From Collector: Meet ACA’s New CEO

From ambitious collection agency owner to association CEO, Mark Neeb brings a fresh perspective to ACA International.

5/14/2018 8:00 AM

From Collector: Meet ACA’s New CEO

Mark Neeb, IFCCE, hit the ground running as ACA International’s new CEO in February, and has been busy ever since, Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May reports in the May issue.

In a way, Neeb’s new role has been one he’s spent the last 28 years preparing for, starting back when he first entered the accounts receivable management industry. In that time, he’s purchased and developed two receivables management firms and served in numerous leadership roles within ACA, including a year as president and several on the board of the Minnesota Association of Collectors.

Notably, he is the first former collection agency owner to serve as CEO of ACA since the association’s early days.

“I believe that we have the power to become what we want to become and succeed at whatever we put our minds to,” Neeb said. “I tell my kids that part of life is deciding what you want and then deciding if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. That kind of momentum is hard to stop.”

Up to the Challenge

After graduating from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., with an accounting degree, Neeb worked at the CPA firm CliftonLarsonAllen as an audit manager. In 1990, he was poached by a client, Jim Christensen, to serve as CFO for Central Collection Services.

At that point, Neeb didn’t know anything about the collection industry, but he soon found out. Central Collection Services was a small company at the time, and when the accounting work proved to be relatively uncomplicated, Christensen handed Neeb 125 client files and told him to hit the road. This put him in front of clients for the first time, where he learned what they wanted and valued in a collection agency—an important learning experience.

A few years later Neeb pursued the executive vice president position for a credit bureau in Rochester, Minn.

“I took that company over at the age of 32 and didn’t have the slightest idea what I was doing,” Neeb recalled. “Nobody knew it at the time, but the grand total number of people who had ever reported to me in my life at that point was one.”

Once again, through hard work and force of will, Neeb climbed another rung of the corporate ladder. When Equifax purchased the credit bureau in 1996, Neeb bought the collection division and named it The Affiliated Group.

Neeb sold The Affiliated Group in 2014, spinning the education division into a new niche collection firm called NeebEDU. Things were good for about three months—and then disaster struck when the U.S. Department of Education’s contract with private collection agencies ended and a new one never came. The company ran out of work, and at the end of 2015 Neeb shut down the business.

Down but not out, Neeb pivoted, launching a successful consulting business and renting space in a commercial building he owned. So why not ride that out until retirement?

“I wasn’t nearly as busy as I wanted to be,” he said.

Reaching for the Moon

Now that he’s got his hands full running ACA, Neeb is drawing on his years of hard-won experience in the collection industry as well as the time he’s spent working on ACA’s units, committees and functions.

“I know a thing or two about what makes agencies tick,” Neeb said. “I see my background as a unique way to serve members. Also, I can be a resource for ACA staff. They are experts in association management, but I think we can all be more effective with a dose of industry background mixed in.”

There are challenges ahead, of course. He’s working on a strategy to help the association align its resources in a way that optimizes results for members, which means prioritizing some initiatives and letting others fall away. The goal is to bring ACA members the greatest amount of value possible for their membership dues.

“I feel an immense amount of responsibility being CEO of ACA,” he said. “But I’m not so much intimidated by it because I feel like I’m with my people. The members of this association are the most authentic, determined and friendly people I’ve ever met. I am so blessed to once again get to spend every day with ACA staff and members.”

Read more about Mark Neeb in the May issue of Collector magazine.

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