ADVISOR: I want to be a REPOMAN


Published: 09/01/2011

by Dan Meeks


What do I do to get set up?
Seems like every time I turn around someone is asking me that question. If the question is coming from a youngster, the best answer is: Stay in school and learn to do something else.

But who is the right type of person to do this job? What steps should they take to get started?
No matter who asks me, my answer is always the same. Go out and get a job working for an agency with a good reputation. I would even go further and suggest an entry level job as a lot tender. A person needs to be exposed to a few agents that have years of experience in this industry for an extended period of time before going out and jumping all over paperwork and keys. The best way to learn is to watch someone in action. It also helps to discuss the finer details and shortcuts, hear about mistakes and fallacies, but nothing beats being there.

I’m not just talking about learning how to map out a route, maneuver a tow truck, or any of the physical and mental skill tasks that have to be learned through experience and practice. I’m talking foremost about interview techniques and handling people that become irate. I’m talking about knowing what you can and cannot say, where you should and should not go, and what you can and cannot do. There are so many holes that a recovery agent can fall into if they don’t know right from wrong. Taking a training program is a great way to get started with this but it will be a matter of time before it all comes together with practical application. If you sat down and learned this job from a book, front to back and inside out, by the time you got finished you would swear that there is no way to do the job without breaking the rules. And the truth is… that’s not far from the truth. There is also the misnomer that this job is packed with danger and excitement. Now, I’m not going to try to tell anyone that they won’t come close to wetting their skivvies the first few times they are involved with a repo. However, if you are foolish enough to get out there and start snagging cars without proper guidance and oversight you may very well be one charged up individual. At that point in your career, you’re a very dangerous person to be around.

You are much better off sitting in a truck watching a pro in action. If you pay close attention, the first amazing thing you’ll notice is that the professional is not even fazed by any type of adrenaline rush. Now, that isn’t a hard and fast rule. Even an experienced agent will step out on the edge and try something they might be better off not to do and get nervous. In certain situations, the job can get way too interesting. But the dirty little secret is… the job can be really boring. For the most part, after you have a good grip on this job, you’ll see that it is benign most of the time. There is a certain level of comfort and awareness that a quality agent manages to get into. This might be sad if all you’re looking for is a chance to have fun stealing cars and getting paid for it. But it is very important for personal and public safety that an agent find an amenity to dangerous situations. You can’t think straight and make good choices when your head is about to blow off from some hopped up excitement or fear. At the same time, you can’t get so comfortable in your routine that you never feel that nagging sensation in your gut that tells you to think again. Sometimes that gut instinct is all you have. There are not always obvious warning signs of danger. You’ll find that sometimes there is a certain stink you can’t smell. Maybe there’s a silent problem that you can’t quite touch. But, somehow, you know it’s there. You can’t buy that kind of professionalism in WalMart. That is something that sneaks up on you after you’ve been around long enough to have a pocketful of walking around sense.

One of the most important skills a recovery agent learns is to read the potential pop. You have to know in your heart what the worst case scenario could be. You have to be able to visualize what it is going to take for you to get your unit and get clear. You have to be prepared for potential confrontation by someone bigger than you, uglier than you, or by someone who is just having a worse day than you. You also have to be glad to see this beast. You never want contact with debtors but when it happens, you have got to be expecting it. You want to make sure that the debtor understands that you are not surprised or troubled that you have been “caught.” The debtor needs to get the feeling that you are in control. You need to have the ability to keep things moving swiftly in your direction. You need to be firm and persuasive.

Think you can do all that and more. Think all you need is a truck or some keys, a piece of paper, and an address?

You also have to know what time it’s best to go into certain areas. You have to understand that there are some places you do not go at all. You have to be able to read a person and instinctively know how to act. With some people you need to be nice and with others you need to be firm. From time to time, you have to act like a real jerk to get someone’s attention. Being able to pull all of these different characters out of your hat is an important tool but nowhere near as important as having the gut instinct and perceptive nature to either know or luckily guess which way to act. Why? Because if you are too nice too often you’ll just wander around all day getting lied to. You have to be able to tell when someone is blowing smoke in your ear, and when someone is genuine. You have to be able to roll from being easy going and non-combative to being firm and persuasive. You need to be able to get a person’s pants down before they even suspect you are interested in toying with their belt buckle.

When push comes to shove everything begins with knowledge and experience, it’s fueled by skill and determination, tempered by good judgment and conservative nature, it’s driven by coffee and fast food, but only controlled by hard and fast rules of protocol. Think you have what it takes to just jump right out and do it all without a minute’s worth of training and guidance? Well, maybe you do. But you won’t get the blessing of anyone that’s been doing it more than five minutes.

The difference between a good agent and a bad agent is not always natural ability. If you take the time and learn the ropes, you can really prosper in this industry. If you jump right in and try to learn from every mistake you make, you are a fool and an enemy to us all. No one is really afraid of competition, because the cream still tends to rise to the top.

Still want to be a professional recovery agent?

Begin by introducing yourself. You’ll have to do that in the field everyday to as many people as you can to get real results. How you portray yourself at that first moment of contact with anyone will leave a lasting impression. Since you are out there working for the client as well as your boss, what kind of person are you? It is all about selling yourself. You may have to do a little leg work. You may have to talk to some people that you don’t know. You may have to pester the dickens out of someone that is too busy to listen.

If you don’t have the natural ability and craftiness to break through and find a way to forge that little task of getting your first job in the repossession industry, forget trying to make a living here. You will starve.