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Our latest edition of Thriving in Third Party Collections features Aron Tomko. He is the founder of Bayview Solutions LLC as well as the creator of a coaching and mentorship program aimed at helping those interested in starting a new debt collection business, or improving their existing one.
- How long have you been in the debt collection business?
My first collection job was in 2003, starting off as a debt collector. I’ve always been historically horrible on the phone, but for some reason I always made really good money in collections. This motivation eventually made me want to start my own business. So, in 2008 I realized that goal when I opened my own agency, Bayview Solutions LLC, in St. Petersburg, FL.
- What prompted you to get involved in debt collections?
Getting a job in collections was a happy accident. I attended a job fair in college and said, “Why not?” I wasn’t looking to get into the collection industry specifically but it turned out to be a good fit.
- Is there anything you would do differently when starting your debt collection business now that you have the benefit of hindsight?
I would tell myself 2 things:
- You don’t need to spend that much money on collection software your first year in business. I spent a lot on something fancy that was too powerful for my needs. Overall, I would have controlled my operating costs the first few years.
- An ego is a very expensive thing to maintain. It’s not always about being right, it’s about being happy. I let certain people go when I should have figured out a way to work with them.
- What is the biggest change in this industry since you started?
Compliance. Even though my first collections job ever was the most compliant agency I ever worked for — which is a good thing! People now are always talking about compliance, policy and procedure. Four to five years ago, though, everyone said we didn’t need it.
Also, five years ago, policies and procedures were not as important as they are today, but now an agency cannot survive without them.
- How have you and your agency adapted?
I can’t express how happy I am that we have our policy and procedures. It allows us to run our business without having to think “how am i supposed to run my business?” I’ve also learned over time that you are never done with your policy and procedures. Every time a state does an audit, we come up with more. I think even the most robust set will be missing something. Every lawyer will tell you that. However, you need to have your core policy and procedures in place when getting started, keeping in mind it will always be evolving.
- What technology or tools do you use on a regular basis that assist you in successfully running your business?
We’re not a large collection agency. We’re a very small team. We rely heavily on our software. Currently, we are developing our own scoring technology. This technology is based on data we have compiled over the last 10 years, and we plan to use it to help make decisions about what or who is collectible and when. This technology could be customized with data specific to each agency, area or speciality in collections.
- What are your thoughts on the latest developments at the CFPB and how it will impact your business?
If there is a place for them to help consumers, that’s great. But I don’t think any part of the government should have that much rule making power with no checks. While I was living through the CFPB’s tight grip after the financial crisis, agencies were shut down. They closed their doors, and they were not able to pay their employees. I will be happy when their job is to protect consumers.
- Can you give some details about your new Mentor Program? And why you decided to start it?
Bayview has started an online mentorship course allowing us to share and educate others about what is and isn’t important within the collection industry. When we needed to create our policy and procedures, we didn’t know where to start. For this information, there isn’t a college you can go to — you’re dependent on advice from others.
After I learned more, I started helping other people. I began making youtube videos because I found I was repeating myself while giving advice, and this was the beginning of the Mentor Program.
The industry is very welcoming, so not everyone who picks up the phone knows what they’re getting into. The goal is to make a contribution to the industry to create better collection professionals. We don’t look at it as creating competitors, we look at it as creating industry partners.
In the program, we use real life examples to explain the material, and discuss compliance, collection letter examples and policy and procedure information. It’s not only for brand new clients, either. The program can help those who have existing agencies and want them to function better. We also offer other courses that are general to those in all industries who are trying to start a business.
The program was formally launched at the end of last month. When you purchase the package, you get a 90 min coaching call, the group coaching sessions, and access to the course.
We hope to keep the group of participants small so they can get the most out of the program and I can still remain hands-on. Eventually, I would like to focus people more towards the group coaching aspect of the program, so even more industry insight can be learned.
- What is your proudest moment in business?
As silly as it may sound, I take pride in the fact that my debt collection business has been open without closing once in 10 years. We’re not new, we’re not the oldest company in the business, but I was 25 when I started the company, and I think that’s a pretty big accomplishment.
- In life?
The fact that i’ve had the same job for 10 years. Creating and maintaining my own business for the past 10 years has been a big deal for me.
- What PDCflow Products/Services have been most beneficial to your business? In what capacity?
We use the signature platform. We have the consumer on the phone and ask for permission in real time. The fact that they can receive emails and text messages is useful because these days, we live on our phones.
It has helped with our chargeback prevention because it’s hard to dispute that a person didn’t authorize the payment when they had to enter their SSN and sign. We use many tools, such as call recording, but having the dual authentication with PDCflow’s signature adds an additional layer of protection.
- What resources are most valuable to you with staying up to date on the industry changes?
RMA and ACA are both useful. Florida Collector’s Association is also good because it’s very much an educational environment. It’s an opportunity to share information. Mike Gibbs at Accounts Recovery has done a great job the last few years too.
I also have a compliance manager who keeps me up-to-date and stays on top of all this stuff. He gets it, sources it, puts it in matter of importance and briefs me on what’s going on.
- What are you most looking forward to for 2018?
More communication with collection agencies and consumers. With new software and programs, offering more options to pay without talking to a person will be a big advancement for the company.
Enjoyed the interview? Check out past editions of the series with Matt Logan, Brad Bingham, and Richard and Tsylia Hoffman. To get updates on future interviews and other informative articles, subscribe to our blog: