National SOC Month

Competition or Collaboration?

  • Written by Gordon C. Beck III

beck gordonThe Truth About ARM Trade Organizations

There is much debate around the ARM Industry regarding trade organizations in our world of credit and collections. Is participation valuable? Which ones have the most dynamic and fresh content? Which ones are expensive? Which trade group will expose me to new clientele? Which ones require an invitation? We see it everyday in our email, through our LinkedIn, in our trade publications or websites, ads for the next conference, news about industry happenings, webinars to sign up for and committees to join. Behind these sources are the true heroes of our industry. In many cases the originators or organizers of these groups work in jobs like the rest of us and then dedicate their spare time to giving us all a voice, a platform to connect and learn and network and grow.

All of us professionally reside in arguably one of the most evolving, sometimes volatile, often undefined and almost always misunderstood industries of all time. We are always competing, for an edge as we seek out the best technology, vendors, employees and clients. However, what if we asked our clients what they prefer when it comes to competition versus collaboration? What if we told them that we were going to take our foot off the gas of individuality and joined forces, shared trade secrets, offer one another solutions for our related issues and products so all of us could stay ahead of the curve and ensure them through our collective efforts that no agency on the scorecard would ever finish less than 95% of best? Well I asked one of my largest clients this very question and here is what Steven Stone of Verizon Wireless had to say.

“I have always looked at the ARM industry as more of a fraternity than a competition and although I strongly believe in friendly competition, I am much more in favor of friendly collaboration,” said Stone. “The trade organizations the industry has to offer are plentiful and have too much to offer all of us so not further tapping into those resources through participation and the sharing of best practices would be a lost opportunity. There is no question that this would improve overall performance from the agency network and most likely aid in better compliance as well. Having all of your agencies at 95% of best is every OCA (outside collection agency) manager’s dream.”

Hiding in plain sight, in the bowels of your email and the reading panes of your web browser, are the platforms ready to unite us, yet too often overlooked or justified against. In a business where adaptation is survival, ARM trade organizations are there to bring us together so we can work smarter and faster then ever before. Anyone that knows me knows that I preach endlessly about the necessity to be transparent to each other in the best interests of our clients and our industry. I have watched our world in recovery consume, deter and excommunicate too many good ARM firms unnecessarily that I feel as if it is time to be the one to stand up and just say it, please get involved!

There are over 6,000 agencies in America, yet on many webinars, trade group rosters and conference attendee lists, it is common to see less than 200 participants and in many cases it is much less. Big or small, the industry needs your participation. Big ARM firms didn’t start big, they grew through solid practices and great performance. I know because when I started with my agency, 20 years ago, we had 9 agents and I would like to share with you my own, undeniable proof that trade organizations can not only teach and connect agencies, they can actually build them!

In 2006, my organization joined a popular trade organization whose focus was risk in the telecom arena. When we began participating we had 3 major clients, 65 FTE and one big appetite to learn, engage and grow within the industry that we were so passionate about. What transpired was twofold:

Personal Level

• Learned the art of public speaking.
• Learned how to “ice-break” (yes, ice breaking is a skill).
• Was taught many strategies and best practices.
• Learned what the ARM industry truly means to America.
• Met some of the best friends of my life.

Company Level

• Strategies brought back drastically improved performance.
• Company security and compliance improved.
• Met and hired vendors – best in class.
• Went from three major telecom clients to working with every major wireless, cable and satellite company in the country.
• Grew from one office and 65 people to five offices and 1,200 FTE.

None of this was possible, or at least not this quickly, if not for this trade organization. The best news here is that this is an example of what just one trade organization can do to aid in the growth and success of your agency. Imagine joining three, four or five of these groups that are organized and run by these industry heroes I mentioned earlier that have the same passion to help you succeed as the very publication you are reading now.

To the trade organizations out there, thank you for the time, effort, energy and desire to provide our industry with a voice and a chance to unite. I am involved with many of your groups and the future brings endless opportunity as long as the content remains fresh, the prices remain affordable and the chance to join is accessible. If your focus continues to make the quality of your attendee list as important as the quantity of your attendee list, our industry will get stronger with every passing event.

To all of my fellow agencies out there, I encourage you to research the trade organizations out there and find the ones that fit your needs and please get involved and when you get involved, share what you learn. As I said in the title, competition or collaboration, competition is awesome and important, but in the eyes of many of our clients they would rather us work together and execute best known practices so all of us can produce at the highest level for those that trust us to do so.

I have learned that the world as we know it, is the world as we make it. Our industry has many puppeteers such as the economy, decreasing margins, frivolous lawsuits and strict regulatory bodies, all that have made us move in directions we have not necessarily desired. Times are changing, the world of collections becoming ever more important as consumer confidence soars and consumers become intent on improving their lives and their credit. The time is now for us to take our industry back, come together as one and control our destiny; together, because NONE of us are as strong as ALL of us!

Gordon C Beck III is the CEO of Diversified Consultants Inc. and a director of the Accounts Receivable Professional Network.