From a vantage that is four decades in the making, David Watson, CCE has witnessed and fully experienced the many changes and improvements that have defined and refined the credit function. This year's National Credit Executive of the Year, which is one of NACM's most prestigious annual honors, began his professional career as a sales trainee in customer service for Olmsted-Kirk (O-K) Paper Company, a Dallas-based business founded in 1922 whose clients include Fortune 500 concerns, publications and financial institutions. In 1971, Watson leapt at the chance to become the company's assistant credit manager--a promotion, as he noted, from the city sales desk where he had been working--and he has been in the credit department ever since.
While serving as assistant credit manager, Watson encountered his most significant mentor--the late James Wagnon III, the senior vice president who hired him for that position. Watson said, "I can't begin to enumerate the things I learned from him over the 20-plus years I worked for him."
In 1984, Watson was named vice president/credit manager, a position he continues to hold. Technology has provided some of the most significant changes in his day-to-day responsibilities. He explained, "When I started at O-K, we were still using mechanical calculators, and a computer was not even in our imagination." Voicemail has been one of the "best/worst" changes, while "the Internet and email have totally changed the way we investigate and communicate," Watson added.
Regardless of the countless tools technology now offers the credit department, Watson opined, "The amount of information [now] at your fingertips is staggering when compared to when I entered the field. The thing that hasn't--and never will--change is that you will always have those customers that pay late, won't return calls, take unauthorized deductions, etc."
Over the years, NACM has provided some means to counter delinquent and deduction-taking customers. As an NACM member since 1971, Watson has used many resources the association offers, including adjustments, collections, credit reports, credit groups and educational programs. He noted, "My credit group membership pays for itself many times over each year just from the information I receive at the meetings. NACM seminars and conferences have given me the education I need to be a successful credit manager--education that is not available anywhere else. And more importantly is the number of lifelong friends I have made both locally and across the country."
A Leader Among Leaders
What sets Watson apart from his peers is not only his long-term professionalism and career success; he has also been an integral part of NACM leadership on both the national and affiliate levels. From 1986 through 1997, Watson served on the NACM-National Board of Directors. His service culminated in a stint as national chairman in 1995-1996. While chairman, Watson provided frequent columns to Business Credit magazine that outlined his objectives and goals for the organization. In one such column, he noted, "[M]ore and more, the credit department is finally getting its just due as a profit center in modern companies; and NACM is playing a vital role in that overdue recognition through its educational and certificate programs, conventions and conferences."
Since 1982, Watson has attended "virtually all" NACM Credit Congresses and Legislative Conferences. …