Three Decades of Excellence in the Industry
Thirty years ago, when Saul and Jeff Freedman started MRS BPO, LLC, they didn’t foresee their company leading the collections industry in technological advancements and strategic innovation. In the beginning, they saw a business opportunity and started there.
Co-CEO Jeff Freedman said, “Starting MRS was a mix of emotions—exciting for sure but also a bit scary due to the risks involved. We were pretty young when we started and we were unaware at the time of the high failure rate among most start-up businesses. That said, we were confident in our business proposition. When we started, many lenders were not using agencies beyond their primary ones and there was no recall process. Our proposition was to go in after their primary agency and collect on the accounts that the primary agency said were uncollectable. We did this on contingency, of course, so the risk to the creditor was minimal. We were able to prove ourselves this way and often out-collected the agency that had the accounts first!”
After thirty years in business, MRS has served the accounts receivable management needs of companies within the financial services, governmental, student loans, telecommunications, and utility sectors, as well as implementing technology and compliance management processes that benefit both the client and customer. However, back in 1991, MRS’s present seemed like a far reach.
Jeff said, “Building from the beginning was mostly about learning through failure. We made our fair share of mistakes but we believed in our overall vision. We wore every ‘hat’ in the beginning since we had no staff. We did sales, collected, opened the mail, posted the payments, answered the phones. It was definitely exhausting. We literally worked every day and sometimes we worked as many 12-15 hours a day. We also worked other jobs at the same time since early on we could not afford to take salaries.”
Both Saul and Jeff emphasized how much the early days of MRS taught them about business and the industry.
Saul Freedman said, “As I look back, building MRS was, and still is an education and learning experience.”
Surely, but steadily, MRS grew and expanded, but always retained the family values at the heart of the Freedmans and their vision for the company. As MRS added secondary locations in Ohio and Alabama, the emphasis on family permeated the company at each site. From philanthropic drives, to spirit week, and everything in between, MRS family values radiated. But Saul and Jeff explain it was never a conscious decision to focus on these values. The company culture evolved simply from the way that the brothers prioritized integrity, treated customers, clients, and co-workers with respect, and led by example.
Jeff said, “We instill these values [empathy, respect, and kindness], and preach them, not because they are ‘family values’ but because we believe they are the right thing to do. If you treat everyone you interact with, be it a client, a co-worker, an employee, or someone past-due on a debt as a customer and with ‘good service,’ it builds a culture of trust, respect, mutual understanding and cooperation. I believe that is what we have done.”
Jeff explained how the collections industry is often misunderstood, but MRS operates counter to any of these preconceived notions. He said, “At MRS, we have tried to help foster more positive views of our industry by focusing on compliance, quality, and customer experience. We have also tried to do this through various outreach and philanthropic programs to improve the communities we live, work, and serve in. In this vein, we feel good about what we have been able to accomplish over the past 30 years.”
Over the three decades that MRS has been in business, the collections industry has morphed greatly. As legislation evolved, so did MRS, refusing to be stagnant in the ever-changing industry. After the 2008 recession, the CFPB was formed, a watchdog agency with a special interest in collections.
Saul said, “We knew that compliance was becoming paramount amongst our clients as well as the regulatory bodies including the forming of the CFPB. Instead of fighting this change, MRS embraced it, and invested in compliance. We changed the roles of one of our long time executives to Chief Compliance Officer, and strengthened our business controls, policies, and procedures, etc.”
Technology has greatly improved over MRS’s lifespan, prompting innovation in the digital age. Phone calls are a less popular method of communication, a change which demands collections agencies to be nimble in the services that they offer.
Jeff said, “We are always looking for ways to improve. There is a tendency to think ‘why mess with it if it is not broken.’ We have never operated that way. We have always pushed to try and be even better and our digital transformation is a perfect example. We recognized that customer behaviors were changing and people were seeking more ability to self-serve. To meet this need we knew we had to find a way to adapt. We did our homework and brainstormed ways to be compliant and innovative. It took months of work to complete our research and develop strategies, but in the end, we were able to successfully launch several new digital, self-service tools that have transformed how we interact with customers.”
More than anything, Saul and Jeff are proud of how MRS has shifted and transformed into the company it is now after thirty years in business.
Saul said, “MRS has now existed for more than half of my life, and as I look back, I never dreamed of being where we are today, with so many friendships, relationships, and families that have been created and impacted because of MRS, it is the most rewarding feeling I could be blessed with, and being able to do all of this with my brother Jeff makes it all the more special.”
It is lost on neither Saul nor Jeff that MRS has impacted so many lives. Through ups and downs, the brothers have worked to build a strong company that cares about its clients, customers, and employees. Thirty years is no small feat—it is a milestone and a testament to the hard work of the Freedmans and everyone who has ever been part of the MRS family. Here’s to the next thirty!