Episode 04: Benchmarking
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
“The accounts receivable management industry is dominated by small, privately held companies which make finding broad benchmarking data difficult because there is little public financial data available and few companies are willing to part with sensitive financial data.”
- Key benefits and strongest elements of a benchmark group.
- How to overcome the dynamics of trust with small to midsize agencies
- How to go about starting or finding the right group
- Steps and what you should and shouldn’t do
- SIze of the group and size of the companies
- Harry shares valuable insights he’s gained from years of experience.
- KPIs the good and the bad
- Benchmarking reports you should seek right now
Guest: Harry Strausser III
Harry is a second-generation collection veteran having held the position of President of two successful collection firms until the sale of those firms in May 2017. Throughout his career Harry was active in the Mid-Atlantic Collectors Association where he served as President, and ACA International, Inc., the association of credit and collection professionals, in which he is a Senior Certified Trainer. He has served on the ACA International Executive Committee and held the position of President in 2004-2005. He currently holds the position of President of Applied Innovation, a software company that serves the ARM space.
He holds an MA in communication from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and a BS in business administration from the same institution. He has served as a full-time adjunct professor for the Department of Communication Studies at Bloomsburg University where he taught interpersonal communication, public speaking, and corporate communication. As a sought-after industry speaker, he has traveled extensively across the United States and internationally during which he has conducted over 1000 educational and motivational programs for associations, private enterprises, conferences, and public seminar events.
Harry enjoys travel, music, working outdoors at his home, and spending time with his family and two golden retrievers, Tindaqwae (Tin- Dah-Quay) and Luna.
- Website: https://www.appliedinnovationinc.com/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- LinkedIn: Company https://www.linkedin.com/company/applied-innovation-inc-/
- LinkedIn: Personal https://www.linkedin.com/in/harry-strausser-iii-7413106/
Lex Patterson 0:35
Today’s episode will focus on benchmarking groups. And today’s guest is a man who really needs no introduction, because he’s spent so much of his career and really his life learning and educating about industry best practices. Please welcome Harry Strasser the third. Well, thanks so much, Lex. Great to be with you today. I’m honored. Uh, yeah, me too. I’m excited about our discussion today. Because you have such a vast amount of experience on many levels of the business, Harry, and I want to thank you for taking the time to share the the insight on this particular topic for Episode Four and season one of our podcast. And I recently read that Apple exceeded 2 million podcasts on their platform.
only 46% of those podcasts have published more than three episodes to the platform. Is that right? Yeah. And you, my friend, represent episode four, for our podcast. Excellent. So I’d like to celebrate this moment with you by raising a glass or a cop or whatever, as we push fair debt into an important milestone and goal that I have to bring this important information to the industry. So cheers.
Unknown Speaker 0:03
This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained for any information obtained will be used for that purpose.
Lex Patterson 0:21
My name is Lex Patterson, you’re listening to fair debt, my podcast about things misunderstood and overlooked in the debt collection space.
Harry Strausser III 2:05
Even more honored to be part of the program. Yeah.
Lex Patterson 2:10
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of a fun, you know, I always like to celebrate the milestones. And that was something I set as a goal. When I started this, I wanted to make sure I was in that, that second half that that had more than three
Harry Strausser III 2:22
episodes out there’s a statistic that, obviously, many people determine that they’d like to do this type of activity, and then they don’t continue.
Lex Patterson 2:31
Right. Right. Well, yeah, and I’m learning it. It’s it’s more difficult than it might seem, you know. But but it’s, it’s a it’s a fun deal so far. So hey, before we dive into the benchmarking part of us, I thought it might be interesting, though, to tell our listeners about your journey and collections, you know, you’ve spent so much time in the industry and with the ACA, and kind of tell us about where you’ve come from and what you’re doing now, Harry?
Harry Strausser III 2:57
Sure. Well, well, thanks for the opportunity. So I am one of the second generation debt collectors that are still around and I do have friends that are second third and some that are fourth generation. But as a second generation debt collector in the early 70s, about 73 My parents opened a collection agency in central Pennsylvania and I grew up literally grew up watching them build that business and then worked in that business initially filing ledger cards and emptying trash cans and doing anything mom and dad needed emptying the ashtrays because all collectors remember that? Oh my goodness, they all did. Yeah. And so So worked in that that business, went on to college, got a couple of degrees and came back to the manage the family business and started another collection firm and you know, Dad did a lot of purchase of debt and manage that. And then I did more traditional collections with my firm and and always had two loves and one love wasn’t understand collections. And one of them you know, be like that and stay in the company. But I also enjoyed presentations and and getting up in front of people and talking and so I became an educator and I’ve been ACA senior Certified Trainer now for this will be 31 years this Wow, congratulations. Yeah, I taught for 16 years at Bloomsburg University was an adjunct professor, but most of the time I was full time because it was right up the street from my office so I could have a full full class load and still come back and run my company. And then worked in leadership in ACA and respective units of ACA for many years now. So Past President of ACA in 2004 2005 and continue to help the association in any way I can. So it’s been an interesting evolution because four years ago, I sold the company. It said you know a lot of introspection that you know, what do I want to do in my Pre retirement years and decided to, I had a business partner as well. So sell the company. And in doing so went on to work, actually, for ACA as Director of Education and membership development for about 18 months. Wow. And then moved on after that, where I work today as President of applied innovation, a company owned by by friends of mine that, gosh, we’ve known each other probably going on 30 years now. And so I’m on the vendor side now. So I’m kind of coming full circle now with all of the the industry and it’s been fun, fun to be on the same thing.
Lex Patterson 5:35
Yeah. And you bring a vast experience to that role. So yeah, well, thank you for sharing that with us. So I like to start with the Begin with the end in mind. You know, it’s a concept that I’ve taken to heart. So let’s start this discussion today, with some of the benefits or maybe the outcome opportunities. In other words, what does benchmarking help you and your business do?
Harry Strausser III 6:01
Yeah, that that is a really good question. And I think as we delve into this topic, I think the issue that is really a shame is that benchmarking groups are immensely helpful, yet very few ever have the opportunity to be part of one. And when I say very few, I’m talking about probably 98% of the industry will never be in a benchmark group. And, and the the advantage of a benchmark group is to be able to have some collective minds, people that are doing the same types of things every day sharing with one another in ways that you might not share with your competitor of the street. Or you might not be able to relate to someone who may be a CEO of a company, but it’s a different industry. We are a unique industry. And so so a benchmarking group will help you assimilate ideas come to understanding support one another in a variety of ways. And it has been an aspiration of a lot of people to become a member of a benchmark group bit. So this is this concept that doesn’t seem to be within their reach. And so if you’re not in one, you’d love to be in one in if you are in one, you wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s the best thing you’ve got going as far as your business life is concerned. It’s so important.
Lex Patterson 7:29
Yeah. And so I’m gathering to that one of the other products that come out of it is, you know, discovering opportunity, right, like, new opportunities, perhaps. And I mean, because I know, I know, you’re benchmarking yourself against best practices. That’s, that’s one of the things that we’ll probably dive into a little bit more, but just those those opportunities that may be, I don’t know, is that something? Or am I way off on that? Yes,
Harry Strausser III 7:54
no, no, you’re right. So here’s the other thing, too, that I think people don’t understand about a benchmark group. You think of it as a group of people who are going to share some data with one another on kind of a formal basis, the reality is, you become like family. Because through this process, we you will learn enough about each other’s company, respective firms that if literally, if someone were to become critically ill or die, you could step in and run the business. Wow, there is no topic left unturned. And so it is so important to get the right people in the group. And that’s something we can talk about, too, you know, how you, you know, how do you develop the group? And how do you find people to be to be in the group, but it is a level of sharing that most people would agree you’ve never had before in your business life? Okay, I think is the glue that keeps it together. So that the business end of it and the facts and figures and all that stuff that you you share is important. And you mentioned opportunity. Absolutely. Because what happens is you you as a collective group, opportunity comes along, and some of is good opportunity. And some of its bad and you flesh it out with a group. Yeah, actually, what do you think? Yeah, I’ve got this, this opportunity. And sometimes they will concur that as a great opportunity. Sometimes they’ll talk you you know, off the ledge and say now, I think this is a really, really bad idea. And and one of the strongest elements I believe, in a benchmark group is holding the CEO accountable. We held each other and hold each other accountable. And there’s an often as a CEO of a company. You don’t have a lot of people looking over your shoulder right. And you promised to do something obviously, right. Staff members that are important and family but but this is a group that’s really going to listen to what you’re promising to do and your business to change it and they’re gonna hold your feet to the fire.
Lex Patterson 9:53
Yeah, yeah, that’s that’s incredibly powerful. Right there. Yeah. Great. Great. Well, so I read a statement that says The accounts receivable management industry is dominated by small privately held companies, which made finding broad benchmarking data difficult, because there’s little public financial data available and few companies are willing to part with that sensitive financial information, which seems to resonate with, with exactly what you’re saying, you know,
Harry Strausser III 10:20
they don’t want to, they don’t want to give it up. They for competitive reasons for security reasons. One thing to understand you, when you talk about small businesses, about half the industry has an employee base of 10 or fewer. So those agencies have 10 or fewer people, another 25% of the industry has between 11 and 25. So think about the 75% of the debt collection industry has 25 or fewer staff members in those organizations. So it is an industry of small biz, wow. Yeah. Now, okay, big ones. And we can you know, there’s a list of those big ones and well known very large, right, bigger ones keep getting bigger, the smaller ones are going away. We think there’s about 4500 collection firms today, we knew we had about 8000, back when I was in leadership with ACA, you know, in the mid 2000s, of 2005. So, so they’re small businesses, they are regional businesses, they compete with other agencies, and they are fearful of giving up information yet they are so desirous of that information. So ACA has taken the charge over the years, and they have had a marketing survey, and other metrics that they’ve put together. One of the challenges they’ve had very interesting and very popular with with memberships, they would buy that that data. But you would have a low number of participants submitted.
Lex Patterson 11:56
Yeah, I’ve noticed that. Yeah. So it’s statistically
Harry Strausser III 11:59
I mean, the statisticians will say it’s enough to be statistically correct. But it’s just not enough deep information. I mean, those are some facts and figures that are kind of superficial. What a benchmark group will do, we’ll take it way deeper than than those types of issues. So I think that’s why you don’t see a lot of it, you know, these small companies are, they’re, they’re afraid to give up their secret sauce, right? They think that they’ve got something so different. We used to joke. Small companies, for instance, will not share their client list. I mean, that the last thing in the world that they will guard with their life is their client list. Well, it really doesn’t matter who your clients are, because everybody else knows all your competitors. Know who every creditor is using. Yeah, that that list. So that’s that mentality, right, that I think holds people back from from sharing information. And some of them would not make good members of benchmark group because you have to be ready to completely open yourself
Lex Patterson 13:07
up. Yeah, yeah. So I can see that trust is a key here. So developing trust, and really being willing to, like you say, be open with with what you’re doing those those are. So the best members are going to be people that can trust. And also can earn trust, too. Right. So maybe speak to so tell us a little bit about what was the first benching benchmarking group that you were part of? And what did you learn through that, Harry? I mean, how did it come together? You know, all of that.
Harry Strausser III 13:38
Sure, it most commonly, a group of friends in the industry get together. And very commonly, they’re members of a trade association, like ACA. So, okay, we come together, we get to know one another, where leadership together, whether it be on the unit level, or the national level, and we befriend one another. And in the course of that, you start just kind of naturally sharing ideas, because you trust one another, you know, you sit and having a drink at a meeting and you’re talking about some of your challenges. And and so knowing the concept of a benchmark group. For me personally, years ago, I was at a an ACA committee of 100 meeting and the variety of good friends there. And we knew about another large benchmark group that had been around for a long time. And we said you we should do this. We’ve talked about it for years, and we made a commitment. There were six of us. And we said, let’s do it. Let’s try it. I had been part of another one that tried to start about five years prior to that. And we couldn’t get much traction. We just couldn’t get the committed members. But this group we knew, because of how well we knew one another that if we wanted to do it, we could. So we got it together. And and we set up an initial meeting and we became the wampum benchmark group who MPLM wampum And a lot of chosen a name and, and that name. And this is what happens when you get a group of friends together. And you’ve had a couple of drinks. In our first meeting, we were saying we need to have a name, but we’re going to call ourselves. And we put together the first letter of each state that we were from. We were from six different states. Okay, I put him on a piece of paper, and we settled on wampum. Yeah, so that was
Lex Patterson 15:26
I liked that name.
Harry Strausser III 15:31
Yeah, so So that’s how we got together initially, and after a lot of conversations, seeing and hearing about a couple of other groups and in realizing that we were all in our own way leaders within the industry, too. So whether it be on the AC Level or on the regional level, very involved with with Association work. And so that, I think, gave us a different level of commitment.
Lex Patterson 15:56
Yeah. So you mentioned six in that initial one. Is that Is that a good number? I mean, is there is there a limit to you probably had some variety here, right?
Harry Strausser III 16:07
Yeah. Now that? That’s a good question. I believe. The initial one that started many years ago, we often refer to it as the the President’s benchmark group, because this group that came together, not necessarily big businesses, but they they benchmark so well together that over the years, almost all of them went to the chairs of ACM had become a president and built their companies substantially well known companies in the industry because of the benchmarking. Wow. So So I, you know, I think that that perspective of looking back at some of those larger companies, that that had come to grown out of these benchmark groups is an incentive for others to to develop a benchmark type of process, I think they had about I think, 12, or 14, we had 10, at our largest. There’s a couple of others. I think one has four or five, and one has about a half dozen, I think you need to get critical mass. So you don’t want two or three, although there’s certainly an advantage of two or three filter, sharing information. But I think you need to get to that half dozen range. Make sense? We liked being at about 10. They’ve got nine now because I had to step down when I sold my company. Okay, so that’s a good number. I think 10 to 12 is Yeah, and a double number.
Lex Patterson 17:33
Yeah. Okay, so then the next question that comes right into this is so, you know, as an agency owner, how would I go about joining one or starting one? Like, what, what, where do I go, if I There’s, obviously there’s great value in this right? And we got 98%, that aren’t really getting involved here. So I guess the first step is looking inward and saying, This is something I want to do. But the very next step would be, how do I get involved? How do I find one? Or how do I start one?
Harry Strausser III 18:02
Yeah, unfortunately, there’s no real entity out there that helps groups coordinate benchmark opportunities, what I would suggest that they do is reach out to, to myself to other benchmark members that they know people are in benchmark groups with one common denominator with benchmark groups is that they’re very helpful in helping others set up benchmark groups. Okay, so some of the others I know at least two of the others that exist right now, three, actually, they had come to those of us who had already been organized, and we sat and talked to them. One group actually came and met with our group at one point in time, and, and we shared with them how we run our meetings and that type of thing. So reach out to a benchmark group and ask, Hey, can you help us get one set up? And then be thinking about who you like and trust and respect in the industry? What you know, one common common dynamic, when you’re thinking about do I want to get one started, it typically isn’t going to be your competitor who’s 30 miles away. We were in 10 different states. And we didn’t specifically say that that had to happen, but it was somewhat, you know, we were all regional companies. So being in a bit of a different footprint kind of made sense.
Lex Patterson 19:26
Yeah. And I was gonna ask you about that, because I know some agencies are licensed in multiple states, some of them all 50 states now, you know, and so I guess that makes it a little tougher, maybe to get involved but is or not, or do you find that the case is more regional, better than you hear?
Harry Strausser III 19:43
You know, from the other. The original benchmark group, I’ll call it the big one. They became very large, and they all became mostly became national agencies, and many of them were collecting in the same markets. But it was as we know, in this industry, this is a very Giving industry a very friendly industry with people who even compete with one another. Right? It was, it was an opportunity for them to say, Listen, we were going to be going after some of the same contracts, but we’re just friendly competitors, as well as having a benchmark group and think about that. Yeah, they’re sharing everything on the table. And you’re also competing at the end of the day, that that kind of model will work if you’re more of an average size firm. So in our case, we had 10, our smallest member had about a dozen employees and our largest have 35. Okay, so it was we were all in that that kind of average size. Yeah, all of us were, you know, several states we were collecting in different types of collections. And so there was a lot to learn from one another, you know, regional differences, obviously, in the business climate, but a lot to learn from one another. There’s also a an argument that I think could be made, why not have a big player join your group? With with 600 employees that talks about how they grew that company to that? Sure. Yeah. I think that the reason you don’t typically see that is that I think there’d be a lot more giving from that company to the group, rather than, you know, sharing in the knowledge.
Lex Patterson 21:23
Yeah, yeah. They’ve already they’ve already walked the journey, so to speak. So it’s,
Harry Strausser III 21:28
I don’t think you’d normally see that. Yeah. Yeah.
Lex Patterson 21:31
Well, that’s, that’s too bad on the one hand, but I understand it. Yeah. So. So is there? Is there a commitment, then, let’s talk about maybe the commitment to membership? Like, what, what’s involved in that? We talked about the trust element part of it. But I’m thinking about, you know, do you travel places do you? Do you have on site visits? Do you are there, you know, I know, the accountability piece to that the accountability partners that you mentioned, is so cool, because I’m sure there’s a cadence that happens there, where you’re going, Okay, we’re setting a goal. Do you meet monthly, you know, all those things. Harry, tell us a little bit about that.
Harry Strausser III 22:08
Most of the benchmark groups have a model where you share financial data every month. So we have a carefully orchestrated financial report a spreadsheet, everybody submits all their data on those metrics, and then by a certain time of each month, so that’s the first part of accountability, okay, you have to submit the data, at least have somebody in your company do it. And it’s got to be there by the right time, because that reports coming out on the 25th of the month, okay, you’ve got to commit to that. Most groups meet two times a year. And so we would fly off somewhere, just twice a year to meet for about two and a half days. We started and this is also common, you start those meetings being hosted by one of the benchmark members in their town, so you can visit their agency. Okay. So for the six of us, when we started for the first six meetings, and for the first three years, we each hosted a meeting, we went to that town, we got to see their community, we went into their office and learn more about the operation. And they, you know, wined and dined us and booked the the facility for the meetings and the whole bit, wow. Then when we added more over the years up to 10, when you hire on or bring on a new benchmark member, then you would make sure that one of the next meetings, we go to their office, after that whole cycle took place, then we just went to destinations that we enjoyed and we just took took our turn each running a meeting and it was your it was that the fun part in our group is that you didn’t let the group know where they were going until a few months ahead of time you picked a cool spot. And then you said okay, here’s here’s where we’re going, you know, where we’re going to Yellowstone Park. And we’re going to go to the XYZ Lodge. And here’s the dates and, and actually, the dates are something that is probably one of the more challenging parts of a benchmark group, finding the dates that everyone’s available, because the other part of the accountability is, you better never miss a meeting. Obviously, if you were ill, or you’ve had a crisis in your family, you know, but sure, it would be very rare that someone misses a meeting. And if they do, you know, we had a couple of instances where someone was really sick. And they they called in for part of the meeting, that kind of thing. Yes, that’s a monthly data exchange meeting face to face, usually twice a year. And then you could meet anytime you want. Really we kind of have a little mini listserv with one another. So at any point in time, and this is the other level of commitment. If a group member has a question, they need some help. Hey, gang, I need a copy of an NDA. I can’t seem to find one and I really need one for a meeting tomorrow. You make it Get a priority when those messages come in everybody’s kind of a flirty get that information. And what you find is almost Wow, anything you’re looking for is probably already existing and one of your benchmark members out there. Yeah,
Lex Patterson 25:15
man just tearing you go through some of that stuff. It just I can totally relate to that how powerful that would be to have that kind of support for those types of things, you know. Very cool. So you mentioned data exchange and KPIs. Can you share kind of like maybe a baseline? What, what, what, what did that look like? What type of KPIs are you normally tracking or reports are?
Harry Strausser III 25:39
Well in our group, and I think it’s similar in the other groups, we did a lot more sharing relative to the p&l and the balance sheet in running that part of the company not as much operationally, the collection floor, and you know, how many collection calls your collection was making that kind of thing that we had lots of conversations about better managing our teams, and what expectation, the tracking of the data was really more about, you know, effectively and profitably running your operation. And so we had, we would have lots of conversations, for instance, as we share this data, and then compare it over six months and a year, we would turn to a member and say, Man, the size of your operation, how is it that your, your insurance line item is so low? What are you using? And we would do that in many different areas, helping one another understand there’s different opportunities, we would often flush out vendors, as a group, you know, somebody might say, man, I’ve got this process and a product and look and see what I’m doing the chair everything about it. And we set up a meeting with a vendor and say, you know, what, we might all want to come in and board with you. So there was also an opportunity for, I don’t wanna say group purchasing per se, but to come in bulk with a vendor and say, yeah, no way. You’ve got possibility of eight or 10 customers here. Yeah, yeah. And oh, come in and give us a presentation. Yeah. And that, that purchasing power
Lex Patterson 27:11
of multiple versus one small agency can make a big difference, too. Yeah. It’s pretty cool. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, so I guess and maybe, so it sounds like what you were doing is focusing on the business elements of it. The p&l? You know, the income statement, so to speak, and then but but if someone brought a problem in like one thing that I’m thinking about, like, let’s say, complaints, or lawsuits, or then would you benchmark around that sometimes gathering sure data on the actual
Harry Strausser III 27:50
benchmarking, you know, all the data and statistics and the financials and all that was kind of a standard thing. But every time we had a meeting, part of the host responsibility was to develop an agenda by reaching out to the group and asking, What do you want to see on the agenda? What’s you know, and we would start every benchmarking meeting, and it usually was supposed to be the first hour or hour and a half. And it was often the first morning where everybody just talked about what’s on your plate, what’s going on? Here? What’s what’s happening? And so, yes, we would, there was really no topic that would be left unturned. Obviously, compliance is a huge issue. We talk about how we were implementing compliance programs, lawsuits, you know, how many lawsuits did each of you get? who’s suing you? How are you handling it? You know, how are you defending yourself? Can we help out with one another, their staffing issues, sales related issues, so so then you went to the gamut, you know, with the actual exchange that took place, it was a very open, free flowing type of environment. But you also had to have a timekeeper because you get you know, try to control them to stop you know, we’re moving on now, because we’ve got to be to item number eight by noon, or else we’ll never get through and yeah, and then of course, if you’ve got lots of free time after that our meetings were half day meeting, so we met early in the morning till noon, and then we played in the afternoons. Yeah, yeah. Ski or something. And yeah, dinner and talk for at the evening.
Lex Patterson 29:31
Yeah, and yeah, just like at conferences and stuff. That’s a lot of times the business still goes on, even though you’re out enjoying stuff. So that’s really cool. That’s a really cool thing. So how about unexpected lessons or biggest surprises? In your experience with this Do you have anything that stands out as as something that maybe you learned that you didn’t expect to learn or that surprised you as you went through this whole thing?
Harry Strausser III 29:57
You know, I I think One of the the big issues is the common experience of of owners of businesses, the things that you often don’t talk about. So for instance, the fear of going into work on Monday morning, because you’re going to have another disastrous week, and you walk into it to work on Monday morning, and you’re the CEO, and you’re in charge, and you’ve got it all together, and people turn to you that you’re leaving the organization. But the reality is, sometimes you’re scared to death, about is it gonna be another lawsuit? Or do I not understand this concept that I should understand? So I think understanding that, that you need to deal with that. And so in a way, it almost becomes like a therapy session with with with these groups, you’re not only holding each other accountable, but flushing out the issue, who’s got an issue? Who’s got a problem? Giving recommendations for what they should do? feeling comfortable to talk about those issues? It? Wouldn’t they be personal family and business related? Because at the end of the day, it’s all part of that experience you’re having? In the in the business?
Lex Patterson 31:12
Yeah, I’m just yeah, I’m thinking about, you know, especially in today’s world, we need that more than ever. Really? I mean, you’re right. You know, it was it was so always been that way, but I think it’s been magnified recently. So
Harry Strausser III 31:27
yeah. And I think I think you have to allow yourself to be a little bit open and a little vulnerable, and talk about things that you didn’t normally talk about. It was very cathartic to do that. What are they? One of the most interesting sessions that we had. And think about this, this is not something you would sit around with executives and talk about was remuneration. We decided for one of our meetings, we were going to have a section of the meeting where we each shared bottom line, what’s your salary? What are your perks? What what, what is your incentive for being CEO? And it was amazing. That the spectrum, how it from one end to the other? Yeah, how some were making an incredible amount of money and profitable enterprises and others that were not and what does that mean? And what are you working for? And what and to have those conversations that yeah, or else you have this conversation? No.
Lex Patterson 32:24
Yeah. That kind of insight. Yeah.
Harry Strausser III 32:27
It was very, very eye opening. Yeah, of course, those of us that were making last were very depressed when we left those meetings. One of the smaller companies, but then the idea was, well, you can make a lot more money. Let’s let’s make you more profitable. Right. Right. Let’s, you know, how can you make more money? Gosh, you’re spending too much money on that line? Item? Let us put it in your pockets. Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. I think that was one of probably one of the more surprising issues it was to, to realize, you know, the common the common concerns that people have, and that often people that are very outgoing, and in dynamic leaders, you have that side of yourself that you question sometimes and so that reaffirmation you get from from your your peers, and the group can be very powerful. Yeah. Yeah.
Lex Patterson 33:24
So, you know, talking about with the shift recently, too, I mean, do you think, would there be any changes in benchmarking information or discussion with benchmarking that you would think would surface today versus what you’re used to? Is there anything changed with that? Do you think it’s mostly just staying the same with the balance sheet? And
Harry Strausser III 33:45
I think a lot of it’s the same, but I think there’s probably more discussion going on right now about the future of the industry, where it’s headed. Possible dramatic change, you know, but this whole CFPB, the new rules, right, it’s actually a great opportunity is opening up doors for the use of technologies that we haven’t used before. So So what does that mean? Issues of compliance that this has always been a major theme, but, you know, where are we headed with the CFPB and new new leadership in the CFPB? What does that mean for the industry? What can we do to work together with other groups to help combat some of that? Adversity? We talk so much about maintaining our offices, right. We, one of the interesting conversations we had in our group was we ranked our offices do you have an A B, C, or D office? Oh, wow. And it was very interesting, because you know, we had a member that had kind of a C C minus office and they had old furniture and old and they decided to make the change, right and to invest in their people and in the office and what difference that made Now today you’re kind of backtracking. And people are saying I don’t need my office. Right. This last, you know, year has been enlightening and work from home is great. And we’re not going to renew our lease. So I think your it’s going to be different workforces work from home different technologies. Still a lot of the same themes, but I think that the game is going to change. I think the other issue that that’s happening, too, is a generational issue. So the second and third generation people like myself, we’re kind of getting to the point of retirement and, and the opportunities in the industry today aren’t quite what they were, when I was a kid coming into it, it’s a harder, it’s a tougher industry, I think there’s probably going to be more conversations about succession planning. And in our group, I mean, I saw outright and two other group members actually sold to a significant player in their organization, pretty much their second in command took over their operation. So you’re, I think you’re gonna have a lot more of that, because there is a whole generational thing going on right now with people that are in their 50s. And, you know, wondering where they’re going to head because sometimes the kids, you know, that a lot of family operations out there, they’re not interested in carrying on.
Lex Patterson 36:27
Yeah, you know, yeah. Wow. So, you know, kind of recap, couple of key key takeaways there, you know, you mentioned the accountability partners, which I just think is so incredible, being able to have a team, that you could call up and hold you accountable as a CEO, or the president, you know, to just get things done and, and also bounce things off. Oh, that’s incredible. The last thing you just mentioned succession planning, so important. And really, you know, I’ve personally seen cases where that it hasn’t been handled very well, you know, and what that can do, and it just can really sever organizations and stuff. So it’s a, it’s an important topic that now you’ve got, again, a group that can speak to that some that maybe have done it well and have a good plan in place. And, and there are multiple ways that you can handle that. Of course, you know, so
Harry Strausser III 37:18
it helping one another. We did that in our group helping one another develop a succession plan. You know, what are your Yeah, by doing Yeah, turned to one of our members who’s 63 years old. And yeah, they don’t have any plans. And simple. You get to do this forever. You got to work for until you’re 80. Yeah, get your you get your button gear. And let’s let’s talk about Yeah, so, yeah, a lot more of that. I think that you’ll see happening.
Lex Patterson 37:42
Yeah, that’s really great. Well, so speaking, let’s let’s shift gears here for a minute. And maybe I don’t know, Harry, before we do that, is there? Is there a question I should have asked you about benchmarking that I didn’t? Is there? Is there anything else that we should cover on that topic?
Harry Strausser III 38:01
Well, I think I would just kind of put a capstone on it by saying that anyone listening to this podcast, if you have an interest, seek out the opportunity for a benchmark group, because it will absolutely without question, change the way you run your, your personal and business life. And, and, and the the outcome will will be tremendous. I think people hear about it, they think about it, but they don’t pursue it. Yeah. And so So I think we’re in a, in a world now as the players in the industry of diminishing, you know, fewer and fewer our collection industry players out there, I think we need to realize that we need to change move into the future. And sometimes when you’re isolated, in your own little world, you’re just you have blinders on to what you really need to be doing to to help your company survive. Yeah. So so don’t only do it just as a good thing for yourself, but do it to help perpetuate your company into the future decades.
Lex Patterson 39:09
That’s a great point. And we’ll we’ll put those resources on the Show page of the website, Kindred force.com. And so we’ll have those up there contact information for Harry obviously, and some additional resources there for you so so Harry speaking to your younger self, what’s something you wish you would have done differently?
Harry Strausser III 39:33
I’ve always had I don’t want to say an aversion to technology, because I I’m fairly technologically savvy, but I I’ve always stood back and let others handle the technology in my company. And now I’m the president of a software technology company. I wish I would have done more myself. So I understood you know, I I have people to talk to me about the collection platform and I was on for all those years and my gosh, hair, you use that thing for 30 years, they have questions. But, you know, I had people that that did that for my IT guy did it my managers did it. So I think looking back, I wish I would have immersed myself a little bit more in, in the technological component, as we grew as an industry and my company grew as a company, because today a very obviously, it’s all about the technologies. And so I think that’s one change I would have made. I think, you know, when I when I think about my younger self, when you grow up in a family business, and you’re working for mom and dad, and this is a huge discussion that goes on in agencies, there is a dynamic there, that can be tough. Even in the best case scenarios, some of the the most significant agencies in the country right now that are family owned, I guarantee you, they have challenges. As with all the successes they have, they have challenges too. And what I have noted is, and we I think all of us as we age a little bit, you know, the things that my dad told me 40 years ago, you know, that seemed absolutely ridiculous. Are Now the reality today? Yeah. Ah, yes. I hear my I’m thinking, Oh, my God, I’m this my father.
Lex Patterson 41:26
Yeah. Yeah. Good thing. Yeah, that reminds me, it’s like the, the young kid says that the old man doesn’t know a thing. And then by the time he’s aged a little bit, he’s surprised at how much the old man learned.
Harry Strausser III 41:44
Dynamic we all go through with parents and all in general, but when you work with your parents, and you’re trying to orchestrate business, and you have different philosophies, you know, a young guy in the business dad, you know, grew up working in the 50s and 60s, you know, for beneficial finance when he started a very top down. Yeah, he carried that with him his whole life. So yeah, I think that too, you know, yeah, like thing on. There are a lot of different ways to manage a business. And I think that that you can incorporate all of those ideas to make everybody happy. Yeah. Even as you evolve and become a new company.
Lex Patterson 42:22
And that’s great, because as you mentioned earlier, so many businesses in this space are multi generation family owned businesses, you know, a lot of small businesses. So yeah, it’s really, yeah,
Harry Strausser III 42:32
those eight and operations, actually, I would suggest that the majority of them are probably in some fashion have been, they might have sold out a little while ago. But so it’s a whole different culture. And we just, we just did a recent webinar on that topic as well. Those of us that was four of us that were second generation, and yeah, what does that mean? Right? Okay. When you’ve got perhaps a parent that is also well known in the industry. So it’s, it’s not just a little isolated, small company, but what about when they’re also out there and in leadership in the
Lex Patterson 43:08
Oh, wow. Yeah. That’s, yeah. Yeah, the big shoes to fill. That’s yeah, that’s definitely yeah. Well, is there a is there a debt collection myth that you’d like to debunk if you had the chance?
Harry Strausser III 43:24
Yeah, though, the one I’ve worked hard on for many years is that debt collectors are not bad people. I’ve tried to work on that time and time again, and every group I get in front of and I know in a lot of times you’re proverbially speaking to the choir, because you’re talking to collection people, but every time I’ve gotten in front of groups that are not necessarily debt collectors, or creditors, that sometimes, you know, have to go the evil road of using a debt collection company. Right? Yeah. And they even themselves have that negative thought. I think, you know, humanizing what we do is important. And I think, in general, this industry has changed dramatically over the last 1010 years, a much more service oriented, softer approach. You know, many of us have been that way, to a certain extent for many years, but much more so. And I think the COVID issue, if there’s something to learn from it, is that we’ve just jumped back even further, and we just decided as an industry, I want to help people. We are all a pandemic, right. Right. Right. impacted. So whether I’m a debt collector, or you’re a consumer, you’re a creditor doesn’t matter. We are all impacted by this thing. So I think the sharing this gun on the softer approach to help helping hand has helped kind of revolutionize this industry. And this is why you’re hearing companies today that are telling you over the last year they have broken revenue records. They are doing far better than ever expected because they’re hot. helping people find a way out of some of the financial dilemmas. And so I think that that’s, that’s important.
Lex Patterson 45:07
Very much. So yeah, a good friend of mine JW Blair, I don’t know, do you know JW? I don’t know, he’s in North Carolina, but a great guy. And he coined the phrase, the debt tsunami, because he said, You know, I’m looking at this debt just kind of piling off and being deferred and, and, you know, because of the pandemic, a lot of people out of work and all these types of things. And in, you know, we had a discussion about, I think we could be headed for a situation where, you know, the country is really going to need our expertise and our help more than ever. And I feel like carry, you know, your example of being an educator, and, you know, teaching because that’s really what it’s about. Right is helping to solve problems, and educate people about financial responsibility. And yeah, so I just think it’s all who knows, I mean, that’s, that’s no
Harry Strausser III 46:01
one wants to be in debt. Right? No, we’re all in debt. You know, we we use silver. Right, right. When we talk about debtors, it was almost kind of a rude negative connotation. And the reality is, we’re all debtors. We all have a mortgage, or you have a payment on a car. I mean, you were in debt to someone. And I think that the more we realize that kind of thing, and we realize that we’re more alike than then the different from one another. Yeah. Many people that are in debt, they need education, they need a way out. Yeah, they don’t understand. Yeah, this is why the Federal laws are written from the least sophisticated consumer standard. Right? Right, just don’t understand. So we’ve done a lot of work within the industry on financial literacy, through ACA and other organizations as well, to to make a pointed effort of helping consumers better understand how to get out of where they’re at. And the ACA has the Education Foundation. I was on the board of that group for about 12 years where we actually create educational materials and programs and offer scholarships in the financial industry. Wow, a lot of good work going on. Yeah. It nearly underscore and even on the regional basis, some of the, the individually.
Lex Patterson 47:25
Units, yeah. Okay. Yeah. Okay, one last one for you. Is there a topic that you’ve been rethinking lately?
Harry Strausser III 47:35
Um, you know, I think I think the topic does for me personally, is, I’ve spent my entire life in this industry. You you grow in an industry, personally, and professionally, you develop relationships, you develop a name for yourself, whether it be the small company you have or in leadership on a national basis. So I think the question that comes to mind is, you know, what, what’s the next thing that you can do? And so the thing that I’ve been rethinking is, what is my best role? Is it? Is it to continue to educate? Is it to continue to share? Is it to continue to help people see the light with new technologies that will help them make it for the next 20 years? So that for me, I think it’s my biggest question where, you know, I really enjoy what I’m doing. I want to keep doing what I’m doing professionally, but then also, as you give to the industry, you know, what, what could be my best role? So I look forward to continuing that journey?
Lex Patterson 48:38
Yeah. Well, I certainly wish you the best on that. I’m sure you’re gonna continue to teach and educate because you’re so great at that, and a great speaker as well. I want to thank you for coming on this podcast and helping me celebrate a milestone today. That, I mean, we’re, we’re, we’re still in our humble beginnings. But you know, who knows, I mean, I just want to I want so bad to get the information out there. And like you mentioned, really try and shed a different light on on the people in the industry. So thank you, Harry, for sharing your insight wisdom with with us today. And, and I look forward to seeing you soon, you know,
Harry Strausser III 49:18
yeah, hopefully we will all be out and about in the industry again, face to face and, and reconnect. That would be fantastic. Yeah. Well, thank you.
Lex Patterson 49:28
Thank you. Thank you for joining us on another episode of fair debt. Remember, you can access additional information about this and all episodes on our website at Kindred force. com. Join us next time for Episode Five wisdom and change with our guest Linda Russell.