Ronald N. Zebeck used to believe impatience was essential in a businessman who hoped to achieve rapid growth and fat profits. Since the heady days of the General Motors MasterCard introduction, which Mr. Zebeck engineered while working for the auto company in the early 1990s, he has mellowed a bit.

Not every program is going to issue a million cards in its first month, as did GM and its partner, Household Credit Services, in 1992.

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