Magazine article Business Credit

Credit Groups: A Best Practice for Credit Managers

Magazine article Business Credit

Credit Groups: A Best Practice for Credit Managers

Article excerpt

As industries become increasingly national, even global, credit managers find less opportunity to get together, network and exchange useful information. Fortunately, they can stilt gather at industry credit group meetings organized through the National Association of Credit Management (NACM). The managers meet monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, in either local or national groups, depending on the structure of each industry and specific businesses involved.

Participants most appreciate the chance for networking at a high level, with a valuable exchange of information. "Having a rapport with other managers in your own, or a related area, allows you to become familiar with one another," says Jerry Hyman, Credit Manager at ISCO Industries, LLC in Louisville, Kentucky. "You will feel comfortable calling that person afterwards, to get a reference, or for an immediate answer to a credit question."

"It is a fabulous networking tool in your industry, you get to know each other and familiarize yourself with common issues," added Gerry Gilbert CCE, Corporate Director of Credit for BMC West Corp. of Issaquah, Washington.

While they build trust and cement relationships, the managers leverage off each other's knowledge, which may touch on any number of the typical problems they grapple with daily. "In our group discussions, we learn to handle problems, such as non-sufficient fund checks, unauthorized charges on accounts, or tips on what to observe while making customer visits," suggests Melissa Ballou, CCE[R], Credit Manager and Controller at Ferguson Enterprises in Louisville, Kentucky. Other topics might include loan approvals, purchase orders, incomplete invoices or even data conversions for new collection software implementation. Reena Chow, VP/Division Manager at CIT Group/Commercial in Charlotte, North Carolina, values the contact information she acquires for reaching 'gatekeepers'. She points out that a direct route to the right sources "saves legwork" in bypassing ranks of operators and assistants. Duane Schwartz, CCE, Credit and Collection Manager for The Tile Shop, headquartered in Plymouth, Minnesota, pointed out that experiences other trade group members have had with particular customers often provides him with invaluable insight. "What one member experiences with a customer, is quite likely the same experience I would have," Schwartz said; "so you know what you're getting into when you're dealing with a particular customer."

"I feel that we have a better ability to find out about our customers before it becomes public," added Debi Grable, Credit Manager for Coast Crane Co. of Seattle, Washington. "If a member has received a bad check from a business entity, it alerts us to watch out for checks from that same customer."

Discussions also turn to broader industry subjects, like recent bankruptcy code legislation. Expert speakers, including attorneys, credit agency representatives and CPAs add an educational flavor. "It might be expensive to hire them individually," says Chow, "but as a group it is feasible to engage them." The presentations are a way to brush up on hot topics in the members' industries, and may also provide new professional contacts.

In fact, often the information exchanged regarding specific accounts is worth the price of attendance, many times over. When learning something about even one client guides an action to prevent a write-off, it more than pays for itself. …

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