Getting to Know David Kelley of The Preferred Group of Tampa

When asked what he would be doing if he weren’t working in the credit and collection industry, David Kelley mentioned being a pastor or being a baseball coach. The intersection of those two professions might be why he’s found his niche in this industry, having worked his way up from collector to running his own agency. Read on to learn more about David and how coffee helps fuel his productivity.

Name: David Kelley
Company: The Preferred Group of Tampa
Length of time at current company: 20 years (total)
Length of time in industry: 20 years 

How did you get your start in the industry?
My father-in-law started our company in 1985 and asked me to come work with him in 1990. I had some management experience and my undergrad was in business management and marketing so the plan was for me to learn the business and move into management at some point. I was given a desk (collector 2) and a stack of green bar paper accounts and I went to work and things happened quickly after that. 

What is your career highlight so far?
That’s a hard one. One thing that does stick out in my mind was when I was asked to speak at a Leadership Day at McDill Air Force base where SoCom is based. I spoke to a room full of incredible leaders on Leadership Development and was truly humbled just to be in their presence. 

When or how are you most productive?
I’m an early riser and like to try to get a lot done by noon. I also like to read and often start projects after my wife goes to bed … so late nights are a productive time for me too (I don’t require a lot of sleep). 

Which industry professional do you admire most?
Another hard one. A past professional would be Paul Read, my father-in-law and the founder of our company, who was in our industry for 30 years. He is the picture of integrity and a values-based leader. He truly cared for all those who worked for him and deeply valued every client we ever had. Present day, there’s so many, but Jack Brown is a great business friend and stands out as such a good example of an integrity driven, visionary leader in our industry. 

What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
I don’t know that I do anything better than everyone else, but I have pretty good problem-solving skills and enjoy the challenge of leading in difficult circumstances. 

What do you like most about this industry?
The fact that I have met and work with so many quality, values-driven leaders that would be successful in whatever professions they were in. 

What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
I wish we didn’t have to spend so much of our time, energy and resources on defending our companies and our industry from the unethical and unscrupulous elements of the legal community who have manipulated the system under the false narrative of consumer protection. I wish we could spend these resources in more effectively recovering revenue that would help our clients in their mission of healing. 

If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
Well, I pastored for 10 years in between my first 10 years and my now second 10 years with our company so that will always be a passion and a calling for me. And I’m just an old coach from way back so coaching baseball at some level and working with baseball kids down in the Dominican Republic would be an easy fit for me. 

Describe a typical work day.
If I’m in town I have the same schedule pretty much every weekday; Up at 5am, coffee, read my Bible and do my “quiet time,” coffee, the gym for a workout, coffee, early meetings a couple times a week, into the office, coffee, read the Wall Street Journal online, our local Business Journal, and a number of our industry resources which always includes Mike Gibb’s Daily Digest (seriously). Review my calendar and emails and meet with my staff. Appointments, meetings, speaking and teaching engagements, and vision-casting fill most of my days. I try to get a power walk in at or after lunch. Check emails and more meetings, appointments, projects and whatever the rest of the day calls for. I try hard to be out of the office by 6pm on weeknights and 4pm on Fridays.  

What is your guilty pleasure?
As you can tell, I like coffee way too much and golf occupies too much of my time and thinking (I’m still holding out for making the senior tour). 

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve had some great mentors and coaches who have given me a lot of wise advice over the years. One piece that I’ll never forget is “What you are speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you are saying.” 

What are you currently reading?
My Bible, lots of different magazines (I’m hooked on the Smithsonian right now), and the book, “Hunger in Paradise” by Rasmus Ankersen.  

What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I’ve got the best wife a man could ever have (in my opinion). 

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Jay Gonsalves, if he hasn’t already. 

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