Meet CMA Board of Directors Member Robert Shultz

If you’ve ever attended a CreditScape event or Credit Executive Symposium, you probably already know Robert (Bob) S. Shultz, a partner at Quote to Cash Solutions (Q2C) LLC, Trade Information Exchange LLC and Cutting Edge Business Resources & Solutions. Shultz has been consulting at these companies since 2002, and has been working in credit since 1980. A CMA member since 1984, Shultz said his favorite CMA benefit is the great networking opportunities and sharing of best state-of-the-art practices and resources.

“The professionals I have met in my years of membership have helped me repeatedly with ideas on how to streamline processes and how the credit department can add value to any company,” he said.

“By regularly meeting with peers, a credit manager will quickly realize that they are not alone. No one in your company truly understands your role or challenges like the people you connect with through your industry groups, or events like CreditScape, and other valuable CMA events.”

Shultz said that he believes the biggest challenge in credit is that trade credit management is quickly evolving into a multi-faceted responsibility with a critical role in a company’s overall working capital management. To gain a seat at the upper management table, it is essential to grasp credit’s role in the bigger picture. “The key for any credit professional today is to keep up with all the technological changes and evolving business priorities. The best way to do this is through networking, access to information and education, education, education!”

Outside of credit, Shultz loves the outdoors, especially camping, hiking, and fishing. He says he is also fortunate to have had many animals; horses, chickens, rabbits, ducks and goats. “They keep me landed and add to the life balance we all need with busy careers.” Bob and his wife, Cathie, enjoy their family, particularly their six grandchildren.

Two Billion Reasons Why You Need to Know the anscersX Multibureau Trade Credit Report, by Bob Shultz

anscersX Report

Do you have to make tough credit decisions quickly? How would you like to have the power of over two billion trade credit experiences available to you from the three most reliable sources on the planet? What about having credit scores and valuable facts on a company’s history at your fingertips immediately when the credit request lands on your desk?

In today’s competitive environment, informed credit decisions must be made quickly to get product out the door. Your company expects credit to support Sales and drive revenue. At the same time, credit decisions must be within your company’s risk tolerance with a likelihood of prompt payment.

This was the thought behind CMA’s anscersX Multi-Bureau Trade Credit Report. anscersX provides all the above and more from Dun and Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax. You choose which bureaus you want to see. You pay only for what you get. The report is online and delivered to your workstation within seconds of ordering it.

anscersX provides all of the information you need to make most credit decisions. A Paydex Score from Dun and Bradstreet, Intelliscore from Experian and a Business Risk Score from Equifax, along with over two billion current trade lines, trends, details about the company and public records of suits, liens or judgments.

There is a side benefit to those of us in credit who must defend our decisions. Using powerful information such as the anscersX report will help justify any decision you make. If there are questions or push-back, you are locked and loaded to illustrate why you came to the conclusions you did.

Consider the anscersX report if any of the following are true:

  • Your monthly requirements do not justify a costly contract with one or more of the bureaus.
  • You are looking for a more efficient and cost effective way to order reports from multiple bureaus.
  • You have a contract with one of the major bureaus but want reports from additional sources.
  • You have a limit on the number of reports you can order from a bureau, anscersX can conserve usage.
  • A multi-bureau report will give additional insight into a higher risk prospect or customer.

The best thing you can do for yourself today is to go to anscers.com and check out anscersX. It is brought to you by Credit Management Association for the benefit of the credit management community.

Robert S. Shultz is a Partner at Quote to Cash Solutions (Q2C) LLC, and a frequent speaker at CMA-sponsored and other credit events.

Justifying Credit and Collections Automation to Your Management, by Robert S. Shultz

Today’s Business Reality:

In today’s rough and tumble business environment the need for expense management, working capital and liquidity are key CEO and CFO concerns. Gone are the days of ready access to financing and smooth collection of accounts receivables. Timely management information must be available showing how the business is doing and where the opportunities for improvement are. More than ever companies must increase the productivity of limited order to cash management and staff. All this must be delivered with maximum customer service and satisfaction.

Companies must be able to extend credit intelligently, generate accurate and timely invoices, and quickly identify and correct customer disputes. Management needs to track performance metrics, trends and customer issues. Companies that do these things well are in a position to shorten their overall cash conversion cycle, reduce the need for borrowing and bring a company the liquidity it needs to survive and thrive.

There are many cost effective automation solutions in the marketplace focused on these issues. Many of these are cloud based. This simplifies implementation and few internal IT resources are needed. Even though the costs are relatively low, the functionality is amazing. Credit and other financial managers will find that the first hurdle is to convince management the suggested solution meets the acid test. They have to answer the question, “Show me the Return on Investment” (ROI).

Where to Start
The first step for a credit manager is to determine when volumes and performance challenges justify automation and the expense of a solution. The solution could be developed internally or acquired from a third party provider. The cost and likelihood of success with an internal option really depends on the resources available in the company.

Following are ten things to consider that fit any automation initiative. The following is not intended to be a complete list. It covers the key points you may include in a recommendation to senior management.

How would you answer the following question: What are the Compelling Needs for Automation?

In order to convince management to invest in any automation you must demonstrate the need in clear, real world and understandable terms. Here are ten things to consider:

  1. Is excessive overtime a routine in the department? Are you using temps to supplement permanent staff?
  2. If you benchmark Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) transaction volume is yours is low by comparison?
  3. Is your company growing, merging or acquiring but you are not able to hire additional staff for your department?
  4. Is Sales continually upset that credit reviews take too long? Is business lost as a result?
  5. Are collection results below expectations?
  6. Is your department stuck in a morass of unworked deductions?
  7. Are invoices often inaccurate or go out late?
  8. Are Sales and Customers impacted by order hold and release delays?
  9. Is management unsatisfied with performance measurements, reporting and the ability to status Customer balances?
  10. Is it impossible to accurately forecast cash flow?

As you can see if any or all of these factors are in play you will get the attention of your management with opportunities for significant improvements.

Where is the Money!
Soft savings such as process efficiency or improved customer service can help justify expenditures for automation. Actual hard cost savings will enable you to calculate the “ROI” and how long it will take to get there.

You should consider such things as:

  1. An increase in transactions per FTE will reduce the need for overtime, temps or permanent staff.
  2. Based on forecasted company and transaction growth automation will reduce the need to add staff.
  3. Automation of the credit approval and review process will speed decisions, avoid lost business and could reduce past dues and write-offs.
  4. Increased collection efficiency will bring in cash earlier, reducing borrowing costs, enabling the company to take all Accounts Payable discounts, provide working capital to invest in profitable opportunities.
  5. Timely or self-service invoicing will reduce invoicing delays, identify errors earlier and optimize the payment cycle.
  6. Cash administration/application improvements will identify customer payments earlier, avoiding unnecessary collection expense and speeding up the order hold release process, improving revenue and profits.

 

This is just a surface view of what it takes to convince management an automation initiative should be approved. Each of these points and more will be discussed in-depth at the upcoming CreditScape Summit and Annual meeting in Newport Beach, CA on March 24-25 2016. Come to CreditScape, learn from experts and peers who have done this, share you own experiences with others. For more information, visit www.CreditScapeConference.com.

Robert S. Shultz is a Partner at Quote to Cash Solutions (Q2C) LLC. He will also be moderating several of the panel discussions and workshops at CreditScape.

Read the other posts in this series here:

Outsourcing Your Order to Cash Functions, by Robert Shultz

This is part 1 of a 2-part series on this topic. Read part 2 here.
Part 1: Seven Advantages to Consider

Overview: Many companies consider outsourcing all or part of the order-to-cash process as a cost-effective alternative to retaining internal staff and infrastructure improvements. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires a thorough evaluation of choices.

I like to look at the entire process from beginning to the end. Start with the development of a price and terms quote. Understand how the decision will impact all the steps leading to good funds sitting in your company’s bank account. All the steps in between are interconnected. In short you have to consider the quote to cash process in total. Ensure all the stakeholders are working in concert to provide your company with efficient support and your customers excellent service.

Any decision to outsource should consider the impact on all elements of the quote-to-cash process. The project leader must take in to account how the decision affects the other stakeholders involved. Senior management, sales, customer service, operations, project management, etc. all either feed into the affected processes or are impacted by the performance results. To ensure success, involve these other stakeholders from the beginning. Their perspective and involvement is critical. Remember, customer service considerations should take a priority seat.

There are numerous factors you need to consider when deciding if outsourcing or improvement of internal operations through automation is best for your company. You will notice many of the decision factors go beyond just the potential money savings.

When done for the right reasons and in the right way, outsourcing can, in fact, help your company grow and save money. Just make sure the decision is deliberate and well thought out.

Advantages:

1. Focus On Core Activities
In periods of rapid growth or, as with many companies in recent years, a reduction in business activity, back-office operations must expand or contract as the business changes. If the back office does not keep pace with the business activity, it can consume resources (human and financial) at the expense of the core activities that have made your company successful. Outsourcing functions like order entry, credit control, collections, dispute management and cash administration can provide opportunity. Remaining internal resources can be refocused onto priority business activities without sacrificing quality or service in the back office.

2. Cost And Efficiency Savings
Back-office functions may be complex and require a level of sophistication in both human and system resources. As your company grows and internal operations expand, management may be faced with a choice: make sizable investments to keep up with the growth, or find a third party capable of taking the hand off. Without the needed improvements, the company may not be able to perform at an acceptable level of accuracy or speed at a consistent and reasonable cost.

3. Potential to Reduce Overhead
Overhead costs can easily run higher than expected. If functions can be moved to an alternative location or partnered with an automation provider, there will be a significant cost savings realized on total overhead.

4. Operational Control
Operations that have costs are running out of control are prime candidates for outsourcing. There is often a lack of compliance control, fuzzy objectives and performance tracking in accounts receivable departments at many organizations, and these are situations where an outsource provider may bring more up-to-date and effective skills than are currently available within the struggling company’s staffing budget.

5. Staffing Flexibility
Outsourcing will allow operations that have seasonal, cyclical or special project demands to bring in additional resources when needed. Excess staff can be released when the need diminishes.

6. Continuity & Risk Management
Periods of high employee turnover can add uncertainty and inconsistency to any operation. Outsourcing Q2C functions may provide the continuity needed to reduce the risk of substandard performance.

7. Dedication of Internal Staff to “High Priority” Core Functions
Critical strategic customers need to be adequately supported. Outsourcing low priority functions and, at the same time, lowering cost will enable highly skilled internal staffers to focus on critical priorities and major accounts.

In Part 2 of this series (which will be posted tomorrow), we will examine preparing for an outsource engagement and the challenges outsourcing Q2C can present. You will learn which factors to consider in weighing an internal vs. an outsourced Q2C solution.

Robert S. Shultz is a founding partner at Quote to Cash Solutions (Q2C) LLC, a consulting firm that focuses on delivering quality solutions that improve client revenue opportunities, cash flow, operational efficiency and customer retention and satisfaction and when needed, management and staff training. He can be reached at (805) 520-7880. For more information, visit Q2C’s website at www.quotetocash.com.

10 Negotiating Tips You Need To Know, by Robert S. Shultz

Negotiation is not a contest to see who can prevail. It is the “art” of getting to the point where two parties can agree on critical concerns. It encompasses employing core negotiation principles, the use of applicable strategies addressing the situation, focus on specific objectives, having a fallback position and, if all else fails, knowing when to walk.

Following are 10 considerations creditors can use to improve negotiation results. This is not complete list by any means. However, these points are critical for a successful negotiation outcome.

1. Don’t alienate the other party: In an effective negotiation, both sides must have the desire to reach a conclusion without alienating the other side. In the end, both sides should be satisfied with the result. If your counterpart seems unwilling to reach a desirable outcome, find points that will gain support and acceptance. Effective negotiation requires knowing how to satisfy a customer’s needs and amicably resolve differences. By being skilled in negotiating you will be able to collect more dollars, improve overall performance, and improve customer satisfaction.

2. Practice effective communication: Successful negotiation involves effective communication between the parties. To eliminate communications roadblocks, consider the following:
• Listen first. Pick up on what is said to clarify or modify your position.
• Find a basis for common understanding.
• Clearly state your case and what you want.
• Recognize the style of the other side and communicate in a fashion they can relate to. Don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed by aggressive behavior coming from the other side. Keep focused on your objectives and remain calm. If things become unprofessional with no change of behavior in sight, be prepared to walk.
• Deal with the decision maker. Invest your time with someone who can make a decision.
• Ask probing questions that cannot be answered with a “Yes” or a “No” and make the other side explain the answer.

3. Avoid elevating issues into a conflict:
• Find common ground: Both parties should have a strong understanding of one another’s needs.
• Break down issues into manageable/understandable pieces: Sometimes an impasse can be avoided by breaking the issues down. Start with what you can agree on. Attack the easiest issues first. You may find when the easy issues are resolved most, if not all, of the big issues have evaporated.
• Build a track record of trust: Once you have agreed on issues where some give and take was possible, a trust develops between the parties

4. Practice the “Four C’s” of negotiating: These points describe an approach. Not everyone you come up against will use this approach.
• Caring: Be sincere. Listen to the other party and be interested in their issues.
• Calm: This is a tactic that will encourage the other side to state their position and objections without undo emotion. When they are excited and you are calm, it tends to bring them down.
• Clear: Confirm the other party heard you and clearly understands your position. To avoid misunderstanding, restate what you hear. Repeat what is said and keep repeating until you get it right. It may take several tries.
• Comprehensive: Prepare yourself as best you can under the circumstances, time constraints and information available. Think about: Possible “What Ifs” and “What Nots.”

5. Prepare yourself in advance of a negotiation:
• Do your homework and learn everything you can about the other side. Try to understand their motives and objectives. Determine what you want to accomplish. In face-to-face meetings, have an agenda handout or an executive summary.
• When the negotiation starts, have all the necessary documentation in front of you. Have a plan for your initial position and your final position.
• Have a primary and secondary goal: A primary goal is a necessary outcome. A secondary goal is what you can accept and still meet your company’s needs.

6. Understand your “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement” (BATNA): This is the course of action you will take if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. This is different than your “walk away” point. Very often if a win-win cannot be achieved, going for a “no deal” could be the best answer. You can’t win every time. There may be business factors that override a negotiated settlement if one cannot be reached.

7. Define the negotiation scope and approach: This will depend on several factors, each of which must be considered as you enter any negotiation with a customer.
• What are the key issues or obstacles that need to be addressed? Is it payment? Does the other party need additional information to meet your request?
• What are your restrictions? (Time, costs, etc.) Are you up against a deadline?
• Is this a major issue or a priority for your company? Should you spend a little or a lot of time dealing with this?
• Can you trade on an issue that you feel has limited importance to win on a major one?

8. Know who you will be negotiating with: What is their negotiating style? Determine how you expect them to approach a negotiation? Work to establish a rapport at the outset of the negotiation. Separate people from the problem. Remember, negotiators are people first. In most supplier/customer negotiations, the negotiator has two basic interests: The issues at hand, and a desire for a continuing relationship between the parties.

9. Understand the business and future relationship potential: Is this customer of strategic importance to your company? Review your company’s historical relationship with this customer. Is the issue at hand an anomaly, or is it a repetitive issue? What is the revenue and profit potential in the future? Is the relationship worth saving?

10. Be culturally sensitive:
• Don’t Apply the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Use the “Platinum Rule” – “Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves.”
• Understand what is offensive: You might be comfortable looking someone straight in the eye, introducing yourself with a firm handshake, being direct and open and getting right to business. Other cultures encourage other behaviors.
• Be sensitive to the appropriate sequence of business and negotiation: It is not appropriate in some cultures to first do business and then develop a relationship. You are expected to develop a relationship and then do business. You need to understand what goes first.
• Understand the “real” message: Cultures vary in the way they communicate their message. You must be sensitive to these differences to understand what they are telling you and react effectively.

Effective negotiation is truly a combination of art and science. It takes planning and effort to reach a result acceptable to both parties. In doing so, business between the parties can continue. As a supplier, you can collect more cash and keep more customers.

Robert S. Shultz is a founding partner at Quote to Cash Solutions (Q2C) LLC, a consulting firm that focuses on delivering quality solutions that improve client revenue opportunities, cash flow, operational efficiency and customer retention and satisfaction and when needed, management and staff training. He can be reached at (805) 520-7880. For more information, visit Q2C’s website at www.quotetocash.com.