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On the Job with Steve Fink

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

"On The Job With..." is a weekly feature of Sunday Inc. Today's feature is with Steve Fink, co-owner of Union Credit Corp.

Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?

A. First and foremost to someone fresh out of college my advice is for them to get a haircut. With that out of the way, let me say that the individual should have a thoroughly prepared resume that is placed on professional resume paper, not some cutesy paper. It would not hurt for them do some networking on "LinkedIn." So many young people fresh out of college have the tendency to only apply for jobs that are at the very top. They do not understand that they have to put some sweat equity into their job to learn their craft before going after that top job.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?

A. I had my first job at the age of 16. Minimum wage at that time was $1.25. While shopping with mother, she indicated that she would like to have a Fabreware rotisserie oven, so with my first pay check that is what I purchased.

Q. What's the single most effective technique you found during the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Acknowledging employee accomplishments and making sure that each employee is aware that they are responsible for the success of the company and that it is not just appreciated, but rewarded. Don't neglect gratitude. Say it and mean it. A pat on the back means a great deal to individuals. Don't be afraid to say, "Thank You."

Q. What was your first job?

A. The first job that I ever had was working in a sewing plant during the summer turning shirt sleeves inside out thus enabling the cuff setter to sew cuffs on the sleeves. I also had to distribute the work to be sewn to over 50 people.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. Previous to purchasing Union Credit Corporation, I was, for almost 20 years, CEO and president of Credit Bureau of Southwest Georgia. During some of this time period I was the managing partner of C.B.V. Collections in Valdosta. During my 20-year association with Credit Bureau of Southwest Georgia, I was able to establish offices in Americus, Camilla, Cordele and Tifton. Upon my leaving the company I felt that it was well overdue that I should own my own business. I was in the process of forming my company when I was given the opportunity to purchase Union Credit Corporation.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. My dad was both my role model and mentor. He believed that you always treated your customers and your employees with dignity no matter what the situation. He instilled a strong work ethic in me that has served me very well.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. You must think positive and not panic. Everyday provides a new opportunity and you just have to be open to innovation. Always challenge yourself. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology -- examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. -- what would you most like to see go away?

A. I would strongly like automated phone systems to go away. Too much time is wasted having to listen to options followed by those options having options and so on. With the invention of the automated phone system companies are losing that personal touch. At our company every call is important and for that reason we have every call answered personally.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. My favorite work-related gadget is the usage of a second computer screen connected to my computer. By having two screens I am able to view multiple options at one time thus eliminating a lot of memory on my part and lessening the possibilities of errors.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. "R Is For Ricochet" by Sue Grafton. Most of my reading is related to my business. With the many changes that are occurring in the collection industry, I find myself constantly reading trade magazines so that Union Credit Corp. will be keeping up with the current times. I have already begun to accumulate a stack of trade magazines to take on vacation with me next month.

Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. Each morning my daily routine begins around 5:30 a.m. with a walk with my two dogs and arriving at the office by 7 a.m. This gives me time to fully concentrate on daily reports and review the work load each employee will have for the day without any interruptions.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I have to admit that I am a workaholic ... some of my friends think I live at my office because my car is always there. I get a great deal of pleasure out of cooking and to my wife's delight I actually do most of the cooking and she does the baking. I actually have a pretty good reputation for my mondel bread and chocolate mousse. My wife recently decided that taking pottery classes would be a great diversion for me and so she gave me a gift certificate to Market Square Pottery. To date I have made four masterpieces.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I should not have waited so long to go into business for myself.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. The best thing about my job is that I am able to challenge myself rather than be challenged by others. Setting goals that bring success to your company are important, but setting goals that enhance you as an individual while improving your company at the same time really bring great satisfaction.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. The worst thing about my job is working for me. I am a hard task master on myself because I want everything to be the best it can be.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. The most beneficial course that I took was actually in graduate school. The course was titled "Behavioral Management."

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. My dream job would be to go into youth financial counseling. So many of our youths today are saddled with large student loans coupled with a stack of maxed out high interest credit cards before they even have obtained a job. Someone needs to counsel them to get their finances on the right track.

Q. Finish this thought: "On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself ...

A. Quite frankly, I cannot see at the present time "retirement" in my future. I enjoy what I am doing and have no desire to retire.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. The ability to embrace rapid change. In order to be able to survive in today's economy, unless we embrace change we will not be able to survive. The way that Union Credit Corp. operates is not the way that we operated this time last year and probably will not be the same as we operate next year.

Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. A few things need to happen in South Georgia and the country for our economic recovery to take hold:

-- Everyone has to want to go back to work; no one can afford to sit on the sidelines and wait for this to happen - everyone has to make this happen. That doesn't mean spending our way out of a recession. It means investing in activities like getting additional education or volunteering with non-profit groups to create positive developments for the community to grab positive attention for our areas. You could call it investing in our social capital;

-- Stay positive. It's a very difficult thing to do, especially in light of all the negative media attention, but it's up to you to control your attitude and destiny;

-- Gas prices have to return to a normal state. Wild fluctuations in fuel costs affect every aspect of our economy - the price of gas, the cost of packaging, fertilizer costs impact food costs. Until the price of gas comes under control, it's lose-lose for our area. It'll impact our major employers like P&G, MillerCoors, and even our local Walmart.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. Everyone in my family owns an iPod but me, when their iPod is loud I am forced to listen to their taste in music.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I believe we will see a major growth in the medical field and in higher education and hopefully a revitalization of Downtown Albany.

Q. What was the best vacation you've taken? Why?

A. The best vacation I ever had was last spring in Destin, Fla. This was the first time in 11 years that Lorraine and I were blessed to have all three of our children, plus a future in-law, vacation with us.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The biggest change that has occurred in the collection industry today is how to cope with the diminishing number of land line phones and the increase in cell phones. Because of recent changes in the law cell phone numbers cannot be dialed with a "dialer system" unless the owner of the cell phone number has given their prior consent.