Collector - February 2018 - 48
The Path to Success
Sentry Credit celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017 and is going strong thanks
to a focus on customer service and diversification.
By Katy Zillmer
SENTRY CREDIT INC.
HEADQUARTERS: EVERETT, WASH.
JAMES L. STEWART, COO,
AND MICHAEL MATHIS,
ames Stewart didn't plan on his
career in the collection industry,
but when he took a part-time job at
a collection agency in college, he recalls, "I
knew then that this is what I wanted to do."
Over three decades later, Stewart is still
going strong. His company, Sentry Credit
Inc., celebrated its 25th anniversary in
2017 and continues to thrive based on its
singular mission-to keep a level playing
field between its small and midsized
clients and larger companies with a
"Both my business partner and I worked
as collectors and as collection managers at a
large national collection agency and found
that the small and midsized clients at the
time were not being serviced as well as they
should be," Stewart said.
Stewart, the company's COO, and Sentry
Credit co-founder and president Michael
Mathis opened the company together in
1992. Now, with a team of 70 employees, the
company keeps consumers and clients top of
mind while trying to stay ahead of the game
when it comes to challenges in the industry-
such as working with modern technology.
The company's leadership is also focused
on bolstering Sentry Credit's presence in the
industry through both diversification and a
solid compliance department.
They hired a chief compliance officer,
Chris Straiter, after the inception of the
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to
develop and lead the company's compliance
and quality assurance team.
While Sentry Credit still has a major focus
on collections from consumer financial
products, it's also expanding its business into
medical collections, property management,
auto loans and first-party collections.
"My hope is to be a one-stop-shop
service for any and all of my clients' needs
as they may arise, no matter how difficult
or challenging they may be," Stewart said.
With more than 30 years in the everchanging collection industry, Stewart's
strategies to achieve that goal appear to be
working and he offers this advice to young
professionals starting out their careers:
Just try it.
Six months to a year in the industry can
help young professionals develop people
skills, communication and confidence no
matter where your ultimate career path
leads, Stewart said.
Of course the hope is people will stay,
or spread the word to friends, family and
It worked for Stewart, and he even met
his wife Ann, who now works as a 911
dispatcher, at Sentry Credit. The legacy
of Sentry Credit could continue in the
Stewart's son Aidan, 18, says he plans
to work at the company after he graduates
from college and Stewart's 10-year-old
son, Landan, has even set his early career
aspirations on joining the family business.
"The story I always tell people is that
collections is something you don't normally
plan to get into-you sort of tend to fall
into the profession," he said. "For myself, I
was going to college and I saw an ad in the
newspaper from a collection agency that was
looking to hire and train a bill collector. I
thought it sounded interesting and applied for
the job and was immediately hired. That was
30 years ago and I have never looked back!"
Katy Zillmer is ACA International's