Get In or Get Out!

in_or_outEditorial

Every day I hear agents from all over the nation lament about unfair repossession fees and lender demanded concessions with allegations of compliance being the basis for their demands. It is almost ironic how many of these same people are the ones directly responsible for doing it to themselves.

The industry is, in it’s nature, a very closed world with a great deal of mistrust that agencies have of their competitors and fellow owners. This is fairly natural considering it has been for the most and industry that has run amuck in the dark like feral cats for most of its history. Much of this is due to the personalities that people develop while involved in this rather dark line of business.

This is an industry of “A Type” personalities who don’t like anyone telling them what to do. Hell, why would anyone who has worked from scratch to build and maintain a good company like most of the men and women in the industry have? It is unfortunate that this same characteristic is the one that does so much damage to their own companies without them either seeing it or recognizing its negative effects.

There are an estimated 6,000 companies performing repossessions in the United States, yet a mere approximate 600 that are members of any national or state association. Couple this with the fact that there is no national trade organization, by proper definition, and the fact that the associations are as fractured and numerous as they are and it should come as no surprise that the industry finds itself marginalized by both lenders and the regulatory agencies that may soon be mandating ludicrous requirements upon them all.

This miniscule representation of the industry represents a dysfunction that allows lenders to “low ball” prices and push everyone into unsustainable business practices that, under the weight of fuel prices, insurance and overhead, tips the scales against profitability.

Does the CFPB recognize this industry as professional? Hell no! They won’t even answer basic questions nor confer with anyone in it regarding potential compliance issues. As the result, they don’t know what they’re doing and you are all at their mercy.

This whole situation could be far different if even half of the 90% of the un-association affiliated agencies joined any of the associations. The power of numbers and a stronger development of unity would leverage behind the industries ability to simply say “No” to 1980’s prices, contingency, free storage and ludicrous lender contract demands.

Unfortunately, there are far too many little shops out there that think they can make up the low profits with volume while they have scant idea what a repossession really costs themselves until they find themselves sinking deeper and deeper in the red. This parasitic practice fortunately makes them victims of their own folly but also, unfortunately undermines the intelligent and association affiliated agencies all over the country.

So, as you sit there reading this and are part of the 90%, ask yourself, has being unaffiliated to any association helped you in any way? Do you not complain about low fees and lender demanded conditions? Aren’t you a little tired of feeling like there’s nothing you can do about these things?

If your answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, perhaps it’s time you let down your guard a little and found that there is indeed brotherhood out there. No, they’re not perfect, but don’t let perfect get in the way of progress. Every voice counts and you do make a difference. Being part of the 90% will get you nowhere.

Get out there, contact the AFA, the ARA, RSIG, TFA or at least one of the many great state associations like CALR, IRA or FLACARs. These or more than marketing associations, they do actually talk and take a stand against lenders on issues like lender contracts like they did on the Chase and Primeritus contracts which they found to be too onerous on agencies and actually did get the lenders to revise them.

If you are still pessimistic on the associations, I suggest you attend NARS. You will see this brotherhood and camaraderie in person as men and women from all of the associations meet and bond in discussing and taking action in goals that have an impact on your business.

You’ve worked too hard to sit in the dark with the 90%. Join the industry. Your livelihood depends on it. Get involved or you may just as well get out of business for your own financial stability and sanity.

OK, enough of my preaching. Have a great day!

KA_HEADSHOT13

Kevin Armstrong

Editor

CUCollector.com

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11 thoughts on “Get In or Get Out!

  1. While normally I would have be the 1st to jump on this article in response, I am trying to learn restraint of tongue and pen.

    I spent the past few days after reading the article and the comments it generated, to start forming my thoughts. Here is what I have come up with:

    Kevin, your editorial pokes right at the heart or gut of every repossessor out there. It tells us things we do not like to hear and carries with it some truth we do not like to look at. The Repossession Industry is full of those A type personalities you spoke, and dam right they don’t like to be told how to run their businesses. Repossession is a clandestine industry. It operates in the shadows, it is the ultimate in grey…neither black, nor white. We use every form of deception and slight of hand like that of a consummate illusionist. We are the professionals of B.S. and as the saying goes, you cannot B.S. a B.S.er. We are on the constant lookout for danger and never really trust just one of our 5 senses. We have adapted a 6th sense which calls in to question our other 5…we call it “Gut”. These same characteristics we rely on to save our lives and assistance in the performance of our jobs, are the same ones which bar us from actual trust in our fellow colleges. We are suspect of everything and everyone, and always on alert.

    Our Associations operate by a similar set of warped protocols. Running from here to there, telling us how they are the best of the bunch and the need to join them is our only saving grace. Each having a strength, but unwilling to share it for the common good of all. They are for practical purposes, the discoverer of the cure to cancer, but keeping the cure unto themselves. Think I am wrong? look at each Association, identify its strength. Now does that Association, while pontificating the love for the entire industry, share that strength with any other Association or do they horde it like seagulls chanting “mine, mine, mine” ? Better yet, ask yourself if only 10% of all repossessors belong to an Association, what are the Associations doing wrong? What could they do better? We have all heard the “I am better than you” song and dance from each of the 4 (ok, now 3), but at only 10% shared amongst them all, isn’t that saying “I am the best at being in the minority”?

    Enter the need for ONE unified National Association. Do you realize the Recovery Industry is the ONLY industry with more than ONE Association? No wonder its so hard for anyone to listen to us…they don’t know who to listen to. NARS is the only venue to come close. While still there is squabbling over if ARA did or did not start NARS, or if it is or is not a ARA event, NARS continues to put distance from the squabbles and sets itself apart so as to be a independent industry event. While still not all are represented equally and fairly, time is slowly changing that as participation grows and old walls are torn down. It is possible that NARS just might be the table where all Associations and independents will have a seat. A place to share, discuss, and implement ideas as one..resulting in a unified voice to be carried to all concerned.

    We have played around the idea of Unity for too long…some really great people have given their all to the concept, only to parish from our midst never seeing it come to fruition. We are at a jumping of place. We must take the leap of faith in each other and unify, or stand our separative ground and parish as individuals.

  2. Kevin–Great Article!!

    Scott P–You are on the right track with Unity. Unity needs to start at the local and regional level. The concept of starting a small CO-OP that would cover a state or regional area makes total sense and is what needs to be done. Start small and then work up to a national concept.

    Unity is a great concept but the Rainbow Coalition that exists at the collective heads of the major four groups are constantly busy jockeying to see who is going to be a top and who is going to be a bottom. And if they take offense to this post they are collectively welcome to prove me wrong by holding ALL national conferences at the same place (Hotel) on the same weekend. And let there be reciprocity among the functions.

  3. June 13, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Very good Kevin!
    Yours has always been a voice of reason and balance. National Associations have evolved (changed) in the last decade. I remember I joined CALR in 1992 and felt like I just went to another planet. I did try to become involved but it was a “closed club”. I remained for a few years but always felt like an outsider. After a while I just kinda didn’t renew my membership. National Associations were even worse. This was a “Good Old Boy Club” that I could not even afford the initiation. Everybody owned the biggest Agency in **********. It was a giant bragfest and again not my style.
    Like many others I just bought a dishonesty bond and bashed the Associations. Hell I was making money even if I couldn’t get into GMAC. Times were good and I just kept to a very small circle of Repo friends. I still have those friends today. But alas times have certainly changed!
    Now it is not really an option not to be in an Association. I have joined and while they dont really generate any revenue for my agency,It has been a very wise investment. Simply having a large pool of contemporaries is huge to me. No longer are they a Good Old Boys Club. I have so many friends and mentors that I owe huge.
    This brings up the obvious point, UNITY. We have all talked about it either extreme or benign ways to get our way. Unfortunately there is not a magic bullet to fix what ails us. Letting down your guard with friendly competitors is a very good start! Call with a question,stop by when you are in the neighborhood. Dont guard the damn client list like it is the DaVinci code. It is my shops absolute policy to stop and assist or standby if a competitor is doing a recovery. The other guy might not initially reciprocate initially, but you have some unity. Pass by another “Vampire” at 2:00 am? wave, it is really easy.
    Trust another owner. You might get burned but I would bet it is unlikely. I am very proud of our group here in SoCal. We talk often (we all know Repossessors are gossip) and have each others back. Have a question? Call me- My direct # is 909-969-4306. I might not have any good advice but I will gladly share my mistakes. This is still the coolest gig on the planet. If lenders see us sticking together, they kinda have to acknowledge we are a force.
    Have fun-make some money and talk to your buddies! Scott Patterson

  4. A lot to chew on here…and rather than go thru and take issue with this or that aspect of the article I want to acknowledge and thank Kevin for the article because it is important to keep this discussion rolling. I believe that we are on the cusp of actually doing something about it. As for, getting as many of the repossessors as possible into one of the associations – I believe that is critical. Obviously as a member of the board of AFA I strongly believe that we are the best association – and that’s where everyone should flock…that being said – all of the independents should do themselves a favor and look at each of the 4 organizations and join at least one. Clearly board members of each group believe that his or her group is the best…you need to work that out for yourself. There is no better time than now. I know AFA has a huge, unprecidented membership drive going. If you’re procrastinating and putting things off – do something.

    While I don’t see the associations merging into ONE for the entire industry…I think it is absolutely VITAL that we set aside our personal differences – stop elbowing away at each other and START WORKING TOGETHER ON SOME CORE ISSUES. I’m talking about issues that Kevin brings up in his article…and what could be more core of an issue than the issue of “1980’s prices, contingency, free storage and ludicrous lender contract demands.”

    I’ve been on my soap box about this for some time now…and NOW MORE THAN EVER I SENSE THAT REPOSSESSORS EVERYWHERE ARE AT OR NEAR CRITICAL MASS WHERE THEY JUST AREN’T GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE. In the Revolutionary War the phrase, “United we stand – divided we fall” was used quite a bit and it has been used since to try to illustrate the need for unity in many a battle, as well as illustrate the theory of there being strenght in numbers. It’s undeniable people…we have done ourselves a great disservice by not doing this sooner.

    So…what can we effectively do if we don’t merge into one Association? Easy…we can come together…leaders from each group can and should set aside these petty differences and get serious about getting to work on this vital issue. I believe that this is something that CAN and SHOULD happen very soon…very, very soon. I, personally have a very detailed plan – probably not perfect, no doubt…and I know there are others that have thoughts or plans as well. I believe we need to come together and form one Super Committee (think tank) – made up of members of all four of the major national groups and get the details hammered out, polished and get ready to take some action.

    If you are a member of AFA, RSIG, TFA or ARA call as many of your board members as possible and encourage them to support this. It’s like calling your congresssman about legislation…if you don’t let your board members know what’s on your mind – then they figure…nobody cares. Now we all know that nothing could be farther from the truth…but let your voice be heard people! If you are a member of AFA call George Badeen, myself, Jim Osselburn, Stephanie Findley or Dan Cody and let them know what you think. Otherwise call your division director. If you’re with RSIG call Ed Marcum or some of the other board members…TFA or ARA…call your board members and tell these people that you want us to all work together for the best interest of the entire industry!

    I can tell you this – necessity is the mother of invention, as the old saying goes – and these “ludicrous contract demands” that Kevin referenced in the article is making industry unity a necessity. There is no other way to accomplish it, brothers and sisters. Make no mistake about it…it isn’t going to be easy…but it isn’t going to be as hard as some might think either. It’s our last best chance to reclaim our industry. Something’s gotta give – and for once it needs to be something other than the repossessor! I am as serious as a heart attack about this! If you want to call me for more specific details on how you can help – whether you’re a member of Allied or not you can call me at 630-361-4846…

  5. Thank you Mark for the kind remarks regarding RSIG and the new ALLIED, I for one of the many, think you are directly on the money. It is good to see the great value of RSIG and ALLIED is observed not only the eyes of our individual members but the nonmembers as well, such as yourself.

    Ed Marcum

  6. “If you are still pessimistic on the associations, I suggest you attend NARS. You will see this brotherhood and camaraderie in person as men and women from all of the associations meet and bond in discussing and taking action in goals that have an impact on your business.”

    Thank you again Kevin for another important editorial to generate debate on this mother of all issues in our industry today…. IMHO, your above quoted paragraph pretty much says it all. While I fully support all the state and national repossession organizations, NARS is our industries only hope of ever regaining any attention on issues like simply saying “No” to 1980’s prices, contingency, free storage, and the increasingly more ludicrous lender contract demands. There are a number of important reasons to support your statement.

    First and foremost is that every one of the estimated 6,000 repossessors nationwide is invited and welcome to attend the annual North American Repossessors Summit. There’s no membership application to be approved, no initiation fee, no annual dues, and best of all no officials, no elections, and messy politics to deal with. Everyone who attends is considered an equal and each has an opportunity to learn and to share their experiences. It’s the only place where the light shines bright for three days and there are no dark areas of distrust and uncertainty among the attendees.

    This year the planning for NARS 2014 begins again in New Jersey with a face to face meeting on July 15, 16, and 17th. Representatives from all state and national repossessions are invited to attend. To assist the committee in planning next years summit, last month we opened the NARS blog on LinkedIn; whereas, now anyone can raise questions and offer suggestions on how to deal with the most pressing issues of our time.

    If we ever will be able to speak with one united voice it will be when by working together we can set aside our petty differences and agree that we can not survive by working for free, or by having anyone dictate what services we must provide and how much they think we’re worth. It’s time to set minimum industry service fees like every other service company and then let the free market take it beyond that based on quality of service. Please consider participating and sign on to the NARS blog today…

  7. Kevin, you also ruffled my feathers with your description of the recovery business as “an industry that has run amuck in the dark like feral cats for most of its history”. However, the rest of your article was dead center on the facts.

    I disagree with Mark Lacek’s opinion regarding Allied and RSIG as the only group offering value to it’s members. The American Recovery Association (ARA) has been the leader in providing value to it’s members through the most directories printed and dispersed, most active working with clients and providing educational seminars, creating and holding the NARS summit as well as many other programs. Now that ARA and NFA have merged, this has also brought about the merging of ARMS and Relliance into a combined forwarding model and ARA will soon be operating their own compliance program for its members. Since these mergers, ARA has seen a marked increase in new member applications and will continue to be the pre-eminent association.

  8. Mark, you and I will just have to agree to disagree on some of your points, but we are in agreement on at least one item. It is time for one national group to emerge into a proactive membership driven industry association. While I may take slight offense to the “reality TV” quip, I appreciate and respect your opinion.

    I recently went back into lending and am not even in collections anymore. I have been out of the repossession industry for over sixteen years and honestly don’t have any skin in this game except the website. This industry belongs to all of you. But as a spectator, I can see what the cost of fragmentation and lack of unity has done, and will continue to do if you can’t all pull yourselves together in one manner or another.
    Thanks!

  9. Kevin, when you said this you caught my attention…

    “Couple this with the fact that there is no national trade organization, by proper definition, and the fact that the associations are as fractured and numerous”.

    Then you contradicted yourself and said this…

    ” Get out there, contact the AFA, the ARA, RSIG, TFA or at least one of the many great state associations like CALR, IRA or FLACARs. These or more than marketing associations, they do actually talk and take a stand against lenders on issues like lender contracts like they did on the Chase and Primeritus contracts which they found to be too onerous on agencies and actually did get the lenders to revise them.”

    Then you said this…”The industry is, in it’s nature, a very closed world with a great deal of mistrust that agencies have of their competitors and fellow owners. This is fairly natural considering it has been for the most and industry that has run amuck in the dark like feral cats for most of its history. Much of this is due to the personalities that people develop while involved in this rather dark line of business.”

    The truth Kevin, is the repossession business is not a “dark line of business” and if you truly believe it is, you may have been brainwashed by reality TV. Referring to professional repossessors as feral cats was a stretch.

    If you took a pole at the next repossession trade show conference and asked the question of how many of its members work for the the peanuts offered by the national forwarders, you might be surprised to learn the numbers may reach 90%. Prove me wrong please.

    There are many agency owners who do quite well not belonging to a national association.

    You made some great points in your comments. Many I agree with, some I do not. I think it is important to understand that many repossession agencies were discouraged from memberships into the national associations. Many of their members decided the return from the investment in the way of expensive fees just was not there.

    Many of us have attended all of the yearly conferences as both recovery agencies or as vendors. At some point membership levels took a nose dive. Association boards of directors one day might look deep into the infrastructure of its business model and ask what is it exactly they are doing for the membership. In my opinion, RSIG and the new Allied has been the only group offering value to its members. In the years ahead, it will be these two organizations leading the charge.

    I think it is time for one national group to emerge into a proactive membership driven industry association.

    In closing I will add that I believe CUCollector.com is the best source of information for the repossession industry. Your editorials along with the guest editorials are always informative. This latest rant of yours was in my opinion I clear indicator of your passion for the industry. It is nice to see you have it in you to occasionally lose it like the rest of us.

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