Why You Shouldn’t Leave Managing Credit Risk to the “Luck of the Irish,” by Tracy Rosenbach, CCE

Being a good credit professional has nothing to do with luck. A solid credit professional is one who has invested in him or herself by taking classes and/or receiving an NACM certification; attending industry credit groups; and networking. The key in all of the above activities is getting as much information as possible. An effective credit manager should always strive to learn everything they can about one’s industry and profession, networking with as many credit professionals as possible to understand industry best practices, trends and tactics they can use to make their department run more smoothly (this is another under-rated and often overlooked benefit I get out of attending Group meetings as well).

On April 12, credit professionals will have the opportunity to attend CMA’s Spring CreditScape in Garden Grove, California. The goal of CreditScape is to provide an opportunity for credit practitioners with all levels of experience and expertise to come together to determine ways to reduce costs and create efficiencies in their credit departments. Some of the topics for the conference include:

  • The Influence Edge: Increasing Efficiency with Influence Skills
  • Where can you Increase Efficiencies in the Cash-to-Cash Cycle?
  • Creating efficiencies and cost-savings in the customer onboarding process; credit applications; credit information and portfolio management

Credit practitioners from companies such as Nestle, CED, Reliance Steel and Cemex, among others, will be talking about how they’ve seen process improvements in their businesses, and how they realized those improvements. In addition to the sessions, there will be Speed Networking: Tools to help Create Efficiency and Reduce Costs with CMA’s sponsors and a networking event so you can get to know other credit professionals, along with workshop opportunities to keep you participating in the event as a participant, not just a bystander.

I strongly encourage you to attend this CMA event as a way to increase your knowledge base so that your methods of credit management aren’t as random as trying to find a four-leaf clover in a large field. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Best regards,

Tracy Rosenbach
CMA Chairperson 2016/2017

Giving Thanks, by Tracy Rosenbach, CCE

tracy_rosenbach_7975ef

Happy November everyone! I am still trying to get used to the concept that it is Fall here in Southern California. Many days I feel like it is still just summer, extending out a few more weeks. Regardless, it’s at this time of year that I take time to think about life professionally and personally.

To do this task right, I often list out why I am thankful. I include on my list the educational opportunities that I did throughout the year which help me to do my job (this year, it was attending Credit Congress and Fall Creditscape), the personal and professional friendships I’ve been fortunate enough to have, the customers I enjoy working with, the great boss I work for and my family. I think it is extremely important to take a look at the positive.

In addition to taking a retrospective look, I try to thank those who help me. In my communications with our customers, I make sure to thank them for the opportunity to do business together. Internally, I thank those who provide me guidance, information, etc…

I am also thankful that we have CMA to help us in our professional lives. CMA is an amazing organization in all the services they offer credit professionals to help manage risk, such as getting advice on the best credit report for your organization and circumstance, filing your construction lien forms, safely facilitating the industry credit group you participate in, etc…

I encourage you to contact CMA for any questions you have regarding their services, or to try them out for the first time. They are great listeners too!

Best wishes to you for a very Happy Thanksgiving! Have a wonderful holiday, and thanks for reading.

Tracy Rosenbach
CMA Chairperson 2016/2017

To Place or Not to Place, by Tracy Rosenbach, CCE

IMG_7974efHello everyone! I was thinking about an issue recently that affects all Credit and Collections professionals, when is the right time to place an account with a collection agency. Though I won’t be talking about Shakespeare (as the title of my blog suggests), I used the reference because I find myself pondering this question very frequently, and it is at times a tough decision.

Let’s face it: the profession we work in is in many ways a grey area. Our decisions can quickly change depending on the information we receive, even one bit of information can alter our course. What can we do about it? If you haven’t already, I believe that every company should develop a procedure for placing accounts for collection. Your policy should address such issues as timing (how long does your company generally allow an account to be past due), dollar amount (does your company treat an account differently depending on the dollar amount outstanding), account status (does your company view the customer as a key account) and customer cooperation (is the customer willing, but unable or are you getting the silent treatment). If your company already has a policy regarding placing an account in collections I suggest that you review it periodically so that it accurately reflects your company’s culture. Once you have a procedure in place you have a guideline to follow.

Next we look at what information we have. We as credit managers are amazing at gathering, processing and summarizing information. Information in this situation would include: customer payment history, customer financial information (if shared), a third party report (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, etc…), your own experience in handling the customer, your CMA industry credit group experience and perhaps information from sales. We process this information and summarize it. We compare the information we have on hand to our company’s policy and then make our recommendation.

How do you decide when to put an account in collections? How long should you wait? What are things I look for before I submit to collections? We weigh the information in a department discussion, review our guidelines and then make our decision.

CMA’s collection partner AG Adjustments suggests you wait until you have exhausted your internal efforts, the customer is 60-90 days past due, they are not communicating and there are no new orders and the customer is unresponsive before placing for collections. What do you think? I’m interested in your thoughts and methodology. Please leave your comments at the bottom of this blog.

Hope you have a good September. I’ll touch base in next month.

Tracy Rosenbach
CMA Chairperson 2016/2017

President’s Blog: How do CMA members leverage technology?, by Mike Mitchell

CMA President and CEO Mike Mitchell
CMA President and CEO Mike Mitchell

CMA is proud to host the CreditScape Spring Summit 2016 next week in Newport Beach, with a significant focus on how technology can be leveraged to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of credit operations. Regardless of whether you are attending the event, we’d like to get a baseline for how much automation is being utilized across our member base today.

Click here for a short survey that will ask you about your challenges, where you are with automation and where you’d like to be. We’ve also got several questions about the time spent and value of some of the most common activities in the credit department. By helping us to better understand your challenges regarding automation and technology, we’ll be better able to craft conferences, webinars and presentations, and even alliances with technology providers, throughout the year that help support your goals.

We’ll be asking these same questions on a periodic basis to see how quickly our membership is adopting technology. We’ll also want to understand how else we can support your needs in this area and how well our efforts result in concrete improvements and reduction of manual labor at the member level.

The results of this survey are only available to CreditScape attendees and those who complete it – so please take a few minutes to tell us about your process. We’ll discuss the results at CreditScape next week!

Here is a link to the survey.

See you in Newport Beach!

Mike Mitchell

CMA Launches New “I Am CMA” Blog Series

CMA, through the input of its Membership Committee, has launched a new campaign to allow members to share the most valuable aspects of their membership with CMA members.

Titled “I Am CMA,” the series will explore CMA’s different programs and services and how they have helped members. The first blog will appear at CreditManagementAssociation.org in October.

With business credit services ranging from Industry Credit Groups to credit reporting to construction forms filing services to collections to business insolvency, we hope the series will inspire you to utilize CMA more to help provide information to reduce your company’s overall risk.

For more information on the blogs, or to be featured, contact CMA Communications Manager Alan Dicker at 323-573-0840 or adicker@emailcma.org. We hope you enjoy the series.

Discussions You’ll Have at the CreditScape Fall Summit, by Mike Mitchell

At CMA, we are so excited about the CreditScape program we’ve got planned for you, we wanted to give everyone a sneak peak at what you’ll be talking about. All next week, CMA will publish a series of briefs from thought leaders who will be featured at the Summit — Chris Rios, Bart Frankel, Scott Blakeley, Chris Ng, Eddy Sumar, Michael Dennis, and more.

When I spoke with Chris Rios, Director of Finance Operations for Dun & Bradstreet, about the whole collections process, he spoke about the importance of treating collections like sales, because you are “selling” customers on why they should pay their bills. The key to success is building and maintaining good relationships with your customers. He also stresses the importance of being “forward looking” and strategic in your approach to collections – using data and analytics to drive collection effectiveness.

Bart Frankel has been a member favorite with his “Phone Power” Collection Webinars over the years, and we’ve asked him to share the collection techniques he developed for the $7 Billion Order-to-Cash process for the Pratt & Whitney Division of United Technologies. Bart will be the first to tell you that collections starts with the sales call and he stresses the importance of getting the upfront process right the first time so you don’t have so many issues on the back end.

What if you are exporting and trying to collect from customers in foreign countries? Eddy Sumar, CCE, CICE, has plenty to share about his experiences collecting money from all over the globe, and he’ll be the first to tell you, collections starts with an understanding of the 6th C of Credit — Culture.

Join us next week in hearing from these, and our other thought leaders, who will be driving the workshops and discussions that you care about at CreditScape. You can read their contributions on our blog page.

Chairman’s Blog: What’s Your Personality Style (and How it Can Help Relationships)? By Michael W. Fenner, CBA

After having dialogue with a customer, have you ever thought, “Wow…wasn’t that a great conversation?” Have you ever hung up the phone and said, “She was so nice.” And maybe you have said, “We really, really get along.” Or on the contrary, how many times have you said, “What did I say to irritate that customer?” Have you ever thought, “Why were they so upset?” Did you ever get off a call and say, “What just happened?” It’s happened to all of us. For me, when it does, I try to figure out a way to manage it.

Once I understand personality styles (and am able to conform to that customer’s style), I have been able to improve my relationships and enhance all conversations.

Here are the four personality styles:

  • Analytical – They think it through, they are detail oriented and love spreadsheets.
  • Amiable – They have “feelings” they are very low key and have good friendships.
  • Driver – They tell it like it is, it’s their way or the highway and they are in charge.
  • Expressive – They just want to have fun, talk about what happened last weekend and you always know where the next party is.

Here are several steps I went through that helped me have better conversations.

First, I figured out my own “personality style.” Once I did that it made the next steps easier. Take a look at the styles above and ask yourself “what’s your style?”

Second, take a minute before you make your next phone call and/or before you go in to visit your next customer and figure out what their personality style is.

Third, conform to their style. Yes, imitate it. It’s that simple. If an analytical person wants detail, give it to them in a spreadsheet or aging etc. Make sure you slow down and be very mellow with an amiable person (don’t make them mad). For the expressive person, have fun with them talk through everything they want to then get to your point and exit. With the driver, make sure you are as tough with him as he will be with you…he will think it was a great conversation.

I’m sure the times you got along with someone you conformed to their style and you didn’t even know it. And the times you didn’t get along, guess what…you probably didn’t conform to their style.

So what’s your style? Think about it on your next few phone calls and customer visits. See if it makes a difference or better conversation. Let me know your thoughts. Have fun with it. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Michael W. Fenner, CBA, is the Credit Management Association Chairman and Regional Credit Manager for Beacon Roofing Supply. He can be reached at 714-321-8187, or mfenner@becn.com.

Are You an Engaged CMA Member?, by Michael W. Fenner, CBA

Michael Fenner, CMA Chairman of the Board of Directors
Michael Fenner, CMA Chairman of the Board of Directors

Here at CMA we are always looking for engaged volunteers; you know, new people, fresh ideas etc. who can help further the credit management profession. Are you wanting to make a difference? It is so important for each and every one of us to support our association. Without members like you and I it just wouldn’t work. So if you are interested in getting involved please contact me directly. I would be happy to point you in the right direction.

Are you supporting the services offered at CMA such as Industry Credit Groups, RFIs, Education, AG Collections, Construction Forms Filing, or maybe Business Credit Reports? Use as many as you can to support and protect your credit departments. What is your department lacking? Where do you need extra support? Make sure you reach out to the CMA staff or me if you have any questions or needs. We are always here to support you.

And when I’m talking about engagement, I’m talking about doing the little things: attending credit education opportunities and introducing yourself to other credit managers; submitting RFIs and subjects for your industry group meetings; regular active participation in your industry credit group; and the list goes on and on.

Here’s an idea let’s all try to bring one new person to your Industry Credit Group this year…wouldn’t that make a difference? Remember, please make sure each and every one of you reach out and support when and where you can this year. It’s up to us and we can all make a difference.

What a wonderful opportunity to serve as your chairman on Credit Management Association’s Board of Directors this coming year. On a personal note, I am truly honored and humbled for the chance to help make a difference for the CMA organization. I am also appreciative that my company supports me in this role at Credit Management Association. Have you thanked your boss lately for their support? I know that I have.

Again, thank you all for this wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to doing great things with you this year.

Michael Fenner, CBA, is the Credit Management Association Chairman and Regional Credit Manager for Beacon Roofing Supply. He can be reached at 714-321-8187, or mfenner@becn.com.

Finding Hidden Gems in Your Organization, by Melissa Kobus, CCE

Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chair and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com
Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chair and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com

The role of credit is ever changing.   What credit professionals handle on a daily, weekly, monthly basis is challenging and can sometimes feel overwhelming.  The requests from your customers, internally and externally, require you to reprioritize at any minute of the day.  What happens when the requests outweigh the resources available?  How do you handle the workload?  What steps have you taken to help balance your day?

I recognize that every company is different, what is a priority at one may not be a priority at another.  As the workload changes, have you taken a moment to rank your tasks by importance?  Are there tasks that you do as a matter of course “it’s always been done this way”, that are no longer really required.  Have you asked those who you are supporting, if the action is still necessary?  Eliminating redundant or outdated activities will easily add time to your day.

A challenge that I face with regularity is keeping up with technology.  Our customers ask us to support any number of different platforms for billing services and customer research.  Having the time and knowledge to provide excellent customer satisfaction is important, so I engage weekly with our IT group.  They have strong technical skills and have helped us out of a bind in a number of cases.  They too lack resources but I have found a good relationship has been mutually beneficial.

Sometimes there are those special projects that seem to come out of nowhere.  What about those projects that have been on your to-do list since last summer?  I have found resources outside the credit department to be extremely helpful depending on the project.  I have engaged sales support and front office staff to assist in getting the job done.  They welcome the new experience and opportunity to be involved.  They become part of the credit department extended family.  Who knows, they might bloom into the newest credit team member.

Streamlining your main activities and prioritizing; partnering with other departments; and developing resources outside of your specific team will help in balancing the ebbs and flows of the credit dept.  Can you too find hidden gems in your organization?

Melissa Kobus, CCE, is the Credit Management Association Chairman and Regional Credit Manager for Anixter Inc., based in Anaheim, CA. She can be reached at 714-695-2219, or melissa.kobus@anixter.com