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Entrepreneur profile

Andrew Housser

Co-CEO, Freedom Financial Network /

San Francisco Business Times

What it does: Consumer debt resolution services.

HQ: San Mateo.

2006 revenue: $17 million.

Number of employees: 240.

Year founded: 2002.

Source of startup capital: Personal funds, angel investors.

Background: Graduated from Stanford Business School with co-CEO Brad Stroh in 2002. Previously worked in investment banking and private equity.

Age: 34.

Residence: Woodside.

Web site:

Big picture

Reason for starting business: We got the bug of wanting to be on the entrepreneurial side of the table rather than investment side. One thing that was clear was that consumer debt was a problem, and had been for decades. We looked long and hard at the collection industry ... you have the biggest companies in the world -- banks, collectors, law firms -- all ganging up on the consumer, who has no advocate. We saw an opportunity.

Most difficult part of decision: In 2002, shortly after the dot-com bubble burst, it was difficult to get people to open their wallets. Through our network we were able to scare together funding.

Biggest plus of ownership: It's not always easy and it's not always fun, but I never have that feeling of not being happy about coming into work in the morning.

Biggest drawback: It's a lot of work.

Biggest misconception: How much value the idea was worth, versus the execution.

Biggest business strength: I've never been above doing anything that needed to get done.

Biggest business weakness: It's been a struggle for me to learn as a manager that sometimes logic and reality don't matter when you are dealing with employees -- perception is what matters. If employees perceive something to be unjust, even if it's not, logic and reason won't help you.

Biggest risk: Buying was a big risk. At the time, two years ago, it was a million-dollar purchase for us. It was a lot of capital; a large percentage of the cash we had on hand. It needed to be successful in order to justify that purchase price. It has.

Biggest mistake: In our early days we kept at least one or two people on for longer than we should have.

Smartest move: Investing in great managers.

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