Never stop giving back. It is what has made Pauline Kussart so successful over the past 20 years. As the fourth owner of The Stark Collection Agency, she is proud to be a part of the agency’s interesting history while making her mark within the collection industry.
The Stark Collection Agency was incorporated in 1948 by Howard Stark and Hilding Haag. After a time, the two went their separate ways. Howard continued with The Stark Collection Agency, while Hilding founded what is now known as State Collection Service. The agency’s clients were in the financial and telecommunications sector, with one of its first being Wisconsin Bell. Under Kussart’s leadership, The Stark Collection Agency remains true to its roots, working in both financial (banks and credit unions) and telecommunications debt collection as well as a few government clients. Pauline is proud to employ 25 individuals.
While the collection industry has been a huge part of her life for the past 20 years, Kussart actually started her professional career as a registered nurse. “When my husband and I moved to Wisconsin and after a series of events, I felt a nudge to move in a different professional direction. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and when The Stark Collection Agency came up for sale, it checked a lot of the boxes I was looking for in a business venture,” Kussart indicates.
The early days at the helm of the agency found Pauline immersed in educating herself in the business and collection worlds. She knew that despite her entrepreneurial drive, she had a lot to learn. “I signed up for every ACA and WCA seminar, webinar, and conference opportunity I could find.” Once she felt up to speed with the industry, she started to give back. “It took about two years for me to feel truly comfortable. But once I did, I knew I had to get involved. I started to volunteer for the Wisconsin Collectors Association as well as ACA. I have been involved at either the national or state levels ever since.”
With the complexities of the collection industry in the last five to ten years, there are a lot of challenges. Despite this, Kussart has a lot for which to be thankful. “I feel honored that I can provide a solid income for my employees and that my small business contributes to the economy. In a small way, I know what we do helps people turn their lives around by meeting their obligations and getting their feet back on the floor. That is very gratifying,” she notes.
As the Secretary/Treasurer of GLCCA, Kussart reviews the association’s monthly financials and approves the payables. In addition, she works with the rest of the executive board to ensure that the association runs well and that the membership’s concerns are heard. Her role as a part of the Council of Delegates allows her to be a voice for GLCCA members. “Hearing the member’s concerns is of the utmost importance to me as part of the Council of Delegates. It’s my job to ensure that I back ACA board members at the annual meeting who are like-minded in their support of the things that are important to our membership.”
Kussart believes that individuals who are not involved in GLCCA would truly be surprised by all the membership benefits. “There are a lot of educational and networking opportunities with both agencies and vendor partners that can help members grow within the industry. The GLCCA also gives members a platform for their concerns to be heard. But I think the biggest surprise might be the passion of those who are involved and thoroughly invested in the association. While we might all compete for some of the same clients or business sectors, we want each other to succeed. It is really a family atmosphere and people are always willing to lend support. With the cost of doing business in our industry, we all need to help each other become better. The GLCCA allows us to do that.”
Spending time with family is very important to Pauline and her husband Gene, who have three adult children and three grandchildren. With two of the children and all three of the grandchildren living on the east coast, they don’t get to spend as much time with them as they wish they could.
While Pauline admittedly spends more time then she probably should at her business, when she has free time, she loves to garden and cook. “In another world, I would have been a master gardener or maybe a chef.” She is also an avid reader (her favorite genres are legal thrillers and history) and an active community volunteer, a practice she brings to her leadership at The Stark Collection Agency. “Each year all of our team members pick a charity that they would like us to get involved with. We have a drawing to choose which ones we will support. I believe it is so important to give back.” It’s a philosophy that we at the GLCCA are so thankful she holds!