Collection agency finds jobs for those in debt.

Collection agency finds jobs for those in debt.

Debt collection agency Choice Recovery, Inc. has done the impossible: found a way to be liked. Through the program re[start], it benefits consumers in debt while serving its payment-seeking clients.

Chad Silverstein, founder and owner of Choice Recovery, wanted more than to merely "be nice" while handling more than 50,000 new accounts sent to the agency each month. In 2014, Silverstein, spurred by employees, came up with a way to add substance to sentiment.

"Everyone in the industry always says (what) they want to do to be different is be nice, but now everyone is nice because they have to be, so that wasn't enough for us," he says. "I actually had employees challenge me on it because it was my vision to change the perception."

This took the shape of re[start], designed to locate jobs for those in debt through creation of new resumes, interview coaching, submission of applications to potential employers and weekly support. Silverstein believes it's the only program of its kind in the nation.

Silverstein, who admits that re[start] represents new territory for him, manages challenges as they come.

"It was a lot of learning and a lot of mistakes," he says. "We've actually never stopped typing up the process even to this day because we are still learning how to do it. We're just much better than we were in 2014."

Silverstein wasn't solely motivated by seeing a return on money from new jobs. In fact, beginning re[start] initially meant losing the company's money.

"The idea was: Did I have the courage to pull an employee off that wasn't going to make any money anymore and give them the opportunity to become an expense to the business?" he says.

He found the courage, and both his company and debtors have benefitted. As consumers are aided by re[start] into jobs, they eventually contact the agency as willing payers.

"We put their account on hold. We help them, so we aren't trying to collect from them while they're being helped, but they call us back and they're happy to pay," he says.

Silverstein's office wall, covered by letters of thanks, confirms. And although re[start] is proving lucrative, it carries profundity beyond financial considerations for all.

"The letters are great, but when we talk to people and they tell us how it's changed their life, I can't explain what that's done personally, but then also for our culture," Silverstein says.

"I don't think you can go into a collection agency and find people who make friends from their consumers. I have pictures of one of my consumer's kids on our door," says Sarah Harkins, director of re[start]'s team of two. "There's something very basic and real about connecting with people and making friends in a really weird, odd situation."

One such friend, Janale Jones, lost a job of 14 years. Initially skeptical, she accepted the free help offered by re[start] and now has a new job in her requested pay range.

'There were moments where they had to be positive on my behalf. They were relentless, and obviously it paid off," she says.

Concerning clients: some fit well, some don't. "We're trying to attract people who actually care. They can see there's a win-win. You get paid more money back when you're supportive," Silverstein says.

In two years, 375 people have been placed into jobs. But Silverstein doesn't like to talk numbers-he values what the numbers represent, and he encourages his employees to do the same.

"This is someone's life. One thing I make (the re[start] team) do at the end of every month is to share one story with our entire team because we have to connect them to it," he says.

The agency's goal is to transform 10,000 lives by 2025.

"We have a clear vision and know what we need to do. Now it's just a matter of growth," Silverstein says.

Chloe Teasley is an intern.