CMA President’s Blog: The Influence Edge: Management Training at CreditScape, by Mike Mitchell

CMA President and CEO Mike Mitchell

During the holidays, CMA staff called and emailed most of our members to help us determine their goals and objectives for 2017, and what they thought their biggest obstacles would be. Thanks to all of our members who took the time to speak with CMA staff to share those goals, as we learned a great deal from the process, to help us shape what we’re doing to help our members. Many of you told us that (not surprisingly) that you want to reduce DSO, keep your A/R balances current, reduce late payments and bad debt write-offs, and keep customers paying on terms. Obstacles cited were customers requesting extended payment terms, reduced staffs, and bankruptcies. We also heard throughout that many of you need to overcome these obstacles and achieve your goals more efficiently and for less cost.

The upcoming CreditScape Spring Summit, which takes place in April, speaks to your concerns, as it will feature presentations and discussions that focus on helping you streamline operations and create efficiencies that will reduce the cost of doing business.

Kicking off the Summit is Dan Goldes’ presentation, “The Influence Edge: How to Get What You Want.” Why are influence skills important for credit managers? Credit roles are by their nature cross-functional – internally, you work for a senior finance executive, but you work with sales, order entry, billing, customer service, legal, shipping, and maybe even procurement. Goldes says that, “with the horizontal structure of today’s progressive organizations, it is increasingly important to ask for and receive the support you need to accomplish your goals. The most effective way to do this is through the strategic use of influence skills.”

Creating efficiencies that will reduce costs will require change, and change requires buy in. You will likely have to get approval from senior management to implement those changes (and the costs associated with them), and you will have to convince staff to adopt those changes. Both tasks require influence skills – without them, process improvements may not be successful, and indeed may not happen at all. When you attend CreditScape and learn about process improvements and tools that can create efficiencies and cost savings, we want you to feel empowered to take that knowledge back to your office and get things done. Dan says, “By using influence skills strategically, others will be more willing to help move organizational processes along without resistance.”

Additional programming at CreditScape will include a panel discussion from real-world credit practitioners explaining areas in their businesses where they’ve achieved process improvement, CMA’s version of “Speed Networking,” and other interactive events geared towards helping members create efficiencies and reduce costs in their credit operations.

At CMA, we are dedicated to helping develop educational programs that speak directly to your real-world credit needs and concerns. I encourage you to reach out to my team at CMA (or respond to this blog) if there are other topics that you think could help your business. I really hope to see you at CreditScape in April.

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

It’s a Goal, by Michael C. Dennis

In today’s metrics-driven business world, just as sales managers are accountable for their monthly quotas, credit departments need to have goals.  Credit managers should select goals for the credit department that are simple to measure and report, as well as easy to gather consistently and frequently.  Goals should focus on quality rather than on quantity, and on performance, not on effort alone.  The scorecards used to measure the performance of individuals within the department should be auditable.

The scorecard used to measure the credit department as a whole needs to be published regularly.  It needs to be accurate, transparent, and repeatable. Even with goals and metrics and scorecards in place, the credit department must continue to focus on aligning its activities to the company’s priorities to demonstrate its ongoing value to the business.

Credit managers, do you publish your goals as well as your results?  Should you?  As always, I welcome your feedback.

Michael 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.  He can be contacted at 949-584-9685.