Corner Office Conversations with Philip McHugh

Corner Office Conversations with Philip McHugh

Corner Office Conversations with Philip McHugh

Erin M. Sarris

Erin M. Sarris

Erin M. Sarris is the managing editor of ngenuity journal. With more than 10 years of experience in payments, she oversees all aspects of the publication to ensure it covers a variety of topics related to financial services.

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As head of merchant solutions for TSYS, one of Philip McHugh's biggest priorities is helping small businesses grow. This means finding ways of doing things more effectively in order to keep customers satisfied – despite the rate at which technology and the industry itself both continue to change.

But the 20-year payments industry vet, and former CEO of Barclaycard Business Solutions, is up to the task. McHugh has been charged with leading TSYS through the vast (and yes, complex) changes in the merchant sector and integrating it with issuing, prepaid and other payment solutions.

Philip sat down recently with ngenuity managing editor Erin Sarris to talk about what lies ahead for small businesses – and anyone in the merchant space who serves them.

Here are five highlights from the conversation.

01 on what keeps small business owners up at night

They say you can't be everything to everyone, but for small business owners, that doesn't stop them from trying.

"The challenge that's always present for small businesses is time and resources, as they need to serve as the head of marketing, finance, operations and sales, and so on and so forth," says McHugh.

Having to constantly manage and stay on top of all these variables, while continuing to grow their companies, is one of the most complex parts of owning a business.

"This is and will remain the number-one challenge for any small business from now until eternity," he says.

Top SMB Trends with Philip McHugh

02 on the one technology trend to embrace

If you’re going to embrace only one piece of technology make it software, says McHugh.

"There continues to be an explosion of choice and new products being introduced to the market that revolutionize small businesses," he says. "But the big macro trend they should embrace is software, software, software."

McHugh notes that the incredible advances in the software industry have helped substantially simplify the life of a small business.

"We're seeing more and more merchants incorporate software into their businesses and as a result, drastically drive a lot of positive changes, whether it be growing their business or making back-end operations more seamless," he says.

03 on the 90-percent rule 

To outsource or not to outsource? It’s true that running a small business means overseeing every aspect of that business, but the core competency that all businesses should focus on is sales, notes McHugh.

"You have to grow your business to be successful and remain relevant in a competitive marketplace. The goal is to sell to your customers, find new customers and capture those sales with a payment," he says.

This means the more operations a business owner can automate and offload to focus solely on sales, the better off they'll be. Think of the 90-percent rule, he says.

"Business owners should choose the best solutions that eliminate administration elements so they can spend time and energy on marketing, sales and growing their business, which is where 90 percent of their time should be spent," says McHugh.

04 on new demands from merchants

It's no secret that data security needs are incredibly heightened, and the use of data now for social media, marketing and analytics needs to be much more sophisticated to get a leg up. All of these things are hitting merchants at the same time, says McHugh. 

"One thing we forget is that the merchant actually didn't get into business to talk about all of those complex demands," he says. "They actually couldn't care less about them. They want to serve food, drive a car, sell clothing, whatever it is that's the passion of the merchant." 

He emphasized that the players who will win are the ones who can take that complexity and make it simple.

05 on new trends on the horizon 

The emergence of data and analytics solutions for merchants continues to be a dominant trend, says McHugh. 

"Companies have to understand how to use data to make them smarter and better understand their customers," he says. "There are companies who provide great solutions to merchants so they can use data and analytics in useful ways to help them make more informed, smarter decisions about their business."

And when it comes to managing a merchant’s social media footprint, don't even think about ignoring data and analytics. 

"This continues to be a growth opportunity and is an important aspect of how you sell and market your business," he says.

Philip McHugh

Philip McHugh, senior executive vice president and president of Merchant Solutions, joined TSYS in 2017 with more than 20 years of experience in international banking and payments.

Prior to joining TSYS, he served as chief executive officer of Barclaycard Business Solutions, managing the payments division for Barclaycard, including merchant acquiring, commercial payments and the sales finance division. He spent more than 10 years with the company, having also held the position of chief financial officer for Barclaycard. Prior to Barclays, Philip spent 10 years with Citigroup covering Latin America including management roles with their credit card division in Brazil.

McHugh earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and his Master of Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

Other Articles by Erin

Erin M. Sarris

Erin M. Sarris is the managing editor of n>genuity journal. With more than 10 years of experience in payments, she oversees all aspects of the publication to ensure it covers a variety of topics related to financial services, including mobile, B2B and emerging technology.

Erin has written for publications of The Chicago Tribune, RedEye and, as well as The Washington Post's Retirement Living, TV Guide, Washington Spaces, Columbus Valley Parent and The Peoria Journal Star. She graduated from Bradley University with a bachelor of science in political science and communication, and from Columbus State University with a master’s in business administration.

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