Business Article

Is your agency staying one step ahead of  By Jeff Fluty
the modern professional debtor? Brown & Joseph, Ltd.

Commercial collections has seen a rapid evolution.  Additional oversight, technology, legislation and even media have all influenced the way B2B firms conduct business and work to keep performance numbers high and exposure low for their clientele.  The biggest factor working against successful collection efforts, may be the equally rapid evolution of the “professional debtor”.  Since this same individual has access to much of the same technology and often more protection from legislation, what steps are you taking to limit your liability and recover what is owed?

In the military, it’s called intelligence.  Without it, the most advanced weapons in the world are useless.  In oil and gas, successful exploration is the difference between spending and making money.  For miners, the term is prospecting.  Get it right and you’re a tycoon.  Get it wrong and you’re a fool, and a broke one at that. While there might not be a common term for it in commercial collections, the elite firms are, or should be, doing it too.  The most highly skilled collector with technology on his side is only effective if he’s on the right trail.


“Our firm uses the latest technology.”  That’s great, so does my cell phone.  At a very basic level, your agency SHOULD use technology to enhance the client experience.  At a minimum, this should include dynamic reporting, online account access, multiple options for securely transmitting data and files, and audit trail capabilities.  Recording all calls can also limit liability of both client and agency while allowing attorneys on both sides to sleep a bit more soundly.  However, if you’re agency isn’t collecting, then all of the latest technical features won’t keep management from tossing and turning. 

A successful collection begins prior to any calls even taking place.  Before firing off a collection letter or making a phone call, a collector should have as complete a picture as possible of a debt they’re pursuing.  Is the company in business?  Are the principals named as personal guarantors?  Do they have tax liens, judgments, or rapidly spiraling payment trends?  These are all factors that may change the approach taken by the collector.  While some information is gathered during the credit granting stage, the rest is available to those agencies utilizing database services for scoring, skip tracing, and asset searches.  With a clear picture, a collector can have a more honest discussion about not only how a debtor will pay, but also when and by what means.  

Finding the responsible party

“An ounce of prevention…” makes a great deal of sense when it comes to granting credit.  Is your agency giving you feedback on what steps you can take to both limit your exposure and aid in collections for those that fall through the cracks?  In a recent Brown & Joseph newsletter (, Don Leviton referenced the value of a complete credit application. With multiple phone providers available to businesses today and technology allowing for less of a brick and mortar footprint, finding a savvy debtor has become an industry unto itself.  That said, a complete and comprehensive credit application can help a great deal.  This includes a personal guarantee.  (For a sample credit application, click here).  For those worried this might run off business, you might ask yourself what kind of business it is you’re running off.

Collecting from the Professional Debtor

Even when all precautions are taken, accounts will go bad.  In some cases, it is a well-meaning business owner in over their head.  While still not easy to recover what’s owed, you might at least be dealing with someone telling you the truth about their situation.  It could be worse.  Far too often these days, it’s someone who knows the system well enough to understand which consequences are more limiting.  The professional debtor is either generally unfazed by judgments, or knows how to stay out of the courts all together.  A colleague of mine, Dennis Falletti, wrote recently about “The Sweet Spot” (  The more polished debtor can often find this blind spot many organizations have and stay off the radar for quite a while.  Possibly initially acting out of fear, they can quickly escalate to virtual criminal status. 

Much like an overstretched gambler, a business owner in this situation might be convinced that if they stay in the game long enough, they can win back what is lost and owed.  If you’re the last person to grant this person credit, you may be the one left holding the bag.  A full service collection partner should offer avenues to identify these situations as they occur or,at the very least, early in the collection process.  Once they do, you then need something to get the attention of the professional debtor.  A mailbox full of letters from collection agencies are nothing new to this individual.  The one from an attorney gets opened first because the professional debtor knows they have to stay out of court to stay in business.  If your collection partner isn’t offering an escalated option that doesn’t come with escalated costs, you might ask why? 

Ultimately, the more steps taken by your collection partner will result in the likelihood that you’re able to stay one step ahead of today’s savvy, mobile debtor.  Communicating with your collection partner about what additional steps you should be taking is also key.  An elite agency will likely be making recommendations before you do and showing you the data to back up their position. 

To learn more about attorney driven collection efforts, credit scoring, enhanced credit applications or anything else mentioned in this article, please contact Jeff Fluty directly at either (214)295-8824 or



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