If he ever needs a reminder of his new mission as the chief executive officer of ACA International, Mark Neeb needs to look no further than a signed photo he has in his office.
“I’m your huckleberry,” says the inscription, signed by Val Kilmer, who played legendary gunfighter Doc Holliday in the movie, “Tombstone.” The phrase is meant to mean something along the lines of “I’m your man,” referring to Huckleberry Finn, the friend of Tom Sawyer.
“I’m their huckleberry,” Neeb said in an interview with AccountsRecovery.net last week, a day after word of his hiring was announced. “I want to help other people become successful.”
Neeb may be exactly the type of candidate that ACA needed to replace Pat Morris, an association executive who left ACA last year to run another trade group. Neeb is a career collections executive who was also president of ACA in 2011-12. He has spent the past three decades in the collections industry, having worked his way up to owning his own agency.
As evidence of his lengthy experience in the industry, Neeb noted that there was only one of ACA’s 15 current board members with whom he already did not have a longstanding relationship. Those relationships were a key reason why ACA, for the first time in its history, hired a collections-industry executive to run the organization.
“The response has been absolutely overwhelming,” Neeb said. “I have been humbled beyond belief. Emails, facebook, phone calls, LinkedIn, Twitter; I have not stopped talking since 10am yesterday. I’ve got a lot of passion for what Im about to step into.
“One thing I like about agency owners is they are pure entrepreneurs. There is a lot of personal pride that goes into our industry. We are a community. It has solidified even more over last 24 hours that this is a family and we are committed together. “
While he doesn’t even officially start until Feb. 12, Neeb already knows the type of leader he wants to be and what he hopes to accomplish during what he says will be “the last job I ever have.”
“Our job is to help members succeed,” Neeb said. “Period. How do we do that? We advocate and we educate and we provide means to obtain products and services at pricing that is lower than individual agency will find on its own.
“We have to be servants. That’s our only job. I will be launching my career at ACA with a humble and servant-oriented approach. I will go anywhere or do anything to help a member.”
Neeb admits that ACA International’s membership ranks has declined in recent years, and he has some ideas about how to reverse that trend.
I think one of the biggest challenges we have is to innovate and use technology to improve our member services and increase the breadth of services we provide while at same time living with the reality that our association, member-wise is a little bit smaller, and that puts pressure on revenues and expenses,” Neeb said. “We don’t have an emergency, but those are the things to be cognizant of. We need to be innovative. I am looking forward to coming up with new educational opportunities and working with other trade associations that serve our industry. And finding ways to serve companies that aren’t being served. Those are the kinds of innovations that I want our staff and our board to focus on in hopes we can increase value that we offer the members.”
When it comes to what he is asking of ACA’s members, Neeb is keeping it simple.
“I want three things,” he said. “When I screw up, please let me know. If I need to be put back in line, please tell me. Three, I hope to see you at Spring Forum in Las Vegas in March.”