To all of you ARM industry CEOs out there: how many times have your Chief Operating Officer and Chief Compliance Officer come running to your office, at each other’s throats regarding a decision passed down from Compliance or a strategy executed by Operations? One of your most trusted people trying to protect the organization against one of your most loyal subjects trying to drive revenue legally, morally and ethically.
It’s become a somewhat familiar theme for most agencies vying to be under the radar, but desperate to produce great results on the scorecards. In some cases, it can tear at the very fabric of the company and in other cases it can cause you to outright lose a C-Level employee that has dedicated years to the cause, while dividing the company down the middle.
All of a sudden and without warning, a culture has been created: Operations versus Compliance, dividing the team and working against each other as opposed to working together against the competition. The question is, what can consistently be done to drive unity and team work in a world where compliance and performance equally reign supreme? Here are a few suggestions to help:
1. Compliance Meeting
Hold a weekly compliance meeting with C-level executives to discuss current issues in the company, trends in the industry and potential red flags that need to be looked at and addressed such as recent case law or client requirements. These meetings, if held consistently, strengthen the lines of communication with the team and prevents the emotional “scrambling” that occurs when problems arise.
2. Promote the Achievement of Common Goals
Compliance is not a “set it and forget it” matter, it is evolving, changing and almost always up for interpretation. If the goal is to address an issue to reduce liability while remaining productive then lay it out specifically, monitor the results of the collaboration and compensate your leadership for successfully working together as a team to make it happen. When there is a common reward, you will find common effort.
3. Air Out Grievances
Try to avoid one-on-one “vent” sessions with individual executives that want to come in and speak negatively about the actions of another executive or department. This is not healthy. If someone approaches you about the issues of the other, stop them, bring the other person or department into the room and iron out the problem. When you only get one side of the story, you never get the whole story. This leaves the problem unresolved. These issues, when addressed, must be resolved right then and there and can only be done if all parties are involved.
4. Change Management
Change management is huge. There must be a process where all changes in compliance procedures or operational strategy is discussed, agreed upon and signed off on by all members involved in the change. These changes must be logged, reviewed regularly and results must be tracked. But at the end of the day, these changes must be a group effort with a resolution that is supported by both sides, again, promoting a culture of togetherness.
5. Delivery of Initiatives
Delivery of the agreed upon initiatives are sometimes as important as the initiative itself. When change is made in our industry it can be amazing or it can be crushing. When delivering the message to the team it must be a unified message, one that both sides unrelentingly support. Getting the team to buy into change is a lot easier when both Compliance and Operations are singing from the same songbook.
In conclusion, it seems as if our industry and the great agencies representing it, all too often have internal finger pointing as to who gets the blame when things go wrong. This drives a culture of division and individualism. The bottom line is, the organization is either going to sink or it’s going to sail. Whether it sinks or sails, it’s going to happen together and together is the only way for Operations and Compliance to achieve the common goal of keeping the agency afloat and moving forward.
Gordon C. Beck III has been in the collection industry for over 20 years and Chief Culture Officer at Mass Markets - An MCI Company.