Collection agency. When I tell people I run one, I usually hear, “Hmm…interesting”, as in “How do I get away from this person” or “How do I feign interest when I cannot believe anyone would do that for a living. That, in my opinion, is championing the right of my small business customers to be paid for the work they do.
I do not believe that the negative reactions I may receive have much to do with people owing money as much as people reacting to the many negative stereotypes (some of them, sadly true) of what a collection agency does. Other people simply wish to avoid conflict at any cost, and cannot imagine that I spend my day trying to get people to pay what they do not want to pay. I either hear, “You are too nice to be a debt collector” or “Oh, a leg breaker, eh?”
Well first and foremost, there is no leg breaking. Although as I have stated, there are some bad players in the collection industry, state licensing agencies and the laws against abusive collection agency tactics have improved the industry. Trade organizations such as ACA International provide education and guidance on professional standards.
Many people believe all a collection agency does is make a few calls and report debts to the credit bureaus. Calls and reporting are only part of the process.
So what do I do all day?
I research collection files to find new information. A collection agency has specialized tools to find debtors and their assets.
I review bills with consumers to communicate and verify how the debt was created. For example, I spend a good deal of time explaining medical and dental bills in terms of insurance policy out of pocket expenses, such as coinsurance and deductibles.
I negotiate and document payment plans. I keep those plans on track.
I assist my small business customers make better customer credit decisions, and explain how documentation is key to avoiding problems down the road.
Are some collections difficult? Of course.
The key to successful debt collection is persistence and professionalism. No one likes to owe money. A collection agency advocates for their clients and their right to be paid, while respecting the rights of the people who owe the debt. It is a fine balance.