Like most people working in the ARM industry, Ty Schwamberger never harbored aspirations of becoming a debt collector while he was growing up. And even once he got into the ARM industry 17 years ago, it took some insightful advice from his boss to get him to truly commit to being a collector. Read on to learn more about Ty, including why he hates micro-managing, his love of playing good cop, bad cop, and why he misses reading.
Name: Ty Schwamberger
Company: Buckeye State Credit Union, Northeast Ohio
Length of time at current company: 4 months
Length of time in industry: 17 years
How did you get your start in the industry?
There’s very few people I’ve met in the ARM industry who say, “I always wanted to be a bill collector!” Nope, just doesn’t happen. It sure didn’t for me. I think most people fall into it one way or another. For myself, I had graduated college in 2000 with a mostly useless degree in history. I did some substitute teaching, retail work, etc, then I came across a job ad for a collections position with a mail order pharmaceutical company. A few companies and seventeen years later and I’m still at it.
What is your career highlight so far?
Being in the ARM industry for 17 years, I’ve pretty much seen and done it all, in one way or another. So I’d have to say being hired as the Collections Manager at my current employer, Buckeye State Credit Union. I feel totally at home here, with great co-workers, bosses and the environment is structured in a way that I can really do what I do best – bring in $$!
When or how are you most productive?
Not many, myself included, like to be micro-managed. Unless the situation demands, I don’t micro-manage my employees either. That’s not to say I don’t track what they are doing, because I do (they know I love my spreadsheets!), but I don’t breathe down their necks either – you’ve got to have a balance when managing others. As long as I know I’m doing my job to the best of my ability, and my company sees that as well, I take personal satisfaction to be productive whenever I’m in front of my computer.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. It is how you balance them out is what makes one successful. My biggest strength is my organizational skills. I can almost always respond to a question regarding a particular past due account because I keep updated notes on everything.
What do you like most about this industry?
It’s the challenge of getting someone to pay who otherwise had no intention to do so. It’s all about how to approach a particular account/individual. It’s the tone of voice, the wording you use when speaking with someone about their past due bill, knowing when to flip the switch from soft collections to hard collections mode. I love it.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
Things happen in people’s lives, I get it. However, it’s also their responsibility to pay back what they borrowed, spent, purchased, etc. The ARM industry is in a tough spot with governmental regulations. There always has to be some sort of guidelines or regulations in everything, but we, as collectors, are really being put in a tough spot by having to be relatively ‘nice’ when speaking with someone about something they did to themselves. It’s not right. In society today no one wants to be held accountable for their actions. It’s pretty sad when you think about it.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
Teaching, just like my dad did for 35+ years.
Describe a typical work day.
The first thing I do every morning when I get into the office is to run the numbers from the previous day. I then follow-up on any promise to pays on the specific sub-set of accounts I personally work and inquire with my collectors on the status of their promise to pays. It’s all about persistence in this industry, so when you are fortunate enough to have gotten an individual on the phone the first time and they promised to send a payment, then don’t, it’s best to call them again right away. I’ll then start making some collection calls late morning. I spend the rest of the morning answering any internal questions, emails, outside emails and reviewing various reports so I’m up to date on the other duties I’m assigned to handle throughout a given month. I usually spend the afternoon making more collection calls, while working and mentoring my collectors on their assigned set of accounts (as I mentioned, I’m not a micro-manager, but I do keep track of everything). It’s fluid, though. Some days can get out of whack early, so the rest of the day is spent trying to get back on track. I love it, though. Makes the day interesting and go that much faster when busy.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Eating out/carry out/having food delivered. My wife and I do it WAY too often!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Years ago, before I got into my first management position, I had a manager who could tell I was starting to feel the grind of being on the floor as a collector. She knew I was ready for more than to just call account after account. I wanted, needed, something that gave me meaning to what I was doing. She told me, “Give 110% for one year and you’ll reap the benefits of all that hard work.” That’s exactly what I did. One year later I got promoted to my first supervisory position. Collections can be a grind and it’s not for everybody, that’s one of the reasons (pay is another) why the industry has the turnover it does. A few years ago I was at a point where I wasn’t sure I could go on with the status quo. I’m glad I heeded that advice or I wouldn’t be where I’m at today, which more fits my strengths and what I enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis.
What are you currently reading?
I use to read a novel a week. That was pre-kids. Now I have a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old and by the time I get home from work, play and help my wife take care of them and various other household duties, I have just about an hour before it’s time to hit the sack and do it all over again. I do miss reading, though.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I let my work speak for itself.