Tell us about your decision to get your MBA at CSUSM?
I decided that it was a good time (1995) to get my Masters as a career enhancing move. I had graduated from San Diego State University in business in 1985 and was seeking to further my career, so a MBA would be optimal. After I graduated from SDSU, I spent a year and a half in the Sears Financial network. I then took a position in sales for Equifax where I worked for 10 years. At Equifax my career was growing and I wanted to achieve more. I had applied to other Masters programs and was preparing to take the GMAT when CSUSM announced they were going to start a MBA program. The MBA program at CSUSM was designed like an executive MBA program - 1 1/2 years long meeting every other Friday and Saturday but was not called an executive MBA. My position at Equifax (mid management) allowed me to attend the program and even offered a corporate benefit program to help pay for it. I became one of the original MBA students at CSUSM and was part of the first graduating MBA class. There is a plaque hanging up on the campus acknowledging our achievement of being the first MBA class at CSUSM.
Where has you career path taken you since graduating?
When I graduated from CSUSM my career immediately grew. Equifax was going through some structural changes and offered me an opportunity to move into a new position upon graduation. With those structural changes however, there was change in Equifax’s Senior management, including the Senior Vice President of Marketing who left to run a company out of Boston. He contacted me and offered me a position to run that companies National Sales Team in Boston and their data centers in Provo. That opportunity was the springboard to other opportunities. That position lasted three years. I took another position with a company based out of Maryland to run their national sales. As an executive on their team I had a chance to use and apply some of the concepts I had learned at CSUSM. That company offered me a position in Columbia, MD (DC Area) after 3 years of working for them. My career was at a cross roads - make the move back east or take their go away package and figure out a new career path. The generous go away package gave us the opportunity to start our own company. That was 20 years ago and we are still running that company today.
Tell us about your current organization?
We started Credit and Collection News 20 years ago. The company provides a daily news publication that is designed for the financial services industry. We publish the electronic newsletter every business day. We have over 50,000 emails/subscribers in our database. Our main clients are banks, credit card issuers, credit unions, finance companies, collection agencies, debt buyers and vendors of the industry. Besides publishing the newsletter, we produce conferences (both internal and external) in the industry. We just finished our 15th annual conference this year. I also have done radio show segments on credit for 4 years, credit podcasts and even some videos on the industry. We even consult with other companies on helping them run their conferences and helping them increase sales.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, Credit and Collection News President Steve Ruderman and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch all spoke on a panel of Attorneys General’s at the Credit News Annual Conference held that year at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, CA.
Tell us about your role?
As a small business owner, my job is to oversee it all. I am the organizer and the one who does the work. While we have staff - we rely on outsourcing most of our positions. Accounting, Marketing, Legal, Web Design, IT, and Sales are all outsourced. While I manage and run the organization, I rely on my staff and outsourced partners to handle the details.
What us your favorite part of your job?
Traveling and planning our events. We visit locations and are hosted by hotels and CVB’s (convention and visitors bureaus) all over the world to see where we should host our events. Nothing better than having a 5 star hotel come get you and take you to their resort and try and sell you on hosting an event there. We spent a week once in Florida being hosted by the Ritz Carlton, each one of the 7 Ritz Carlton resorts were trying to outshine the other on hosting an event there. That was an incredible week!
How is COVID-19 affecting your organization at this time?
You have to pivot to survive. We had our annual show (approximately 200 attendees) scheduled for the end of April 2020. That was not going to happen when everything started shutting down. We had to adjust and change our strategy to survive. This would have been our 15th annual show so we knew how to run the show if it was in reality. We consulted with our partners, Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Discover Card and decided to host the show virtually. We had about 30 days from shut down to the actual show to create and run a show online. We used Zoom conference and got a crash course on producing a show online. The show was a success and we had over 100 people each day in attendance. Financially it was tough, but we got creative on how to build a virtual show, bill new attendees, work with our sponsors and create enough value to have those who normally attend our show in reality attend virtually.
Any important lessons you have learned in management or leadership roles?
Communication is key. Talk with contacts and ask opinions. You will make plenty of mistakes but that is a learning opportunity. The company has changed a lot from 20 years ago and continues to change. There are so many opportunities to succeed. There is no shame in asking questions, worst thing they say is no. However asking can sometimes lead to an opportunity to succeed. We have had Senators, Governors and Congressmen speak at our shows. Our readers/users are the best ones to offer insight and opportunities for success. Our two largest annual conferences were ideas and concepts from our readers and supporters who suggested we could do something better. We listened and grew successfully from those experiences.
Have you received any recent awards or recognition from the business community?
We have received awards from sponsorships of businesses charity events. Even in hard times like today, we try and help out companies. With our media outlet we can make announcements and increase awareness of opportunities in our industry. One thing we pride ourselves on is offering attendance to people in our industry who are seeking employment. Executives who suddenly found themselves looking for a position we have invited to attend our conferences. They can attend and talk with contacts about new career opportunities. It's a simple way to help give back. I have also been doing college mentoring at SDSU for over 5 years, each semester a new group of Seniors sign up to be mentored. I spend an hour or 2 every few weeks discussing career options and opportunities for success to college kids who are looking for advice on what to do as they approach graduation. Have also been teaching classes to local high school kids helping them to understand and use credit.
Steve Ruderman and his family on vacation in Greece.
Do you have any advice for students or alumni?
Do not be afraid to ask questions. There are so many opportunities out there sometimes you just need to look around and you will see them. Read the news and see what is happening. Join networks and follow peoples successes. I spent my first 10 years working for large corporations and eventually worked my way to running my own company. The trade offs were worth it. A big company offered training, paid my expenses and gave me a good foundation to build upon. The smaller companies and my own offered flexibility, the ability to pivot and change directions and the opportunity to be more productive.
What is your favorite memory from CSUSM MBA?
We would meet our spouses after class on Friday or Saturday evening and blow off steam at restaurant row in San Marcos. It was fun to laugh at all the stress from working and taking classes at the same time. A lot of my classmates were on the same career paths, looking to jump from mid management to that next level. Earning my MBA certainly helped me achieve that.