Episode 06: It All Starts With A Conversation
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
Our discussion with Debbie centers on Financial Literacy or financial wellness as she calls it. Her company tagline says it all “Doing Work That Matters Where we live, lead, and care about helping people achieve financial peace.”
In our discussion with Debbie, you’ll learn about interesting ideas and processes to transform your collectors into “Relationship Specialists” or “Change Agents” and empower them to do more than just take payments. Debbie shares stories about the impact financial education has on the lives of consumers, employees, and her organization.
Guest: Debbie Frank CEO Credit Bureau Service llc
Credit Bureau Services is known for being a collection agency that is passionate about helping people become debt-free.
Her company has been in business for over eighty years. She is the fourth owner and the first woman to have the opportunity to lead the company in the collection industry.
She loves being a business owner and has an entrepreneurial spirit approach when it comes to business, leadership, and working in the Accounts Receivable Management (ARM) industry.
In her eighteen years in the industry, she has held various positions at the state level serving as a past president of the Missouri Collectors Association and is currently serving on their board of directors. She also currently serves on the ACA Financial Literacy Committee, as their committee chairperson, and a Council of Delegate member representing the state of Missouri. Her most prideful accomplishment has been in 2019 when the agency was named as One of the Top Ten Most Innovative Collection Agencies by Receivable Magazine.
Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/credit-bureau-services-llc/
LinkedIn: Personal: linkedin.com/in/debbie-frank-474ba23b
Lex Patterson 0:02
This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained the information obtained will be used for that purpose. My name is Lex Patterson, you’re listening to fair debt, my podcast about things misunderstood and overlooked in the debt collection space. Our discussion today centers on financial wellness with our guests Debbie Frank of credit bureau services for company tagline says it all, doing work that matters where we live, lead, and care about helping people achieve financial peace. So let’s dive into how some outside of the box thinking can transform results. Well, Hi, Debbie. I’m excited to have you on the show today to talk about a concept you have a great passion for. You’re changing lives and building financial wellness. And it all starts with the conversation. So welcome to the show.
Debbie Frank 1:08
Thank you, Lex. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Lex Patterson 1:11
And it’s a pleasure to have you too. I’ve got to say, I think it’s important to start out and hear your story. So tell us about you and your journey.
Debbie Frank 1:22
Okay, uh, Lex on I come to the industry in 2003. I come from city government. And I decided that I wanted to work in the private industry. And so I come to work at the agency just thought it’d be a stepping stone. The the owner of the agency made me a manager right away over the agency. And I worked in the agency for all those years. And in 2011, he said, Debbie, I would like to sell my agency to you, I think you would be a great business owner. And I’m like, Oh, wow, what a great opportunity for me and my family. And so I checked it out with my family. And they said, Yeah, go for it. And that’s what I did. I bought the agency in 2011. And at that time, you know, it’s like transitioning from working in the business to working on the business and casting vision, and setting, you know, mission and all of that. And so that’s what I started doing. I in 2012, I went to a conference called entree leadership with the Dave Ramsey group. And I was having dinner with a gentleman there. And he was talking about teaching his employees financial wellness. And I just went back to my hotel room that night, and I thought what a great idea. That would be if I could teach my employees financial wellness, then I just felt like that would make them better on the phone. And in talking with consumers. So I come back. As I was leaving Nashville that day. I just felt like God was saying, this is what you should do. Come back, get started in teaching your employees financial wellness, well, I got back got busy, and it wasn’t till 2014 I think that I did my first employee wellness class, and I’ve been doing them every year.
Lex Patterson 3:55
Wow. So So you started out you you went to the Dave Ramsey seminar, I guess he was speaking at a seminar that you had there. And then you came back and you put some of that to work in your own office with your own employees.
Debbie Frank 4:16
Yes, he he talked about having key performance areas. He talked about having mission he talked about having core values and, and all of those kinds of things. So when I got back and we started working in the office, we we started setting up our key result areas are what I call show you how to win formula.
Lex Patterson 4:49
Okay, I like that a lot.
Debbie Frank 4:52
Yeah, know what you do to win right? Everybody
Lex Patterson 4:55
likes to win. I agree. Yeah. And so so if I’m if I’m reading You’re right. You know, the whole reason why you thought this was such a great concept for a collector was that if you could teach your employees about financial wellness or financial literacy, it would really improve their interaction on on the phone with the consumer.
Debbie Frank 5:17
Yes. So in this class we taken the approach of this is for your financial wellness, for your financial understanding, but also as a group, we want to always be thinking how we can apply this to our jobs. And out of that first class came the budget. So when a when a consumer says I can’t pay today, then we go over a budget, and we find out the income and expenses, you know, like, it’s either got to increase the income, or you got to cut the expenses. And if we know what, what is in, in that budget, and we kind of laugh and carry on, you know, what the budget busters are, you know, everybody’s got a budget stir, right, you know, the Soto, or the groceries, or what we have found to be the major budget busters is the cellphone plans, the cable bill, and auto insurance. So in those areas, you know, we’re listening to what their what their income and expenses are, and then we advise them on how they can cut those, those budget busters or how they can increase their incomes. So then, if they need, let’s say, they are out of a job, or they need to increase their income, then we make a referral to a local to local employment agency hearing in our community. Yeah. So we find that people need help, and resources on employment, debt consolidation, how do I want to, you know, consolidate my debts, we make the referral to a local bank here in our area. And then I left my 401k at my last job. I don’t know what to do. Yeah, yeah. And so we make the referral to a financial advisor over here, because that’s their money. And we encourage them to book up with the financial advisor to advise them how to best take care of their money, which is another, you know, thing that had come out of another class of teaching financial wellness to the employees was this referral program. So we know how to help the consumer with their budget, but we also then need to give them resources to take it into the next direction that they want to go to give them resources. So I developed the the Grow program, grow stands for gaining resources, opportunity and wealth. And what it is, is this referral program of partnering up with local businesses in the community that we serve that can I help the people that we are talking to on the phone?
Lex Patterson 8:41
Yeah, well, okay. So, which I love all of that. So such a cool concept and everything. So back us up, though, for a minute. Okay. So, let’s talk about you came home from the David Ramsey show and you you implemented this with the employees? How did that translate then into okay, I’ve got it for the employees. But now I want to roll this into offering this program for the consumers. I mean, talk talk to us a little bit about that, that transition now.
Debbie Frank 9:11
The, as the, as we were doing the another class, as we’re thinking and planning about, you know, how we can apply it to our, our job, out of that come the concept of, okay, let’s do financial coaching. So if, if the person that I’m talking to over the phone says, Well, I just need help with my finances, can you help me with a plan? Then we did financial coaching. And so that was we would we send consumers forms to fill out before their class so this is a one hour session paid for are paid by them to go over their income and expenses, their debt sheet and their asset sheet. And then we come up with a plan on how to get them in a better position to get them out of debt. That’s the goal is to get them out of debt. And so it’s you mailed you. We’ve coached we’ve, we’ve sent out, we’ve had 25 people interested in the program in eight months, timeframe likes, we had 25 people interested. And we’ve coached seven that have actually come in, and what we found for the, for the ones that say that they’re interested, but didn’t actually, you know, booked the appointment. Well, what we found that to be is when you get that paperwork in the mail, then it’s like, overwhelming. It’s like the fear and being overwhelmed. And oh, and they kind of give up at that point. But if you can coach them, and encourage them and inspire them to go ahead and fill out that paperwork and make the appointment, you’re one step closer, that’s a start. Right. So, you know, in, in talking with people in the industry about you know, okay, is that a good ratio? You know, seven out of 25? And they said, that’s, that’s amazing.
Lex Patterson 11:32
Wow. Yeah. Yeah. So this was your initial push, you had those those 25 candidates, you had seven that you actually coached. And then you’ve kept that program rolling as the years have gone on, right. And as your ratio stayed about the same, you’d get about a 30 30%. Pick up on that. So So Okay, so tell us about then a little bit about so you’ve got the keywords, I guess that you’re listening for in the conversation, right? Because you’ve got the talk off going on, you’re talking with them, and this program probably isn’t for everybody. The collector has to sense that right? So are there certain pieces that you’re looking for then to to offer this program to them?
Debbie Frank 12:15
You build up, you have to build up their trust and get them engaged in the conversation. And, you know, it just comes down to when you hear that they’ve given up, or I’m thinking about filing bankruptcy, or I’m thinking about, you know, debt consolidation. And when you hear those words, you hear that conversation, you say, well, there may be a better way, can we can we look at a better way? And yeah, I had, we’ve coached a rate, a teacher that was retired who was in the hospital. And she was thinking about filing bankruptcy. And she went through the one hour coaching, we looked over her her income and expenses, we found ways to cut her cell phone bill, her cable bill, do different methods of shopping. And she would be out of debt and didn’t have to file bankruptcy.
Lex Patterson 13:23
Wow. So I guess you’ve got some some other stories. You can share success stories on this as well, right?
Debbie Frank 13:31
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So a grandfather, this is my favorite one. I think the grandfather, who was working and he was unable to retire, he wanted to retire, but he just couldn’t. He just didn’t have any retirement fund. But he loved his grandchildren. And that was, that was his downfall. That was his budget buster was his grandchildren because he would pick them up from school. And they always had something that they wanted, you know, fountain soda from the convenience store or buy me this. So he set up a coaching session. And when he came in for the coaching session, he brought one of his grandsons and I’m like, I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, you know, how’s this gonna go? But, you know, it was his decision to bring his grandson. And in the, in our discussion, he he told us he said, you know, he can’t say no to his grandchildren, but his grandson was there and listen to his story. Listen to how uh, you know, it was financially draining him. And then he left there that day, we had a plan for him. And he came back for a second follow up coaching session, and he brought his grandson again. And his grandson told us that they don’t ask grandpa for money anymore. Actually, they try to help grandpa saves money.
Lex Patterson 15:00
Wow. Yeah. So So I mean, it’s incredible the stories that you’re telling, you know, first of all the trust, you know, the transformation that has to happen of trust, to to the situation, you know, the integrity that really is on both ends of that conversation, the examples of connection that are occurring, you know, and which is not the typical conflict that we usually hear about debt collection. I mean, that’s one of the things that I find so fascinating about this, you know, because I think there are deep lessons on the human side of this to, you know, the relationship with money that you’re talking about here, and the psychology of debt, that there’s really embedded in that, that, and it’s just fascinating. And then to the fact that you’ve taken it far enough to even to create this cooperative environment with your local community and other businesses, like the banks, and the financial advisors, and the, you know, it’s just, it’s so different from what you’ve really taken that from conflict to connection, you know, with that?
Debbie Frank 16:16
Yeah. Like, there’s just so many amazing stories, you know, in it in, you know, when you when you talk to your employees, and the financial wellness and, and understanding, like, where did you learn about financial wellness? Where did you learn about taking care of your money legs?
Lex Patterson 16:38
Yeah, well, for me, luckily, it was my wife, you know, I, I met my wife, and because my mom, you know, I came from that environment, my mom that you’re talking about, you know, my mother was divorced. And she’d grew up growing up in a very affluent environment, you know, she had access to a lot of things, and she wanted to preserve that for her kids, but yet didn’t have the income, you know, she was scrambling to try and make ends meet. And so, all my life I grew up, never wanting for any of those things. But when I got older, I found out what a burden that was, that was for my mother too. And I think I probably would have propagated some of those same tendencies, if I hadn’t met my wife, and it was fascinating to Debbie, because we would, we would actually get our paycheck, cash, the cheque, have little envelopes, and put the money in an envelope, and my wife would run around and actually pay with cash, every bill that we owed, you know, and that really taught me the principles of making sure that I’m paying my bills living within my means, you know, staying financially well. And so that’s fortunate, but I don’t think everybody has that benefit, you know,
Debbie Frank 17:54
right. It’s, it’s said, we, we train here in our agency, when you talk to people about money, you first get behavior, you get fear, anxiety, I don’t know, I don’t understand. And then comes the knowledge. So when we get past that behavior, then you know, we can, we can help them do something. Also, what some people we train on, is when you have money, you have people, you have a relationship with money, and people are involved in your relationship with your money. So your spouse is it’s not just your money. It’s your spouse’s money. And then when you have children, they always have an impact on your money. And so dealing with those relationships, it’s tough. It’s tough, because not only are you trying to discipline yourself, but you’re also you know, trying to handle and manage the people that’s involved in your money as well.
Lex Patterson 19:06
Yeah, so so just just for clarity on that, though, so what so what you’re doing is you’re finding those situations where you can offer this program, it’s actually a program that you can then offer to say that we’re going to look out for not just paying the bill today, we’re going to look out for how we can create an overall plan for not just this one debt that you all but for your financial future. And then you offer this program to to the consumer for a price. What do you typically charge for the the consulting that you’re doing?
Debbie Frank 19:46
For one hour, for one hour? And of course, there’s some planning because they have to send in the paperwork and then you’ve got to review it and set up a plan but for one hour $149
Lex Patterson 19:56
Well, okay. Okay, and then do you have other things depth programs that you can do to that are longer multiple week type situations too? Or do you normally just try and keep it to a one hour? What do you what do you do there,
Debbie Frank 20:09
I try to keep it to one hour, and then we, you know, follow up. The girls here in the office, they coat it, they’re like their coach, and they’ll follow up. And then if they need a second, if they need a second coaching session, then it’s, you know, it’s it’s the process all over again. And they can come back in for
Lex Patterson 20:35
obvious, obviously, people see value in that the grandfather brought his grandson back in and had a second one. So that’s pretty cool. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, it’s cool, because, you know, it brings to mind, you know, I hear in the industry all the time, all the time, that term wallet share, and, you know, which is a term that we hear kicked around, and it’s where it’s like, if you imagine a pie, you know, and the consumer gets paid, and you want to be the first one to get in there and get the payment, and get your share of the wallet or the piece of the pie. And the thing that I love about this, this method really changes this from that scarcity mentality, to more of abundance thinking and, and not just looking at it just from this standpoint of this one debt and getting that one payment, but really, to improving the overall, you know, situation for the person. You know, so, you know, there’s an article that highlighted you actually on this topic, and it’s called breaking through, breaking through the information haze. And we’ll provide a link to that in the show notes on the website, Kindred forest calm. But in that article, you’re referring to your collection, to your collectors now as relationship specialists. And I think also in that same article, Kimberly stone with KOLs refers to her collectors as change agents. And I love this, I’m sure, you know, for a lot of reasons, I’m sure it’s, it’s having an impact on your culture. Because listening to your stories, that you’re sharing the transformation that’s happening in people’s lives, and how you’re making it better for the future. But it’s not just about taking a payment. So but my point is that, I think it’s, it’s got to be having a tremendous effect on your brand, and your culture as well. And I don’t know if you know this or not, Debbie. But for instance, you know, the research I’ve done, that says that the average tenure for a collector collector, nationwide, is about two years in the industry. And I have happened to be, I went to your company page on LinkedIn, and up pops, the average tenure of your company is seven and a half years, which is, you know, really three and a half times the national average. So I’m sure it’s having an impact. That little tweak, you know, of changing him to a change agent or relationship specialist is got to be having a tremendous impact in your culture, putting the why behind what you do, you know,
Debbie Frank 23:16
it’s exactly that everybody wants purpose in their job, everyone wants to meet a meaningful, they want to go to work and have meaning and, and, and make a difference. And so when they make they they come here, it’s it’s about it’s about doing we have the same doing work that matters. You do work that matters, because you can change somebody’s life today. And they will they love that they love the conversations. We you know, and they go over a budget. It’s, it’s, you know, what’s your budget buster? You know, what’s the grocery bill? And how many people you have on your cell phone plan? Right?
Lex Patterson 24:11
Oh, yeah. Which if you think about that, I mean, it’s all over the place. Right? And those things probably can go if you don’t raise them and talk about them. How would you know? I mean, I think a lot of times those the kids come on and they never go off, you know? Yeah.
Debbie Frank 24:31
Yeah, you know, or, you know, we in our financial will in our financial wellness class, we, the very first class, we come up with a goal, you know, how are we going to, is our goal going to be as a group, how much money are we are going to save as a group or how much money are we going to pay off as a group you know, nobody gives their nobody’s brings their checkbook and we don’t go over your your note burgers or anything like that. But as a group, you know, we’re putting down on a piece of paper what our debt load is or how much we want to save. And then, you know, we get to high five and and talk about our success at the end of those a week. Yeah.
Lex Patterson 25:16
Wow. Yeah, that’s amazing. Incredible. Okay, so you’ve taken this a little further, though, right. So you you joined ACA financial literacy committee, tell us about that whole process? And what’s going on what you’re doing with it, you know,
Debbie Frank 25:33
Oh, I’m so excited about, about this new project. ACA. They meet with our legislation and our congressmen and, you know, to talk to them and let them know, and keep them informed as well. You know, how does debt collection industry work? And in their in those conversations, you know, Congressmen legislators would say, how are you helping the consumer? How are you helping my people that I’m representing, and they came back and developed a consumer education. website. It’s called, it was called, ask Dr. Debt. Now we’ve revamped that made it better, more content. And it’s, we rebranded it, and it’s no my debt. And so they did the, we did a contest on how to What should we name this website, you know? And so in one meeting, I just remember going through pages and pages of all these names, and no, my debt stood out so clear, because this is the, it’s, um, you’ll you’ll recognize some of the branding messaging. So like, health care will say they branded as no my health credit, the credit industry will say, No, my score, that probably resonates right, and in their messaging, so this fit in no my debt, because debt is very personal, very personal to you, and to your family. So it just, it just fit the the name fit no my depth. And what it is, is consumer education, having an understanding of your rights and having a knowledge of, you know, Kenna, what time frame can a consumer debt collector call me? What about my credit report? If this is a paid item? Can it be taken off? Just all of this information? And how it has been put in question and answer format? And can answer some of those questions for you.
Lex Patterson 28:05
Okay. So so that it’s going to
Debbie Frank 28:09
be good to go ahead lie at last here in the next month. Yeah, we’re getting ready. Yeah,
Lex Patterson 28:14
so that’ll be cool. So that’s a, that’s an actual resource, then that you can offer up on your website, you can put that into conversation, to just help the consumer and again, you know, it’s a talking point, even I think, with the clients and stuff, too, right? I mean, it’s,
Debbie Frank 28:34
yes, yeah. Where it helps the agencies so much is when the when the relationship specialist is on the phone, and, you know, they, they are trying to guide them in what the regulation and laws really are. And then, you know, the, the consumer, the person on the phone may differ in opinion, then we can offer them this resource, go to this website, and look at this information. And it’s this is what we’re saying this just validates what we’re saying and trying to educate the consumer, the person with
Lex Patterson 29:16
some Yeah, which is, which is another part in that article that was in the ACA magazine that talked about the misinformation that’s out there. And, and you see this a lot even in like, with health care a lot, even in just diagnosis in that, you know, the first thing people do is they want to get out and they’ll Google something, and then anymore, how do you really know if the information you’re being fed is correct or not correct. You know, and I think in the article 100, Quinn mentioned that, you know, that this misinformation can be things like, you know, well, if it’s a medical debt, I don’t have to pay it, you know, or, you know, issues that have to do with credit reporting misunderstandings and stuff that that’s out there. And so, yeah, what a great thing. To be able to refer him to a source to say, you know, look, this is this is part of our industry this, here’s here’s a place where you can go get the right information. Yeah,
Debbie Frank 30:11
it’s yeah. It’s very helpful. Okay. Yeah. And then, you know, laws and regulations, they changed so quickly at the federal level or the state level, or, you know, in the city level even Yeah. You know, keeping up with those is, is difficult, let alone, you know, with consumers out there who think that what was relevant a year ago is still relevant today. But it’s not it’s not no,
Lex Patterson 30:42
no. And I mean, I see that all the time I see it. You know, my son just recently went to buy a house. And I’m thinking, hey, let me give you some tips, you know, and those tips that I had, you know, when I bought a house, which had many years ago, boy, has it changed. So you’re absolutely right. That’s, that’s so great. So no, my dad, which is a an industry, a great tool to provide a way to give them education on debt laws, regulations, credit reporting, and really navigating the debt collection process to right. Yes, so yeah, so we’ll look for that. And you’ve done some great work on that committee. So keep that up. That’s awesome. Yeah. Okay, well, so, um, let’s see, we’ve got, we’ve got that as a takeaway, for sure. The benefit for the collector, the business, the branding, both in the mindset, the culture, of your business, the retention, I’m sure, the community brand, that inner cooperation that’s going on with with you in the businesses that you’re partnering with in in your, in your community is just so awesome. And that small change of making them not just a collector, but a relationship specialist, I think is so powerful in what you’re doing. And then, of course, the human side of all this to the relationship between people and money, and the deep lessons of that. And the psychology of debt and the relationship to those close to us that have on money and the impact it really has on our finances. It’s fascinating. Yeah. Wow,
Debbie Frank 32:24
yeah. You, because like, when you if you were to call me and and talk to me about my money, I’m going to give you a little bit of behavior, you know, I have to get to know you. Right, right. And so it’s about having conversations and building that trust, so that we can get to get past that behavior and get down to how can we really help you? How can we help you? And again, it comes down to, you know, income and expenses, you know, you got to increase your income, or you got to decrease your expenses, and how does that behavior interact with all of that? Yeah, and one thing out of the classes, one of my employees, she said, always have them, you know, write out what they learned from the class personally, and what they’re taking back. And she said, she said, in her family, she created a budget. And it was supposed to be a budget, she guess for six months or a year. But in this class, she learned that created it had to be created on a monthly basis, your your budget needed to be created on a monthly basis, because your July budget is going to be different than your December budget. And she goes for her that was really, an eye opening piece is, you know, doing it on a monthly basis. And it just can’t be one and done. type thing that is
Lex Patterson 34:01
so true. I mean, it takes me it makes me think about a guy that I worked with years ago. And he was a collector, by the way, too. And a real mentor of mine, Bart Critchlow and he, he mentioned to me one time because it was around Christmas time, and I was talking about what a drain that was to go out and try and you know, that I’m, I’m having to come up with all this money to go out and buy Christmas gifts and do all this. And very matter of fact, he says to me, the wisdom of a collector here again, you know, he says to me, he says, Well, let me Why don’t you flip that? He said why don’t you figure out about what your normal expenses what you pay on the gifts, and then starting in January, put that divided by 12 and put that money away monthly as you go. And Debbie, it changed my life. I mean, I employed that exact principle and started to do that and I never had to charge Christmas again. So little things can make a big difference in people’s lives and you It’s funny, it seems so obvious when you say it like now, you know, that’s obvious, right? But at the time, it was not obvious to me. So yeah, these little things are really important. So that’s very cool. Okay, so one more quick one. Is there a topic that you’ve been rethinking lately? You know, this comes from a book I read think, again, Adam Grant, and he’s talking about how rethinking things can change your life again, another another same along the same lines that we’re talking about. And I just wondered if there’s anything that you have been rethinking lately, something you thought was one way maybe really solid one way, but lately, you’re going? Hmm, I don’t know that. Maybe I should rethink that.
Debbie Frank 35:49
I shared this with with ACA. I’m on their Education Council. Oh, nice. Okay. Yes. And they have a program called training zone for employees. In the industry. This is where we go get our education. This is where we go get our training, and they wanted to increase their membership. And I was kind of like, oh, no, I don’t know. I don’t need that. You know, it’s kind of expensive. Yeah. And, um, so, I went ahead and purchase training zone for my employees. And Lex, what I did not realize is your employees. You know, I was, I was like, Oh, if you want training, if you want to go for this certification, just asked me, we’ll put it in the budget. No big deal didn’t make a big deal out of it. But what I found was employees don’t want to ask for money, right? They just don’t. It goes there. You know, they just don’t want to ask, so I purchased training zone. And it’s caught. It’s like, now we have this competition. On who’s learning what? And who’s finished first? I have loved it.
Lex Patterson 37:22
Yeah. It sounds like they’re loving it too. Yeah.
Debbie Frank 37:27
A great motivation is a person’s motivation come comes through learning and education. And you know, if you want to get re energized your if you want to re energize your staff, introduce them into education, and something to learn. But oh, yeah.
Lex Patterson 37:50
Invest investing in your employees. Okay. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Well, Debbie, I want to thank you. You are in fact a relationship manager and a change agent, taking a situation that none of us want to find ourselves in and turning it into an opportunity for positive outcome. What a great concept. Thank you for coming on the show and sharing with us how you create positive change in people’s lives, one person at a time, one conversation at a time. Thank you.
Debbie Frank 38:23
You’re welcome. My pleasure.
Lex Patterson 38:30
Thank you for joining us on another episode of fair debt. Remember, you could access additional information about this and all episodes on our website. At kindredforce.com