Sr. VP of Operations, Professional Finance Company
I started my career in collections as a “field agent trainee” with Blazer Finance Company in Milwaukee, WI in 1977.
When I started, I had just left college without obtaining my degree and options for anyone aspiring to greater things in life without the benefit of a degree were extremely limited. Fact is, I fully intended to return to college, the job at Blazer was just to get some capital in the bank and buy a car. At first, I can’t deny that I was embarrassed to say that I was a collector and fearful of other’s reactions and aware of the stigma associated with that ilk. But as time progressed and my understanding not only of the job tasks but of collections place in the economy, I grew to appreciate how necessary and, dare I say, how important my role and the role of the debt collection industry was. In its simplest form, to be certain, it’s about collecting just debts owed to creditors.. but it’s so much more than that.. when I trained collectors as I progressed in what became my career of choice, I told them that their role was that of a negotiator, a salesman, an educator and gatekeeper. It was their duty to work with the consumers they had occasion to talk to and find a way to assist that consumer creatively in meeting their obligations. I have learned through experience that most consumers have every intention of taking care of their obligations, but that life and circumstances can sometimes impede their ability to meet those obligations.. the collector who helps those consumers is what this industry is all about.. finding a mutually agreeable avenue to payment and reducing the consumers stress and anxiety levels are the hallmark of a successful debt collector and debt collection agency.
Exposes’ on debt collection companies (and I use that term very, very loosely – they are not debt collection companies.. they are criminals – a true debt collection company has a license, is generally bonded and is led by business professionals) that operate outside the rules and regulations become the focus of the media and while I understand that it is important to expose these “rogue companies” it has painted an unfair, highly prejudicial image of the industry as a whole. Those debt collection companies that work hard to comply with the myriad of regulations they must in order to conduct business operate under the media’s radar. It’s not “newsworthy” to highlight a collection agency that is compliant, but there are far more agencies that operate that way than those that do not.
How many consumers know how many laws an agency must comply with and how many government agencies are involved directly or indirectly with the collection industries oversight? How many consumers know that there is a professional trade association of debt collection companies (American Collectors Association International) and that this Association has a well-articulated Code of Ethics that they expect members to abide by as well as a Certification Program for individuals who have decided to make collections their career and a website with a host of Financial Literacy information?? How many consumers can appreciate the fact that they pay less for goods and services because of what the debt collection agencies do?? Unfortunately, very few – and the proof is in the pudding – psychologically, these inflammatory reports only serve to perpetuate the absolutely wrong image.
Personally, this industry has provided me with far more than I could ever repay – it rewards people who invest the time, energy and commitment levels to prosper and grow professionally. As I mentioned at the outset, I do not have a college degree, but have progressed through the ranks over time. Not many companies can boast of building discipline and character while providing the means necessary to support one’s family and achieve personal goals like the collection industry has. I am very proud of the company I work for at present.. not only for the services we provide to clients and consumers, but also for their civic responsibility. We support many worthwhile causes to include United Way, the American Cancer Society, Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement. I am a professional – a consummate, debt collection professional – no longer embarrassed – very proud!