A Time to Reflect at New Year, by Tracy Rosenbach

Happy New Year’s everyone!

January is a natural time for reflection and goal setting. Professionally, this is the time when I like to take a look back at the previous year to see how I can improve on what we accomplished last year. From there, I begin to develop goals for myself and the department. I am always looking for ways in which to make the flow of work go more smoothly, payments especially at year end to be made on time, etc… I find that communication and organization are two of the most important keys to success.

Nothing can replace the personal touch when it comes to working with high-risk and key customers, one of my goals each year involves developing a list of customers to visit. Normally the list has no more than 10 – 15 names on it to keep the focus on those customers which can materially impact my company. Some of these customers are within driving distance, which minimizes the expense. Some I will have to fly to, but I try to combine it with a conference/seminar/meeting in order to get the most out of the trip. Making that personal contact with the customer can open up the lines of communication in many ways. When I am visiting a customer, I try to meet as many key personnel as possible from the CFO and/or controller to the Purchasing Manager. I always represent myself as yet another point of contact/resource for our customers. Years ago, I had a customer call to ask me a freight question involving a delivery. Normally I don’t handle this type of question, but I took down the information and rather than transfer the customer around the company I found out who could answer the question and put the two parties in touch. The personal touch is invaluable.

I also look for ways to better streamline our credit operations, making sure that our processes are as efficient as possible with the technology that’s available, and that we’re using the correct reporting resources to meet our needs and provide data to make effective credit decisions. When’s the last time you evaluated your credit reporting solutions? If it’s been more than a year, I suggest you do it again soon.

As you head into the New Year take a moment to reflect about 2016 – the successes and the failures – and how you and your department can improve. You are not alone by any means. CMA provides the means for networking (industry groups, the annual meeting, etc.), information exchange (the type of credit reports you need and the information exchanged through RFIs, alerts and credit groups), collection of tough accounts (collection services), etc… Please reach out to the CMA staff for any assistance you may need to ensure that your company’s credit operations run as smoothly as possible in 2017 and going forward. Remember, CMA exists as a partner to help your credit department accomplish its goals. Don’t forget to include CMA in your success plans for 2017 and beyond.

Have a happy and healthy 2017! I’ll touch base in February.

Tracy Rosenbach

CMA Chairperson 2016/2017

Should a Credit Manager Request Personal Social Security Numbers?, by Michael C. Dennis

Michael C. Dennis

In a recent post on LinkedIn, a question was asked about If, When and Why B2B creditors such as CMA members request or require Social Security Numbers from credit applicants. (https://www.linkedin.com/grp/post/2412088-6014193760244690945?trk=groups-post-b-title) At the time, I posted two responses in which I posed questions for CMA members in connection with the laws governing the use and the protection of SS numbers.

As I read through the other comments, I saw that several credit managers did routinely ask for them, while others were vehemently opposed to doing so.

Now that some time has gone by, I would like to offer the following additional comments for members who obtain SS numbers from applicant companies:

• Create strong policies and procedures about If, When, Why and Which applicants will be asked to provide their Social Security Number.
• Make sure your attorney has reviewed these policies and procedures and has confirmed that your actions are lawful under applicable federal and state laws.
• Publish these policies and procedures, and then enforce them.
• Create a robust mechanism to ensure there is limited access to customer SS numbers and related information.
• Assign one or a limited number of employees the task of safekeeping and safeguarding SS numbers.
• Be sure there are consequences for employees if policies, procedures or safeguards are ignored for any reason.
• Understand the potential costs of a data breach involving personal information including but not limited to SS numbers.
• Understand the disclosure requirements and the remediation obligations and out-of-pocket costs in the event of a data breach.
• Make sure you have a compelling business reason to obtain SS numbers and consumer credit reports.

Where do you stand on this issue? As always, I welcome your feedback.

Michael C. Dennis is the author of the Encyclopedia of Credit (www.encyclopediaofcredit.com), a free, fast, internet resource for credit and collection professionals. He is a consultant, and the author of “Credit and Collection Forms and Procedures Manual” as well as a frequent instructor at CMA-sponsored educational events. His most recent book, “Happy Customers, Faster Cash,” is available at amazon.com.  He can be contacted at 949-584-9685.