Speed bumps on the road to Damascus

“What does your daddy do for a living?”

Lawyers are taught not to ask a question to which they don’t know the answer. I’m not sure what Mark Silverthorn ‘thought’ the answer would be, but I am sure it was not what his eight-year-old daughter replied: “You send people letters telling them to pay their bills or you will put them in the garbage.”

Mark had spent 12 years working as a collection lawyer with some of the largest collection agencies as his clients. Other people, me included, would describe what he did for a living in different terms but at that point in his life, his little girl’s comment had a profound impact on how he felt about his life and as a result – his future.

Perhaps some of us may feel he was called to ‘the dark side’, but Mark believed he might be able to help the many Canadians who were struggling with debt and he wrote a book: ‘The Wolf At The Door: What To Do When Collection Agencies Come Calling’. His business is now providing advice to debtors struggling with unsecured consumer debt.

Some of you will remember the biblical story of Saul on the road to Damascus where he was going to lead the persecution of Christians. He was knocked off and onto his ass, struck blind and heard the words, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” A few days later, cured by a Christian, he changed his name to Paul and went forth to preach the gospel. He may very well have been The Greatest Salesman in the World, according to Og Mandino in his book of the same name. Without him, the Christian religion, whether you favor it or not, would not be where it is today.

It is a great story and who knows, perhaps he was struck down and temporarily blinded, but I suspect there were many moments during the weeks and months before that caused Saul to question what he did for a living.

Same too for Mark. His daughter’s question may have knocked him onto his rear end, but along the way, over the weeks, months and perhaps even years, there were moments that caused him to question his career.

There is another story, the one of a man who approached someone laying bricks and asked him what he was doing. “I’m laying bricks,” was the reply. Another man further down the line said he was building a wall. The third man in the line said, “I am building a Cathedral”.

If you are in receivables and truly believe you send letters or make calls and put people in the garbage if they don’t pay, then it may be time to find a new career.

On the other hand, believing that one helps business to thrive and survive and despite what they may believe, help customers in difficult financial situations – then I humbly ask you to join me in raising the bar of our profession and we will not only live a life, but making a living.

Tim Paulsen

P.S. I always thought it wasn’t much of a change from Saul to Paul. Maybe the camel license or identity card in those days was carved in a rock. Easier just to change one letter, eh?