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At company, growth is in the (gift) cards

SHARE At company, growth is in the (gift) cards

When John B. Bechard solved a problem for one company, he solved the same dilemma for many.

Bechard was working for a company that provided gift certificates to businesses when a restaurant client came to him with a problem.

The company was having trouble settling gift certificates bought at one franchise and redeemed at another. In other words, one owner got the money while the other provided the meal.

Bechard created a gift check service using franchisees' bank accounts. When a gift certificate was purchased, the money stayed in the issuing restaurant's account until the certificate was redeemed, when it then was transferred into the redeeming restaurant's account. For the system to kick in, the redeeming restaurant simply included the gift certificate with its nightly deposits.

The client was delighted, and Bechard quickly saw his system's wider potential. In 1998, he bought the gift check system and eight clients from his employer and started Sash Management LLC — Gift Check Solutions.

Bechard "bootstrapped" his operation at first, setting a goal that he would hire a salesperson as soon as he reached a certain revenue. He did that within a year and soon hired a marketing director and an operations and IT director. Although he occasionally missed a paycheck early on, Bechard made sure his employees never did.

Now, Gift Check Solutions has moved into the gift card market, still offering ease of use for franchisees issuing and redeeming the cards. The company also is moving into Web-based reloading of gift cards, loss protection for gift card users and a cutting-edge gift card loyalty program.