I just got back from the Commercial Collection Agencies of America conference held March 9-11 at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, GA. What a great experience! The hotel was fabulous, the sessions educational and the networking event at the Porsche Driving Experience was AMAZING! The conference started Thursday evening with the welcome reception and dinner. It was a great way to kick off the conference and network with other attendees.
Friday began with a roundtable discussion regarding Regulators, Licenses and Bonds. We heard from both Sheryl T. Sailer, Investigator/Regulator from the ND Department of Financial Institutions, and Anthony Polidori, Supervising Examiner & Investigator from the Ohio Dept. of Finance and Past Pres. of the N. American Collection Agency Regulatory Assoc. They talked about the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS). NMLS is the system-of-record for non-depository, financial services licensing or registration in participating state agencies, including the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. In these jurisdictions, NMLS is the official system for companies and individuals seeking to apply for, amend, renew and surrender license authorities managed through NMLS. This includes 61 state or territorial governmental agencies. NMLS, itself, does not grant or deny license authority. Both Sheryl and Anthony spoke about how the goal is to streamline the processes and reduce costs for everyone involved.
We also heard from Cappy Kehoe, Licensed insurance agent and bond specialist and Statutory Bond Department Manager of International Sureties, Ltd. He talked about how to obtain bonds that may be required in the licensing process for collections. Terri Goins, Licensing Consultant who specializes in Consumer and Commercial Debt Collection Licensing also addressed the group. She focused on how NMLS is changing the process for licensing and making it more efficient and easier to accomplish.
Other sessions included Commercial Collections, Personal Guarantees and Credit Reporting presented by Manny Newburger, Esq. of Consumer Financial Services Law Practice Group at Barron & Newburger, P.C. and Chair, Independent Standards Board of Commercial Collection Agencies of America; Uses of Business Credit Reporting presented by Ann Skibicki, a Director of Product Management for Experian Business Information Services. We rounded out the sessions with a triadic panel, including attorneys from two NL law firm members – Matt Garcia of Barnett & Garcia PLLC and Crystal Duplay of The Law Offices of Tim Sullivan. The panel discussed pre-suit considerations, such as what documentation to include and the components of a detailed letter of instruction to the attorney, how to choose a good law firm to fit your specific needs, and what criteria makes a case worthy of filing suit. It was great to see the exchange between law firms and agencies trying to better their processes to improve their working relationships.
Then the FUN began! Thanks to these wonderful sponsors—The Guerrini Law Firm, Barnett & Garcia PLLC, Stillman Law Office, Blackwell, Burke & Ramsey, P.C., Saldana Law Firm LLC, and Miller Cohen Peterson & Young, P.C.—we had a networking event that will be hard to top. Conference attendees were taken by motor coach to The Porsche Experience Center, a first of its kind in the U.S. It features a world-class 1.2 mile driver development track. Professional driving instructors took us on demo laps around the 16 turn, 2.38 mile FIA-certified race track. Toughest decisions of that experience: Do I ride in a convertible? And, what color? The experience was thrilling. My only regret is there were no ‘before the ride’ and ‘after the ride’ photos. The smiles and laughter were infectious when people exited from their ride. I think I can speak for everyone that took a trip around the course – this was The Most Fun Event Ever!
Saturday morning, I attended an open forum where topics discussed centered on Creating a Workplace Favorable to Millennials. It was interesting to hear from attendees about the different things law firms and agencies offer and/or promote to all employees, not just millennials: having an allowance for their mobile phones if they use them for work purposes; a no-vacation policy – use it as you need it, but don’t abuse it (millennials love flexibility); flexible work schedules – allowing employees to work within a set guideline of time, but not dictating hours as long as their work is getting done/goals met; and finally, improving the atmosphere/culture in your office. By creating a workplace atmospheres of teamwork, with a trust factor that the employee will and can get the job done, employees become more vested in the company and want to do a good job. Little things like office lunches (let them pick the place or the delivery place), team/individual incentives (could be monetary, leaving exiting the office early for a weekend, etc.) or even acknowledging individual/team successes can make a bit difference in employee satisfaction.
Another takeaway during this discussion was a suggestion from attorney Manny Newburger to change the term ‘management’ to ‘leadership’ within your office. He asked, “Do you want to manage your team or lead them?” The definition of management is, “The organization and coordination of the activities of a business in order to achieve defined objectives.” The definition of Leadership is, “The individuals who are the leaders in an organization, regarded collectively; the activity of leading a group of people or an organization or the ability to do this.” Leadership involves: establishing a clear vision; sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly; providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision; and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders. A leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations. If you lead instead of manage, your staff/team will succeed. By leading, you are showing by example and creating a culture of trust within your office. Employees want to stay where they are trusted and respected.
I can’t wait to see what Commercial Collection Agencies of America has in store for us at the Annual Conference in Delray Beach, FL. Mark your calendars for October 25-28, 2017! Hope to see you there!
By Leslie Opp, NL VP of Member Services