TUPELO — Who said 13 is an unlucky number? Not Franklin Collection Service Inc. Just recently Collection Credit Risk magazine placed Franklin Collection 13th in the U.S. in its “Top 50 Collections Agencies” list as ranked by 1998 revenue.
“Persistence,” said Dan Franklin, president and chief executive officer of Franklin Collection, when asked the key to the company’s rise to national prominence. “I’m proud — very proud.”
Franklin’s pride is even better appreciated when considering where the company has come from. Celebrating its 20th anniversary just last month, the Kingsport, Tenn.-native moved to Mississippi as a sales representative for a pneumatic staple company.
Concurrently, Franklin had a friend in West Virginia who had launched a debt collection agency and was doing very well. Armed with that and the desire to build a success, Franklin started the company with himself as staff and his house as headquarters.
Franklin described the early days as “touch and go.” He said he had a lot of support, however. A physician friend hired him that first month. The next month, he had four clients.
Today, Franklin Collection has 150 people on its payroll. Those employees are scattered between corporate headquarters in Tupelo (currently located on West Jackson Street, the company has grown so that it is in its sixth different locale), Birmingham, Ala. (opened a little over two years ago) and Nashville (opened about two years ago). Most, however, are housed in Tupelo.
Franklin Collection’s biggest customers are health care organizations which make about 80% of the company’s clientele, the rest being telecommunications companies, retailers and a general mix of all kinds of business and industry. Franklin said the company numbers about 3,000 clients scattered across the U.S. Revenue for 1998 was $39.6 million.
Franklin said technology has drastically changed how his company operates. Using a telecommunication device called “predictive dialing” which allows a phone number to be automatically dialed after one call is completed and shows account information on a computer terminal, Franklin said the company averages about 100,000 calls per day.
Technology has also made collections more difficult. Caller ID has allowed debtors to avoid Franklin Collections’ calls. However, this is not as much of a concern to the company since calls are just one strategy for collection. Franklin said the company’s success has been that it is willing to go all the way to the courts if need be.
“We don’t just write letters or call,” he said. “We are not going to get ugly with debtors because we don’t have to. We are willing to sue, to take them to court. We don’t go for the easy money.”
Thus, Franklin said changes in the legal system, particularly how fast it operates, is more of an obstacle. He said when he started 20 years ago, if the company sued it could expect a verdict in 90 days. Now that process can take 18 months. But Franklin said being willing to go through the legal system is critical to consistent collections.
“We customize our procedures to meet the customer’s wishes,” he said. “If they don’t want us to sue, we won’t. But they have to understand that it is 40% more effective to go through the legal system.”
Franklin said that collections is a stressful job and its an ongoing battle to hire and retain employees. However, he said he was very rewarded during last year’s Christmas party when 35 employees were honored for being with the company for five years or more.
As with seemingly every other industry, collection agencies have seen a lot of merger and acquisition activity lately. Franklin said he sees a day soon when three or four companies will be the players on the national level. He is confident that Franklin Collections will one of them.
“We’re buyers,” he said. “In the current environment, if we don’t buy, we’ll be bought.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1016.