LEARNING CURVE | Challenging career in debt collection also has rewards
Bay woman's business now has local and international clients
Riana Ferreira, who was born and raised in Gqeberha, started her company Collect A Debt in 2009. But her career in debt collection started in 1993.
She is passionate about working with people and making their lives better. She is a very experienced businesswoman who is often sought for advice.
Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started.
I am married to a very supportive husband with two beautiful sons, aged 23 and 26, who are part of my succession plan.
In the 1990s I completed my studies in human resources. I always wanted to help make people’s lives better.
I was introduced to the debt collection industry through my family and when the opportunity arose I started Collect A Debt during 2009.
What is your core service?
Collect A Debt is a registered debt collection company specialising in all aspects of collection of both consumer and commercial debt, with both local and international clients.
What makes your business unique?
Collect A Debt is one of the very few debt collection companies that offer a fully inclusive, integrated service from conventional debt collection processes (that include personal visits) to the entire legal process.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
First, have a clear understanding of what it is that you want to do and what you want to achieve.
Make sure you have what it takes and be 100% committed.
Write your business plan. This must include specifics about understanding your business processes and the legislative requirements that will ensure that your business model will work.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
The biggest inhibitors were finding the right systems and software, with the challenge of complying with statutory requirements.
Debt collection is very administratively intensive and therefore you need software programs that will record every step of the process together with a staff complement that can handle administrative processes.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
- If you don’t know, ask
- Learn from your mistakes
- Cultivate diplomacy
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
As much as I like to plan my day, there are always interruptions and adjustments that I need to make.
For example, some debtors are given court dates to appear in front of the magistrate but fail to do so. Subsequently a warrant of arrest is issued by the courts and when an arrest is made by the sheriff, I need to attend court immediately.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
Be stubborn in your vision but flexible on the specifics.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
Success for me is that I have an impact on people’s lives every day by mentoring and motivating people to make payments towards their debt in order for them to become debt-free.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
I have implemented good systems and trained my staff to the best of my ability in all spheres of the business.
What kind of advertising do you do?
We have a very active social media presence through Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, as well as our website www.collectadebt.co.za.
We advertise on Algoa FM and
sponsor and invest in opportunities for learners and community events.
I also build relationships through a vast network of business platforms.
What is your company’s vision?
For my debtors, it is to help them to be free from debt and for my clients it is help them collect their money.
My vision is to build a company that is reputable and trustworthy within the industry and to provide a good service to both clients and debtors.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
I was appointed by the minister of constitutional development in 1998 to serve a three-year term on the first statutory Council for Debt Collectors. I was reappointed by subsequent ministers until 2013 and later awarded a Special Recognition Award in 2014.
During 2017 I was the winner in the entrepreneur category of the Businesswomen’s Association BWA/Investec — Regional Business Achievers Awards.
For the company the highlight was to established my own legal team and department and to process legal documentation from within the company rather than outsourcing that part of the process.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
Social media has replaced the phone book. Our online presence including social media is imperative for our business.
How many people do you employ?
I have 21 full-time employees.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
We are already operating on an international level and I will be attending more international world congresses in the near future to strengthen our current network.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
I used my home loan because it was the most cost-effective way to access funds.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
Growth is never by mere chance. It is the result of you working together with your suppliers, customers, employees and debtors.
What do you say are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
You must have a deep passion for what you do, and cultivate diplomacy and creativity.
What do you say are the key traits of a successful employer?
A good employer is one who can build a workforce that co-operates and works together as a team.
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