If a business has debt and doesn’t pay, a debt collection agency will be on the hunt to track the money down. That’s where Dean Kaplan comes in. As CEO of The Kaplan Group, a commercial collections agency that deals with business debt, his company has collected tens of millions of dollars to return to their clients.
“We’re very motivated to collect the money,” Kaplan says. “If somebody’s business got into so much debt that they have to go out of business, then I want that to happen, because otherwise they’re going to take advantage of more people who keep doing business with them.”
If Kaplan sounds tough, it’s because he’s worked in debt collection for 17 years. Before taking the business over from a family member, he owned several manufacturing and consulting companies, and his outside perspective helped change his own misconceptions about the industry.
“When I first heard about it, I was concerned because I thought that collectors were mean, angry, nasty people trying to get money from people who didn’t have it,” he says. “But what I saw was that we solve a business problem.”
But not all of those stereotypes are unfounded, Kaplan says.
“In our industry, it’s like anything else: there’s a full spectrum of people in it and a full spectrum of approaches,” he says. “[There are] agencies that are very aggressive with their approach and that’s how they train their collectors. They may follow the law but they’re still extremely aggressive.”
For Kaplan’s firm, that approach doesn’t fly.
“Those who have been at it for awhile, they understand that being aggressive isn’t necessarily the right way to go,” he says. “Working with people is the way to get it done.”
When a business contacts Kaplan’s company, the debt collector starts gathering the facts about the case, collecting paperwork and information about the debt to learn as much as they can about the debt owed.
Then, it’s time to reach out to the company who owes the debt. Much of the time, they’re not happy to get that call.
“Their reaction is all over the place, from the people who are aggressive and hang up on you, to the people that call you nasty names without knowing who we are, to the people who are very embarrassed about having debt,” Kaplan says.
Regardless of the tone of the conversation, the end goal is the same: keep them talking.
“Our job is, regardless of who we’re dealing with, let them talk and then you look for the consistency in their story and the inconsistency,” he says. “We’ve got to then decide, are they telling us the truth or are they trying to mislead us and send us down a path to not pay.”
The Kaplan Group’s success rate is high: more than 85% of the time, they collect on the outstanding debt, and 97% of time they avoid needing to bring the debtor to court, Kaplan says.
“We work hard to get the other side to realize it’s going to be less expensive and less painful if they work with us to get a solution,” he says.
While Kaplan works with commercial clients, he says if individuals are contacted by a debt collector, they should beware of scams.
“One of the problems our industry faces is it’s ripe for scammers. They are really good and they come off as if they know what they’re doing,,” Kaplan warns. “If you get contacted by a debt collector, write down all their information because you want to make sure it’s legitimate.”
Then, check them out.
“Check it out online make sure that who you’re dealing with is who they say they are and that that they are licensed,” he says. “Understand who is on the other side of your phone.”
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