Shelly Gensmer has a very interesting perspective on what makes the ARM industry such a great place to work. It’s refreshing to see someone who thoroughly enjoys what she does and who she works with on a daily basis. It’s also humbling to read about her morning routine — it’s like that old TV commercial for the Army where it said, “We do more before 9am than most people do all day.” Read on to learn more about Shelly and the reason why she never became a lawyer.
Name: Shelly Gensmer
Length of time at current company: 2 years
Length of time in industry: 13 years
How did you get your start in the industry?
I began as a legal assistant for a firm that focused on probate and deceased collections. The firm grew to become a large agency and I shifted my focus on training newly hired attorneys on FDCPA and the collections process. From there, I actually moved into regulatory services and litigation while I focused on continuing my education.
What is your career highlight so far?
I would say what I’m working on right now, with full support of my company and peers, may just be trumping all other highlights I’ve had! I am focusing on exposing the baiting and claim-manufacturing tactics used by plaintiff’s attorneys. It’s been an absolute struggle and whirlwind, but it will be hugely impactful for our industry.
When or how are you most productive?
I am most productive in the evenings, at home, locked up in my office!
Which industry professional do you admire most?
I am going to catch a lot of flak for this response because he’s the president of the company I work for, but none the less my response is the same – Marty Sarim. I had the pleasure of working with Marty at another company back in my home state of Minnesota. He gave me the tools and the trust I needed to get my job done and to grow. He has always been hugely supportive of his company and its employees. He’s not even the slightest bit shy to walk the collection floor and take the time to know staff from all levels. So many others who hold similar positions don’t bother to really get to know employees in all positions and levels.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
You mean besides my killer dance moves and witty charm? I’d have to say lead by listening. I work really hard to tailor my leadership and instruction to how I know each team member learns and functions. Not everyone responds well to blunt instruction and not everyone learns by simply hearing. I find far more success and confidence in my team when I integrate multiple means to tackle an issue and offer a learning opportunity to not just enrich the team but make the information stick. I’m HUGE on balancing learning and work.
What do you like most about this industry?
It is always changing, always molding, always challenging. There is never a dull moment under the FDCPA umbrella. I find it’s a lot like waking up to a new puzzle almost every day. Who doesn’t like puzzles?
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
The antiquated laws and some of the very unfortunate misapplications of such laws in various rulings.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
Well actually, in my spare time I used to throw fashion shows. I created a fashion show called Circle of Design which raised money for charities while providing the means to help fashion design students prepare to launch their careers. It was wildly entertaining actually and not at all like a typical fashion show. We celebrated as many sizes, shapes, backgrounds, and talents in one show as possible!
Describe a typical work day.
I’m usually up and at it around 6:30am to take care of my horses and refresh my brain before I jump into the fray so to speak. I live on a ranch so my day starts out with manual labor before it jumps into the paid labor. Within my work day, I spend a great deal of time reviewing case law, industry updates, and looking for new ways to strategize with my peers. I am on a lot of calls each day, trying to either resolve a new issue, look for ways to cross-function better within the company, create new opportunities for my team, or simply resolve a case.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Shoes and hats. I know that’s not very original. Well the hats part may be more unique. I have a pretty great collection of different hats, different styles, and for different seasons and reasons.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
If no one else’s opinion mattered to you – what would your decision be? It’s usually the right one.
What are you currently reading?
El Quixote. It’s one that I’ve read before but definitely don’t regret reading again.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
No, I’m not an attorney and yes, that’s on purpose. I have a Masters degree in Legal Studies which means I have taken essentially the same wonderful courses as are given to those seeking a J.D., but then took a hard turn in another direction to focus more on business and management training that would not typically be part of a juris doctor program. I have a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies in addition to the Masters of Legal Studies.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Karen Scheibe Eliason of the ACA.