You can’t go forward looking backwards, and you can’t go forward unless you can forgive people.
Bill Bartmann, founder and CEO of CFS2 and its predecessor CFS, has learned a lot of lessons over the years, and that is just one of them, he said.
On Thursday, speaking to the Public Relations Society of America Tulsa chapter, Bartmann discussed the ups and downs of his career and lessons learned.
Like his 2013 autobiography, “Bouncing Back,” Bartmann touched upon some of the highlights surrounding the rise and fall of the original CFS before he launched CFS2 in 2010.
He compared people’s perceptions of him to another well-known case.
“I, too, think O.J. Simpson was guilty. Now that puts it all in a framework. I was the Tulsa version of O.J. Simpson. Public sentiment immediately jumped to a conclusion,” he said. “The Tulsa World and all media ran with stories that were pertinent and appropriate. I’m not suggesting they wrote anything that was untrue or that they said anything that was inappropriate.”
When people think of O.J. Simpson, he added, they all have an opinion.
“None of us know the facts. None of us have one drop of information on what really happened. All we know is what was filtered through respective media, and we came to our own conclusion, and we’re staying with it.”
Bartmann ultimately hopes he will be remembered for his efforts to reform the debt collection industry. He points to developing a business model that focuses on listening to consumers who are delinquent on paying off debt rather than haranguing them or yelling, ranting and demeaning them.
Bartmann, who grew up one of eight children and poor in Iowa to parents who had no more than a grade-school education, said he knows what it’s like to live on welfare and have bill collectors calling.
In July 2010, Bartmann launched CFS2 with a core staff of people once employed by CFS.
Like the original CFS, CFS2 focuses on buying delinquent debt and trying to get customers to fulfill their financial obligations.
The newer company, however, claims it offers a range of free services to help delinquent consumers get back on their feet, including helping them negotiate with creditors, offering free resume preparation and job search services, as well as access to financial products and services such as catastrophe insurance.
CFS2 also is based in the CityPlex Towers at 81st Street and Lewis Avenue, which is the same site of the original CFS.
It employs about 30 people, including Bartmann’s two daughters and a son-in-law. The original CFS employed close to 4,000 people.
In his book, Bartmann mentioned his ambition to make CFS2 “even more larger and more effective than its predecessor” as well as reforming the debt-collection industry.
The company doesn’t have plans at this point to grow its workforce to the size of the original CFS. Bartmann noted that the company operates on a web-based delivery program that doesn’t require the same size workforce.
The original CFS achieved enormous success in the 1990s before it filed bankruptcy in 1998 and ceased operations in 1999.
A grand jury alleged that Bartmann and co-founder Jay Jones conspired to channel $63 million through Jones’ bank accounts from September 1997 through September 1998 to conceal the company’s poor performance.
Bartmann was acquitted of criminal wrongdoing by a federal jury in 2003. Jones pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466