If you ever have an open house or are shopping at Homegoods, keep an eye out for Christina Rioux. Chrissy, as she’s known throughout the industry, loves to visit open houses for ideas about decorating her own home, that is when she wasn’t daydreaming about re-decorating. HGTV’s loss is the ARM industry’s game, as Rioux and her business partner, Christopher Kendrick, have grown their shop during the 14 years since starting it on a “shoestring and a prayer.” The collector who got her start in healthcare by collecting on money for televisions in hospital rooms has come a long way since then. Read on to learn more about Chrissy.
Name: Christina “Chrissy” Rioux
Company: Credit Solutions, LLC
Length of time at current company: My partner and I started Credit Solutions from scratch 14 years ago on a shoestring and a prayer and a firm but simple concept … treat your clients and your employees well and good things will come.
Length of time in industry: I have been in collections for 30 years this year. I started at the tender age of 16 years old collecting money for the televisions in hospital rooms in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine. I have had my hand in check collections, commercial collections, telecom collections, and healthcare. I fell in love with healthcare and never looked back.
How did you get your start in the industry?
My very first taste of the industry happened when I moved to Kentucky and answered a “clerical” ad in the newspaper. It turned out that it was check collections, a concept that I had no idea existed. During training I asked what a “cold check” was and my manger giggled and explained to me that a cold check is when someone writes a check and the money is not available in their account. I responded with “people can do that?!” And that is where my passion began. I could not believe that people would obtain goods or services and not pay for them. I felt it was my duty to hold everyone accountable to pay their debts. After my stint with checks, which I found out that I was good at, I worked for a reinsurance firm in North Carolina where I collected money from insurance companies. Again, I loved it! On my return to Kentucky is where I experienced healthcare collections and fell head over heels in love. I adored every aspect of it; the variety, the compassion involved, the problem solving and satisfaction in helping people to resolve their accounts.
What is your career highlight so far?
The highlight of my career came when I began my own company based on my own principles. I am a firm believer in integrity and kindness in the business world and I wanted to build something that I could be proud of. I wanted to create a culture of fairness and compassion. I am selfish in wanting all of our staff to enjoy coming to work and to have a passion for what we do. My competitive nature also drives me to be the best business partner for our clients. I want to be the best at what we do!
When or how are you most productive?
Perhaps I have an undiagnosed condition known today as ADHD but I work best when busy, accomplishing goals, and being creative. I am almost obsessive when it comes to setting goals and working diligently to accomplish them. As a collector I had the goals that my company set for me and then I had mine. Now I take great pleasure in sharing my knowledge and passion with others. I wear many hats in my position but I am definitely in my element when training. I love to teach.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
We have so many talented and amazing people in our industry to name one would be difficult so I am going to break the rules and speak about a few.
Leslie Bender to me is the epitome of success in accounts receivables. She embodies everything that I admire in a collection professional. She is not only a walking encyclopedia when it comes to collections but the way that she communicates that knowledge is what stands out to me. She always has a smile and always has time for you. I once shared a ride to the airport with her after a conference and you would have thought I was sitting next to the Queen of England, I was completely star struck!
Harry Strausser for me is my calming, soothing voice of reason. In an industry when rules and regulations are strangling us Harry is always the voice of reason, reminding us that this is our industry, it is ever changing and we, too, will change with it and it is all going to be okay. I think of Harry every time I feel overwhelmed.
Beth Conklin is quite frankly my training hero. I am a trainer at heart and Beth is so creative in her sessions. I have stolen quite a few of her techniques over the years and still use them to this day in our own training. If I see her name as an instructor I am there! ACA is lucky to have her.
Jim Richards, Pat Morris, Rozanne Andersen, Tina Hanson, and Skip Foster are just a few more of the people that I admire in our profession.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
I don’t think that I do anything better than anyone else as we are all learning and evolving. With that I guess one strength that I possess that perhaps others may not is that I am constantly growing and learning. I am flexible and moldable still at age 46, there’s something to be said for that! If I ever get to a point where I think that I am an expert at something I will have failed myself and stopped growing as a person and a professional. I learn how to be better every day based on the example of many of my colleagues.
What do you like most about this industry?
There is no other industry like ours. The variety of our industry keeps me on my toes and interested, never a dull moment. I feel proud that we are a major contributor to the economy as a whole and we play a part in keeping businesses running. I love being able to help people out of situations that they once felt helpless to. However, what I am most proud of is that this industry has allowed me to create a great place in our community for folks to come to work and enjoy what they do.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
The one thing that baffles me daily is that predator attorneys are allowed to extort us without consequence. I don’t understand how they can legally extort money from hardworking, honest people and it appears that it is just “accepted”, part of doing business. I will never be satisfied with this complacency and I hope more business owners like myself continue to fight for justice.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
This is so easy to answer for me … I have a strong creative draw when it comes to houses. Building, creating, decorating I want to do it all! I don’t have a whole lot of free time these days but when I did I would go from open house to open house getting ideas and dreaming about the day that I would build and refurbish and decorate my own homes. I stay awake at night thinking of new ideas for my own home and I spend a great deal of time redecorating my friends and relatives homes in my mind, is that normal? I already have a clear vision of what my retirement beach home will look like down to the hardware.
Describe a typical work day.
I am a creature of habit so my daily routine is predictable. I usually have my emails caught up by the time I arrive at work so that I can jump right in. A great deal of my time is spent discussing strategies, planning training, researching, and resolving conflicts that may arise. I am hands on when it comes to everything collections. I want to know several times a day where we are for each of our clients and who may need assistance. I actively train four times per month and I leave the office 3 times per month for lunch (I prefer to stay put and eat at my desk). It is important to me that I am accessible at all times for the staff, our clients, and anyone else that may need me. We are a service business and being available to service our clients is key. My business cards have my cell phone number on them and each client and employee is encouraged to reach out at any time.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Homegoods. Have you heard of it? We have a Homegoods close to the office so I have been known to spend several hours there on my way home from work. My husband never knows what I am going to show up with next. I love decorating!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Chrissy, people are who they are. You can’t change someone that doesn’t want to change.” Courtesy of my extremely intelligent business partner, Chris. I still prefer to keep my rose-colored glasses on most of the time but I am definitely more cautious and aware that not all people are good. Trusting your own instincts is important as a business leader and not all deals are worth making. Go with your gut.
What are you currently reading?
I am constantly reading articles related to our industry and trying to keep up with the politics that affect us. If and when I have time to read a book you will find me with a biography of some sort. I love to read about people, real people that have influenced our society one way or another. Stories that fascinate me the most include acts of bravery and influence such as Martin Luther King Jr, Henry Ford, Rosa Parks, Stephen King, Vince Lombardi, and Walt Disney to name a few.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I have worked hard! I continue to work hard every day and I take my pursuit for happiness personally and professionally seriously. Continuing to grow is the key!
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?