Debtors and collectors alike have a compassionate ear in Michelle Dunn – a factor that contributes to her stature as debt collection industry spokesperson. For debtors, Dunn would offer options and supply hope for getting out of debt. For collectors, she started her Credit & Collections discussion group in 1998 to help them start and grow their agencies.
For both, Dunn represents the ability to turn a bad situation into a positive outcome. And in the process, she is working to improve the reputation of the debt collector. “Part of my mission statement is to change the perception held by the general public about debt collectors,” Dunn says. “We’re here to help business owners.”
Dunn certainly understands the position of the debtor. Growing up in poverty, she vowed she would have a better life. Constantly put down at home, sexually abused by a family member, pregnant but giving up the baby at 17, left by her parents when they moved that same year, Dunn still possessed the wherewithal to pull herself above her circumstances.Once she was old enough to realize how others lived, Dunn says, she vowed to have a happy life.
“I came to the conclusion early on that education was going to be the thing that would get me out of my situation,” she says. “I wanted to live in a real house, have nice clothes because I only had hand-me-downs, own a nice car, and the only way to do that was to be educated.” Always on the honor roll, Dunn, however, quit high school when she was pregnant and worked two jobs, hoping to keep the baby. After she lost her apartment and was told she couldn’t come home, she gave the baby up for adoption.
“I was homeless for a while, sleeping in the back seats of abandoned cars, under bridges, in the woods or anywhere I could find,” she says. “I worked at Wendy’s before, during and after my pregnancy and met someone there whose parents let me stay in their basement.”With a glimmer of stability, Dunn was able to return to high school, graduate and go on to community college while she worked a full-time job and a part-time job.
A stubborn streak got her beyond the lack of faith shown to her while growing up. “I had all the adults in my life telling me that I was stupid, that no one would ever marry me, and, for some reason,” she says, “I thought, when you tell me not to do something, I’m going to do it. I’m grateful I was that way. I have turned my life completely around.”
Dunn’s first job after graduation was as an accounts receivable clerk, her introduction to collections. She spent the next 10 years as a credit manager at different companies until starting her own agency in 1998, the impetus a divorce and the desire for flexibility to be with her two children. Dunn stayed at her latest credit manager job until generating enough income with the agency to fully step out on her own. The rare woman in collections, Dunn was told by male agency owners that she wouldn’t survive. “Of course, then I’m going to do it and do it well,” she says.
Nor did naysayer agency owners want to help Dunn as a mentor, seeing her nonetheless as potential competition. Researching as much as she could to figure out how to start her M.A.D. Collection Agency, Dunn began posting what she discovered, partly for herself to have in one place, but also to share with others on the web. Her Credit & Collections discussion group was born out of a desire to provide support. The group quickly caught on.
Over the past 11 years, Dunn has helped entrepreneurs, many of them women, start and grow their agencies. She holds webinars and teaches at Plymouth State University, and every day hosts a discussion group with other collectors. “Right now, with the Federal Trade Commission is looking at the Fair Debt Collections Practices act to up-date it, there’s a lot of discussion about technology and debt collectors,” Dunn says. “The act was written before the Internet, so people are asking questions about social media and texting since there are no laws about those things. They also have questions about what kind of messages they can leave, whether they can call a spouse, or call someone at work – the day-to-day activities.”
To build up her agency, Dunn joined the local chamber of commerce, and went door to door to businesses seeking out clients. For those that already used a collection agency, she offered to take the accounts their agency couldn’t collect and collected on them herself. Part of Dunn’s success in dealing with debtors was having been there herself. She always provided two solutions, such as a payment plan, and let people choose the option that fit them best. “As a collector, you’re calling someone who has no money and asking them to send you money,” Dunn explains, “but if you can listen to what they say – everyone tells a specific situation – and if you have compassion and let them know that you understand and offer solutions to their problem, they appreciate that and don’t feel as badly as when they got the initial call.”
Dunn was soon asked to speak on collections and capitalized on those opportunities to publicize herself and the agency. “I had a marketing plan like any business,” she says. “I was writing press releases and getting notice in the local media, which expanded to industry trade magazines and other newspapers,” she says. Featured in Ladies Home Journal and on NPR, Dunn was becoming an industry spokesperson. Since then, she has appeared in Forbes.com, Smart Money Magazine and on CNN and MSNBC, to name a few. She has been named one of the Top 5 Women in Collections in 2007 and 2008 and among the Top 50 Most Influential Collection Professionals of 2007. “That happened gradually,” she says. “I always said yes and accepted an offer to speak or to write an article. I followed my marketing plan and that created the snowball effect.”
Dunn ran her agency for eight years, growing it to five on board and $4 million in placed debt. Then she sold it. “It was getting big and I found myself in the position of having to be there every day,” she says. “I was looking for more flexibility.”
Today, Dunn is writing and publishing books as Never Dunn Publishing as well as writing columns for nine publications. Her push is to become syndicated.
The topics she chooses for in her books and articles reflect the questions she’s asked. “It gives me great pleasure and pride to help someone be successful and be their own boss, so they can know what it’s like to have the freedom of being self-employed,” Dunn says.
She’s also proud that her children no know nothing of the type of childhood she endured. “I have a rich life,” she says.
ABOUT MICHELLE DUNN
Michelle does everything well, she does it meticulously, she’s driven and ambitious and expects us to do as she does. Her core values reflect her quest for perfection.
Michelle’s vision coupled with follow through to completion make her unique as well as her go-getter personality. She is attractive and professional, balancing a serious profession. Michelle has brand power with her “Collecting Money” series of books, her Credit & Collections Association and her reputation for helping women.
Michelle Dunn is innovative, influential and inspiring, an entrepreneur, author, consultant and mother. Michelle is embedded in our credit & debt industry as an icon for liberated, ambitious, smart business people.
Michelle is intelligent, outspoken and she gathers information to share in her books, she inspired many to start their own collection agencies and she has more than confidence, she has guts.
Michelle helps people! She offers her association, books, classes, special reports and consulting. She has many editions, and award winning titles in her collection. Her influence in her industry is revolutionary.
Michelle is an astonishing talent and a reflection of what many women aspire to be.
Small and large business owners turn to Michelle for everything from collection letters to business start up questions and advice on contracts. An expert to depend on for all credit & collections matters, Michelle is an indispensable asset whose vast experience and resources create an efficient and effective life line for busy professionals.