I had the good fortune to attend the ACA International’s Convention and Expo in Boston last week.  This is the 3rd time I’ve been able to attend this great event, and as always, I want to thank Jeff, Jeff, Barry and Matt for the opportunity.  I will be the first to admit that, as a Buffalo Bills fan, I was expecting (and, to be honest, hoping) to hate the city of Boston.  That notion was immediately forgotten upon arrival.  The people could not have been nicer, the food could not have been better, and the history could not have more abundant.  I can’t wait to go back.  Now, that being said… GO BILLS!

I always come home with some new ideas and advice on how to stay compliant, as well as enhance my collections.  I did, but I was more struck by how much more pride I have in my profession as a result of meeting the leaders in our industry.  We are all part of an industry staffed by professional, compliant, conscientious and caring people.  One of the speakers was a former Navy Seal who spoke of his training and experiences.  He made it a point to humanize those he served with.  They were the best and most highly-trained personnel in the Navy, but they were still “just” people.  Like all of us, they are sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers.  They share the same ideals, and care about the same things we do.

There’s a lesson to take from that.  Though our chosen professions could not be more different, we can all strive to serve ourselves, our professions, and our families with honor and excellence.  I met many people whose sole job is to help protect our industry from unfair legislation and unfair litigation.  They are dedicated to that endeavor, and they sincerely care about the people they represent.  Whether they were lawyers, lobbyists, or public relations professionals, they all cared about what they do, and who they do it for.

I, for one, will try better to live up to that standard.  I can lead my team better, I can help consumers resolve their debts better, and I can represent my company, our clients, and my fellow employees better.  Vince Lombardi once said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”   That could not be more true to those of us in the collection industry.  Think of the people we come into contact with on a daily basis.  If we can serve our profession with honor, and respect the people we serve (clients, consumers, co-workers, and our families) we will not only enjoy success, but we will enrich our personal lives as well.

I have often tried to define the word leadership. It is not an easy task, but one which requires individual solace and concentrated thought. I believe leadership is capacity to translate vision into reality. Within our American Profit Recovery Offices this seems to have been our constant objective for more than 10 years. So, “How” does this happen?   “Where” does this happen? “When” does this happen?

The answer is in the regular meetings held for the company departments and teams. Being held by capable staff members who care for their teams. The work opportunity given to me by APR is among a list of life events that have made a real difference for me. In solving problems and issues, in working with a group to reach a common goal is priceless.

In my remaining working years, probably all too short, what I have learned at APR I apply as a father, husband, businessman, volunteer, and as a citizen of my community. I can only applaud the success of APR for its first 10+ years and know that it will continue in the future years.

By Jason:

On July 15th some of my coworkers and I attended a seminar courtesy of the Yes Network, the guest speaker was Gaurav Bhalla.  His segment was called “Champion Mindsets, A Prerequisite For Achieving Quantum Leaps In Performance.”Champion

He started off discussing how the world has evolved, mentioning that not even that long ago a lot of businesses could invest their time and money developing new products in order to dominate the market.  He specifically mentioned Sony vs. Samsung, saying that Sony focused on creating new products, while at the same time Samsung only had black and white televisions, he then called on people in the crowd; encouraging them to pull out their Sony Discman or Sony Walkman.  The point he was trying to make was that companies like Sony thought they were untouchable, so they kept creating new products and forcing them into the market, meanwhile Samsung did their research and listened to what it was that customers actually wanted and created products to fulfill their needs.  Because of Samsung’s market strategy they are now #13 on the Fortune 500 while Sony is #105.

Bhalla said that for businesses to see success they have to listen to their customers and employees. It is imperative that businesses solicit and encourage what he calls feed forward instead of feedback in order to not get stuck watching competitors pass them by.  He says that in order for a company to move in a different direction they have to change the way they think by actively investing in and developing a champion mindset.

There are 5 tiers to developing a Champion Mindset:

  1. Customer 1st Thinking
  2. Innovation
  3. Collaboration
  4. Cognitive Diversity
  5. If…Then Thinking

The following are some of the highlights of the 5 tiers:

Customer 1st Thinking

He says that a lot of businesses like to boast about how great they are, and his first question is always, “You’re great according to whom?”  If the answer to that question isn’t, according to our customers/clients then you are doing something wrong.  In business a lot of the answers to complex questions are obvious, one of the most obvious statements is that without customers there is no business.  You need to find out what your customers are looking for, find out how you can satisfy that need and then work backwards to implement that strategy into your business.  He said that a lot of companies spend a lot of money investing in the latest technology, and then they try to cram it down a customer’s throat instead of simply asking your target market what they need.  Don’t tell the customer how great you are, show them.  One of his sayings was that a lot of companies upgrade themselves to first class and leave their customers in coach back by the toilets.  At American Profit Recovery a lot of attention and priority is given to our clients, all of the departments here management, sales, customer service, collections, administration are always asking them what can we do to help them and offering them advice.

Innovation

When it comes to being innovative all businesses say it is a top priority but for most it is just lip service, to put the customer at ease.  This lip service is what allows competitors to come into the market and dominate, the example that he said that was easy for us to relate to here in Michigan was snow.  Saying that when we get a lot of snow it always starts to melt on the edges first not in the middle, this is similar to competition they don’t come in and dominate you where you are strongest, it sneaks up on you from the edges where you’re not paying attention.  For a business to see longevity in the marketplace innovation has to come to work every day.  Employees from all departments have to feel safe offering their input.  A way we do that here at APR is by providing employees a way to submit their Bright Idea into management; often these ideas are ones that benefit the client and can be implemented immediately.

Collaboration

He said that we live in a VUCA World:

Volatility – rate of change

Uncertainty – unclear about present situation and future outcomes

Complexity – multiplicity of key decision factors

Ambiguity – lack of clarity about the meaning of an event

There is an old saying that “if you want to go somewhere fast then go alone, if you want to go somewhere far then go with others.” It is imperative that we collaborate and work together, he said that in our personal lives we have no problem doing it but in business it’s not done as often because egos get in the way.  When a business utilizes collaboration and co-creation it is then that they create new and true value for the customer.

Cognitive Diversity

Often when we think of diversity the first thing that comes to mind is differences such as race, gender, or origin.  However the diversity that is referred to here is the kind you would find at a round table, he said you want everyone to have a seat and a round table without a defined leader encourages collaboration.  He said that one way to check if you should go in a different direction is to figuratively fire yourself, and then ask what would be the first thing the new guy who replaced me would do?  If it’s different then what you are currently doing, then listen to it and change your strategy to the new guy’s direction.  When things don’t work out, check your assumptions usually one is wrong.

If….Then Thinking

You won’t go far if you’re always trying to drive forward while staring in the rearview mirror, he mentioned that the if it’s not broke don’t fix it is one of the worst mentalities a business can ever have.  We have to evolve from where we are now because the future is not an extension of the past.  The example he gave here was Starbucks, their strategy was just keep opening new stores.  No one ever stopped to ask, “If we keep opening new stores in close proximity to each other, then won’t it eventually lead to a saturated market?”  We can’t fight uncertainty, we have to make friends with it, if you don’t take care of tomorrow today, you may be in trouble tomorrow.

If you don’t invest in innovation, then uncertainty will do you in.  It’s a complex world, and to survive you need collaboration between employees, departments, and customers.  When companies put a higher priority on technological upgrades instead of creating true value for your customers, you end up working harder in the long run.  Always have a customer 1st mentality, when success eludes you, there is no choice but to back to square one!

Keep adapting, we are not built to last, we are built to adapt.

 

Summer is upon us as well as vacation season and long weekends. And for many that can mean a few critical tasks taking a back seat in your business. One regular task in your business that should stay front and center is invoicing and follow ups. Regardless of the time of year.

One of the biggest factors in any business growing is cash flow. Lack of cash flow is responsible for not only stress in a small business but it can cause a business to go under in no time. Imagine, coming back from a nice relaxing vacation only to find you have very little cash in the bank.

So if you and your staff are planning vacations and time off during the summer, make sure you have a plan and system in place to keep your invoicing current and follow ups on non-payers on a regular schedule.

You’ll also want to consider making sure you have a plan in place to settle accounts that go past 90 days. We say it all the time and it’s a fact; The longer a bill goes unpaid, the more difficult it is to resolve that account.

Just like the holiday season, spending can also go up in the summer months due to vacations and other recreational activities of consumers. That can mean other financial commitments don’t get taken care of as they should. Which can jeopardize your cash flow.

So, the sooner you get serious about getting paid only increases the chances of getting paid for what is owed to your business. Summer is a great time to relax and enjoy family so you shouldn’t be stressed out about cash flow.

Take just a couple minutes to see our video about why getting in the game sooner can drastically impact your cash flow. It’s on the right, under ASK APR.

And contact our team today if you need more assistance in working with your late and non-paying customers.

By Ashley

This was my first employee week, and I have to say it was an amazing experience. We ate a lot of food and had a lot of laughs. My favorite part was the ‘mock elections’/company call where I got to put a whip cream pie in one of the manager’s faces.  It was the best way to end the week, in my humble opinion!

And check out the pie in the face video again. You can never see too much of that!

 

 By Sarah:

Never have I ever felt more accepted and appreciated as an employee than I do at APR.  Employee Week is just one of the many ways in which APR gives back to its employees. Personally my favorite part of Employee Week is getting to spend time with my fellow coworkers, especially those who work in MA and NC, at the many after work events. My favorite after work event this year was when we went bowling after work. I felt like this event had not only had the highest attendance and participation but was also the most interactive.

I believe Employee Week is something unique that APR takes part in that other companies should try to incorporate into their work environments. Not only does it show employees that they are a key part of the company’s successes but it gives time for everyone to get to know their fellow coworkers better. Having the additional time to get to know your coworkers is something I feel has strengthened not only work relationships between individuals but personal relationships here at APR as well.

Overall I feel Employee Week is a fun, creative and affective team and confidence building experience that I hope will continue for many more years to come!

Did you see that Pie in the face video?

By Matt Helz:

This last week we celebrated employee week at APR.  This is a special event for the employees that the owners have put together to show their appreciation of all the hard work and dedication.

There were many games, events and tons of food to be eaten every day.

This  year, a few events really stood out for me.  1st was the Tiger game-  I was able to take my oldest son who just graduated from High School.  I was a proud father, showing him off to people I work with every day.  What a good time!   2nd  the Owner Breakfast.  The Owners slave over griddles making omelets and pancake’s before the workday starts.  This happened not once but twice during the week.  I really look forward to this every year!

Finally, the awards they hand at the end of the week.  One of the prizes that was handed out this year was an opportunity to put a pie in one of the owners or managers face.  I don’t think there was any doubt, which owner or manager was going to be picked.   It has been a long time since I have laughed that hard.

See that video below!

Employee week is very special to me.  I truly look forward to it every year.

 

We don’t feel that we can stress this point enough; being respectful and treating consumers in a dignified manner is not only the right thing to do, but it also goes a long way in collecting more money for our clients. If you are a current client of American Profit Recovery then you know how much we focus on the issue of respect.

But if you have not yet experienced the APR difference, then you’ll want to view the accompanying video. Greg, one of our very first team members when we opened our doors, explains our philosophy in under 90 seconds. Either way, you’ll want to hear Greg’s message.

In the past ten years, American Profit Recovery has set the tone in respectful collections. Our team builds trust with those we come in contact with every day. And because of that, we collect more; it’s that simple.

Being effective does not mean a collector has to be aggressive or unfriendly. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Effective debt collection is done through a mutual understanding, a respectful dialog, and a willingness on both sides to come up with a solution to an issue that has the potential to harm both the consumer and the business that’s owed money.

We go to great lengths to find just the right team members that truly understand our mission of being respectful and keeping our clients in business. Our team understands our short term goal is to collect the money a business is owed. But our long-term goal is to keep that business financially healthy through cash flow.

Greg is just one of many team members here at American Profit Recovery that knows what our mission is and how important it is for both sides to come up with a solution that helps both business and consumer.

If you’ve been following us for any length of time then you know we like to raise money. And yes we do collect money because that our business, but our team also loves to bring in money for several worthy causes and initiatives. From Cancer charities, jumping in a Lake in the middle of the winter for Special Olympics and funding Veterans causes, our team hits a home run every time.

This past April our team participated in the Annual Collector’s Challenge to raise money for the ACA Education Foundation. They raised over $2,300 by paying to dress in casual in the office, a March Madness Bracket event and fun games throughout the office. This brings our total over the past seven years to well over $12,000. Capture

The ACA Education Foundation funds scholarships for those in the credit and collection industry. Why is this important? Well for one, it works to dispel that image of uneducated people trying to collect money. Many in our company have advanced degrees and use them wisely to help create solutions to a person’s debt problems.

The Foundation helps those that want to grow professionally, build a career and make a difference in the industry. These are the types of professionals we like to bring on board here at APR. For those who get scholarships from the foundation, they want to grow and want to contribute. It’s not just another job to them; it’s a career that contributes immensely to our national economy and to a business’s bottom line. In the end, a better educated workforce in the collections industry helps both the business and the consumer by putting more professional individuals in the business of creating solutions to outstanding debt. In our opinion, it’s money put to very good use.

More on the ACA Education Foundation can be found here:

http://www.acainternational.org/about-foundation-92.aspx

When Henry Ford set the 40hour work week precedent in the 1920’s the math made sense. The automotive plants needed to run 24 hours a day to keep up with demand and 12hour shifts were too long for anyone, given the manual labor (work that is physically demanding) he expected from his employees; http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ford-factory-workers-get-40-hour-week Notwithstanding the fact that during the industrial revolution there didn’t exist the many distractions of modern day life, dividing the workday up into three equal, 8hour parts made good sense.40 speed limitation road sign

Any compensation plan based solely on the number of hours worked is wedded to this idea: Wedded to the idea that no individual can work faster or more efficiently than the worker in front of him, and that everyone is or isn’t distracted throughout the day for the same amount of time. Although this may be true in the context of the assembly line (where you quite literally are waiting on the person in front – or behind you – as it were), we can all agree that no two individuals produce the same quality of work at the same pace given the same duration of time.

There is however, a real and measurable difference between cognitive work and physically demanding work. As you would expect, workers performing physically demanding tasks get fatigued and lose their attentiveness the longer the workday is extended. When you look at cognitive work however, not only is there no ‘perceived’ difference in workload with a 12hour vs. 7hour workday, but subjects actually perform better on tasks as they work more hours (Macdonald, Bendak, 2000)! Additionally, as far as scores on ‘discomfort’ are concerned, they are not significantly different for cognitive work from a 7hour to a 12hour workday either. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169814100000159

Speaking of 40hours per week, the average American (although it varies by age group as you would except) watches between 37-40hours per week of television! Even if you are on the low end, chances are you spend an additional 7hours per week surfing the web (see link below). http://uproxx.com/tv/2012/09/the-average-american-watches-more-tv-than-the-average-tv-critic/

When you look at the average individual’s priorities in any given week and couple it with Cyberslacking (see also ‘Goldbricking’), which according to Salary.comis the leading source of wasted time on the job, the results are even more shocking. A 2007 survey found that companies stand to lose 435 million dollars a week (yes, that’s per week) during football season from employees playing fantasy football alone! https://designspike.com/blog/cyberslacking-ticks-time-off-the-workforce-clock/

The majority of employees report spending between 2-5 hours per week surfing the web or otherwise Cyberslacking (think smartphones too). There are many reasons given as to why this occurs, but ultimately they are all rationalizations for the pre-existing behavior, behavior that is counterproductive in the workplace and costly for employers.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2012/07/17/employees-really-do-waste-time-at-work/ Think about that for a minute, with a 40hour a week schedule, the average person is only working 35-38hours per week!

A 40 hour work week is a 20th century idea, that’s the point I’m looking to make. If you are a salary or commission employee ask yourself the following question. Do I only work 40hours a week? If the answer is yes, are you satisfied with your results, is there nothing more you would like to accomplish?

This blog is not an attempt to discredit every employee who works 40hours per week; certainly most people are hard-working individuals which is how they got to where they are. The idea rather, is to bring attention to priorities and distractions. The goal is to shed light on what makes one individual more productive than the next, more profitable than the next, more successful than the next. Working more hours is only a piece of the puzzle. Distractions are another. If your job dictates that you can only work 40hours a week, then spend more energy focusing on reducing distractions and making the most of your time. If, on the other hand, you can work more than 40hours a week, then you should. In doing so, focus equally on reducing distractions and increasing your time investment, and get more out by putting more in.

Here’s what I hold to be true and I think my fellow cohorts at American Profit Recovery would agree. If you want to make more, then work more. If you want to be seen as a leader among your peers, then work harder. If you want to both make more and have the leadership title, then work more and work harder while you work more.

Parting words: Be grateful for what you earn and have the ambition to accomplish more. Revel in your achievements, but dismiss the demon of complacency that is comfort.

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security…all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.”    – Jon Krakauer

The information available on this web site is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain legal advice.



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