Collector - January 2018 - 10
A New Perspective
Industry benchmarking groups offer
collection agency owners support,
understanding and new ideas.
By Anne Rosso May
here is no shortage of networking
opportunities in the collection
industry today, but when you're an
agency owner it can still sometimes feel
lonely at the top. Conferences and seminars
can give you valuable insight into industry
trends and new ideas to up your game, but
you may also want personalized advice
from someone who knows your specific
business as well as you do-warts and all.
That's what Brian Watkins, president
of Southern Oregon Credit Services, was
looking for when he was invited to join a
benchmarking group by business owners he
had met through ACA International.
"At the time there were quite a few people
I knew who raved about being part of a
benchmarking group-people I respected-
and I saw their businesses growing and
moving forward," he said. "It seemed like a
no-brainer to get involved in one."
Peer benchmarking groups are both
supportive and competitive, allowing you
to discuss intimate details about your
company with a panel of experts who know
the challenges of running a collection
agency and are available to share their own
experiences, answer your questions and
push you to improve.
We asked some ACA members how they
developed their benchmarking groups, and
they offered these tips for getting started.
PICK THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Honesty. Trust. Respect. These words come
up constantly when you talk about peer
benchmarking groups because they are key
to a group's success.
"When we [Albert Rookard and I] were
initially putting together a list of folks
that we thought would be a good fit, we
wanted people with integrity-people we'd
be comfortable sharing a lot of intimate
information with-because our intent was
to be very open about how we do business,"
said Keith Kettelkamp, president and CEO
of Remex Inc. "We wanted them to be
similar in size to our entities, but we were
looking for people who were within a range
of about 25 percent to 50 percent larger. The
idea was we all want to grow and prosper,
and it's helpful to be of similar size because
you have similar issues."
Pinpoint a ballpark group size you think
would be best. Watkins' group started with
six members and has had as many as 10.
Other groups are even bigger, with more
than a dozen members.
The more people in the group, the more
knowledge and experience you can tap into,
but there is a downside as well.
"When you get too big, it can be hard
to guide conversations and you run the
risk of getting nothing done," said Brad
Klein, president of Paid in Full Inc. "Plus
scheduling meetings becomes harder."
Kettelkamp encouraged collection
professionals to avoid letting a fledgling
group's small size deter them.
"I would say it doesn't take a large number
of members to get started," he said. "So
if you have a group of two or three folks,
that's sufficient to get started. It will gather
momentum on its own."
DECIDE ON A STRUCTURE
From the outset, everyone should agree
on the purpose of the group. Do you
want a social club, with a bit of business
thrown into the mix, or are you looking for
something more formal? Even if members
agree they want a deeper dive into business
issues, how you go about that will depend
on everyone's goals.
"If half your group is trying to sell their
agencies and half the group is trying to
build for the future, be sure everyone
knows that," Watkins advised.
Once the group gets going, it can be
helpful to formalize a communication
plan, including how often and where the
group will meet. Klein said his group
holds multiday, face-to-face meetings
at a different member's company and in
a neutral city at least twice a year. They
host conference calls and send emails in
between to address member questions
as needed, and they seek each other out
at ACA conferences for a quick breakfast