it because people have found it in the Itunes app store.”

Farber also has created an innovation in NETbilling’s personalized call center services, allowing merchants to completely control how NETbilling’s reps handle their customers. Also, merchants are charged only half price for the first month they use the call center with the firm’s 2010 promotion lasting until the end of the year.

“We handle customer service very well,” Farber stresses. “We provide inbound, outbound order taking, order verification, charge inquiries and more.

Farber also has remained true to his belief that NETbilling would flourish if it avoided dabbling in third party processing, and it surely has.

“Years ago, we realized that what people liked about third party processing was that it handled their customer service and processing together,” Farber says. “We decided that customer service would be a good option for us to offer, without becoming a third party processor ourselves as so many merchants have switched from third party processing to us. That allows us to offer everything a third-party processor offers, but at a much lower rate. We’ve had opportunities to become a third-party processor over the years, but we’ve stuck to our guns and stayed with our core focus, which is merchant account gateway processing, call center and fraud scrubbing.”

Having started as a webmaster, Farber says he already understood what webmasters need, so he allows all of his company’s merchants to have their own merchant accounts. The NETbilling call center, gateway, CRM and shopping cart system was built specifically to fulfill the needs of webmasters, including affiliate marketing, cascading billing, cross-sells, upsells, member retention and customizable reporting.

“I think our biggest advantage lies in the personalities of our employees,” Farber says. “We really provide a lot of one-on-one service that you won’t get with other companies. Whether a merchant is moving to us from another processing company, or whether they’re starting from scratch, we have our hands in their entire business as far as processing goes, from getting their merchant account to deciding which banks are best for them.

“From the day a client signs up with NETbilling, we have so much contact with our merchants because we know their success depends on how well we take care of them and they know they we are always there to help.”