Profile of a Great Company: Unified Payments

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On September 17, 2012

It’s relatively easy to be ranked as the number 1 company on the Inc. 500 Top Ranked Companies list for 2012. Of course it’s easier when you’re an all-American kid, from the right neighborhood, with the support of your peers and an advanced degree from one of the top business schools in the nation.

But what if you’re an immigrant from the Ukraine, who grew up in a tough New York neighborhood where kids around you were involved in drugs and crime? What if you never actually had a chance to earn a degree (any degree)?  Do you still think you could make it to the top of the Inc. 500 list—with a three-year growth rate of 23,646 percent (yes, the comma is in the right place!) and annual revenues of $59.5 million? Impossible?

Not to Oleg Firer of Unified Payments. Firer’s family immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine and grew up on the tough streets of Brighton Beach and Coney Island. At 16 Firer landed his first job as a salesman at The Wiz, where he quickly worked his way up to manager (the youngest the store had ever had).  When the Wiz was bought out, Firer started his own company at the ripe old age of 17

He was then recruited by a large company to do marketing and worked his way up to Vice President—running his own division and learning about mergers and acquisitions. He may not have had the Ivy League degree, but nobody was going to out-learn or out-work him. But his business philosophy doesn’t end there.

“When I do something,” says Firer, “I want to learn a business inside out. If one link in the chain breaks, I want to know where to step in. If I do something, I commit to it 100 percent.”

When it came to his new venture in the payment processing industry that meant learning the business from the ground up, including sales, underwriting, and risk management.

“I got where I am,” says Firer, “because I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I always remember where I came from and that I could end up back there with nothing.”


What barriers or shortcomings do you face? Are you letting those barriers keep you from success? Barriers didn’t stop Oleg Firer—and they don’t have to stop you!