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Bonnie Baker, president, Hawthorn Recovery Services Inc.

Bonnie Baker, president, Hawthorn Recovery Services Inc.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 8.41.01 AMWhy did you want to work in the credit and collection industry? As is typical of most people in my industry, it was not an intentional career. I started working for another firm in the early 1980s as a computer programmer. The business is unique, and I learned all aspects of each position as I worked my way into management. Six years ago, I started my own company, and it has been a great journey.

Can you describe a typical day of work for you? As the owner of a small business, I wear a lot of hats. Compliance, accounting and personnel issues take up 20 percent my day; probably another 30 percent is devoted to client sales and service functions; and the rest is meetings, putting out fires, training, setting/evaluating goals and performance.

Do you have a specialty? What are some of the main markets? We specialize in consumer collections, and our clients are mostly medical service providers. When they determine an account is uncollectable, they hire us. Sometimes their billing information was outdated or incorrect, and we have resources to locate consumers. Our goal is to reach each account by telephone or letter and determine if they are willing and able to make arrangements. We do not own the accounts, and our clients pay us a percentage of what we recover. There are also large markets for credit card debt and student loans.

What is your favorite aspect about your job? I love building a team of dedicated collectors who love what they do and are passionate about helping our clients recover lost revenue. Each month I come up with a set of bonus incentives in addition to our regular monthly goals and incentives. Professionalism and courtesy are critical to our success, so if a collector can get a consumer to agree they are “Hawthorn Happy,” they win tickets they can redeem at our redemption counter.

What is your biggest daily challenge in business? Keeping up with increasing regulations, confusing and contradictory court rulings and keeping my staff informed and educated while still being productive and effective.

What might be most shocking about the collections industry to an outsider? What do most people not know about this industry?

  • There are about 4,100 active collection agencies in the United States, of which 3,500 are ACA International (our trade association) members.
  • The industry employs 445,000 collectors and is expected to grow by 18 to 26 percent by 2014.
  • Income earned by U.S. collection agencies is now $16.5 billion annually, having tripled in the past 10 years.
  • Sixty-four percent of collectors are female.

How much bad debt is sent to you on a monthly basis? How much will you collect? So far this year we are averaging $4 million a month in new consumer debts with an average balance of $320. Collectability is unique to each business and is based on a number of factors such as age of the account, internal efforts and type of account, so giving a specific number would be misleading. However, I can let you know we generally close out 5 percent of our files to bankruptcy each month,

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