Nobody wants to change even though they know they’ll be better off…why?
I have been a consultant to the debt collection industry for three plus years now, and it still amazes me why so many CEO’s, owners, managing partners and staff are resistant to change. Despite the fact that they all proclaim loudly that they need to find new and better ways to perform many tasks, most will not do what is required to make the move to change. It is like the person who knows they need surgery and agrees the best solution would be to go get it done, do the rehab and be done with the pain, but never follows through to make the commitment to do the hard work to actually get better. It’s not the surgery but the work afterwards that prolongs their decision. And, I as a former NFL player who has had over twenty major surgeries, ten knee surgeries alone, I can appreciate that it is a tough choice to have surgery and do the work in rehab but it needs to be done. Over the past three years, I have met with and analyzed many companies and talking about their balance sheets and specifically their accounts receivables and need for more cash flow.
The clients that finally call me to work with them to improve their businesses usually tell me they wish they had done it much earlier, just like the person who had surgery and completed rehab proclaims they should have done it much sooner. So why are these very smart, successful CEO’s, owners and staff members so hesitant to change? It is part of the inherent entrepreneurial traits that are needed to be an owner of a business. These individuals have gotten where they are based on their knowledge and drive, and most have done it on their own. Few successful people became successful by relying on other parties to help make decisions about their company’s direction, but those that have sought wise counsel along the way are usually more successful than most.
Recently, while speaking with a prospective client, he made a statement that really cemented this hypothesis in my mind. He said, “I have a CPA, MBA and Law degree and after all that schooling I learned just one thing. The only way to learn something is to learn from other people who have already done what you want to do.” This was quite a statement from a very successful CEO and it’s very true. As a consultant I have learned the same thing, and most of my knowledge and skills I have acquired over the past 30 years has come from my mentors, other consultants that I learned from plus my client’s experience.
With every consulting project I complete and every conversation I have with industry professionals I learn something. I possess the level of knowledge that I have only from those interactions. The advantage that I have over most owners and CEO’s in the industry is the sheer number of firms, I have worked with over the years. In my career as a consultant and previously as sales executive with a Fortune 100 commercial finance company I have probably worked with thousands of clients. Whether I was engaged as a sales executive managing a 150 person sales organization or as a consultant, the people, I worked with opened their processes up to me and I have been able to quickly determine which are best practices and which are liabilities. While each client is unique in some way, the things that work usually work for the vast majority of clients, and the mistakes that are being made are usually made by most of my clients as well.
I can name companies that have embraced the idea that they do not have all the answers and have used consultants, staff and any other continuing education programs to remain relevant, competitive and profitable. The most successful have small egos and a big desire to learn and grow in a market that continues to be more and more competitive. I have seen improvements in cost savings and profitability of 10%, 20%, 40% or more from companies that have routinely utilized outside consultants to help them, as opposed to those that relied only on the CEO’s vision and existing level of knowledge such as Circuit City which people thought could not fail.
So why are some willing to embrace change and the search for better processes and others not? Let’s discuss the unwilling first. They generally know that change is required or at least needed, but they either think their staff will not be responsive to change, or they believe that the change will be too costly from a financial or time perspective. Many times when I meet with a prospective client at a conference, they have an excuse as to why engaging an outside consultant to address operational efficiency won’t work; just like the person who is resistant to commit to surgery and rehab. If you think your staff is reluctant to change, you need to take a long-hard look at your team. If you believe the change is too costly, see what happens when you do nothing in today’s marketplace. Albert Einstein said, “Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.
When you look up the word change in the dictionary, it speaks of modification, altercation, amendment, transformation, conversion and revolution. Change can be voluntary or involuntary. The collection industry is now undergoing involuntary change at the hands of regulators because it would not change voluntarily. Sometimes it takes a revolution to create change and sometimes it just takes desire. The CEO’s, staff and managing partners that embrace change will see drastic improvements that will be positive for the business, the owners and the corporate culture while the companies that are changed involuntarily will see negative impacts on staffing, process and culture.
If you desire to make change to your organization, culture, profits, process, attitudes and longevity, then embrace change and look everywhere for it. Hire consultants, read books, attend conferences and find ways to learn and change. If you desire to keep talking about change and never doing anything to reach your goals, then prepare yourself and your company for defeat in today’s marketplace. Today the industry is waiting for the few that will survive and thrive in the new collections environment. Will you be one of those coming out on top?
This article was written by Tom Green, the Southeast Region Manager, with AmerAssist A/R Solutions, Inc. whose headquarters are in Columbus, OH. AmerAssist is one of the most experienced collection organizations in the nation, serving credit grantors in a broad range of industries. The Binary Collection Program Concept, offered by AmerAssist’s Accounts Receivable Solutions Division, is endorsed by over 150 national trade and professional associations. Last year, their people collected over a billion and a half dollars, maintaining the cash flow necessary for the profits and growth of over 55, 000 clients. They are licensed and bonded services and provide their service nationwide. You can reach Tom at (904) 825-1563 or email him at email@example.com.