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Vol. 10, No. 11/12
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102  


© 2013 William A. Cohen, PhD

Bill Bartmann is a living legend who gives new meaning to achieving success. Some years ago Bill was carried in a listing of the richest men in the U.S. He was a billionaire and his name was listed right ahead of Ross Perot in wealth. I was so impressed with what he had accomplished that I called and asked him for an interview for a book that I was working on a book on heroic leadership. You see, as a teenager, Bill had been a homeless gang member, eating out of dumpsters. Later he got a terrific job . . . working at a pig slaughterhouse. He managed to become an alcoholic at age 17, and became a paraplegic after falling down stairs drunk. He became paralyzed and was told that he would never walk again. Against his doctor’s wishes, Bartmann began a daily regimen of physical activity until he eventually regained the use of his legs. He proudly walked out of the hospital totally recovered and put himself through college and then law school.

Building a Million Dollar Business and Ending Up a Million Dollars in Debt
Using his education, hard work, and boundless self-confidence, Bill built a business manufacturing pipes for oil rigs. But then the industry suddenly went south and his sales dropped from an astounding $1,000,000 a month to zero in 30 days. The company closed its doors and he found himself dead broke, owing $1,000,000 to the bank while he tried to support a wife and two daughters without income.

Repaying a Million Dollar Debt and Becoming a Billionaire
Looking for a way to repay his debt Bartmann saw an advertisement where the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was auctioning off delinquent loans. Another words, they were looking for some poor soul to buy loans that had already gone bad. As a collection agency they made money on whatever they could collect. Only a heroic leader like Bartmann would even think of doing such a thing. Especially since Bill found his own portfolio among those bad debts that were being sold. But Bartmann went to his bank to which he already owed $ 1,000,000 and asked for another $13,000.

Climbing Out of Debt
He made $64,000 from that initial $13,000 loan. With increased confidence, he returned to the bank and asked for another $100,000 to buy more bad loans. He promised to take out only $20,000 from the money he collected, and to use the rest toward paying off his loan. Impressed with Bartmann’s positive expectations, the bank president agreed. Several months later, Bartmann returned with over $200,000 and asked for more money to purchase more bad debt. His self-confidence persuaded the bank. As his firm grew he hired others and imbued them with his philosophy of positive expectancy as well. Many became as successful at collecting bad debts as Bartmann himself had been.

Bill Bartmann, Billionaire
Twelve years later his company, CFS, had 3900 employees. His collection philosophy was 180 degrees out of threatening people or breaking their legs. He told his employees that these debtors weren’t deadbeats or derelicts . . . they were CFS customers. That was certainly a new concept in the collection business. If they couldn’t pay everything right away, he’d ask them to pay what they could. He wasn’t just successful — he had bounced back from million dollar debt to billion dollar success. But that wasn’t his only bounce back

Tragedy struck again. Someone in his organization had conducted highly questionable financial transactions. In a flash, he lost everything. He was judged innocent of all wrongdoing, but a bankruptcy court laid off all of his nearly 4000 employees. That was in 1999.

Only a couple years later we met in Los Angeles and had lunch. He had already begun to make it all back and had written a book, “Bailout Riches”, which became a #1 world-wide bestseller on Amazon, and also made it to the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and BusinessWeek bestseller lists. He asked me to serve on one of his nonprofit boards which investigated claims of corporate wrongdoing on behalf of whistleblowers who were afraid to act. The need became obvious because several of his former employees said that they were aware of what was going on but that they were afraid to tell him for fear of retribution by the guilty party.

Only a couple of weeks ago I was watching television and one of the major networks had a special about my friend Bill Bartmann. He had started what they called the most unusual collection agency in the world. It was called CFS2. It does more than the old CFS in treating debtors as customers. CFS2 offers a unique array of free services to those they are collecting from, including: employment assistance, credit specialists who negotiate reductions of other personal debt, resume writing, medical discounts and help accessing government assistance. An agent of CFS2 can get in trouble with Bartmann not by failing to collect debts but by failing to help debtors.

Like CIAM Bill Bartmann is doing things in his new company that no competitor is doing. I won’t spoil things by telling you everything, but I will tell you that he recently wrote an ebook that I am happy to recommend. Its title is Bouncing Back, with and which tells everything. He priced it at $5.95 so everybody could afford it and he’s donating 100% of the money to charity.

Bill Bartmann is also now the newest member of my Board of Advisors of the new graduate school of which I am president, the California Institute of Advanced Management or CIAM.



“Have you got a problem? Do what you can where you are with what you’ve got.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Recent Linked Articles by Dr. Cohen not  Published  in the Journal of Leadership Applications:

Two New Podcasts on The Practical Drucker
HR Today Podcast
-CLN Spotlight Podcast
Heroic Leadership – It May Not Be What You Think (Heroic Leadership) from Corporate Learning Network
Drucker Knew: In the Board Game Risk® and in Business, Concentration is the Key (Lessons from Peter Drucker) from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, Six Sigma Management IQ, and Corporate Learning Network 
5 Important Facts about Leadership  (Lessons from Peter Drucker) from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, Six Sigma Management IQ, and Corporate Learning Network 
Why Obeying the “Rules” of Job Search May Work Against You from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ 
The Ultimate Means of Running an Organization Well from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ
The Most Peculiar Leadership Model from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ
You Must Know Your Strengths from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ
Peter Drucker and the Accomplishing of More with Less from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ
The Richest Source of Innovation from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ 
Ignorance is Good from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ
Drucker’s Stellar Approach to Leadership 
A Class With Drucker: Part I 
A Class With Drucker: Part II 

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