Though many independent sales organizations are beginning to specialize, not every ISO needs to focus on a niche market to find financial success, says James English, president of Card Payment Systems Ohio LLC, a Stowe, Ohio-based ISO. "If you open yourself up to any merchant, you're better off than in a niche market," he says, noting that the move toward specialization is a reaction to an increasingly challenging market. Some ISOs "are looking to keep their sales force happy, so they move into niche markets," English says. "I don't think it's necessary yet" for all ISOs to move to niches, he says. ISOs can thrive without specializing by providing value and customer service to merchants, says English. "People doing it the right way see benefits," he says. "Those not taking care of their people aren't" seeing benefits, he says, adding that Card Payment Systems does not focus on a specific market. "We spread ourselves out among everything," he says. However, ISOs potentially can earn higher margins by concentrating on a few specific market segments instead of spreading their efforts among numerous segments, Ken Musante, president of Eureka, Calif.-based Humboldt Merchant Services, said at the Midwest Acquirers Association Conference in St. Louis last month (CardLine, 7/24).