Associations and Staying Focused

Editorial

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the water swimming off the beaches in New Jersey. Often the life guards would warn the swimmers of riptides. Wind and waves push water toward the shore, then sideways until the water finds an exit back to the ocean. The resulting column of water moving away from shore is called a riptide. A common misconception about riptides is that it will pull you under the water. In reality the current is generally strongest at the surface and the real danger is in being carried out into the open ocean.

Most people would wonder why anyone would swim where it was so dangerous. The reason is simply that the fix is so easy. All you have to do to stay safe from riptides is occasionally “check-in”. Here’s what I mean:

A riptide is usually only a relatively thin column of fast moving water that runs from the beach to the ocean. When you find yourself in a riptide all you need to do is swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of it. One problem is most people’s instinct is to swim back – toward the shore and against the current. Too many swimmers have drowned fighting a current with salvation only yards away on either side.

The biggest problem, however, is that often you don’t even know you’re caught in a riptide. If you spend too much time focused on the waves, you have no land-based reference to indicate that your position has changed. In other words, an extremely important part of swimming includes frequent bearing checks with the shore to see if you have moved – “check-in”. By checking in often you can easily tell if you’re caught in a riptide. If you are, simply swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of it – no problems…

At this years NARS event in Dallas, I had the opportunity to spend several days working with association leaders from around the country. As we talked about the challenges of being in the repossession business, it became clear that all repossessors face some common issues. Marketing, finance, staffing, customer service, compliance, not to mention state and federal regulations are all common concerns. As we discussed these issues during the week I watched something fascinating begin to happen. Repossessors began sharing valuable ideas and real-world experiences with each other. Each person brought new experiences and resources to the table. Through the course of the meetings I watched repossessors take on roles of advisor and advisee. At the end of the summit I received feedback from several people who confirmed what I already knew – those interactions with their peers produced valuable insights they would take back and integrate into their own businesses.

The annual NARS event helped me to remember that one of the critical things an association provides is an opportunity for us to occasionally “check-in” with the industry and with each other. Call it a “reality check” or “getting your bearings” – the fact is that repossessors work in an ocean wrought with breaking waves and dangerous riptides. Many times we are unprepared for the complications inherent in running a business. The shifting political landscape can be a danger to your small business. Even veteran repossessors can focus so intently on the storm waging around them that they forget to check-in occasionally.

I can remember clearly the first time I violated that rule. I was covering the tri-state area for a major national client. I was making money hand over fist. Life was good. I purchased new tow trucks and bought a large parcel of commercial property to store the hundreds of vehicles we were repossessing every week. What I wasn’t doing was “checking in” on what else was happening around me. I had basically put all my eggs in one basket; and when the bubble burst it damn near put me out of business. It wasn’t much later that I started “Checking In” with the national trade associations; and looking back over the years I can honestly say I never returned home from a convention where I didn’t learn something new or bring something helpful back to advance my business.

In an industry that is particularly hazardous and known for its share of fast moving riptides it is important to check your bearings and be able to “check-in”. Taking the opportunity to be with literally hundreds repossessors is the best way to stay focused and avoid being caught up in the morass of a fast moving riptide.

In the repossession industry the one national association that provides you with your best opportunity to “check-in” is the American Recovery Association. ARA provides repossessors with education and information on industry best practices. ARA is your industry’s national advocate for public policy, media relations, and the economic health of the industry as a whole. However, in my opinion the most important thing ARA provides is the ability for repossessors to connect with each other. Our annual NARS event’s vision statement reads in part, “We serve the repossession community by connecting people to share ideas, solve problems, build relationships and conduct business.”

Each year ARA offers many local, regional, and national opportunities for members to “check-in” with each other. This year’s Annual ARA Convention is in “Music City” Nashville, Tennessee. Join us September 20-22, 2012, for an exciting celebration honoring ARA’s charter members, past presidents, and 50 years of accomplishments and service. The Doubletree Hotel Nashville Downtown is located within walking distance of the Nashville Capitol, the Nashville Convention Center, the downtown entertainment district, and only 10 minutes from the Nashville Airport (BNA).

If you’re a repossessor and not a member of ARA I hope you will consider joining. We provide many benefits for your business – some are quantifiable and some are not. Our ARMS, No-Member-Left-Behind program was designed to keep ARA members at the head of the pack. However, I truly believe the real strength, and ultimately the success of any association is its ability to harness the power inherent in its collective mass. That power comes from the experience, wisdom, and resources of its members. As members of ARA we are given the opportunity to occasionally “check-in” with our peers and get our bearings. It gives us a chance to measure what we are doing alongside what others are doing. It also gives us a chance to gauge our efforts against industry standards that are measured and proven. Without these opportunities to check-in, your business runs the risk of being caught in a riptide – one you may not even know you’re in.

 

Art Christensen

NARS Chairman

and Current ARMS President

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