Cortney Fleming is a shining example of the positive impact that the ARM industry possesses. Not just on the economy as a whole, but on the people who work in the industry. She clearly loves what she does and the people she works with, and she brings an energy and desire to the job that is infectious — in a good way. Read on to learn more about Cortney and how she once lost track of an entire year.
Name: Cortney Fleming
Length of time at current company: Eight years. When they emailed congratulating me on my four-year anniversary, I emailed them back saying I was only at three. Ends up they were correct and somehow I missed an entire year. Time flies when you are having fun!
Length of time in industry: Eight years
How did you get your start in the industry?
I graduated college in 2008 during the Great Recession and struggled to find my calling. Two questions into an interview for a collector position, I was told I was overqualified and would hate the role. They shook my hand and walked me out the door. Later that afternoon, the collection manager called me to say that I would probably hate the job, but I seemed eager, so he would see me on Monday. Eight years later and I have been a collector, a team lead, a collection manager, a junior compliance officer, director of people relations, and my current role as Chief Personnel Officer. We still joke about how I was almost turned away. I did not go to school to be a collector but fell in love with the industry.
What is your career highlight so far?
Throughout one’s career there are moments that can be classified as successes, some failures, and others are moments that will live with them forever. I was attending online seminars and webinars, traveling to conventions and forums in order to obtain more knowledge about the industry. My career highlight was when my topic was chosen for a convention presentation and I was able to co-present about how chickens and eggs related to new hires and veteran collectors with Beth Conklin. Right before I presented I was really nervous as the class started to fill up, but once I started talking, I knew that sharing my knowledge with others was what I wanted. My smile was so big you could fit a banana in it sideways! I have enjoyed every public speaking, panel discussion, or teleseminar presentation opportunity within the industry that was thrown my way.
When or how are you most productive?
I am most productive after a mental break where I can have a meal, a cup of joe, and socialize. Not just because it gives me a chance to refuel, but because it allows my brain to refocus in preparation for what is called deep work. It is based on a book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport. You can make a lot of progress on tasks such as checking emails or responding to messages, but then I feel like my day was a frantic-blur. Even with a to-do list; there are a variety of other items that push their way in. We all have those “fires” in our office that require our immediate attention or seem to require it. I try to have time blocked off or set aside to tackle my bigger projects that require a more thought organization after I know I have had time to take a break. May it be preparing for a presentation, tackling a new idea to implement in the office, or solving world peace, I have found that my most meaningful and impactful work was completed during this time.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
Hands down … Beth Conklin. My first memory of Beth was at a trainer specialist course in Florida where she floored me with her unique training style during the FDCPA session. She was creative with her activities, Beth was excited about the topic, and her enthusiasm was contagious. This hit home with me as I have a very similar outgoing personality.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
If you ask my colleagues, that might say my loquacious tendencies, but I feel the one thing that I do better than everyone else is my enthusiasm regardless of the time of day. I worked remote for a few years and my first week back in the office, I held meetings with members of management. We had a Director that had been with us for a few months, but had never been in a meeting with me physically present. As we were walking out of the meeting she remarked, “Are you always like this?” I was a little perplexed as I wasn’t sure what “this” she was referencing. Someone else quickly chimed in, “Oh yes! Morning, noon, or night, Cortney is always this excited about the work that she does. This is just how she is.” Whether it is a stand-up huddle or a strategic meeting; there is a certain gusto that I bring with me which is contagious as well as unbeatable.
What do you like most about this industry?
No one really grow up saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a debt collector!” Individuals apply for a collections position as they possess skillsets that would help them to be successful in the role, someone suggests they give it a try, or they apply for it and happen to get the job. As one progresses in a collection role, they find out they have a knack for it. They may be right out of high school, maybe they were a sales man, or maybe they are a stay at home parent who is looking to get back into the work force. This means that there are a variety of types individuals who are in the role of collectors and each brings something a little bit different to the team.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
I wish I could change negative perspective about our industry. If you have one bad experience, you are apt to tell 10 people about it. But you are failing to tell those 10 people about the hundred other good experiences that you had. There are a lot of online resources that show the positive impact this industry has on the economy.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I would be in a gym somewhere lifting heavy things and motivating others.
Describe a typical work day.
I would describe my typical work day as full of meaningful engagements that bring value in some form. I have started the last six years of my career with an 8am morning staff meeting with leadership. I then walk around the office checking on team members, ensuring they know they are not anonymous to me, and confirming we are all ready for the day. From there, I can be found presenting trainings, project meetings, leadership courses, interviews, and any other items that I can fit into my work day.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Blue Bunny Birthday Cake ice cream
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
To be unclear is to be unkind.
What are you currently reading?
If you have been in any of my sessions, you know I am an avid reader, which provides a lot of plus ones to my presentations. Right now I am working through “H3 Leadership” by Brad Lomenick. Our office has applied a hungry, humble, smart approach to our hiring process based on “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni. I am working to review how to apply those similar concepts of be humble, stay hungry, and always hustle to a leadership setting.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who can help us out!
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?