Michael Flock is living proof that you should follow good advice. Among the best advice Flock says he has ever received was to “never give up.” As someone who lost hearing in one of his ears at 12 and who at 30 was totally deaf — only to regain partial hearing in one of his ears — Flock is evidence that never giving up are pretty good words to live by. Read on to learn more about Michael and how never giving up got him to where he is today.
Name: Michael Flock
Company: FLOCK Specialty Finance
Length of time at current company: Since 2007
Length of time in the industry: 26 years
How did you get your start in the industry?
I began my career at IBM in 1976 as a sales representative and then became an international account manager for IBM’s large account division.
While at IBM, I met George Martin (who later became chairman and CEO of Veteran Call Center LLC and is now a good friend) who was a regional marketing manager. When Martin left IBM for AT&T Inc., I followed him. And when he left AT&T for Dun & Bradstreet, I again went with him. At D&B, I became president of its Receivables Management Services subsidiary in North America.
I left D&B in 2000 and started in the M&A advisory business for a variety of companies and later worked with the Atlanta-based middle market investment bank Croft & Bender LLC.
In 2007, I founded FLOCK Advisors, which provides M&A advisory services to the same credit, collections, debt buying and outsourcing business industries. In 2013, I shifted from investment banking to direct investing and financing through the launch of FLOCK Specialty Finance.
What is your career highlight so far?
I have had several highlights throughout my more than 40+ year career, so it is hard to pick just one. One of the biggest would be the turning around Dun and Bradstreet Receivable Management Services company because that gave me the insight, experience, and network of relationships that ultimately led to founding FLOCK Specialty Finance.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
I’m interested in professionals who are not just smart and effective, but who are also highly ethical and relationship-oriented — those who value the wisdom of community. I really like the quote from the author, Scott Peck, “When people experience community, they experience each other at a deeper level and they approach their tasks with a deeper sense of security and inspiration, resulting in something much greater than merely the sum of the parts.”
George Martin, who I worked with at both IBM, AT&T, and D&B was like that. He was a great business friend and mentor to me earlier in my career. More recently, we launched the Advisory Council for FLOCK Specialty Finance and that is another group of incredible industry executives for whom I have great respect and admiration. That team includes people like Carl Harkleroad, who built Latitude Software, as well as specialty finance industry data analytics experts like Jennifer Priestley, the Associate Dean, Graduate College and Director of the Analytics and Data Science Institute at Kennesaw State University.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
I believe building teams and building and transforming businesses through creative strategy are the two things I do best. People drive results. The people decisions are the most important ones. If you talk to teams I have worked with in my past, even those I worked with 35 years ago, we are still good friends. The team at FLOCK, too, is like family. They are some of the best and brightest people in the industry.
What do you like most about this industry?
I’ve always been motivated by industries that are ripe for turnaround and reinvention. This is one of them. I see an opportunity to change this industry from rough and rigid to more fair and friendly.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I have gotten so much wisdom from multiple people. The best advice I would say is think big, relationships are critical, stick to your gut, and never never give up.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
When I was 12, I lost hearing in my left ear. Then, when I was an up-and-coming marketing manager in New York for IBM Corp., at 30, I went completely deaf. I suffered from sudden hearing loss, which caused me also to lose equilibrium and the ability to enunciate. I was devastated. I went to the best doctor in the country, but things continued to look dim and the doctor wanted to stop treatment. I begged him to give me a few more days of treatment. A few days later, I was sleeping at the clinic, when the phone rang. And I could hear it. I thought I was dreaming. Part of my hearing came back in my right ear. I am still completely deaf in my left ear, but I have about 50% hearing in my right. I thank God. It taught me to never give up. Even when people predict the worst, you have to keep going because you can be so close to succeeding but you can’t see it. It taught me to turn adversity into a learning process and opportunity.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
Its reputation, which is unfair and unnecessarily negative. There are lots of great companies, and great management teams. But all it takes is a few bad “cowboys” and bad headlines to create a bad reputation.