Kelly Parsons-O’Brien is one of those rare people who knew early on in life that debt collections was where she wanted to be. Even though she may prefer the skiptracing side of the business, the third-generation collector has known that this industry was going to be her home dating back to high school. She shows a passion for this industry that is very rare but is incredibly refreshing, even if she’s learned that the office will never have 30 Kellys working in it. Read on to learn more about her love of the Oakland A’s and prcedural crime dramas, who she credits with teaching her the most about skiptracing, and what she really wanted to be when she was growing up.
Name: Kelly Parsons-O’Brien
Company: Credit Bureau Associates
Length of time at current company: 24 years
Length of time in industry: 24 years
How did you get your start in the industry?
I am a 3rd generation debt collector. My grandfather owned our company and offered me a job while I was in high school. I started as a file clerk and by 15 I was doing commercial collections. I continued to work in collections until I left for a brief moment to go to college. In 1998, I decided that debt collections was what I wanted to do and my mom, the owner at the time, needed a collection manager. So I came back to the office and became a VERY young collection manager.
What is your career highlight so far?
It is a toss-up between overcoming so many obstacles as a young collection manager and being the incoming President for the California Association of Collectors (CAC). The challenges as a young manager were many, and I know that I am the agency owner I am today because of the lessons I learned through those challenges.
In regards to my time on the CAC Executive Committee, I have had the pleasure to work with amazing collection industry professionals, learn so much about our legislative process, and it showed me how much we need EVERYONE in the collection industry to get involved. I believe we have many changes to our industry in the coming years and we can either sit back and except our fate of we can get involved and have a chance sculpt our future.
When or how are you most productive?
During the early mornings, late nights, and on the weekends. This is not ideal for my family time, however I am most productive when I do not have interruptions and can get the work done. This also helps me be ready to be more available to my employees and have more time to develop the team.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
There are many and the first people that came to my mind were Frank Fox and Ron Brown.
The first is Frank Fox of Fox Collection Center. I recently saw him at a user conference for our collection software, DAKCS and it was like no time had passed. He has always said what was on his mind in the most respectful way. It showed me that you can get what you want if you ask politely, even if you have to ask more than once.
Ron Brown, because I am a born skiptracer or just nosy, I am not sure. He has taught several classes for ACA and each time I learn more and more. If I could stop running my office and be a full time skiptracer, I would do it in a heartbeat. I love the chase of locating people and it is amazing with some tone changes, and the right questions, people will tell me everything. Many of those questions and tone changes I have learned were from Ron Brown.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
Not sure if I do it better than anyone else, but I think I am a very good baseball fan. My family and I are huge Oakland A’s fans, going to about 30+ games a year on average and we love it. The passion that I see at the ballpark for a baseball team that is not always number one is inspiring to me. I want to see that same passion in the people that work in our industry and if we can get close, we can do BIG things together!
What do you like most about this industry?
For a long time it was the money. I enjoyed recovering money for our clients, and helping consumers resolve their accounts. Although that is always my main goal, I also really like the my industry peers. Over the last seven or eight years I have met some amazing people. They are always willing to share information to help my grow my business or solve a problem I have. They are passionate about making our industry better and strive to do better each day.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
Clear definition of our requirements. I know of very few industries like ours that operates with a law that is over 35 years old and have so many different case law opinions about what we are allowed to do or not. I believe 99% of the industry professional would have no trouble doing what was asked of us if the direction was clear and fair.
As I mentioned earlier, we have to get involved and help make our future laws and regulations the best we can. We have the ability make change in the right direction and sculpt our future.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I would hope a successful radio DJ. That was my dream job.
Describe a typical work day.
Currently I am managing our collection department again, along with my CEO responsibilities and I am really enjoying it. As many know that means monitoring workflow, coaching and developing team members, talking with consumers, and making sure we stay compliant. I am fortunate to have an amazing business partner, Justin Cullum, who allows me to balance all of my duties and my family life.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I am a sucker for cop shows — Elementary, Law & Order, all the CSI’s, COPS and the one I miss the most, NYPD Blue. Maybe it is the skiptracer in me, but I use to watch a ton of them. Now that I am a business owner and mom, I am lucky to get in a show or two a week, but I will take it when I get it, even the re-runs.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
That you cannot have 30 Kelly’s working in the office. This was from my mom, Kathy Parsons, after a very stressful day. What I took from this is that not everyone will do it like I do it, and that is ok. I need to embrace each person’s strengths and set them up for success. This also helps me remember that what comes easy to me after 24 years is not always going to come easy for someone new to the industry and I need to help them grow.
What are you currently reading?
Ok, truth time … I don’t like to read. However, I know that knowledge is power, so I have started listening to audio books. It seems like a great way to get the information I need while I have down time, like waiting at an appointment or driving in the car. So far I have listened to “Who Moved My Cheese?”, “The One Minute Manager,” and “Eat that Frog.” Now I am working on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I figured I would tackle the most read business books first.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I am passionate about FDCPA reform for our industry. I know that many people are nervous about what will happen is we start this ball rolling and I get that. I also think that we have amazing professionals in our industry that are passionate about treating consumers fairly and recovering money for our clients. We need to come together as an industry and start shaping the new future of the FDCPA and not let the CFPB or anyone else that is not truly in touch with what we do, shape our future.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Ron Brown of C.S.I. Group.