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Treat people well for the best outcome

After 13 years in the credit management field I’ve learned something really important that I would like to share.

In particular, in the past four years we have run NZ Repossession Services, we have carried out more than 300 incident-free high-risk repossessions involving debtors with serious criminal violent offending histories and/ or who are active Methamphetamine users. And I have found that no matter who the person is, or what activity you are doing, your attitude and approach is everything.

We have woken up people at 6.30am who most people would not want to come across on their best day to hand them a winning lotto ticket for fear of violent reprisal, and relieved them of their only vehicle. The way we do this is not exactly ground-breaking. We simply treat people with respect, compassion and we always act with a spirit of resolution, not one of dominance or superiority.

We are either on the doorstep to cause a problem or fix a problem. And those are the two ways that we can be viewed. People want to help you fix a problem for them – and they will always want to stop you causing one.

It is ingrained to respond in kind to how you are spoken to. If you went into a church, rest home, or any other typically serene and non-combative environment and looked for a fight, I would bet you’d find it if you looked hard enough. As noted, the reaction you get is a result of the action you take and the attitude you bring with you. Once someone feels threatened or cornered, they will react in one of two ways – fight or flee. But neither of those options are what we want in the recovery of assets. Violent interactions, no matter how they end up, cause a huge amount of paperwork and follow-up investigations if not a Ministry of Justice / police investigation.

In addition, our client’s asset could be at risk of damage or destruction. In short, no one wins if everyone loses. Our company has an over 95 percent success rate in the recovery of assets for clients, which shows that you can achieve ethical profitability even in the most unlikely industry.

When we began doing repossession work, we made a conscious decision to set ourselves apart from the aggressive, thuggish Neanderthal image that has beset our industry due to unrealistic “reality“ TV portrayals of unintelligent repo agents getting into scraps on every job and embarrassing the debtors for the entertainment of couch potatoes.

I count myself fortunate that I found myself in a horrendous financial situation as a younger and much less prudent individual. Then I had a few things repossessed and nearly found myself going bankrupt. After 15 years and a lot of hard work I am no longer in a bad place financially. But I know exactly how it feels to be on the other side of this transaction.

So how could I ever dare look down on people who are only different to myself because of the passage of time? I have learned how to get out of debt the hard way and love seeing others do the same. Even something as small as informing the debtor that the default fees stop when the asset is repossessed, and that this could save them $50-$100 a week, can make a huge difference. It can help them understand that they could move on and get ahead, rather than languishing under mounting fees by hiding themselves or the asset.

In any interaction with another human, there is the opportunity to either harm or help. When you have the opportunity to encounter someone who a large section of society would look down upon, sometimes a simple show of respect and compassion from someone who has been there can make a world of difference.

Just a thought

Nick Kerr
Nick Kerr
Nick Kerr is regional manager for DebtFree NZ Ltd and director of International Private Investigations Ltd. He can be reached on 021 876 527 and Nick@debtfreenz.com

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