Bill Bartmann has a new venture and expects to hire lots of Tulsans

Wednesday, August 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

He's done it before. And he says he'll do it again. In the late 80's and 90's, Bill Bartmann helped create Commercial Financial Services. The debt-collection company was one of the biggest employers in Tulsa, with nearly 4,000 people, before it came tumbling down.

But Bartmann hasn’t lost his flamboyance, and he has a new venture he says will be just as big. New on Six business reporter Steve Berg says many still blame Bartmann for the troubles with CFS.

But he says CFS is "exactly" what will make this new company a success. "For all of you who know us, we're the former managers of a company called Commercial Financial Services, CFS." CFS was a company that bought bad credit card debt and specialized in collecting it. But with this new venture, Debt Discounters of America, Bartmann is approaching the equation from the other end. “We decided we could do the exact opposite, rather than be a debt collector like we were we ought to be a debt discounter."

Far from hiding from CFS, Bartmann says those 16-years of experience are vital. "We know about it, we know how it works, we know how debt collectors think." Here's how it works. Bartmann's company will represent the consumer in his dealings with the debt collector. They'll negotiate with the creditor to get a smaller debt that the consumer will pay back all at once.

And Bartmann's company will get a fee based on how much money they save the consumer. "The typical consumer understands quickly and easily they cannot negotiate with a debt-collection company." But Bartmann's people do. In fact, he's already hired back some of his old employees from CFS like Mike Donaldson, who thinks the stories about Bartmann, should be taken with a grain of salt.

Mike Donaldson, Debt Discounters of America: "If they've met him, they know that it's just not true. It's mainly just y'know, just hearsay and everything." Bartmann says they'll have 500 employees by the first year of operation. And 3,000 by the end of the third year. And he says he'll give hiring preferences to former CFS workers, and Williams Companies and Williams Communications. "It's a bit unconventional, but then everything else we've done is unconventional."

You might be wondering why a debt collector would ever agree to accept a smaller amount. Bartmann says the collection "process" is so expensive, that even when they "do" collect, it's not very cost effective.

He says if debt collectors have a chance to get "some" money all at once, they'll take it.