CHICAGO -- He lays no claim to prophetic ken, but Les Kirschbaum has taken a peek into the economic future and issued a pronouncement that the hour of deliverance from despair is at hand.
"I see things better," said Kirschbaum, the overseer and president of Mid-Continent Agencies Inc., a national collection agency based in Glenview, Ill. "It appears a turnaround is upon us."
Kirschbaum, 48, whose business is putting heat on deadbeats and debtors, based his prognostication on a 15 percent upsurge in his firm's "collectibility rate" on commercial delinquents in the second quarter of this year.
He also said the volume of claims placed with his agency, which had been growing by 20 percent in the previous two quarters, slowed to a 10 percent increase in the just-concluded quarter.
"People are paying up rather than going out of business or going bankrupt," he said. "A lot of the consumer-credit and collections people aren't seeing that trend yet, but it's our experience that when businesses start paying their bills better, eventually the consumer segment does, too."
Kirschbaum's upbeat forecast is shared by other major commercial collections czars, including Greg Haldeman of American Receivable Recovery Corp.
"The rebound is taking shape," he said. "The collectibility rate will rise at least another 10 percent in the second half compared to the first half."
And Stanley Tulchin, whose Stanley Tulchin Associates is based in New York, said he is "cautiously optimistic that we have bottomed out" in the current recession.