"Change has been the only constant in the business credit environment, and has taken us to new and dynamic frontiers."
"A career in the credit field was not on the radar screen when I decided to continue my education", begins Al Lewis, CCE. "After completing 4 years of military service, my original plan was to pursue a management career in accounting. I received a BBA in Management with secondary emphasis in finance and economics. I entered the credit field primarily as a result of a Branch Manager Trainee position I accepted with a consumer finance company, where I was involved with processing and collection of consumer loans; that was in 1975."
"In most cases, says Al, "the loans were secured and very small in comparison to commercial loans, and I dealt directly with the individual consumers. It was truly a learning experience." It was there that Al says he learned the true nature of the credit and collections process and what it takes to be effective in both. "Relationship and mutual respect were the keys-and my success in these areas resulted in record levels of new loans, repeat customers and collections for the company," says Al.
From there, he moved into the commercial credit environment; taking a position with Dymo Visual Systems Inc., a manufacturing company. Al spent 4 years with Dymo. He then accepted a position with Aladdin Industries Inc., a privately-held manufacturer of consumer products that were sold through much the same distribution channels: he was employed there for 21 years. He left Aladdin to take his current position with Doane Pet Care Company in 2000.
Doane Pet Care Company is a manufacturer of private label pet food and treats.They sell their products through mass, grocery, farm and fleet, pet specialty and co-manufacturing business channels. "In my current position with Doane Pet Care Company, I have faced many new and exciting challenges," says Al. "I was fortunate to come into a position where I could use my years of credit experience and establish the credit function from the groundup; including credit, collections, cash application and deductions management and all the related policies and procedures. It's been very rewarding to see it all come together as a truly world class credit operation."
"While the industries have been different," continues Al, "the similarity has been in the customer base." He adds: "Most of the problems that I've faced relate to deduction management and the impact of deductions on cash flow and departmental resources. I've been able to minimize the problem by identifying the root cause, and by working with the customer and internal department to eliminate and/or minimize the impact of deductions."Al says this has resulted in elimination of millions of dollars in deductions and cost savings for each company for whom he's worked-or an approximate 75 percent to 90 percent reduction in deduction exposure!
"I've been very fortunate in my career tu have worked in companies where I've always had responsibility for all functional areas making up the Credit Department (Credit, Collections, Cash Application and Deductions)," says Al. "I've received a wealth of information out of these functional areas that has allowed me to be proactive in assisting other areas of the business-identifying and resolving problems that negatively impact the business and ultimately, our customers."
Al found out about NACM around 1976 and became a member of the Atlanta, GA Affiliate. After accepting a credit position in Nashville in 1979, he joined the Nashville affiliate soon thereafter, and later the Nashville Division of NACM South Central.
Al completed NACM's Mid-Career Program for Credit and Financial Executives in 1981 and received NACM's highest professional designation of Certified Credit Executive (CCE) in 1989. "NACM has been a part of my ongoing growth in the credit profession for more than 25 years," says Al. "I've attended numerous seminars and workshops through local and nationally sponsored NACM educational offerings, including NACM's Annual Credit Congress; and have been active regularly in national, local and regional NACM trade groups. …