Opportunity For Senior Level Credit Execs to Learn From Other Credit Execs

CMA has created an opportunity for top credit executives among different vertical markets to get together to learn from the successes (and failures) of other top credit executives at the CMA Credit Executive Symposium.  This unique event allows senior-level credit executives to gather for a full day roundtable facilitated by 30-year credit veteran Robert Shultz. At the event, you’ll discuss high-level business issues and trends with your peers in many industries, compare best practices, and get tips on valuable resources to help you improve your credit operations.

The agenda for the Credit Executive Symposium is highly personalized and built from input from all participants so the issues are timely and relevant to all attending. Attendees of the event will engage in round-table discussions, thought-provoking breakout sessions, and guest presenters.

Past discussions have included collections, supply chain risk, shared services centers, international risk mitigation, performance metrics, hiring & retaining staff, fraud, and cyber security.

The event takes place on April 11, in Garden Grove, CA, the day before the 2017 Spring CreditScape Summit.

Our facilitator, Bob Shultz, is managing partner at Cutting Edge Business Resources & Solutions (CEBRS). Bob will incorporate trending issues with topic requests from attendees to challenge the group in an intimate, dynamic think-tank environment that is heavy on interaction, low on PowerPoints. You will explore questions that matter most in your career and to your organization in roundtable discussions with seasoned credit peers from many industries. For more information about the event, contact Mike Mitchell at mmitchell@emailcma.org or download the event flyer here.

Do You Understand the Credit Department’s Role in the Cash to Cash Cycle?, by Robert Shultz

A company’s cash flow is dependent on a lot more than just credit policies and collections.  Every credit professional plays a larger role than just managing these areas.  If you want to add real value to the total operation, you must understand the “Cash-to-Cash Cycle.”  How is the cash conversion cycle measured?  What are the components that drive performance?  What departments or stakeholders are affected by your department’s decisions or delays?  How does your department impact overall company results?

To start, you have to see liquidity management through the eyes of a Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer, CEO or Owner.  They are concerned with how departments work together to meet company strategies and goals.  To them it is critical to balance inflows and outflows, to meet forecasts, and minimize the need for borrowing.  They want to get products out the door to meet or beat competition with excellent service and speed.  To manage effectively, performance tracking and transparency are a must.

At the upcoming CreditScape Summit and Workshops, powered by UTA, we will be exploring how a credit professional impacts each component of the “Cash to Cash Cycle”; Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO), Days Payables Outstanding (DPO) and of course Days Sales Outstanding (DSO).  We will dive into the causes of delays in “cash days” and what you can do about them.

You will be able to share your challenges and ideas with a panel of Chief Financial Officers and your peers.  We will discuss actions you can take to improve performance and demonstrate your value.  Come to CreditScape and better understand cash to cash management.  You will leave with an action plan for improvements you can start immediately.

 

This is just a surface view of the cash-to-cash cycle. Each of these points and more will be discussed in-depth at the upcoming CreditScape Summit and Workshops in Sonoma, CA on September 22-23, 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.

Coming Soon: How to Implement the Elements of High-Performing Credit Departments

We work in a “do more with less” world. Practitioners in the credit department are impacted more than most. Dedication to process improvement is the only way to achieve high-performance results in the face of ever-shrinking budgets.

At CMA, we’ve had numerous conversations and phone calls from members who tell us that they are trying to do more with less, or that their departments have been downsized. As a response to those conversations, CMA has created an event that is designed to help credit managers with all levels of experience and expertise to leverage the knowledge and experiences of practitioners who have implemented elements of high-performing credit departments, with a complete 360-degree overview of why, when and how to implement those elements to help your department achieve its maximum performance.

The 2016 CreditScape Fall Summit and Workshops, powered by United TranzActions, will feature two days of workshop training, expert practical and legal advice, and networking with other credit professionals. The goal of CreditScape is to provide an opportunity for credit practitioners at all levels of experience and expertise to come together to solve problems and provide solutions for their real-world issues they face at work.

Over the next few days, three of our panel and workshop moderators for the event, Robert Shultz, Bart Frankel and Paul Beretz, will be guest blogging about the cash-to-cash cycle, how to get to “yes” in credit decisioning, and how collections fits into the cash-to-cash cycle.

We invite you to join Robert, Bart and Paul at the Fall CreditScape Summit and Workshops, powered by UTA, September 22-23, 2016 at the Doubletree by Hilton Sonoma (or view the website at www.creditscapeconference.com) , and to read their blogs, as the information you’ll receive can help you save time and resources in the long run.

What elements of the high-performing credit department are you the most interested in learning about? We welcome your feedback.

Other related articles:

CMA Partners to Show Off anscersX Multibureau Trade Credit Report at Credit Congress

If you’re planning to attend the 2016 NACM Credit Congress in Las Vegas, June 12-15, one common product you’ll see at top vendor booths is CMA’s anscersX multibureau trade credit report, a single report that contains all the key elements about your customers’ paying habits needed to make most credit decisions.

Some of the credit industry’s top software companies soon will offer or have launched the anscersX report on their platforms , including TermSync, CreditPoint Software, Bectran, Credit & Management Systems Inc. (CMS), and eMagia/TheCreditApplication.com. Many will be demonstrating how anscersX can be accessed directly through their software at Credit Congress.

These leading software vendors will help their clients join the hundreds of companies who have already benefited from having instant access to this single report that contains all the key elements about your customers’ paying habits needed to make most credit decisions.

The anscersX multi-bureau trade credit report combines key factors from the three largest trade credit reporting agencies (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax), giving credit managers the most complete payment story available. “The anscersX report offers some real advantages to anyone making a credit evaluation,” said CMA president Mike Mitchell. “Single-source Business Credit Reports are made up of accounts receivable data that has been contributed by companies, public record data and payment scores generated from the combination of this data. Since most companies that contribute accounts receivable data only send it to one provider (D&B, Experian or Equifax), using one report may provide only a piece of the payment habit story. I am thrilled that leading-edge software providers feel as strongly as we do that there is a real need for bringing this unique resource to the credit community, and I’m grateful that they are helping us introduce their clients to the power that the three largest credit bureaus can bring to credit decision-makers with limited time and budgets.”

The report, which is also available at www.anscers.com, ranges in price from $32.35 to $69.95, depending on the number of reporting agencies the user requests. Users control which reporting agencies are accessed for the report.

To learn more about the program, visit www.anscers.com or call 800-541-2622.

About Credit Management Association
Credit Management Association (CMA), which was founded in 1883, is a Glendale, Calif.-headquartered trade association with approximately 1,300 member companies representing over 250 different business categories selling regionally, nationally and internationally. CMA focuses on providing products and services that allow companies to make informed business decisions based on trade credit. CMA is one of the largest affiliates of the National Association of Credit Management (NACM), whose 45 affiliates serve all of North America. For more information, call 800-541-2622, or visit www.creditmanagementassociation.org.

So Your Software or Automation Initiative Has Been Approved, What Do I Do Now?, by Robert S. Shultz

Define the Project Purpose and Scope? It is Not all about the Technology

Any software or automation improvement addresses defined business objectives that impact multiple areas within the company. In order to pull off these changes effectively all stakeholders affected should be aware of and involved in the coming changes. Depending on the project and the company, the target audience may differ. As an example: You can’t consider changes in credit and collection software without involving such areas as sales, customer service/order administration, project managers, operations and IT, while keeping senior management informed. Every project has a defined mission that requires cross-functional buy in. Realistic objectives and timelines have to be agreed to. Roles have to be defined.

This takes planning and cross-functional communication. If you are heading the implementation team you will need a clear vision on how the changes will support company goals and performance expectations. Processes, policies and procedures may need changes and streamlining to best leverage the new tools.

Ready Fire Aim… Don’t get bogged down with long term major system implementations. They are hopes and dreams.

A solution provider will have to be vetted that meets your company’s requirements. This will involve a well thought out selection process where both you and the provider understand each other’s business needs, strengths and weaknesses. You will need a basis for your selection. Try to make this as objective as possible, looking at each potential provider with the same criteria. A well rounded score card that lists and weights your critical needs. The selection process should provide all the stakeholders involved an opportunity to participate. If you get buy in at this stage, there will be much less push back later.

No system is perfect or addresses all the needs of all the users. Often it is best to reduce expectations in order to actually get the basics in a reasonable time-frame. Credit and collections are tactical issues: The needs are immediate and have to be addressed today. Complex ERP implementations are strategic in nature. By the time the specialized needs of a Credit Manager are addressed, too much time is lost, the department fails to gain efficiency and results have not improved.

Making the Choice Between an ERP and a Specialized Solution

ERP solutions are robust and have many company-wide advantages. They are also complex, expensive and have long implementation cycles. Let’s face facts. Credit Departments typically have fewer headcount that other areas supported by an ERP. The value in spending research and development dollars for a minimal number of users isn’t in the cards.

Companies specializing in credit and collection software, billing automation, document management and cash administration, address the issues you are trying to resolve on a full-time basis. Credit and collections is not an after-thought, it is their market and revenue stream. They continually focus on user needs and spend R&D dollars to improve their product. Many have user groups you can participate in, that have a real impact on the next release. Implementations are easier and of shorter duration. Cloud based solutions require minimal use of your internal IT resources. Costs are surprisingly low.

Many are faced with this obstacle, “Oh we are putting in or upgrading our ERP next year. It will do fine for you. We don’t want to do any other projects in this area until after the ERP is up and running. We are going to implement the ERP straight vanilla. Anything you need will be in Phase 2 (i.e.: Never)” If that is the case, push hard for incremental improvements and results in a relatively short time-frame.

A Credit Manager has a strong position. You should illustrate a good return on the investment. Show how other departments and most importantly, your customers will benefit. An interim fix with a decent ROI will pay for itself before the ERP initiative is complete.

When the day comes and the ERP vs an interim solution is looming, do a gap analysis between the interim solution and the ERP. You are likely to be surprised by what you already have.

At the upcoming CreditScape Summit and Annual Meeting, you will be able to discuss how to choose a solution provider. Expert Panelists will give you insight on their experiences, victories and losses. You will have ample time to ask questions and network with others who are, or who have faced, the same technology challenges you have. This is definitely a good use of your time.

CreditScape
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 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:

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.