Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline passed on July 31, right around the same time that just about all teams in the NFL started training camp for the upcoming season. Interestingly (if you follow sports - maybe not if you don't), both of those events had something in common with ACA International’s annual conference in Nashville, which was held in late July: all three events had a very distinct aura of hope and optimism surrounding them.
The trade deadline in baseball is when the teams that feel they have enough talent to make a run at the World Series double down, trading prospects for veteran players to bolster their line-ups. Teams that are buyers at the trade deadline instill nothing but hope and optimism in their fan-bases as they dangle visions of playoff baseball in front of them.
Training camp in the NFL is a time where every team has the same record. Nobody has lost a game yet. Locker rooms are full of players who believe they have the talent and heart necessary to make an NFL roster.
That same vibe was coursing through the Music City Center in downtown Nashville, as collection agency executives from across the country converged to network, learn, and enjoy time out of the office. Changes in the industry, coupled with some developments on the legal and regulatory fronts, have reignited a spark in the industry that has not been there for some time. Agency executives were talking about new markets, growing their businesses, and looking to make investments or forays in new technologies while remaining cautious about the compliance burdens that have been placed on them for the past few years.
The industry is looking at changes atop the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, a huge win over the Federal Communications Commission in court, and an economy that is running on all cylinders.
Like baseball and football, having hope is a lot different than actually winning a game. Teams have to show up (mentally as well as physically), play hard and beat their opponents to maximize that hope and optimism. For collection agencies, the objective is the same! The reality is, contacting individuals is harder than ever and rules and regulations aren't keeping up with the new methods of communications consumers prefer instead of using their landline phones (how presumptuous) or opening their physical mail (how quaint). Because of these challenges, optimism is a wonderful attribute to have, but just like talent, it isn't enough - it takes strategy and work within the rules of the game to win.
No one knows how long this wave of positive mojo is going to last, but for those who were in Nashville, there were no clouds on the horizon.