Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fundraising Basics

Today there are more non-profit and charity groups than ever. On the one hand, this is a great development (I hope) - it means that as a society we are becoming more aware of a need to give to others. We even see that people are taking the necessary steps to ensure that we help others. On the other hand, though, the presence of so many non-profits creates a unique problem - "donors burnout."
In short, did you realised that there are more donation drive running across your neighbourhoods, TVs and newspapers?
The increased competitiveness of fundraising has created a whole new business: The Fundraising Business. There are consulting firms that will help you fundraise more effectively - for a price, of course. There are also many companies that claim that their fundraising efforts or products will make money for your non-profit in exchange for a share in the profits.
Many people assume that fundraising is as simple as holding garage sales or some other activities until enough money is raised. If you only want to raise a small amount of money for a specific purpose (eg. student's fund for college), this may be fine, but for many groups using this approach is too uncertain and too limited to be very effective.
If your group will be around for a while because your organisation runs on donar's support, then you will want to raise money consistently in order to keep your group going. You will need to learn many things in order to keep enough money coming consistently: Fundraising is not an easy activity and it does requires skills to achieve the best results.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nearly 3 Hours A Day

A recent survey by Salary.com shows employee productivity may not be all that employers would like. According to the survey, "the average worker in the US admits to frittering away 2.09 hours per eight hour workday". This figure does not include lunch breaks or other scheduled break-time.
In Wisconsin, for every eight hours work an employer pays for, the employee is likely to deliver less than six. Respondents admit to wasting 2.8 hours on activities such as:
o Surfing the Internet for personal use
o Socializing with co-workers
o Conducting personal business
Take out employer sanctioned time off such as lunch breaks, vacation time and sick leave and the productivity picture looks even worse.
"Never has the argument for outsourcing been stronger" says Yvonne McCoy owner of Swift Office Services LLC, a Virtual Assistant firm based in Eagle, Wisconsin. Virtual Assistants (VAs) are fast becoming the small business owner's preferred choice for administrative and marketing support. VAs can substantially reduce the costs traditionally associated with hiring talent; they bill only for time on task and work remotely from their own fully equipped office. "This makes administrative support more affordable for the business owner who no longer needs to furnish his assistant with a desk, computer, telephone and all the other paraphernalia that goes with a direct hire."
"Nor does he need to worry how to keep the assistant fully occupied during slack periods" says McCoy. According to the survey, the number one time-wasting excuse is "Don't have enough work to do," reason enough for many to consider outsourcing over hiring. Since a whopping 33.2% of respondents cited this as their biggest reason for wasting time, small business owners need to seriously consider whether they can keep a new hire gainfully employed before committing to that kind of expenditure.
Swift Office Services LLC is one of a growing number of virtual assistant practices, operated by seasoned administrators who left the corporate world to become entrepreneurs. As McCoy states, "with innovations in communications and technology, many administrative and marketing functions can be undertaken from just about any location, and the resulting work easily transmitted by email, internet, fax or more traditional methods."
Just for the record, Wisconsin is not the biggest time wasting state. It ranks number four behind Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

4 Types of Debtors

Most people pay their debts on a timely basis. Some do not. There are basically 4 types of debtors that do not pay on a regular payment schedule.
Magician's Assistant
This is the hardest type to collect from. In their mind if they do not hear from you about the debt, then the debt does not exists. Thus, they do everything that they can to avoid contact. And if you do make contact they will try everything to get you off track. They will get you to try and focus on less important instances of the account, for example...it is your fault that you sent the letter to the wrong address, your company was not suppose to cash a check until a certain day, they never got your messages because you were leaving them at the wrong number, and on and on. This is where being the professional collector comes into play. You must remain focused, regardless of the smoke screen thrown at you. Get control of the conversation and keep it.
Worker Ant
This debtor is a hard worker. They are by nature, proud and do not easily ask for help. They go to work everyday, most of the time even when they are sick. They honestly believe that if they work just a little harder they will make the money necessary to pay off the debt. The problem is there is ALWAYS something that comes up and takes their money. The professional collector will show respect to this debtor and gentle nudge with ideas on how to better budget. If necessary let the debtor think it was their idea.
Cloud Walker
This debtor is not exactly grounded in reality. They believe that somehow tomorrow it will all work out. They believe that the payment date at the end of the month is fine because the money will just appear from somewhere. If they do not have the money today, it will be here tomorrow. The professional collector directs the debtor in the best direction to go. First, by asking questions that gets the debtor to understand that they as the debtor must make a plan, AND STICK TO IT.
The Frustrated Student
This debtor will probably fuss, yell, cry and vent in some other way within your conversation. It is important to note that the magician's assistant will possible act the same way. But, their reasoning is completely different. The magician's assistant will act out for the purpose of a smoke screen. The frustrated student is doing so because they are mad at themselves, their situation and their financial abilities. They want to take care of the debt but have no idea how. The professional collector will determine the difference. Then, will explain to the debtor that the frustration is normal, but both of you working together will find a successful answer.
It is important to determine the type of debtor that you are dealing with. Once you have determined the debtor's style you will have a better opportunity to overcome any objections that the debtor has in trying to repay their debt.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Godiva Chocolate

Has this every happened to you? You have an account that owes your company a considerable amount of money. Everything goes well for awhile. The payments are made on time, the debtor calls you just because he wants to know how he can make your day better (hey, this is my dream!).
Then one day no more calls and worse yet, no more payments. You, being the good employee that you are, attempt to call them and you discover that they have disappeared off of the face of the planet. So, you go back through your previous issues of Collection Advisory to look in the Skip Trace column to ensure your best possibility of finding your debtor. You begin your search process and you can not find any thing, WHAT NOW?
The question is, are you looking for the right information? Confirming the information that you begin with is essential. Are you certain that the name, address social security number and phone number were TOTALLY correct from the start? I know the debtor gave you every bit of information that you asked for, but if you did not get the complete information you may have to spend considerable time, money and effort to get it corrected. Let me explain:
Have you spelled the name correctly? Is it John, Jon, Jonn? Is he Jr., Sr., II or III? Is Smith her maiden or married name? Too many times we begin a search and later determine that the person we are looking for is actual the son or father of the person that we have found.
Is the address an apartment or mobile home park or a duplex? If so, the address is not 123 Main St. Instead it may be 123 Main St. Lot 1, or 123 Main St, Apt 14...you get the picture. Additionally, what if the residence is on family land, therefore you may have one driveway and multiple addresses. Go  to determine the truest possible address that is listed.
Social Security Number
This can be a tricky one. Is the social security number that you have for the debtor the actual number issued by the Social Security Administration? It is not difficult to have multiple credit bureaus in one's name. However, due to the identity thieves out there I will not discuss how that can happen here. Go to determine what state a SSN was issued.
The first three digits of a social security number dictate in which state that number was issued. If you have the legal ability to pull the credit bureau, look in the header section for the age or date of birth. This is a little trick to see if it is the correct credit bureau. If you do not see either the age or date of birth, most of the time it is not the number issued to them by the SSA.
There are several free websites that you can go to and determine what state and what year a social security number was issued. If a number was issued ten years before the debtor was born chances are that is not the correct SSN.
Phone Number
When the information was originally gathered the debtor told you that this is their home phone number, is it really? Is it a land line, the wire that runs from the pole to the jack on the wall? Or, is it a cell phone? There a few free websites that you can go to and determine if a phone number is a cell phone or a land line. Go to  input the area code and the prefix, the first three numbers of the phone number. You will discover if it is a cell or land line, what city and state it was issued and the telephone company that assigned that number. Also remember, there are internet companies now that will issue you a phone number with the area code of your choosing.
Godiva Chocolate is one of the most expensive chocolates in the world. The reason, they claim, is that that start with the best ingredients. We need to be the same. We need to start with totally correct information. Just like the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. No deposit no return. A bird in the hand... OK, OK enough with clich├ęs. Confirm the information that you start with and you WILL save time, money and effort.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Debt Collection Tips

Are you new to the collections industry? Are you not exactly sure what to say or to do? The collection industry can be both exciting and frightening. There is a lot to learn. From the laws that pertain to the debt collection industry, to using the proper technique and the whole abiding by company policy thing. Don't Worry. Below we have listed some of thoughts, the ideas and the memories of experiences' past. Hope you find the useful.
Confirm the debtor's information
Document everything in your notes
Sound like a friend not a collector
Always ask with confidence
Make the debtor aware the responsibility is on them
Keep the debtor honest
Always be professional
Always control the conversation
Sound assertive
Help with budgeting
Ask for the money
Keep it immediate
Encourage timely payments
Develop multiple ways to contact debtor
Be confident
Create convenience
Keep disconnected telephone numbers
Keep references up to date
Handle the objection during the call
What are the nick names
Never under estimate silence
Loosing control - put them on hold
Establish and maintain good debtor relationship
Feel where the debtor is coming from
Be consistent
Be patient
Keep it simple
Be ready to write notes
Now you have got the foundation. The seed has been planted. The baton has been passed. You are now in charge. It is up to you to make it grow. Make it happen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Great Debate

There is a debate that has surfaced in the skip trace world in the past few years.
No, we are not talking about the battle over paper or plastic or even the cola wars. Should you use real skip tracers or just databases? This has crossed the mind of more than one collection manager. There are pros and cons to each side.
Let's take a look at just using databases first. It starts with subscribing to a database which offers name, address, phone number and so on. You input the information you have onto the request screen and request new information. The updated information is then returned to you. Usually it is not very (a relative term) expensive. You then use the information recently obtained to collect funds, property or whatever you are after. When it is described like that it sounds perfect doesn't it?
Unfortunately now for the down side. The database companies work very hard at keeping their information up to date and some of them are very reputable companies. That being said, here is how it works. The database companies mainly get their information the same ways. Everything from magazine subscriptions to public records are mixed together to get information on everyone. However, even with their best attempts, it does not take long to become outdated. The database companies claim that they are kept up to date most of the time. But, that is the same thing as saying, we have just skip traced every person in the country and we have their information. That doesn't seem to be possible.
Now the other side of the debate. A skip tracer is a living being that uses different resources, skills and experiences to obtain the needed information to find a person or property's whereabouts. Using every legal means they obtain the information that they are after. Once they find, they verify the information to ensure that it is correct. A skip tracer has the ability to read between the lines and put two and two together above and beyond just getting the requested information. Again, this sounds like the perfect solution.
Yes, there is a down side to only having skip tracers. Usually they are more expensive than databases. Sometimes they are moody or miss work due to sickness, vacation and other human tragedies. Even worse, sometimes they quit. Where does that leave your company?
Both sides can make an argument here. Both have really good points to validate their use. However, both have short comings that can reduce YOUR productivity. Oh what is a good manager to do? One costs less, but you don't really know if the information is correct. The other will take in all of the variables, read between the lines and verify the information gathered but can run the risk of being out of work due to human reasons.
So what is the answer? Put simply, a combination of the two is the answer. How much of each will be determined by the needs and abilities of your company.
Money is going to be the key. Does your company have the funds to hire and properly train a skip tracer? A skip tracer (just like any other tool) needs to be kept in proper working order to be as efficient as possible. This is done by providing constant educational opportunities to be kept abreast of changes in the laws, techniques, contacts and resources available to the skip trace industry.
Have your resources be as beneficial as possible. Stay in close contact with the database companies and the outsource companies that you use so that you get the most out of your resource dollar. Develop a tier system for your skip trace efforts. Let the value of the account determine exactly how much is done. You don't want to spend a thousand dollars to collect a ten dollar account. An easy way to do this is to separate your skip accounts into three levels: high balance, medium balance and low balance. Then assign exactly what steps will be done for each level. Work smarter not harder. Finally, if you determine that you can't hire someone full time but you can add the skip trace responsibility to the schedule of a current employee. Let there be a separation of duties. You have to think in a different mindset sometimes when you are skip tracing so determine a time that they will only do skip tracing.
These are the basics. As always if you have any questions ask a trusted and reputable person or company to help you work out the fine points.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tools of a Skip Tracer

Would you go to a dentist if the only tools she used are a chainsaw and a stick? Would you take your car to be serviced by a mechanic whose only tools were a chocolate bar and hairspray? Would you want to your child to go to an elementary school that only taught from a set of 1964 encyclopedias?
Do you see the connection?
It is simple- really. Every industry has tools that can be specific to that industry. The dentist would never use a chainsaw (even though it may feel like it). They use tools that are designed and that are necessary for the successful completion of their task- to assist with proper dental hygiene. The same holds true for ever other profession and industry. At the same time, to take tools that may not be useful to an industry can slow down the process.
So here comes the question. Why is it that those that skip trace do not utilize the tools that are available to our profession or we try to use the tools of other professions to do our job?
What are the tools available to the skip trace industry? You've heard me talk about some of them. Databases, each other and our minds. But, what are some other tools available to us? Below is a list. I'm not calling it a complete list, because we think out side of the box and have incredible imaginations, so the list will never be completed. Not all of these will apply to your needs, but maybe it will spark some ideas and you can add to the list.
Have caller ID setup on ALL incoming calls. When you ask for a debtor for their number, is it matching up with the number they are calling from? If possible, through you phone provider have a report available to you per day of all received calls (just incase you miss it and they don't leave a message). Any numbers that you do not recognize reverse that number and see what you get.
Most of us already use these. They can be very useful for obtaining additional information on your debtor or those around them.  There are several more available, do some research and see which best suites your needs.
These websites have gathered tons of links to public record sites. Most of them
separate the information by state.
On these websites you enter various information of the debtor, public records and
other websites are searched and the results are provided in a quick easy to
understand format. . These really speed up the investigation process.
This is where I daydream about a database that you can enter the information for two different people at the same time. Then with the same process of the other databases information is researched on both subjects then is compared for anything that is the same and that information is returned to the user. This way you can determine if there is a spouse or roommate or significant other. The reason that I daydream is because to my knowledge no such database exist at this time. However, if it does PLEASE let me know.
Whatever you call it. A worksheet, a checklist or a form. This is what the investigator uses to make sure that every stone has been turned, every nook and cranny (what's a cranny?) has been checked for information to help locate the debtor.
This provides another option to reach out a touch the debtor. By sending a letter with PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED printed on the envelope is an easy way to get determine if the debtor has moved and left a forwarding address. The downside to sending a letter is the turn around time.
There are two different approaches direct and indirect. Direct is determining the information that you need contact the people that have that information and ask them for it. Indirect is also called pretext or social engineering. Determine what information that you need then develop a story, contact the people that have that information and present your story so that they will give you the information that you need. Sometimes pretexting is illegal; please make sure you know both the federal and your state laws that apply.
This is a service provide by various telephone companies. When someone calls a trap line the number is captured. It does not matter if it is non published or published you will get a report of all numbers. You can setup a standard toll free number to do this but it takes up to 30 days to get results.
This is a phone line that is simple answered as "hello". It is not answered with the company name or with the professionalism of the company. It is answered in the same way that you would you home phone.
There are companies that can be used or phone systems that can be purchased allowing the user to change their outgoing Caller ID information.
Collections and skip tracing need to be physically separated. It helps with the mindset of the skip tracer as well as not allowing the other party to hear a demand for payment in the background.
A spider web works because there are many strands connected. If your debtor is running from you they are probably running from someone else. We need to work together.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Skip tracing is a game of hide and seek. The debtor is hiding you are seeking, it's that simple.
A skip tracer MUST stay up to date with laws, procedures and resources to be the best that they can. About a once a year seminar that includes laws, processes, skill sets and resources with the ability to network should do the trick.
We have the skills. We have the resources. We have the tools. Lets show the rest of the world how the professionals do it!
Oh, if you come up with some more to add to the list-please send a copy my way.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Business Lesson from Baseball

Few personalities dominated the American scene like basball slugger George Herman "Babe" Ruth. He entered the major leagues as a pitcher, but also won fame with the Boston Red Sox as a powerful hitter.
Since a pitcher can't play every day, somebody recommended Babe be placed in the outfield. This may have been one of baseball's greatest decisions.
Babe was traded to the New York Yankees in 1920, and became a superstar, media personality, and a hero to millions. He played 22 years, compiled a lifetime batting average of .342, and slammed an amazing 714 home runs.
In 1927 he also set a season record for homers with 60. That mark stood until 1961.
Babe was a large, powerful man. When I watch him in old newsreels, it appears he's swinging to hit the home run. He once said, "If I just tried to hit singles, I'd bat .600."
The Babe knew his fame came from power hitting. It's what the fans came to see, and he seldom disappointed them.
One time somebody asked Babe if he ever felt guilty that he made more money than the President of the United States. Asked Babe, "How many home runs did the President hit last year?"
Even back then, Babe symbolized a publicity secret we sometimes forget: recognition often comes to (a) the first to accomplish something, (b) the best at it, or (c) the first one to tell the world about it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finding Weakness in the Competitor Strength

"The most perfectly designed package in use."
Above statement was made by Raymond Loewy on the six and half ounce bottle of coca-cola folks in Atlanta (coca-cola base) obviously felt that the coke bottle was there greatest strength. They used that in every add and even trade marked it.
But every strength has inherent weakness Guerrilla marketer know that.
It was mix of Economic situation and shrewd use of Guerilla tactics in early thirties, which help the minnows of cola war raise their head above the water line. In the great depression, cash was scantly available.
Pepsi cola's key marketing approach was the 12- ounce bottle that would sell for same niche that would buy only six and half ounce of coca-cola.
It was a brilliant strategy executed in a spectacular way it hit the mark, especially with the young cola, kids went for quantity rather than quality. Pepsi use this old saying and hit the bull's eye. It was a perfect guerrilla attack. With limited budget coca-cola spent around $15 million in that year while Pepsi went with 12 ounce bottle with a $600,000 ad budget.
Now coke was in fix. They can't go for each bottle capacity increase without scraping a billion dollar and their greatest strength the six and half ounce bottle.
Guerrilla knows how to exploit the situation. Even over whelming competitor strength. Pepsi know it would be difficult for coke to turn back and attack is a swift action and they will have a big time gap between the reaction, a year or two.
Then the last nail in the coffin with Pepsi generation. Coca-cola was 100 years old brand people use to recognize them with coke brand older people were keener to drink coke. A younger person always has a tendency to rebel against old way of doing things and living. Pepsi turned the heat on with Pepsi generation. In 1964, the idea found wings with a classic, "Come alive, you are in the Pepsi generation."
Pepsi new strategy was to position not itself but the competition, "out of step, out of touch, and out of date."
Along with that this approach target the youth whose natural tendency was rivalry with old generation. Pepsi also use music, which was traditional weapon of teenager to show their rebellion approach. Younger generation started to attach themselves with Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. Result was a reduced coke leadership from 2.5 to 1 to 1.25 to 1 and eventually under able leadership of John Shcoulley Pepsi toppled coke from its leadership. Pepsi won the battle. But war is on.
Think again what was coke strength......actually?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Strength is a Weakness Also

McDonald's become the largest national fast - food chain in eighties. They had found their perfect recipe for success. And they were all out to defend their turf come the hell. McDonald strength was the hamburger, its uniformity instant delivery and inexpensiveness.
The advertising said about the top of the live, the Big Mac: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun."
What should be the best strategy to attack a leader, who is all out to defend his ground?
Simple, change the battle ground and rules itself. Study the leader and take 180° about turn and walk and choose your own ground to launch an attack.
That's what burger king did to Mac. They study Mac strength and choose the stark opposite approach.
"Have it your way".
Burger king advertisement exclaimed at Mac and attracted customer who prefer to choose their own way to eat their hamburger from their very own plate. "Have it your way" was a clear differentiator between the two chains. Also the effect was, Mac was squeezed. They can't afford to tamper their hard earned, finely turned system in order to match the Burger king. At least not so early.
That when guerrilla wins the battle- when competition is not prepare and unable to turn around and defend itself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Parable For Contracting Failure

Why Successful Government Contractors Never "Wear Flip-Flops"
A photo of Northwestern University's national championship women's lacrosse team, taken during the athletes' recent visit to the White House, shows most of the nine women in the front row wearing flip-flop sandals along with their dresses and skirts. This created a flip-flop flap.
The entire flip-flop flap is based upon presenting oneself in the appropriate manner to suit the audience. Yes, the young women were inexperienced in dressing to meet the President, but their mistake was in using their own judgment based upon acceptable dress in situations they normally experience. They failed to look at the acceptable dress from the point of having an audience with the President of the United States at the White House.
What can flip-flops (the shoes, not the political posturing) possibly have to do with government procurement contracting practices? And how do they relate to failure at procurement contracting?
Everyday, businesses large and small, well-established and brand new, try to open the door to doing business with the government, but they are in reality "wearing flip-flops." The successful contractors have understood what is appropriate and what is not. When government procurement personnel and end-users see how the company presents itself, they make a snap decision to open or shut the door, literally and figuratively.
What are some of the specific situations that will slam the door right in your face?
Let's take a look at common situations and how they rate in the flip-flop rating system below. While this is a light-hearted look, the message cannot be more serious. Pay attention or risk closing the door on yourself!
Rating system:
3 flip-flops:
The worst you can do. Essentially guarantees you failure at government contracting.
2 flip-flops:
Claiming ignorance is no excuse, you must react quickly to turn this around.
1 flip-flop:
Irritating but forgivable.
3 Flip-flops: The worst you can do. Essentially guarantees you failure at government contracting.
    You have no web site. Your web site is "under construction". Your email is @hotmail, gmail or some other free service. You do not clearly understand how the agency's mission is related to your products or services. Your Capability Statement or Statement of Core Competencies is 30 pages of self-congratulations. Your bid package or proposal is on time but incomplete. You think the contracting officer does not know the best solution, so you propose something outside the scope of the bid. You send unsolicited faxes. You send out mass emails to purchased lists. You expect the procurement officer to give you special attention or information. You complete the bid package after the due date. You make demanding phone calls. You send "free samples" or other items to your prospects exceeding the accepted dollar value.

2 flip-flops: Claiming ignorance is no excuse, you must react quickly to turn this around.
    Your web site has no mention of your government contracting expertise or focus. Your web site has flash animation on the home page. Your email name is not business-oriented. Your email is at a non-business domain (@comcast, @netscape, @earthlink). Your domain name bears no relation to your business name. Your Capability Statement is not specifically geared toward the agencies specific needs. Your Capability Statement includes outdated information. You have an AOL email account, period. You expect the Small or Minority Business Liaison to do your work for you. You expect respect and trust right away, without taking the time and effort to build a relationship based on experience and dedication. You bid low in order to get the work while hoping to make up for it on other jobs. Now that you have the certification (8a, SDVOB, etc) you expect business to fall into your lap. Now that you have a GSA Schedule, you expect instant contracts. You push your "certification" before establishing the fact that you can help that buyer or agency with their mission.

1 flip-flop: Irritating but forgivable
    Your web site one and only page is very, very long. Your web site uses American flags and other symbols inappropriately. You leave repeated phone calls, showing your irritation when you do not get an immediate call back. You jump right into a pitch as soon as a live person answers the phone without asking if they are the person to whom you should be speaking. You send one direct mail piece to lots of people and expect to get immediate orders. You apply the same processes used in the corporate market to the government market.
If you see yourself committing any of these mistakes, you can mitigate the damage by making immediate changes to your current strategies. Learn from your mistakes, turn them around and plan for future contracting success.