In the TMX Finance® Family dictionary of common terminology, the word “passion” would be accompanied by an image of Senior Director of Bankruptcy, Danielle Gibson. A force for change and customer advocacy since she started with the TMX Finance® Family as a paralegal in 2008, Danielle established a vision to help change the way the Company, customers, attorneys and courts saw bankruptcy.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done here because this is the only position that I’ve held where I came in and helped define the department. No job I’ve ever been in has trusted me enough to allow me to move forward on a vision and a plan. Most companies wouldn’t allow someone to come in and do that. It’s definitely rewarding; if we go back 12 years and look at where we are now, knowing there are still companies that are older and not where we are, it’s amazing.”
Upon her arrival, she used her litigation background to quickly identify the biggest issue: a lack of education on the bankruptcy process and what it meant to protect the customer and Company.
“At the time, we were a Company where bankruptcy attorneys didn’t see the need to help their clients pay us because they didn’t understand what we did. Not only were we losing money, but customers weren’t getting their titles back. It took about a year and a half to really educate everybody on the bankruptcy process- from the bankruptcy courts, to attorneys, to lawyers, to our store employees- and to help them gain an understanding of why it’s important to protect us and include us in customer’s bankruptcy plans so, they could receive their titles back.”
Danielle shows passion for the process but remains humble when speaking on how she grew the department. For her, it wasn’t about the work, it was about advocating for the rights for the Company and of the customer, many of whom built relationships with her and became repeat customers.
Even from an early age, Danielle’s passion for advocacy presented itself before she understood what it meant. It’s no wonder why she grew up to study pre-law and earned a degree in Political Science with a minor is Sociology. She continues to advocate, whether through being a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or stepping up and using her voice for those who cannot.
What made you want to get into law?
“I’ve been doing bankruptcy for 12 years, but law was my first passion. When my brother and I used to play as kids, I would either be the judge or the lawyer, because I was good at arguing a case. As far as I could remember, even when I was a quiet child, I was passionate about others. Any injustice to others lit a fire inside of me. So, I decided that if I ever made it to law school and became an attorney, it would not be for the money, it would be for those who suffer injustices every day. Especially children and seniors.
Before my dad passed away, he would always tease me with “your cousin went to school” or compared me with someone else. At the time, I had lost interest in college. I couldn’t see myself there. When he died, I felt like I had to do it for him. I needed to give him something. So, I enrolled at Armstrong. The first person I met, Patricia Williams, asked me, “Why are you here?” At the time, it was for my dad, but I soon learned that I was fulfilling something in me that I had forgotten about. When I took my first class, Criminal Law 1: Procedure and Practices, I FELL IN LOVE. I excelled so well, I was hungry to succeed at this thing, and felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.”
What does Black History mean to you?
“Reflection. Reflection of the past, and hope for the future. I’ve always loved black history; I remember being school-aged and trying to find the lesser known leaders in black history to present. Now, working with the youth department at my church, I encourage them to look for the same, starting with the everyday people in their house.”
You do a lot of work with the youth in your community. Why is that important to you?
“Yes, I am always known for having kids in my house. This past week going to church, I had five—I got them all McDonald’s which makes me “the best aunt” or “the best godmother.” They all have so much personality and bring a different perspective to the table. My love for kids is nothing new.
I had a bus driver, Fred, who used to say, “You’re not the motherly kind.” I proved him wrong! I have two boys who inspire me greatly. I put their picture on my desk so when times get hard, I can shift my focus to them. When they were born, I knew it was time for me to set the example. Giving up was not an option. Failure was not an option. Teaching them helped establish who they are today.
I hope to instill that same mentality in the youth that surround me today. They see so much negativity that it’s important for me to do something special and spread positivity in their lives. I’m still learning to embrace this gift within me. I want to do these things because somebody helped me and it’s just the right thing to do.”
How do you feel you’ve paved the way for future black leaders?
“Advocating. Trying to be an example, sharing, and trying to inspire people around me. Especially people of color and women. I think, “If I can do it, you can do it.” Many people don’t know my story; I had a child at 17, I went to the unemployment office looking for a job and a career assessment test told me I was best fit as a “cab driver.” When I had my son, I chose to defy the odds and I was not going to let him be a product of what society would want him to be. Becoming “just another statistic” was not an option.
When I look back, I don’t take those moments for granted. I could have easily been somewhere else, but I have been fortunate enough to work hard and be with the right people who paved the way for me so I can do the same for others.”
How does your advocacy play into what you’re doing at the TMX Finance ® Family of Companies?
“I love being the balance between our store employees and our customers. I want to make sure they are both treated fairly. I like being able to help a customer who may have fallen on hard times, and being with them through their situation. At the end of the day, we want them to get their title back. It makes me happy when they do! We know that bankruptcies are not personal, but we do strive to help the customer get through it.
Having that type of attitude and mindset makes it easier to work with their attorneys. Instead of them writing us off, they want to add us to the bankruptcy plan and make sure the Company is taken care of. Some customers come back and become return customers; it’s all about respecting and treating people the same way I would want to be treated.”