Founded on Respect: Smith Shares Dedicated Financial GBC’s Simple Secret to Success

by Ian Koplin Q2 2022
Shawn Smith, founder and CEO of Dedicated Financial GBC, sat down with Monitor to discuss his company’s recent activities and major rebrand, what makes Dedicated Financial GBC different as a full-service business process outsourcing company, how his philanthropic vision translates to everyday work, and what’s just over the horizon for the company.

Shawn Smith,
Founder and CEO,
Dedicated Financial GBC

Respect and hope are not usually the first words that come to mind when most people hear the word “collections,” but Shawn Smith, founder and CEO of Dedicated Financial GBC, has set out to change that perception and make a difference in the lives of borrowers and others at the same time.

“My roots are 20 years of doing collections. Then I got into the commercial side in 2010 and fell in love with it. It was just dealing with businesses and merchants and helping them. In 2010 [for example], you had third generation cabinet makers going out of business, and to feel like you were losing your grandfather’s or your great-grandfather’s legacy was just devastating,” Smith says. “And it was something to be able to go in and help those businesses as we were in that Great Recession. It was so gratifying to come in as a positive light and help people that it really motivated me to continue to grow and adapt my style, which is very positive and resolution-focused.”

Rebranding to Match a Renewed Cause

Starting as a third-party commercial collection agency, Smith utilized an additional background of his in remarketing for banks and leasing companies to grow Dedicated Financial GBC’s services, and now Smith says Dedicated isn’t just a third-party commercial collection agency anymore.

Today, Dedicated Financial GBC is a Twin Cities, MN-based, full-service “cradle-to-grave” business process outsourcing firm, which provides a wide range of products, from first-party servicing of commercial loan portfolios to third-party collections, equipment remarketing, repossession and nationwide legal services. Along with several ancillary outsourcing services such as bankruptcy monitoring, the firm has grown between 50% and 200% year over year since inception. Growing to a 92-seat office with about 45 team members including numerous recent hirings and promotions, Smith says his company has grown in size, scope, leadership, and web presence.

Once Dedicated Financial GBC developed a legal team of its own after years in the industry, the company began to take on a new form. Now, with the company nearing its B Corp certification making it the world’s first certified B corporation doing what it does, Smith explains rebranding Dedicated Financial GBC, previously known as Dedicated Commercial Recovery, was a better way to represent how it has become a general benefits corporation. B Corp Certification is a designation reflecting how a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency on factors from team member benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.

“We wanted to better represent that we were doing things radically different in our space [compared to] anyone else in the nation, and we wanted the name to really represent that,” Smith says. “And in transitioning to Dedicated Financial GBC, we became a general benefits corporation, signifying that in everything we do, whether it be for our internal team or those locally, nationally [or] internationally, our business is set up for the benefit of others in addition to our clients.”

The Proof is in the Pudding

What are some of the radical things Dedicated Financial GBC does? Smith says the answer to that question lies in the company’s Google reviews, the bulk of which are not only reviews from clients but predominantly from the businesses and business owners who owe his clients money. Smith says the people who have dealt with his firm who were compelled to share their story tell the truth about what makes Dedicated Financial GBC different.

The truth may surprise you, but it’s rather simple: treat people like people and listen and work together to find a solution that works for all parties. That may be easier said than done in this industry, but Smith swears by putting the personality back into collections to foster an organic sense of trust, faith and understanding lightyears faster than a stereotypically aggressive collections company could accomplish.

“Every vertical of our business is tied to a charity like Feed My Starving Children, Restavek Freedom, American Goldstar Mothers and Thorn, among others. [For] every account you place with Dedicated, we feed 10 children; [for] every one we collect, we donate [to] another 10; and, finally, every day you work at Dedicated, we feed another 10,” Smith says. “Every time you work with us on a legal file, you’re helping empower Restavek Freedom to help slave children in Haiti to gain freedom, food, and schooling.”

Fostering what Smith describes as being “the giving collector,” the practice of providing means of repayment rather than demands, Dedicated Financial GBC seeks to change the outlook for people they do business with. It isn’t about what the company can get from people when a team member makes a collection call, it’s all about what the company can do to help the client.

“We start out by giving them respect, giving them hope and giving them viable options,” Smith says. “And if we accomplish that, our client gets paid back in a far better way, typically faster. People want to pay us back because they want to work with us. They’re ignoring the guy who’s calling them and threatening them.”

Starting each interaction with respect is key, Smith reiterates, describing how Dedicated Financial GBC’s team starts with connecting and building rapport with the ultimate goal of having a long-term relationship with those the team serves on the phone. As a business owner himself, Smith knows what it’s like to eat, sleep and breathe your job, so starting every relationship with a perspective of respect and leveled understanding is the right approach few in this space are making an effort to accomplish.

“To call that person up and threaten them and demean them, not only is horrible, it’s less effective,” Smith says.

Focusing Inward for Significance

But Dedicated Financial GBC doesn’t just prioritize its customer experience to make a difference in the industry, it also focuses on its team members to drive its quest for significance in others’ lives even further. A strong proponent of addressing mental health issues, Smith recently incorporated a chaplain on staff and developed a company mental health plan to help team members navigate the mental stress associated with this industry.

Smith says 100% covered medical, dental and vision expenses, flexible scheduling and investing heavily in the well-being of team members should be a standard worldwide. He hopes the examples set at Dedicated Financial GBC demonstrate that significance precedes success, a tenet Smith abides by, which is the notion that when you focus on being significant to others, success is always a byproduct of that significance, and when you start with a focus of being significant to your team, this philosophy becomes demonstrably true because a team member who has been invested into is more likely to increase everything from productivity to job outlook to mental and physical wellbeing.

“If we can do it, anyone can do it,” Smith says. “People want to do business with companies like ours.”

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly alarming tensions arising in Ukraine, Smith remains cautiously optimistic about the next 365 days, believing the economy is riding a wave. However, Smith expects a correction to occur after that, even though he can’t quite thumb exactly what the catalyst will be. When the correction eventually occurs, Smith says Dedicated Financial GBC will be ready for an acute influx of clients. “Business is not remaining stagnant—in fact, we are signing clients at as fast a rate as ever as they are focusing on ensuring their backend processes are optimized. But with defaults still being down, placements and default rates should remain relatively stagnant in the meantime.”

“I feel pretty strongly that right now, even for Dedicated, even though we’re growing because of who we are, this is not a big growth season for us because defaults are down and volume’s up. Thankfully, we have such a broad base of amazing clients and connections that we still continue to grow,” Smith says. “But worry among the industry funders is up, and when that correction happens, that’s when we will get flooded.

“What I can’t advocate enough for this industry to do is to get a backend waterfall process that’s airtight. Don’t look for the fire extinguisher when the house is on fire — it’s too late. Get it set up and in place now. There should be no emotion in your backend process, it should be strictly [based on ] data and aversion to risk. You want to lower your risk, maximize your recovery and run based on the data. You should be running several firms doing collections, repos, remarketing [and] legal. And if one’s falling off, have another one in the wings ready to go. You should monitor multiple one-stop shops.”

And when the time comes, lenders and lessors can trust Dedicated Financial GBC to treat their borrowers with respect. “What I’m doing is what everyone should be doing. I haven’t created some amazing new thing; it’s just treating people right in all facets of what we do.”

Ian Koplin is an editor at Monitor.

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