Jay Gonsalves wants to be known as someone who left things better than he found them. It’s safe to say that the ARM industry is better off thanks to to the 35 years that he has spent in it. But, if it weren’t for an extra $4,000 a year and a car allowance, he might never have made the decision to try out the collections business. Read on to learn more about Jay and how his father’s advice has impacted not just him, but his two sisters as well.
Name: Jay E. Gonsalves
Company: Action Collection Agencies, Inc. (Action Collection Agency of Boston and ACA Revenue Systems)
Length of time at current company: 27 years
Length of time in industry: 35 years
How did you get your start in the industry?
I was working at a hospital and the former patient accounts manager, with whom I played tennis, had left the hospital to go to work for a healthcare collection agency in Boston and was starting up their hospital AR consulting division. He said the agency was looking at expanding their sales force and thought I should consider it. At the time, I was halfway through my master’s degree and had hoped to become a hospital administrator, but the career path at my hospital wasn’t as promising at the time. I was 29 years old, married with one child, making $19k a year. I had never sold anything in my life, but they offered me $23k plus commissions and a car allowance, so I took a shot.
What is your career highlight so far?
Probably being elected and serving as ACA International’s President in 2008-2009. At my installation, I was surprised by a video my wife had had produced in which there was a segment that included a personal message from my Congressman and the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank [D-Mass.], with whom I had worked closely on advancing legislation favorable to our industry. Having him deliver a message not only of congratulations, but also recognizing the importance of our industry to the credit-based economy to a room full of my peers in the industry he essentially regulated was special.
When or how are you most productive?
Like most business people, I am probably most productive in the morning, but it can vary where I get a spurt of energy in the afternoon, usually fueled by a black Dunkin’ Donuts coffee around three o’clock.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
This is a tough question, and I am not sure I can narrow it to one person, because I have served with some of the most impressive people I have every met – anywhere – especially when I served on what was then the Executive Committee under the previous governance structure of ACA. If pressed, it would have to be a toss-up between Gary Williams and Mark Davitt, both of whom I admired and had them participate in my installation as president for that reason.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
I wouldn’t say I do it necessarily better than anyone else, but I believe I have been a strong and consistent advocate and ambassador for our industry. Or at least I have tried to be.
What do you like most about this industry?
Obviously, this industry has provided for my family and me. But on a larger scale, I honestly don’t believe there is an industry that provides a better career path than we do. Regardless of your background, experience, education, ethnicity, age or gender, if you are willing to put in the effort you will succeed and prosper. Of course there are some breaks and it helps to work for a successful company, but it is completely merit based. And it is honest, fulfilling and very necessary work. I’ve seen it first hand in my company, as well as among those who are industry leaders, and I would challenge anyone to prove me wrong.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
I am not sure that I would change anything internally, but if I had a magic wand, I would try and change the misconceptions and stereotypes that exist. For the reasons just stated, this is a necessary and honorable business, and it shouldn’t be the target of unfavorable treatment and frivolous lawsuits.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I would like to come up with something clever, but after 35 years, I honestly don’t know. My original plan was to be involved in healthcare administration, so I supposed that. But I have also come to really like the sales process, so I might have gravitated toward that. I also have come to love politics, as I believe it drives or impacts almost everything.
Describe a typical work day.
If I am in the office, I will generally pick up the mail, as it is on my way in and I don’t want to have anyone else involved in operations do it. Same with any other similar errands, like bank runs. Other than that, it could vary wildly depending upon what is going on. Most of my time is also client-centered, whether it be establishing new relationships or preserving existing ones, and this can be in or out of the office. I am still pretty involved with ACA responsibilities as a member of the Board of Directors — until the end of July, that is — but I expect I will remain involved at the committee level and as a Certified Instructor.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I am not sure I would consider them “guilty” pleasures, but I love playing my guitars, driving my vintage Porsche 911 and enjoying an occasional cigar and single malt beverage. I am also a golf nut. But as with music, I wish my talent equaled my enthusiasm.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My late father, who probably sold anything and everything during his career as a traveling salesman, used to tell my two younger sisters and me: “No one is going to give you anything; you have to get out there and make it happen.” (Or words to that effect). As it turns out, all of us have had some degree of success doing just that; one travels the country, if not the world, as a sales consultant and coach and the other has been a high level sales executive in the healthcare industry, and here I am after all these years, still selling not only my company’s services, but also the importance of our industry.
What are you currently reading?
My most recent book was Michael Connolly’s “Two Kinds of Truth“, the latest in the Harry Bosch series, of which I am a huge fan. But with the recent passing of Charles Krauthammer, I am re-reading my signed copy of his book, “Things that Matter“, as I was a great admirer of him and his perspectives. I also try to start every day with devotional Scriptural reading.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I suppose that I would want people to know that it has been my intention to always leave things better than I found them.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
I suspect you’ve already approached my friend and ACA International’s new CEO, Mark Neeb, so I would say Mark Davitt. His is a great story.