Getting to Know Angela Armstrong of State Collection Service

There were times when Angela Armstrong wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, and the COO of American Airlines. Reading her answers, it’s easy to see why she would have succeeded at any of those jobs, just as she is succeeding as the COO of State Collection Service. Angela truly believes it when she says the joy is in the journey, not the destinations. Read on to learn more about Angela, her love of bourbon, and her current favorite show to help her unwind after a long day at work.

Name: Angela Armstrong
Current Role/Job Title: Chief Operating Officer
Company: State Collection Service, Inc.
Length of time at current company: Ten months
Length of time in industry: Twenty-Three years

How did you get your start in the industry?
I was taking an accounting class and had an opportunity to intern for Central Management Services for two semesters which gave me insight (and interest) into accounts receivable management. This is where I had my first exposure to first- and third-party collections. After that, I took a full-time job with the central business office of then Alliant Health System, later to become Norton Healthcare where I began a focus in healthcare revenue cycle. That position led me to move on to outsourced healthcare revenue cycle and accounts receivable management, where I have spent the majority of my career.

What is your career highlight so far?
I’m a self-labeled better maker so I try to leave people and places better than when I found them. That being said, I have many career highlights, not just one. Anytime I see someone I worked with and coached get promoted, or when I get feedback from someone that they learned something from me, those are highlights. When morale improves and annual employee surveys come back with raving reviews, those are highlights. When I witness a team that didn’t work well together, listen, trust, and go through the four stages of team development — those are highlights. For me, there is joy in the journey, not just the destination.

When or how are you most productive?
Since I work from home and am in the eastern time zone, and an hour ahead of most everyone at State, I am most productive when the house is quiet after the morning hustle and bustle of kids getting off to school and before everyone else begins their conference calls and emailing for the day (7:30a-9:30a). Then again in the evening hours after kids go to bed, and most colleagues have logged off for the evening (8:30p-10:30p). It’s when all is quiet that I am most productive, and my brain has time to catch up on all of the need to-dos. Although, I do find quite a bit of productivity on an airplane, when it is quiet, and I get a few hours free from distraction.

Which industry professional do you admire most?
There are so many good choices, it’s hard to pick just one. However, after attending ARMTech I would say that Leslie Bender has quickly risen to the top of the list. Her knowledge of HIPAA/healthcare compliance is amazing, and we are all lucky to have her in the industry.

What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
Not sweat. I hate to physically sweat, but that is not what I mean. What I do mean is remaining cool, calm, and collected. Having a good sense of humor, flexing the power of positivity, and practicing my mindset allows me to not let anything get me stressed out or worked up. I’m a believer that all barriers can be overcome, and any crisis can be managed with a level head, plenty of logic, a bit of a plan, and the ability to have a laugh or two. I don’t sweat the small stuff, or the medium stuff, as far as the big stuff goes, well that’s why they make deodorant.

What do you like most about this industry?
I like challenge and change. This industry does not disappoint on either front. Being an OKR driver, I like getting to play both strategic and tactical roles at times to achieve the desired outcomes while navigating a changing landscape.

What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
Industry compression felt at all angles. In no particular order, regulations that make it harder to collect, never ending scope of work in order to remain competitive, the need to doing more with less, and increased costs to doing business. We all experience a constant flow of more, more, more without an expectation of sacrificing anything. More regulation, more client needs, more competitive pricing, more service level expectations, more expenses, etc. Our industry is compressing us all to be good, fast, and cheap, but I’m a believer that you can’t be all three.

If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I can think of so many things, but will not bore you with a long list, so here are the top few. As an operations professional I am enamored with logistics and transport specifically in air travel. For a very long time when asked about my dream job I always responded, “to be the COO of American Airlines”. Why American and not Delta, Southwest or one of the others? Ask me the next time you see me, and I’ll tell you why I picked that brand and that industry. When growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor, an anesthesiologist specifically. I suppose I would actually be doing that if other paths didn’t present themselves early in my college career. Finally, I have always had an interest in law and have contemplated going back to school to get my J.D. on multiple occasions. So, it’s possible that would have been an alternative as well. What kind of attorney? I knew you would be curious. Trial Attorney. If you’ve met me, that shouldn’t surprise you.

Describe a typical work day
Hmmm, I’m not sure there is much that is typical in any workday as each one is full of variety. My day starts fairly early and somedays, end very late. They are always chalked full of meetings, have lots of reports and to-dos which sometimes roll over to the next day because new priorities pop-up. I can usually count at least one, if not a few one-on-one touch points with my peers and/or my staff which is one of my favorite parts of the day!

What is your guilty pleasure?
I am a Netflix and chill, binge-watch-kinda-girl, so no surprise here that my guilty pleasure would be something on that list. Maybe I should be ashamed to even say it out loud, but if you haven’t seen The Ultimatum, you are missing one of the biggest trainwrecks to ever hit television. It is so terrible that you can’t stop watching. I’m pretty sure you experience almost every emotion during the season, but pure dumbfounded-ness is at the top of the list. Watch it.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
There are a few, but the one that has stuck with me the most is, “leaders eat last”. This is definitely something I believe and practice with my team, all of the time. It’s them before me. It’s not I, it’s we. I empower them, serve them, support them, and remove the barriers that get in the way of their success.

What are you currently reading?
A few things at the moment; “Leadershift” by John Maxwell, “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question” by John Miller, and “The Alchemist” by Paula Coello are all on my reading rotation this month. I just finished up “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni (for the 5th time) and “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni. Up next will be “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz

What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I’m from bourbon country, so I like bourbon. I will drink it neat, on the rocks, with a little diet and a splash of lime. I like old fashions, but not the kind they make in Wisconsin, the real kind, with good ole Kentucky Bourbon! I’ll take my bourbon just about anyway you want to make it, but don’t give it to me smoked, I don’t care for that.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Ah, you’re better at this than I am. Surprise us, Mike!

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