The Passing of an Industry Icon

December 20th, 2017

“A giant in the industry.”

“A true gentleman.”

“A good mate.”

“A true pioneer.”

“Adventurer.”

“In his wake, he left many people better off than when they first met him.”

“He deserves the title of King. God Bless him.”

“As an industry we will only see a few men and women of his caliber and vision in our lifetime.”

Dennis Punches, the former CEO of Payco American, board member of Europe’s Interim Justitia and Australia’s Collection House, and founder of the International Collectors Group, passed away yesterday morning after a tough battle against the horrible disease of cancer.

His son was by his side playing his guitar to the song “It’s a Wonderful Life” when he expired.

Dennis touched many of us, directly and indirectly, in the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry. Competitors and credit grantors knew him as the CEO of Payco American, the largest debt collection agency for decades until it was sold to an industry consolidator in the late 1990s. Those of us who were fortunate enough to interact with him directly will miss him greatly.

I would like to start an industrywide tribute to Dennis and present it to his family so they are fully aware of the enormous impact Dennis had on many lives, and on an entire industry. I could not think of a better way, during the holiday season, to pay our respects to a wonderful man.

Here is one of my Dennis Punches stories. Please take a few minutes and add your own, either by commenting to this post or, if you prefer, sending me an email at mike@kaulkin.com.

Payco American acquired a lot of businesses over many years. They had an exceptional and tenured leadership team in Neal Sparby, Joe Treleven and, of course, Dennis Punches. I was fortunate to have transacted with Dennis and his team on numerous occasions, but one particular transaction stood out for me. This transaction was different in two ways. First, Dennis possessed a sixth sense to get this one to the finish line. He realized early on that the owner was extremely reluctant to sell. This owner resisted the transaction all the way until closing day. In the olden days, documents were signed in person. This closing took place at the seller’s law firm. Dennis suggested the owner sit in his own room, away from everyone else, and sign the documents at his own pace. It took many extra hours to get through the closing documents, but it was the only way this deal was going to get done. The second unique aspect of this transaction happened many years after the closing. The owner’s son stayed on with Payco post-closing as the vice president in charge of acquired company. Most transitions involving the son of an entrepreneur/founder staying aboard last a few months. A year is a long time for the son to stick around. Not in this case. The son remained with Payco for more than a decade and could not say enough positive things about his experience. He became an excellent reference when it came time to buy other agencies.

Our industry is fortunate that it had Dennis Punches as a major part of it. I am better off having known him personally and professionally. He will be sorely missed.

Let’s keep this going!

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