Magazine article Business Credit

A Duck Day Afternoon

Magazine article Business Credit

A Duck Day Afternoon

Article excerpt

I had been on my new job as district credit manager with a steel service center for just a short while when Dick, the group credit manager, decided to accompany me to a credit luncheon and then follow up with a visit to a slow paying customer. After the luncheon, we headed off to the customer's business which was located in California's delta country. Dick checked over the aging sheets and, noting a few broken promises, began to strategize on the best approach for this customer. Now, Dick was never one to socialize or schmooze the customer. He always got straight to the point and counseled his district credit managers to adopt this firm, no-nonsense approach on collection calls.

In the aging notes, Dick noted that the accounts payable contact--whom I'll call "Dora"--had repeatedly deferred to the owner, her mother--whom I'll call "June"--whenever a promise to send a check was overridden. "Obviously, June is the decision maker," Dick said, "and that is who we have to get in to see today. We are not going to be put off with any more excuses."

As we drove onto the customer's lot, a competitor's truck was just pulling away and Dick shot me an annoyed look. Not only were we not getting paid, the customer was buying elsewhere. Dick set his jaw, squared his shoulders and we marched into the customer's office. There we met Dora at the front counter. Dick introduced himself and, mentioning the broken promises, insisted that we needed to discuss the account with June. Dora countered by saying she was working on getting a check out by week's end and that June wasn't seeing anyone that day.

"June will see us," Dick insisted firmly "I assume she is here?" Dora answered affirmatively, but said June sometimes had good days and sometimes bad days, and today wasn't one of the good ones. "She will see us," Dick insisted, "good day or bad day, because we have not been paid." Before Dora could reply, June called out from the back office that we could come in and asked Dora to bring a pad and pencil and take notes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

We were ushered into June's office, where to our surprise she was sitting in a wheelchair and wearing fuzzy slippers and a heavy sweater. "I am battling MS," she announced, "and some days I find myself confined to a wheelchair. Those are the days I try to conserve my strength and avoid any stress."

Dick was obviously taken aback, and he stammered out an apology, but pointed out that several promises to catch up the account had not been met. …

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