Getting to Know Sean Clark of Provana

Sean Clark’s entry into the accounts receivable management industry may have been serendipitous, but his growth and emergence as an industry leader was not a happy coincidence. It was the result of hard work and a willingness to go the extra mile for his clients. Read on to learn more about Sean, his productive approach to tackling his work, and how cooking brings him closer to his family.

Name: Sean Clark
Current Role/Job Title: Senior Vice President, Platforms. I lead our incredibly talented product teams as they ideate, build, and support our technology-enabled solutions.
Company: Provana
Length of time at current company: I joined Provana in 2016, at that time to build a consultative practice around business intelligence needs of collection law firms.
Length of time in industry: Almost 20 years!

How did you get your start in the industry?
Back in the early 2000’s I was a Network Engineer. My side hustle was finding small business clients in the evenings, fixing and troubleshooting their computers. One of my clients was a little law firm (I came to learn that it was a creditors’ rights firm) who asked me to put in their first server and 10 workstations. As their practice grew, they asked me to join as the Director of IT. So it was an evening side hustle that got me into the industry!

What is your career highlight so far?
In 2013, I finished my MBA and the partners of the firm asked me to become the Director of Operations. This was a huge, exciting step for me… moving from a purely technology role as Director of IT and evolving to plan the firm’s strategy and lead the implementation with each of my teams. It was an important way to evolve out of the “individual contributor” role and into true oversight and management role- to be accountable for an outcome that required the combined and disparate efforts of multiple teams. Scary, and exciting, and ultimately very fulfilling.

When or how are you most productive?
I am most productive in the evenings. My mornings are all meetings, back to back. My afternoons are trying to get the “business of the day” done, managing to open items and my inbox. But in the evening, after the kids are asleep, I can actually stare at a project or an idea and think it through.

Which industry professional do you admire most?
My first industry conference was a (then) NARCA over 10 years ago. I was being introduced to scores of people by my mentor and first boss in this industry, Irwin Kirschenbaum. He introduced me to the COO of a debt buyer and said, “That is the sharpest operator in the industry”. I’ll hide names to protect the innocent but I have always had tremendous respect for the operators and drivers in this industry who have come up through the ranks, understanding every corner of the business, and who evolve themselves to keep growing.

What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
I don’t know if I do anything better than anyone else! I think one of my strengths is being able to break down a problem, puzzle out the pieces, and untangle a solution that was there all along.

What do you like most about this industry?
The networking. This is a small industry, full of people who have known each other for a long time, creating deep and long-lived relationships. I am grateful to be part of a community that continually works to make itself better and build strong relationships across all facets of the industry.

What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
Get people to stop thinking that there is a secret sauce. In all the experience I have with scores of companies, the best companies are the ones who focus on execution, execution, execution. The ones who base their improvement on a better score, or a better algorithm, instead of a better process, are the ones who I think struggle the most!

If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be an English teacher at the local high school! And still doing a side hustle at night to fix computers because I love it 😊

Describe a typical work day
I try to start my day with two things. First, the short list of what I want to accomplish today. Second- clean the inbox so I can feel like the day started on a productive note. I spend most mornings in calls with my India teams, meeting with my Heads of Product, Sales, Marketing, and support teams. My afternoons are dedicated to client calls, meetings with prospective clients, and chasing down the 100 details that drive our days. Most evenings will have some more reflective or review time, to see where I landed on my objectives for the day.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Scrolling through a news feed… but it’s the easiest way to get pulled in and find yourself wasting time and brain cells.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
In the business world, you cannot ever be afraid of training or hiring someone who could replace you. The only way to push yourself for personal and career growth is to grow a strong team around you. If the people you are training or guiding could not some day replace you, how could you ever expect to grow more? You cannot move forward until you find someone capable of meeting (or exceeding) your own expectations for yourself.

What are you currently reading?
Just finished “Fairy Tale” by Stephen King. In the middle of “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, for the amazing industry book club, “Receivables Readers”. Next up: “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov.

What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I love to cook! I have a big family, so the joy of my week is getting all the meals cooked and prepped. I enjoy taking feedback (and critiques) from the kids, and constantly evolving a super healthy, super delish family menu every week.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Kurt Baese, President of JST

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