Mr. Bernheim has been employed within the ARM industry for the last 23 years. His career started at Arrow Financial Services where he spent 12 years rising through the ranks from the position of Account Representative to Director of Outsource Recoveries for a 17.2b book of business with responsibilities that included oversight of a global network of services.
His proven strategic leadership abilities and hands-on project and personnel management experience, while managing, motivating, and leading geographically distributed teams were instrumental to his success at Arrow. It is precisely that domestic and international experience at Arrow Financial Services in conjunction with a focus on analytics based decisioning which formed the foundation of his current skill set.
At present and for the last almost 11 years, Mr. Bernheim has been integral to the successful design, construction and implementation of Asset Recovery Solutions recovery strategies as he has direct oversight for all internal and external Asset Recovery Solutions operations.
How did you get started in this business?
Many years ago, a good friend who has long since retired from the Asset Receivables Management industry strongly suggested that my skill set was well suited to this industry. As a result and after years of being prodded, I agreed to give it a try. Since there is no higher education course of study in which to learn the Asset Receivables Management industry, I started at the bottom and learned the business from the ground up. It was a very difficult journey, but the lessons learned were very impactful toward the formation of who I am today. In fact, I would suggest this same path for anyone who wishes to enter this business.
How do you make money?
The Asset Receivables Industry is a fee based business. This ensure that the interests of credit originators, debt buyers and collection agencies are aligned. There is a misconception in the public arena that collection agencies are without empathy for the consumer, but that is simply untrue.
In fact, the ARM industry places delinquent borrowers on long term manageable payment plans or offers discounted settlements that are appropriate to the consumer’s budget. Fee is earned regardless of the length of time required for a consumer to repay their obligation, so in that way the interests of the collection agency and the consumer are also aligned.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
The old saying is that you pay your people before you pay yourself. But in addition to paying your people, there is overhead such as rent, utilities, vendors and so on. Therefore, it took a few years before Asset Recovery Solutions was able to cover its operating expenses and payroll while at the same time affording a living to ownership. At the end of the day it was approximately 3 years before the company became truly profitable.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I had no doubt that my business partners and I would make it work. We had each been in the industry for quite some time and understood the business at all levels. Additionally, we were highly motivated and well aware of the challenges that we would face. Lastly and most importantly, we each had the full support of our spouses. I would not suggest that a person undertake any type of business endeavor unless they are either on their own or have the emotional support of their family.
How did you get your first customer?
My former employer, Arrow Financial Services has been acquired by another company. Therefore, I was able to solicit former clients of Arrow in an effort to build Asset Recovery Solutions. This provided the additional benefit of my being a known entity to prospective clients. Fortunately, my former position as Director of Outsource recoveries was forward facing to clientele, so my name and therefore my brand was well established in the industry.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
While referrals are the core marketing strategy of every business, I have found great success in networking through industry conferences. It is also beneficial to write article for publication in industry related media. Lastly, attendance at workshops and seminars to further my current skill set has proven to be an excellent means of connecting to new relationships with professionals in ancillary industries such as banking and consumer lending.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
It is important to focus on the quality of client relationships and not be distracted by other intangibles. I had a client whom we has serviced for the last almost 5 years. The profit margins were historically small, but we made it work. Based upon recent changes to the client’s business model, we were forced to reject certain portfolios that that the client wished Asset Recovery Solutions to service. I stated that without an appropriate fee to service the business, we would not be able to perform to our true capabilities.
As a result, I reduced our footprint with this client. However, we kept the client and they respected our transparency. Honesty and transparency go a long way toward making those difficult business decisions much easier to make.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I am brutally honest and direct. The fact that my clientele understands this about me makes my communications more meaningful. While nobody is perfect, it is imperative that those who do business with you in any industry understand that they can trust you. Without trust, there can be no business or personal relationship. It is the bridge to success.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I pursued a client on behalf of Asset Recovery Solutions over a period of 4 years. Many times I was turned away or discouraged, but I was relentless. I maintained a positive attitude and built that relationship so that when the opportunity to join their network of servicers presented itself, we were given consideration for an RFI as well as an interview. That client remains one of our most valued customers to this day.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
The asset Receivables Industry is a vital component of our economy. Without checks and balances, the economy would fail. The only consumer who would be able to obtain credit would be those who do not require it. My expectation is that the industry will continue to flourish while at the same time develop its brand with the consumer. That relationship with the consumer is vital to the continued success of the Asset Receivables Management industry. The consumer must understand that we are a partner in their efforts to resolve credit delinquencies.
What business books have inspired you?
I highly recommend the books Good to Great by James Collins as well as an age old standby entitled How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Good to Great is focused upon company culture and ensuring that your personnel is in the right ‘seats’. The book by Carnegie self explanatory, but to be successful a person must be able to verbally interact with others – not simply communicate through text or email.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be patient. Be kind. Have empathy. Listen. Give of yourself.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
I am a mentor to others and certainly would be happy to continue doing so for anyone who desires that type of business relationship. If I myself did not have a mentor many years ago, then I would not be where I am today. The most efficient means of reaching me is via email.