Swimming With Sharks!

May 07, 2010 Posted Under: Uncategorized

Don Bridgewater is his own boss, and he never tells anyone off – if he can avoid it, anyway. His family has run Vanguard Collections in Edmonton for nearly a half-century, and Bridgewater says the collection-agent image of a hard-nosed, ruthless, money-grubbing bastard just doesn’t fit.

You have to be a good negotiator and a good mediator to be effective. Having said that, Bridgewater acknowledges the business is full of sharks. Some agencies are very hard-assed and they take a ‘pay-up-or-else’ approach. All that usually does is give agencies a bad name.

Bridgewater has handled collections for more than 17 years. “If you treat a person the way you would want to be treated – you can usually get a rapport going”.

The collection agent only has a few tools of coercion, including suing or hurting a credit rating. Bridgewater worries about young people who don’t value their credit.

“And then five years down the road when they’re looking for their first car, they find they’ve got problems”.

He’s only faced one fearful situation. “there was only one time, actually, where the debtor was so mad he came down to the office and started yelling for this particular collector,” he says. “She was so terrified she ran into another room because this guy was actually threatening bodily harm.”

Sympathy For Some.

Bridgewater says he feels sympathy for people who are just struggling. “But then you also get the guys who just don’t want to pay. They don’t have a good reason, they just don’t wanna.. And it gets to me that people don’t have the morals to pay their bills.”

He would like to see his industry’s reputation improve.

“There’s this whole perception of it. But the way I see it, you have a really bad toothache, where do you want to go? To the dentist. And most people don’t like going to the dentist. So it’s all relative.”

He holds distaste for larger competitors. Although Vanguard has offices in three major cities, it only has about 15 people working phones. Other agencies will employ hundreds.

Comes Down to Money.

“It comes down to money. The thing is, the larger agencies have hundreds of staff. They handle a lot of government contracts and with government, you really have to produce. In order to pay all of these people and their rent, and their overhead, you’ve gotta collect a whole lot of money to cover it.

The pressure is really on the collector to get to a certain quota, and the manager is saying ‘reach it, or your gone.’

Some don’t even give their staff chairs to sit on because you’re more forceful and collect more standing up. And a lot of staff are on commission, so some place will keep a running total of collections for a month, and whoever is lowest on the board gets fired.”

Comments are closed.