Tom Haag has spent more than a half-century in the collections business, taking over the family agency from his father. One of the most widely respected individuals in the industry, Haag has seen a lot during his career. Read on to see how close Tom got to realizing his dream job from back when he was a kid.
Name: Thomas Haag
Company: State Collection Service, Inc.
Length of time at current company: 51 years
Length of time in industry: 51 years. Although the company belonged to my father so really longer than that (I licked stamps and stuffed envelopes).
How did you get your start in the industry? It was my father’s company. He and my mother were worried that I needed a career. I was delivering prescriptions for $1.25 an hour.
When or how are you most productive? Early morning alone or chairing a meeting during the day.
What is your career highlight so far? Becoming President of ACA International.
Which industry professional do you admire most? Wow, that is a tough question. I have learned from so many. I would have to say my father who was involved when the industry had a horrible reputation, yet he maintained an unblemished reputation. Thirty-plus years in this industry and he never made and enemy.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else? Hire people. I have always said when I hire I hire people smarter than me. Guess what? It works.
What do you like most about this industry? The people.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry? Two things: Regulation. We are over-regulated and thus far have been unable to effect positive change. Secondly: the industry’s reputation. People really don’t understand what we do. When someone asks me what I do and I respond that I’m a debt collector their typical response is … “Oh.” They are usually surprised when I tell them we probably generate more thank yous than complaints.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing? Well, when I was a little nipper my goal was to be a garbage collector. I got close I guess.
Describe a typical work day. Truthfully, I am almost retired (Understand when you announce retirement they quit paying you. Hence, I’m almost retired). I do what is asked of me. Answer emails, field calls, and attend management meetings weekly. I do participate in decision-making, but if you recall I did say “I hire people smarter than me.”
What is your guilty pleasure? Family vacations, grandkids, and of course I love collector cars. I have a shop where I mess with them. Life is good.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? I’m not sure this is what you were hoping to hear, but several years ago a good friend said, “I never met a man on his death bed saying he wished he had spent one more day at the office.”
What are you currently reading? Periodicals mostly. I have a book list but at the moment that is all it is.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you? I love this industry and I’m proud to be a long term member of it. I want others to feel the same way.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions? Gary Williams, Phil Rosenthal, Tom Stockton