Collector - May 2018 - 56
LJ Ross Associates takes a "people-first" approach to employee development and community service.
By Katy Zillmer
Rebecca Roberts-Stewart with Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.
LJ ROSS ASSOCIATES
INCEPTION DATE: 1992
PRESIDENT AND CEO
hen Rebecca Roberts-Stewart
started her career at LJ Ross
Associates 13 years ago, the debt
collection agency had 30 employees. Today it
has 111, and the minority owned and operated
company recently completed a structural
expansion of its headquarters in Jackson,
Mich., to allow for even more staff to serve its
growing client base across the U.S.
The company's growth has in some ways
mirrored Roberts-Stewart's own professional
rise. She started out as a collector at LJ Ross
Associates to help pay the bills during college
and quickly became passionate about the
industry's mission to help consumers.
In 2007, Roberts-Stewart was promoted to
supervisor, while after-hours she worked to
complete her bachelor's degree in criminal
justice. She moved into operations two years
later and, after a short stint as vice president
and general manager, was named president
and CEO in 2016.
Company founder Al Ross, who retired
last year, enthusiastically supported RobertsStewart on her road to the top.
"Every opportunity I've had in this
industry is because of Al Ross," RobertsStewart said. "He's the one who said,
'That girl's got something-make her a
On the collection floor, Harry Howard
followed a similar path to leadership. A
friend-and former LJ Ross Associates
employee -referred Howard to the
company initially, and it wasn't long before
he developed his own passion for both debt
collection and leadership.
After his 10-year anniversary as a
collector, Howard talked to Roberts-Stewart
about what it would take to become a part
of the management team. Today he is in
his third year as a collection supervisor,
overseeing a team of 18 collectors.
As Howard advanced in his career, he took
on a bigger role to further the company's
mission to give back to the community.
"It's actually really rewarding to go out
into the community and help people in need
and leave it a better place than what it was
before," Howard said.
Howard is the associate chair of the
company's advocacy committee in charge of
community involvement and supporting staff
in times of need. One of the most rewarding
community involvement projects for Howard
is participating in Challenge Day in the local
middle schools. The program is designed for
educators, students, parents and community
businesses to collaborate and improve the
social climate of local middle schools.
One of the advocacy committee's other
roles is to coordinate donations through the
company's Employee Care Fund. Employees
can choose to designate a portion of their
paycheck to donate to the fund, which is
dispersed to employees in a time of need. For
instance, if an employee becomes ill or his
spouse loses her job, the funds can be used
to help them make ends meet.
Employee engagement is one of RobertsStewart's top priorities as president and CEO.
"The most important aspect of our
company is the people," she said.
LJ Ross Associates' community presence
also improves its relationships with
consumers, who may otherwise perceive
debt collectors in a negative light.
"The community involvement is very
important because we are debt collectors and
unfortunately in this industry we're not held
in the highest regard," Roberts-Stewart said.
"We know how important it is to make LJ
Ross a good name."
Katy Zillmer is ACA International's