In terms of origin stories for how people came to work in the ARM business, Linda Straub Jones might just have the best one. There are likely not many people who can trace their start in the industry back to the Girl Scouts and babysitting. The number of people who show their passion and love for the industry is also a small number, but includes Straub Jones, as well. The ARM industry better do its part to show its appreciation to Straub Jones, though. Because she still may one day decide to give up the glamorous life of the collections business to open up her own bakery. Read on to learn more about Linda.
Name: Linda Straub Jones
Company: LexisNexis Risk Solutions
Length of time at current company: 14 years
Length of time in industry: 33 years
How did you get your start in the industry?
Short answer – the Girl Scouts!
Longer answer – when I was about 10-11 I was working towards a badge for Girl Scouts, the badge was for community service, and for that badge I “adopted” a “grandma” in an senior living high rise near my home. I became very attached to Grandma Lydia and her family, and as a result I started babysitting her great-granddaughter. Across the hall from where I babysat lived Jim Balogh (at the time he was an attorney, but he is also the founder of Banko and Probate Finder). When Jim’s wife had a baby I started babysitting for them. I became close friends with them and eventually started working in Jim’s law firm when I was 19 (A collection law firm James A. Balogh, Ltd.). Initially I was a file clerk, then secretary, then bookkeeper and finally got my degree as a paralegal. I consider Jim my mentor – he gave me my start in this industry – even though I didn’t have any experience at the time, he believed in me and gave me opportunities to grow. In the early 1990’s Jim started the company Banko (bankruptcy notifications) and in 1998 Jim started a new company called Probate Finder. I left his law firm and went to work for Probate Finder as their first employee in 1998. Probate Finder was co-owned by Dolan Information at that time (who had also purchased Banko from Balogh previously). Dolan Information was acquired by LexisNexis in 2003. So although I’ve had many jobs in collections, I’ve been specializing on the use of alternative data in the credit/collections industry since 1998.
What is your career highlight so far?
Getting my first article published in an industry publication was a huge thrill for me. It was back in 2012 and I wrote an article about dormant judgments.
When or how are you most productive?
Mid-morning through early afternoon. I am NOT a morning person and am very slow to wake up. I absolutely need that first cup of coffee in the morning before I can do much.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
That’s an easy one – Rozanne Andersen. She’s one of my favorite people! Not only is she smart and funny, but she is also so giving of her time and talents, and is a very positive role model for women in the collections industry.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
I’m a great multi-tasker. I’m not sure that I’m better than anyone else – but I can have several conversations going on at once (phone, Email, IM, etc.). Outside of work though – I make a mean cookie (my chocolate chunk, dried cherry, corn flakes cookie is to die for!).
What do you like most about this industry?
The people. I have met so many wonderful and interesting people. I feel like everyone in the industry feels like we’ve been beaten up so much from the regulations and the bad image that we are portrayed in (although that is starting to get a little better), that we all bond together and are more honest and real with each other. Kind of like one big family.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
The negative perception of the collection industry. I absolutely love this industry – I’m a lifer in it and I am the first to speak up in a group if someone says something negative about it. I believe we play a very important role in the economy, and without the collections industry, interest rates would be higher, credit would be harder to get, and there would be a lot less accountability relating to paying back debts.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
Baking! I love to bake, especially cookies. I have 12 original cookie recipes and would love to have a bakery where I could make cookies and other sweets all day long!
Describe a typical work day.
There is nothing typical about my work day – my job has me doing dozens of different things daily. I work from home, and I travel a couple of times per month, so all of my work is done via a computer and phone. I’m generally on the phone an average of 5-6 hours per day. One thing that is fairly consistent though is that my husband and I make sure to have coffee together every morning before work – we both work from home, and to be honest, our morning coffee is often the only time we see each other during the day – even thought our offices are only five feet apart!
My main job is to keep on top of the regulations that impact our industry and circulate information about those regulations to our strategy, product, marketing and sales teams. I also speak at industry events and write articles about industry topics. I work closely with our sales teams to prepare customer level strategies on how we can help customers using our data products. I also work closely with our product and marketing teams to provide understanding of how the industry uses our products, and I bring industry feedback to create new products or make our products better.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Netflix! At any given time I usually have one or two series I’m watching and my husband and I also have one or two series we watch together. Although it takes us forever to get through them because of our travel schedules. We’re currently watching “Ozark” together – with “House of Cards” and “Dark Matter” on deck!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure that it’s really advice I received, but rather a teaching from early in life – and that’s The Golden Rule. Do onto others as you would have them do unto you. I think about that all the time – especially when I’m really ticked off at someone or about something, and I want to lash out – I take a deep breath, and think about how I would feel if the situation were reversed. I can’t tell you how many composed Emails I have deleted (although I’ve felt better for initially writing them).
What are you currently reading?
I love to read and usually have a couple of books going on at the same time (usually some sort of work related book and then a novel, murder-mystery or fluffy romance). Currently I’m reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown and “Holding” by Graham Norton (which is charming by the way and I highly recommend it).
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
Although I seem very outgoing, I’m actually fairly shy – that is until I get to know you – then you won’t be able to shut me up!
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Dave Cherner at Moss & Barnett