Collector - May 2018 - 21
leadership roles within ACA, including a
year as president and several on the board
of the Minnesota Association of Collectors.
Notably, he is the first former collection
agency owner to serve as CEO of ACA since
the association's early days.
"I believe that we have the power to
become what we want to become and succeed
at whatever we put our minds to," Neeb said.
"I tell my kids that part of life is deciding what
you want and then deciding if you're willing
to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
That kind of momentum is hard to stop."
UP TO THE CHALLENGE
Neeb, 58, has firsthand experience with
making big changes through sheer
determination. He grew up on a dairy farm
in southwestern Minnesota, poor but never
wanting, the third of four boys.
When his family moved into town and
Neeb joined the school baseball team, he
knew he wanted to be a pitcher, one of the
most physically taxing positions on the
field. When given an opportunity to play
a musical instrument in middle school, he
asked, "Which is the hardest to play?" and
chose that one.
After graduating from St. Cloud State
University in St. Cloud, Minn., with an
accounting degree, he worked at the
CPA firm CliftonLarsonAllen as an audit
manager. In 1990, he was poached by a
client, Jim Christensen, to serve as CFO
for Central Collection Services, later
known as J.C. Christensen & Associates.
At that point, Neeb didn't know
anything about the collection industry,
but he soon found out. Central Collection
Services was a small company at the time,
and when the accounting work proved to
be relatively uncomplicated, Christensen
handed Neeb 125 client files and told him
to hit the road.
This put him in front of clients for the first
time, where he learned what they wanted
and valued in a collection agency-an
important learning experience.
Never one to run from a challenge, a few
years later Neeb pursued the executive vice
president position for a credit bureau in
"I took that company over at the age of
32 and didn't have the slightest idea what I
was doing," Neeb recalled. "Nobody knew
it at the time, but the grand total number
of people who had ever reported to me in
my life at that point was one."
Once again, through hard work and
force of will, Neeb climbed another rung
of the corporate ladder. When Equifax
purchased the credit bureau in 1996, Neeb
bought the collection division and named
it The Affiliated Group.
"It was very small, we weren't using
much technology and the division had
never made any money," Neeb said.
"But like anything else in life, when
something becomes the only way you
get to eat tonight, you get good at it real
fast." The new company made money in
its first month.
Shortly after Neeb purchased Affiliated,
one of his clients pulled him aside and
said, "Look, I know you have good
intentions, but you don't have a clue about
what's really going on with how you're
serving my company."
Neeb cites this as a defining moment in
"I was smart enough to pay attention
and realized then and there that the only
way to become successful is to help other
people become successful," Neeb said.
"Once I committed myself to serving
others, everything changed for me. It
was an epiphany that I might never
have had if the client had just fired our
Affiliated continued to grow, eventually
winning the 1999 Small Business Award
from the Rochester Area Chamber of