President’s Blog: What I Learned at the 2017 NACM Credit Congress

CMA President and CEO Mike Mitchell

Since my recent return from Credit Congress, NACM’s annual gathering of credit professionals from all over the country, I have been reflecting on how CMA, a proud NACM Affiliate, can best support the credit function and profession. I spent most of my time at the conference talking with our members at the trade show and at special networking events, meeting with my NACM counterparts representing the two dozen other affiliates throughout the U.S., and meeting with many of our strategic industry partners. Unfortunately, that left little time to attend the educational sessions, so I will leave it to the members who attended to shed light on the value of the breakout sessions.

Expo exhibitors reported that NACM members demonstrated a healthy interest in learning about the tools and resources currently available to help them better manage risk and accounts receivable, and become more efficient through automation. As a credit professional, you should be interested in learning about what’s available because these are the tools that are already transforming the way that credit is practiced. If you are at the beginning or middle of your career, a good understanding of the latest and greatest credit tools and resources will give you a competitive advantage when advancing at your current company or in the event you want or need to change jobs. If you are nearing the twilight of your career, this is your opportunity to set up your succession team for success.

NACM’s long-standing partner UTA announced a new surcharging solution for credit card services developed for NACM members, which will allow companies to surcharge their customers to cover credit card fees where allowable. This is a tool that will help our members who accept credit cards payments to save money on many, if not all, of their credit card transactions. CMA will be helping UTA representatives connect with our members that could benefit from this service.

I attended partner meetings hosted by Dun & Bradstreet and Experian. Both global bureaus reaffirmed their commitment to the NACM channel, and we got another preview of D&B’s new product, D&B Credit. Training programs have already been set up so that we can help our members better understand these new tools that are available to them.

At the trade show, I saw a growing list of technology tools that can significantly improve the effectiveness, while lowering the cost, of customer risk assessment and accounts receivable management, which is reason enough to check out these tools. Another reason that credit professionals should be aware of what tools are available: the knowledge increases your personal value. At CMA, we have seen an awful lot turnover and consolidation in credit jobs, and the more you know about what tools are available and how they work will give you a competitive advantage in the job market. Staying on top of new developments in the field reminds me of something NACM Board Chair Jay Snyder of Tech Data said at the General Session — he believes that all credit professionals will have to handle at least one global transaction with in the next five years. What are you going to do to prepare for that?

Sometimes it seems overwhelming to me how many tools and resources are out there today to support the credit function and profession. With the growing demands on the credit department, I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be for our members to keep up with all of it. That’s why CMA should play the important role of staying on top of everything that the credit service industry has to offer. We hope that you will look to your association for help in navigating the ever more crowded landscape of tools and resources available to help you manage cash flow and risk. I invite you to use your Industry Credit Group, or CMA contact person, to discuss some strategies to implement, and through the collective knowledge base of your peers and staff, we’ll try to help you find that solution.

Let me end my Credit Congress reflection on a congratulatory note. CMA members who attended the conference had the pleasure of seeing one of their own receive recognition on the national stage – Melissa Kobus, CCE, Assistant Director of Credit at Walters Wholesale Electric in Signal Hill, CA received the NACM CCE Designation of Excellence Award. Congratulations Melissa on a well-deserved award, and thanks for giving all of us a very proud moment.

What did you take away from Credit Congress? I welcome your comments in the text box below.

Thanks for reading!

A Member Success Story, by Mike Mitchell

At CMA, we often hear stories about how credit group membership can save your company THOUSANDS of dollars by providing critical information that helps you avoid extending too much credit on high-risk accounts. Here’s a real example of how a multi-national company avoided a costly disruption when a long-standing critical supplier filed for bankruptcy.

CMA President and CEO Mike Mitchell

The member regularly attends credit group meetings, and at a recent meeting, he was surprised to learn that one of his company’s critical suppliers had recently filed for bankruptcy. He was surprised by the news because his company subscribes to various monitoring services that should have alerted him and his department to the bankruptcy filing. When he contacted his procurement department, he was further surprised to learn that the department responsible for the relationship with the supplier was not even aware of the bankruptcy filing. The member had sufficient time take the necessary steps to source the critical supplies from a different supplier so that production was not interrupted. Supply chain disruptions potentially can cause more damage to a company’s business model and reputation than the failure of customers to pay their bills, so this was a big deal.

Once the member had mitigated the risks of the potential supply chain disruption for his company, he contacted his supervisor, the Director of Corporate Credit, and let him know that the critical piece of information came from a discussion at a CMA credit group meeting. He gave CMA credit for providing the information that potentially saved his company millions of dollars in lost production time and goods.

We hear these stories all the time at credit group meetings. The real value of regular participation in credit groups is the money and time you save in getting the critical information you need in order to get out in front of situations that could cause significant losses to your company. The member whose story I highlighted above feels confident that the time and money his company spends to have him participate in credit groups is well worth the investment.

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.

CMA President’s Blog: Join CMA’s New International Credit Best Practices Group, by Mike Mitchell

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

We live in a global economy where many of the trading lines that used to go from state to state now stretch from country to country. Our businesses sell to places in the world where the political climate is volatile and it is the credit professional’s job to protect their company’s A/R and ensure they get paid on the deals they accept.

More and more, I have credit professionals asking me how CMA can help them assess the risk involved in selling to different countries, where they can find information and reports about companies in their particular country, and which resources they can access to help sell abroad. In our ongoing effort to help members with mitigating risk, we recently surveyed our members for input on the best ways for CMA to help members sell internationally.

Based on the results of the survey, I am pleased to announce the formation of a new International Credit Best Practices Group, a monthly virtual meeting for credit professionals from different industries to exchange best practices in international credit sales. Each meeting will feature an expert in one of the many areas of international credit, including credit reporting, credit insurance and international business consulting. Each meeting will allow time for participants to share their own knowledge, and get advice from the rest of the group to help address their own specific issues.

If you manage international credit sales for your company, please join us for the FREE inaugural meeting of the International Credit Best Practices Group on January 23, 2017 from 10 am – 11 am PST. We will be joined by several experts, including Gary Mendell and Robina Peanh of Meridian Finance, and Eddy Sumar of ERS Consulting, who will share expertise about getting started in international business and where to find information about assessing country risk. The event will be held via web conference, and you can sign up on the anscers.com Education page.

The Group is an excellent place for companies who sell internationally (or plan to in the future) to hear from experts who will share best practices, tips and tricks to help companies minimize the risk associated with selling overseas. During the initial meeting, your input will help the group determine topics for upcoming meetings, allowing CMA to build a series of agendas for topics that will help your business.

We hope that this new Group will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to help your company compete in the global marketplace. I look forward to participating with you early next year.

President’s Blog: CMA Membership Budget Guide for 2017, by Mike Mitchell, CAE

 

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

All too often, our members tell us that they want to take advantage of all of CMA’s benefits but they say they do not have the budget to do so. For companies on a calendar fiscal year, here’s your opportunity to begin planning for those budget worthy benefits for 2017. Even if your next fiscal year extends well into 2017, it’s never too early to start your wish list.

If your company is one of the 600+ members that participate in one of CMA’s 51 Industry Credit Groups, then you know how valuable it can be to have unlimited access to anscers Credit Reports, RFIs, Credit Alerts, and the knowledge and experience of other credit professionals in your industry. In the past year, CMA group members have submitted more than 45,000 RFIs, warned other group members with more than 6,800 Credit Alerts (which included NSF and bankruptcy information), and shared countless stories about best practices in credit. Many credit group members have reported that they still find their credit groups and the shared trade payment experience the fastest and most economical way to conduct timely due diligence on prospective customers and effectively manage existing customer accounts. The unique combination of industry trade data, insider knowledge about common customers and industry best practices often recoups your dues many times over in helping group members minimize risk and grow revenue.

Before you budget, consider whether you are getting the best value possible for your credit information needs. Let CMA’s experts help you analyze your current credit reporting product mix – we might be able to save you money (and help you get better results) by suggesting a different report or mix of products that better meet your company’s risk assessment requirements while staying within budget. In addition to credit bureau contracts, CMA has several transactional credit report products priced to deliver maximum value at minimum cost. We have also seen usage for the NACM NTCR increase significantly over last year. Only CMA members have access to the millions of tradelines in the NACM National Trade Database (many of which are only available in this report), and at only $14.95 each, the NTCR reports are a great value for an initial credit check. CMA’s anscersX multi-bureau report combines proprietary scores and data elements from all three major credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax) to give you a comprehensive look at the payment history of your customer or prospect ($69 per report). Be sure to budget for some anscersX reports to supplement your existing credit reports.

If you are a construction supplier, consider how using CMA’s Lien Filing Service can save you time and money. With more than 30 years of experience providing services ranging from preliminary notices to lien warning notices, mechanics liens, bond claims and stop notices, CMA has hundreds of clients across the United States who value the personalized, unlimited support from CMA’s caring and knowledgeable staff. You might be interested in CMA’s new Construction Credit Report, providing title data, public record data, active trade lines, credit analysis and scores, collection agency activity and links to state contractor information. The report, which is the only all-inclusive report of its type, runs $29.95 per report.

CMA’s collections partner, AG Adjustments, offers third-party collection services at competitive rates on a contingency basis.

If you’re looking for professional development help for your staff, CMA is again offering NACM Certification Courses for the CBA (Credit Business Associate) and CBF (Credit Business Fellow) designations starting in January. These will only be offered once next year, unless there is sufficient participation for additional classes. If you plan to get certified in 2017 or early 2018, you’ll need to register for the Certification Courses now and budget accordingly ($899-$995 per course). Information for all professional development events can be found on CMA’s website and on anscers.com under the Education tab.

CMA will continue to offer its standard webinar program, which includes several series on topics such as collections, advanced lien law and credit reporting. Our webinars typically cost $49 for CMA members and $69 for non-members, but some may be free to CMA members, depending on the topic.

We hope this list is helpful as you consider your needs for 2017.

Are there other credit-related services that you’re looking for that we currently don’t offer? Feel free to reach out to me by responding to this blog. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to your increased participation with CMA in 2017!

President’s Blog: UCLA Anderson Forecast predicts the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election

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

Every quarter the UCLA Anderson School of Management hosts the highly reputable (and influential) UCLA Anderson Forecast, an economic forecast for the U.S. and California. As an Advisory Board member of UCLA Extension’s Credit Analysis and Management Certificate Program, I was invited to attend the September 2016 Economic Outlook, a live presentation by the economists and economics professors who contribute to the UCLA Anderson Forecast. You can read more about the event on the official UCLA Anderson Forecast blog, but here are some highlights.

 

The theme this quarter was the impact of the economy on the Presidential Election. David Shulman, Senior Economist for UCLA Anderson Forecast, opened the session with a non-partisan breakdown of the major economic policies of both major party candidates for President. For me, it was nice to see policy differences in black and white without the political spin of the candidates and their campaigns. Bottom line, Shulman concluded that no matter who wins, Hillary Clinton’s approach (increased taxes and increased government spending) and Trump’s approach (massive tax cuts, changes in trade policy, less regulation, and yes, increased government spending) would BOTH increase the deficit. The reason – both plans assume a national GDP growth rate north of 2%, but Shulman argued that without improvement in productivity (maybe) and significant growth in innovation (unlikely), GDP will remain on a growth path of 2%.

 

Jerry Nickelsburg, Adjunct Professor of Economics at the Anderson Business School, gave his forecast for California. While still one of the fastest growing states in the U.S., growth of California’s $2.5 trillion economy is slowing because the state is close to reaching full employment. Declining manufacturing coupled with historically slow population growth will continue to restrain economic growth. Nickelsburg also warned that a trade war would have a greater negative impact on California than most states.

 

Nickelsburg also presented some interesting stats on small business. I didn’t realize that the proportion of small businesses (defined as enterprises with 10 or fewer employees) in Los Angeles County is much greater than the proportion in the U.S. and 26% of employment is L.A. County. To me, that means that small business is (and has been) a significant part of our local economy which CMA has not been able to reach. Perhaps CMA’s strategic partnership with the local SBA will provide more opportunities to reach those business owners who may not fully understand how to leverage business credit for the benefit of their businesses.

 

Shifting from local to global trade, I learned more about the controversy surrounding the broad-ranging free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Given that much of California’s economy is dependent upon international business flowing through the Ports of Los Angeles (L.A. is the #1 export district in the U.S.), Long Beach and San Francisco, why wouldn’t a free trade agreement that represents 40% of the global market be good for our local and national economy? The panel of experts argued that intense opposition to TPP is grounded in a retreat into protectionism, a general reaction to insecurity and uncertainty. Most interestingly, they claim that TPP is not as much about free trade as it is about anti-free trade because of all the exceptions in the agreement for goods like drugs, intellectual property, and dairy, just to name a few. I suppose that’s the fine print.

 

Economist William Yu concluded the morning session with a presentation of an economic model that puts a weight of 51% on each state’s real median household growth to predict the outcome of Presidential elections. A 10% weight is put on economic performance factors, GDP growth, Misery index, and state median income growth; demography, religion, and “other” factors such as candidates’ character, leadership, trustworthiness, campaign messages and strategies are weighted 13%, 3%, and 20% respectively. Since the election in 1972, the model has correctly predicted the outcome of 8 out of the last 11 Presidential elections. The model incorrectly predicted the elections of 1976 (Carter v. Ford), 2000 (Bush v. Gore), and 2012 (Obama v. Romney). Yu stated that the model currently gives Hillary Clinton a very slight edge over Donald Trump, but he was quick to say that it is within the margin of error and with 20% of the prediction weighted on factors like character, leadership, and trustworthiness, there is no predicting the public’s taste.

 

So why am I writing about this? There are several reasons. For one, it proves that economic data can be used to predict a lot of things, including the outcome of a presidential election (or how liberal your company might be in assigning trade credit). It also nicely demonstrated the whole “cash to cash” cycle that was discussed at length at CreditScape and in various blogs throughout the year. Finally, in the glut of credit-related content that we’ve been talking about all year here, I’m interested to gauge member interest in hearing more about topics like this. As we’re putting our education calendar together for 2017, I’d love to know what topics you’re interested in learning more about, including economic forecasts like this one. Feel free to leave comments below.

How CMA Supports Collaborative Learning and Leads Change in Credit Operations, by Mike Mitchell, CAE

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

Thanks to all the credit practitioners, industry experts, and industry partners who participated in the many valuable conversations at CMA’s recent CreditScape Summit. Our goal was to create an interactive, collaborative learning environment, and I was so pleased with the high level of sharing among all participants throughout the two-day event.

 

I was equally pleased with the audience response to facilitator Bob Shultz’s approach to process improvements within what he calls the Cash-to-Cash cycle. Also known as the cash conversion cycle, Shultz emphasized that the role of credit management extends beyond basic credit and collections processes. There is the opportunity to impact the company’s liquidity through good inventory and accounts payable management, in addition to traditional accounts receivable management. Collections trainer Bart Frankel recommended that credit people take responsibility for helping to resolve issues that arise out of these “other” departments, as they ultimately impact the credit department’s effectiveness in granting credit and collecting receivables.

 

Experienced credit practitioners and other credit industry experts shared specific examples of how they successfully influenced and improved processes across the Cash-to-Cash cycle and created more cash flow from operations.

 

Another example of how CMA is advocating for the expansion of the traditional role of credit within the enterprise is the suggestion that credit can support procurement in evaluating the risk of critical suppliers. Recently, I had the unique opportunity to participate as a panelist in the fourth annual Global Supply Chain Management Conference at USC’s Marshall School of Business. As panel moderator, CMA Member Alvin Moreno, Director of Global Supply Chain Credit Risk with Nestle USA, made the case that the credit department is best positioned to help the procurement department assess the financial stability of a company’s suppliers. In the wake of shipper Hanjin’s bankruptcy, supply chain disruption has continued to grow as a concern for companies that rely on critical suppliers, which gives credit the opportunity to add new value to the business.

 

As a panelist, I told the audience of supply chain professionals about how CMA has worked with Alvin, his team at Nestle USA, and other CMA Members to create a special credit group in which credit managers collaborate on processes and best practices in supplier risk evaluations. More information about that collaboration is here.

 

Clearly, we at CMA are big fans of process improvement through collaborative learning. But as I mentioned in my opening remarks at CreditScape last week, credit managers need to step up and become credit leaders if they are to be successful in driving the organizational changes necessary to make those process improvements a reality.

 

How are you leading change in your organization? I welcome your feedback.

President’s Blog: Another Great Reason to be an NACM Member, by Mike Mitchell, CAE

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

What if you could get payment experience directly from other suppliers like you from all over the country? That sounds like a job for Equifax, Experian, and Dun & Bradstreet. But what if some of that data is never provided to the large commercial bureaus? As valuable as those bureaus can be (and CMA proudly offers the reports of all three bureaus to members), the fact is that many companies cannot or will not report payment experience except to NACM trade groups. Back in 2010, I had the privilege of working with the founding group of NACM Affiliate leaders who envisioned combining all trade line data from all NACM trade groups into one, easy-to-use credit reporting database. In 2011, the NACM National Trade Credit Report (NTCR) was born and has become one of the most valuable trade information resources for CMA and NACM members across the country.

Besides expanding the database that now includes tradelines from over 12,000 NACM members meeting in 40 different NACM locations throughout the nation, the NTCR hasn’t really changed that much…until now. CMA is excited to offer a much enhanced version of the NTCR on August 1. New features include:

  • Enhanced search capabilities that return much better results than ever before.
  • You’re now more likely to find information on the companies you’re looking for.
  • You will also be able to find international trade data,
  • Collection claims and other credit alerts,
  • Financial institution and banking data where available,
  • Bankruptcies and UCC filings, and
  • Corporate information.

The NTCR report format has been redesigned for ease of use, and even though this wonderful complement to the commercial bureau reports is priced very competitively, members that contribute their full aging files will get 25 free NTCR reports each year and discounted report pricing if you need to order more.

The NACM National Trade Credit Report is the quintessential example of how the NACM family of Affiliates working together with leadership from NACM National can create unique value for all of its members. Please remember that this report is only available to members, and if you haven’t had success with this report in the past, I hope you will give it another look when the enhanced report becomes available on August 1 on anscers.com. Thanks to all of our members who have supported this effort with your trade data – it wouldn’t have been possible without you.

What I Learned at Credit Congress, by Mike Mitchell, CAE

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

This morning, I delivered my quarterly webinar presentation, “Maximize Your CMA Membership,” which I present to our newest CMA members and credit professionals to help them learn about the myriad of resources a CMA membership has to offer. This morning, I started with an online poll, asking the participants, “What are the reasons you joined CMA?” As always, the two most popular reasons for joining are “networking” and “professional development.” And for good reason – there is a limit to what you can learn and information you can gather by electronic means alone. In keeping with this value we hold so dear at CMA, I attended Credit Congress last week, NACM’s premier educational and networking event. Based on our members’ feedback and my own participation in sessions, I learned that networking with your peers and professional development are alive and well and more vital than ever.

What continues to excite me about in-person conferences is what you learn when the audience engages with the presenters – people ask questions and share their own experiences, and the subject matter experts give practical advice to challenges and issues that are not part of the slide deck. I learned more about what our members are facing in their work environments (doing more with less, shrinking budgets, using more tools and technology) than about the credit topics themselves. Never underestimate the power of good catharsis – I can’t tell you how many people nodded their heads and grinned with relief when they heard someone talk about the same challenges that they face.

I also want to acknowledge the many credit vendors who supported the event with their own knowledge, expertise, and tools. I spent many hours talking with many vendors at the Expo, and I learned that many of these providers have played a vital role in helping the credit function and profession progress and evolve. If it weren’t for these companies (many of them small start-ups) investing their time, treasure and talent in the service of credit, our members would not have the tools and resources they need to compete in an ever-changing and risky business environment. We appreciate that many credit vendors have become as valuable an advocate for the credit profession as the credit associations!

By emphasizing the value of networking, peer-to-peer learning, and vendor support, I don’t want to minimize the contributions of the presenters and quality of their content at Credit Congress, which appeared consistently strong and on-topic. Thanks to NACM for continuing to provide a high quality, high value experience for our members.

A healthy turnout for Credit Congress and positive feedback from our members who attended has shown us that there continues to be good reason to offer these kinds of programs to our credit community. Now I am more excited than ever about CMA’s upcoming CreditScape Fall Summit (September 22-23 in Sonoma County) that will immerse all attendees in a learning environment designed to help them discover ways to improve their credit and collection processes.

So that’s what I learned at Credit Congress — what will you learn at our next event?

CMA President’s Blog: The Survey Results Are In, by Mike Mitchell

Here is a follow up from my column last month, when I mentioned a survey to determine which core skills members feel are the most important to credit managers. First, I want to thank all of the 133 members who took the time to respond to the survey. Second, I wanted to share the results and let you know how we will use the information to guide our development of skills training programs this year.

As a reminder, we asked members to rate 15 functional areas of the credit and collections cycle as “Very Important,” “Somewhat Important,” or “Not Important.” From the nearly 13% of CMA members who responded, “Communications Skills (verbal/written)” was rated most important (119 very important), followed by “Credit Basics” (116 very important), “Collection Techniques” (112 very important), “Customer Service Skills” (107 very important), and “Negotiation Skills” (105 very important). All other areas received ratings under 80 for very important (the complete list of results appears below).

survey skillset aggregate

To keep things interesting, the dozen in-depth interviews with CMA’s Board of Directors reflected some of the results above, also placing high value on Communications Skills, Collection Techniques, and Negotiation Skills. However, the group of CMA leaders rated Financial Skills (analysis and forecasting) much higher than the larger member sample, and appear to place a higher value on Leadership and Management Skills. Interestingly, Legal and Compliance issues received average ratings of importance, but we live in a nation of laws and operate in a business environment that is prone to legal risk and liability, so we’re going prescribe legal and compliance training anyway for the overall health of our members.

So what does this tell us about the training needs of our members’ credit operations? We believe that an online credit training program that initially addresses six core disciplines will benefit the vast majority of members who are charged with creating and conducting credit training programs without having the often significant time, resources, and expertise that are required to take on that responsibility. The CMA Credit Training Program will offer skills training in 1) written and verbal communications, 2) credit fundamentals (customer investigations, credit decisionmaking, setting credit lines), 3) collection techniques, 4) negotiations, 5) financial analysis, and 6) legal and compliance.

Look for more details later this summer, but in the meantime, I have a request. Part of the success of our recent CreditScape events was the contributions that experienced credit practitioners made to the workshop discussions. Sharing success stories and career-long best practices have added significant and unique value to our in person education sessions, and I would like to bring that same dynamic to our online credit training courses. If anyone reading this message feels that they have valuable experiences related to one of the core disciplines listed below, and you would be willing to work with me and other members to share those experiences and best practices with CMA members through this new program, please reach out to me so we can discuss a possible contribution.

I want to thank you again for your participation, as I look forward to helping evolve our education program into one that provides members with the topics they value most.

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 Moves its Headquarters to Glendale, CA

Dear CMA Member,

I’d like to share some exciting news with you: CMA is moving its headquarters to Glendale! Our new address will be 111 North Maryland Ave., Ste. 300, Glendale, CA 91206, effective March 16. Our P.O. Box address (P.O. Box 7740, Burbank CA 91510-7740) and phone number (818-972-5300) will remain the same. Our Las Vegas office remains at 3110 West Cheyenne Ave Suite 100, North Las Vegas, NV 89032, phone: 702-259-2622. Please update your address book accordingly.

We look forward to bringing you the same high standards of customer service and handling of all your risk management needs from our new location later this month.
If you have any questions, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Mike Mitchell
CMA President and CEO

Mission, Values, and CreditScape, by Mike Mitchell

MMitchell2Like many of you, I made a number of New Year’s resolutions, and like many of you, I’ve already broken several (perhaps a 5-day-a-week commitment to go to the gym when it opens at 5 am was overly ambitious). At CMA, we have resolved to make mission and values a priority for this year and moving forward. Of course we have a mission and values, but we don’t spend enough time communicating them to our staff and to our members. Like many organizations, CMA revisits these mantras every few years at Board and staff retreats, but we don’t keep the spirit alive in the years between those manic word-smithing sessions. Many organizations and functional departments are guilty of this. Therefore, we at CMA resolve to make mission and values the reasons why we exist and why we do what we do.

Regardless of the actual words we will use to communicate our mission, it will stand for the idea that CMA is here to help credit professionals do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, which hopefully means making it easier to do more with less, and with greater speed and accuracy. There are many ways CMA can support credit professionals and credit operations – knowledge aggregated from the thousands of credit professionals who share their experiences through networking and publications, trade data from credit bureaus and credit group members, a variety of other third-party services, and professional education and training.

That last component of support, professional education and training, represents one of CMA’s deeply held values – a dedication to life-long learning. This is a value I wrote about before we launched our first CreditScape Summit last Fall. I am revisiting this value because we truly believe that continual education on basic and emerging credit topics, and regular training on skills related to day-to-day credit tasks, will keep credit operations sharp and well-oiled. Ultimately, any operating department within a company should focus on one thing, improving performance. How ever your company and department measures performance, you have to make changes to get better results (remember the definition of insanity?). We all know the reality of making change – it’s uncomfortable, it’s time consuming, it’s expensive – but if we are going to pay more than lip service to performance improvement, we have to take an honest look at our operations and determine where we can improve processes that will make a difference in performance.

We have designed the CreditScape Spring Summit and Annual Meeting, powered by UTA, to give our members an opportunity to get away from the daily distractions of the credit operation to focus on learning from other members who have successfully driven change within their credit operations that lead to improved performance. Many of the process improvements that will be discussed are related to technology solutions that have helped drive efficiency and accuracy by automating certain processes. During the opening address, attendees will hear from Michael Puccinelli, CCE, who has made a career out of process improvement by investing in his team (he requires that everyone be trained and NACM Certified) and investing in technology. At his last two companies, VeriSign and now Equinix, Michael has successfully leveraged a highly trained staff and technology to create what he refers to as systemic solutions to drive efficiencies and high performance throughout a global credit operation. It’s work like this that earned him the first annual NACM OD Glaus Credit Executive of Distinction Award and we know that he will have some valuable advice for CreditScape participants, regardless of company or credit department size or industry.

During the CMA Annual Meeting Luncheon on Day 2 of CreditScape, we will recognize and celebrate those credit professionals like Michael Puccinelli who have made significant contributions to their companies and to the credit profession through their dedication to process and performance improvement. To register, visit www.creditscapeconference.com. Hope to see you there.

Now that’s one resolution you can keep!

President’s Blog: What We’re Thankful for This Year, by Mike Mitchell, President & CEO

MMitchell2The holidays are a time to reflect on the past year, and an opportunity to evaluate how successful CMA has been in accomplishing our goals this year. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, your CMA staff has listed a number of things we can be thankful for.

First and foremost, we’re thankful for you, our members, who support the efforts of the credit management profession by actively participating. Whether it’s done through submitting your RFIs, submitting your full aging data, or even just attending Industry Credit Group meetings or events such as CreditScape, your contributions make the entire credit management profession better, and we’re grateful. Over the past year, we’ve taken steps to make it easier for members to participate by expanding the number of free educational events, anscers training sessions and opportunities for members (both new and returning) to learn how to maximize their membership with CMA. For those who have participated in any of these sessions, thank you!

We’re thankful for our partners in the credit information industry who have made it possible to provide our members with valuable, one-of-a-kind products. Thanks to our partners Bob Shultz, Keith Doyle, Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian for helping us provide members with the “big picture” on any account with the anscersX multi-bureau trade credit report. Thanks also to our partners Ansonia and Southwest Business Credit for helping us solve the problem of gathering real-time title information with the most innovative credit report for the construction industry, The Construction Credit Report.

We’re thankful to our exclusive partner in third-party collections, AG Adjustments, which has recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid debts for CMA members. We are thankful for all of our many other vendor member service providers for their assistance with international credit sales, UCCs, payment processing, and deductions management.

We’re thankful for Paul Beretz, CICE; David Osburn, MBA; Jim Menard, CCE; and a host of other dedicated instructors who have supported the professional development of so many of our credit professionals.

We’re thankful for our volunteers, those who have served on the CMA Board of Directors and on committees like Membership and Professional Development. Additionally, we thank those members who have provided CMA staff with lots of great feedback on topics of interest which have been used to create more relevant education and training programs.

2015 has been a really great year at CMA, and we have a lot to be thankful for. We’re looking forward to an even better 2016. Thanks again for your support, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

President’s Blog: It’s Time to Start Thinking Globally, By Mike Mitchell, President & CEO

How can you play and get paid in the global marketplace? Over the last two years, CMA has been exploring how member companies can grow export sales using a variety of credit and trade finance resources to mitigate the risk of selling into other countries.

Today, I am attending Discover Global Markets, a two-day export conference hosted by the U.S. Commercial Service, the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (http://export.gov/discoverglobalmarkets). I am looking for information and insights I can bring back to the CMA membership.

In the meantime, we have many other resources that can help you sell into the global marketplace. CMA established a strategic alliance with the U.S. DOC’s Commercial Services because its trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to new global markets (http://www.trade.gov/cs). Regional Director Richard Swanson recently participated in a panel discussion on international collections at CMA’s Fall CreditScape Summit, and he has provided CMA members with guidance on how to access U.S. government export resources in many other countries. You can also find all the basics at www.export.gov.

When you conduct international credit investigations, CMA recommends long-time partner Skyminder which offers reliable, up-to date information on millions of public and private companies worldwide. Details on how to find them are here.

CMA has three upcoming webinars before the end of the year that will give you more tools for exporting your products and securing your receivables.

  • December 1, 2015: How to Achieve Procurement Using Foreign Trade Zones (Free Webinar) 9:00 AM PST
  • December 2, 2015: Financing Foreign Receivables (Free Webinar) 9:00 AM PST
  • December 3, 2015: Comparison of Credit Risk Mitigation Tools (Free Webinar) 9:00 AM PST

Details on these can be found at http://www.anscers.com/upcomingevents.aspx

Is your company missing out on the other 95% of the world market? Stay tuned.

President’s Blog: 2016: What’s in your budget?, by Mike Mitchell

All too often our members tell us that they want to take advantage of benefits offered by CMA, but they are not in the budget. For companies on a calendar fiscal year, here’s your opportunity to begin thinking about those budgetworthy benefits for 2016. Even if your next fiscal year extends well into 2016, it’s never too early to start your wish list.

Above all, budget for CMA membership and if your company participates in a credit group, include group membership ($1665 total). Credit groups are still one of the best ways to maximize the value of your CMA membership because the unique combination of industry trade data, insider knowledge about common customers, and industry best practices often pays for your membership fees many times over in helping you grow revenue, reduce bad debt losses, and saves you valuable time in conducting due diligence. One of CMA’s newest groups focuses on developing processes to help the credit department evaluate supplier risk. If your company faces significant exposure from the risk of critical suppliers failing to perform on time (or at all if they go out of business), consider budgeting for membership in the Supplier Risk Credit Group ($1200).

CMA has already scheduled the next CreditScape Summit for March 24-25, 2016, and will soon schedule the Fall 2016 CreditScape, so be thinking about adding one or both events to your budget (CMA members pay $499 per person per event). CreditScape is a unique event focusing on process improvement for the credit department, providing the tools to allow you to act more proactively.

CMA will offer NACM Certification Courses for the CBA and CBF Designations starting in January. These will be offered once a year only, unless there is sufficient participation for additional classes, so if you plan to get certified in 2016 or early 2017, plan to register for the Certification Courses now and budget accordingly ($3000 for all courses per designation per person). Information for all professional development events can be found on CMA’s website and on anscers.com on the Education tab.

Before you budget for your credit information, consider whether you are getting the best value for your budget. Let CMA help you analyze your current credit reporting products– we might be able to save you money by suggesting a more cost-effective reporting strategy (pricing varies by report volume). CMA’s anscersX multi-bureau report combines proprietary scores and data elements from all three major credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax) to give you a comprehensive look at the payment history of your customer or prospect ($65 (or less) per report). Budget for some anscersX reports to supplement your existing credit reports.

If you are a construction supplier, consider how using CMA’s Forms Filing Service can save you time and money. With services ranging from preliminary notices to lien warning notices, mechanics liens, bond claims and stop notices, CMA’s Form Filing Services often provide the lowest pricing and best service in the marketplace. You might also be interested in CMA’s new Construction Credit Report, providing title data, public record data, active trade lines, credit analysis and scores, collection agency activity and links to state contractor information, the only all-inclusive report of its type, at $29.95 per report.

Finally, CMA’s collections partner, AG Adjustments, offers third-party collection services at competitive rates on a contingency basis.

We hope this list is helpful as you consider your needs for 2016.

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.

President’s Blog: Practice What We Preach, by Mike Mitchell, CAE

CMA President Mike Mitchell
CMA President Mike Mitchell

I have always been a big proponent of continuing education. My degree programs gave me the opportunity to serve in my current executive role at CMA, and earning my Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation helped me continue to grow into this complex management and leadership role. Having spent the last 15 years working closely with credit professionals in dozens of different industries, I have observed that most credit management positions require a depth of knowledge across a broad range of disciplines – financial, legal, customer service, and organizational leadership. The first three require study and practice to gain a proficiency for effective management. Organizational leadership requires proficiency for the first three, plus the confidence that comes from experience.

To be leader in your organization, you need to be good at what you do, and you have to bring new ideas and prospectives to your team and to the company. When I was studying for my CAE, I read up on many areas of association management that helped fill gaps in my knowledge, but I learned just as much from my colleagues who took the course with me. Their collective experience greatly enhanced my learning and insights, and gave me new ideas to bring back to CMA. How often can you say that about an educational course?

CMA’s online course format was designed to deliver just his kind of experience. We wanted to make education convenient for time-challenged participants without sacrificing the live classroom-style interaction that is so valuable for real learning and the exchange of ideas. Lectures are delivered by the course instructor in a live webinar format to allow for real-time interaction with them and other learners. Course assignments are assigned weekly in a virtual classroom and completed by learners at their own pace and posted to the classroom for sharing.

Continuing education is really about sharing knowledge and experience. There is a great scene in “Good Will Hunting,” a movie about a brilliant young man who is afraid to confront his own life’s extraordinary potential. Will’s therapist tells him that there’s nothing he can learn about his patient that he can’t read in a book, unless Will is willing to share his thoughts, ideas and experiences with him. Learning is about shared experience. Some of that experience is captured in a text book, a linear, fixed perspective which forms the basis on which to understand the multitude of shared experiences you will encounter from the subject matter expert and fellow learners.

I believe in the value that continuing education creates for professionals and the companies they work for. I also believe that we should practice what we preach. Almost 10 years after CMA launched its first online certification course, I have decided to experience CMA’s online courses myself. I am currently enrolled in Business Credit Principles with the goal of earning a CBA designation.

Stay tuned…

CMA President’s Blog: The Virtues of Continuing to Learn, by Mike Mitchell, CAE

CMA President Mike Mitchell
CMA President Mike Mitchell

With another Annual Meeting behind us, I was encouraged to see such a great turnout at the event last week. It was a pleasure seeing all who attended CMA’s Annual Meeting at Disneyland, and what made it particularly exciting for me was seeing that more and more of you are coming out of your offices to engage with other members and learn IN PERSON. It was nice to see credit managers reconnecting or getting to know each other for the first time, and learning from one another as they asked questions and shared experiences during the education sessions, an advantage of meeting in person rather than participating in online learning.

I noticed something else at the Annual Meeting that was very encouraging: experienced, senior credit managers brought their staff members with them to share in the education and networking experiences. I applaud this effort of good old-fashioned staff development, knowledge transfer, and succession planning, something that we don’t often think about in our daily routines, but is critical for the long-term sustainability of a credit department and the credit profession.

For those of you who were unable to join us at the Annual Meeting, look for more opportunities this year, as there are more upcoming in-person seminars, learning lunches and conferences. Additionally, NACM Oregon is hosting the NACM Western Region Credit Conference October 14 – 16 in Portland, OR. More details will follow after NACM’s Credit Congress in St. Louis next month.

My experience at the Annual Meeting re-affirmed for me why CMA is here for its members, customers, and other stakeholders. We believe, as you do, that credit management is critical to the success of any B2B company that sells on open terms, and we are here to help you grow revenue and reduce risk by providing, first and foremost, a vibrant community of credit practitioners with whom you can exchange experiences, best practices, and new ideas.

We hope you’re finding the educational and networking opportunities CMA is offering as useful to your business. Looking to learn more about a topic that we’re not currently offering? Let me know and we’ll try to help.

We hope to meet you in person at one of these upcoming events.

Credit Paradise: CMA Announces Schedule For 2015 Annual Meeting

Credit Paradise
CMA Annual Meeting

Credit professionals will experience a “Credit Paradise” on April 9, 2015 at Credit Management Association’s Annual Meeting. Taking place at Disneyland’s Paradise Pier Hotel in Anaheim, California, the “Credit Paradise” event includes a full day of training, education, awards and networking opportunities with other credit professionals.

“The Annual Meeting allows CMA members from all over California and Nevada the opportunity to learn about the latest trends affecting the credit profession, growing their personal and professional skillsets,” said CMA president Mike Mitchell. “Last year, we addressed the relationship between the sales and credit departments, and received some of the best feedback scores we’ve ever had from our exit survey. This year, we’re looking to build on that positive word of mouth and create a program to allow attendees to create a ‘Credit Paradise’ in their offices.”

Among the highlights of the education program, Jodi Walker will present the keynote address on utilizing creativity to move beyond “business as usual.” Walker is an award-winning speaker who is known for her high-energy presentations. “The topic should resonate with credit managers, as research has shown that five of the world’s largest economies are currently operating with a creativity gap,” Mitchell added.

“Securing transactions is a hot topic in credit management,” Mitchell said. “We thought we’d take a different approach this year and address the topic in a panel discussion with three expert speakers and a moderator who each have a different take on the subject.” Moderated by Diana Crowe of IAB, panelists for the discussion include Jerry Bailey (NCS), Milene Apanian (Law Offices of Abdulaziz, Grossbart & Rudman) and Rudet Fountain (United TranzActions). “The interactive session will include an audience question-and-answer opportunity, so attendees are encouraged to bring their questions to address the panel,” he added.

Popular speaker Rita Jo Schilling will present a discussion on understanding different communications styles in order to help create lasting relationships with others.

In addition, a designated networking reception (sponsored by D&B), a lunch session (sponsored by AG Adjustments) which honors the achievements of CMA’s members, and several Industry Credit Group meetings will take place at the event.

The Annual Meeting is the largest in a series of in-person educational opportunities offered by Credit Management Association. To learn more about the other sessions and topics, visit www.creditmanagementassociation.org/events or call 800-541-2622.

President’s Post: Trends in Credit Management, by Mike Mitchell

CMA President Mike Mitchell
CMA President Mike Mitchell

Happy New Year!

With gas prices down and holiday sales up over last year, 2015 has already been off to a great start.

At CMA, we are working on exciting new initiatives that will make it an even happier 2015. I recently attended a credit reporting summit hosted by one of CMA’s partners, Experian, and heard about 11 trends in credit management that the Credit Research Foundation has identified for 2015.

• Cash Flow – Cash is King
• Integration with ERP/CRM Platforms
• Credit Cards
• Shared Services Environments
• Credit Scoring/Portfolio Management
• Risk-Based Collection Activity
• Reporting – Business Intelligence
• Blended Scores and the FCRA Hurdle
• Sales/Credit Partnership
• Supplier Credit Evaluations
• Emerging global markets

In order to best meet the needs of the credit managers, CMA is offering programs to address several of these trends.

Sales/Credit Partnership – Gear Up for Profit: Linking Sales and Credit Cycles to Grow Profit

CMA is offering a first-of-its-kind workshop that addresses the challenging dynamic between Credit and Sales, for the first time inviting leaders from the Credit and Sales teams to participate in this ground-breaking approach to exploring how the Credit and Sales teams can work together for better profitability.

Supplier Credit Evaluations – Supplier Risk Credit Group

CMA is launching a new credit group that will focus exclusively on evaluating Supplier Credit Risk. We see an emerging trend in companies tasking the credit department with evaluating the risk and cost of business disruption caused by the failure of key suppliers. CMA plans to support this new functional competency by creating a special credit group that focuses on expanding the credit department’s risk management role to include key suppliers as well as key customers. CMA invites you to attend a complimentary organizational meeting to explore and finalize the benefits and features of a Supplier Risk Credit Group – January 28, 2015, 10:00 am – Noon. Email Larry Convoy for details at lconvoy@emailcma.org.

Emerging global markets – The Global Trade Credit Consortium

CMA is building a unique network of top resource providers for international trade and credit practices, with the goal of helping companies sell internationally by making critical trade and credit resources more accessible, responsive, and accountable. International credit consultant and co-founder Eddy Sumar, MBA, CCE, CICP will leverage the Global Trade Credit Consortium to provide professional guidance to help navigate the complex process of exporting. For more information, visit the GTCC website at http://www.globalcreditconsortium.com.

Which trends are you most concerned with in your business for 2015? I’d love to get your feedback on how CMA can deliver services that will make 2015 the best year yet!