Meet Your New Chairman: Sherry Wood, CCE
"It Takes Teamwork"
If newly-elected NACM-National Chairman Sherry Wood, CCE is successful in achieving her goals for the coming year, just the mention of NACM will ring a bell of recognition in more people’s ears. She wants to help lead NACM into a more prominent position within the larger business world. “We should become the premier name in business credit,” Wood said. “When someone thinks of business credit, they should think of NACM. I’d like to work toward seeing NACM be the icon of business credit.” However, she believes the key to attaining her goals, and those of the entire organization, is to work in a cooperative fashion with fellow NACM members and staff to create more unity within the organization. “I believe there has to be a master plan for all of us to work together on clearly defined missions.”
Wood has years of experience in the field of business credit, working her way up in the ranks of the profession. She is Director of Credit at West Coast Paper, a family-owned, wholesale distributor of paper products since 1930, based in Seattle, WA. “We’re now in third-generation ownership, with 11 domestic branches throughout the Pacific Northwest,” she added. She has also risen in the ranks of NACM over the years, active on the NACM-Western Washington/Alaska Board from 1989-1996 and its Chairman of the Board in 1994-95. She was a National Director from 1998-2001, Vice-Chairman of the Western Region from 2001-2004, and National Chairman-Elect in 2004-2005. This year marks her 36th year in business credit. It also commemorates a major milestone in her personal life as she and her husband, Mike, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in June.
During her career, Wood has witnessed and participated in the evolution of business credit. She recalled her first job with a home furnishings company in California: “There the credit was consumer credit… you’re telling people if they can take the product home.” After that, she landed a job with a semiconductor manufacturer in California. “That was my first opportunity to get into business credit. I found I enjoyed it, and that I really enjoy working with people.” She moved on to Britannia Sportswear, where she worked from 1978-1983 as a Regional Credit/Collections Manager, and went from there to Generra Sportswear as Corporate Credit Manager. In 1986 she accepted a job with her present employer, West Coast Paper.
As for the progression she has witnessed in the business credit industry, Wood said, “I’m excited with the changes I’ve seen over the years. We’ve come out of the dark ages and become a legitimate profession. In years past it was a job that no one wanted, and you had to learn by the seat of your pants.” She pointed out that “business credit has now become a respected and integral part of business enterprise. Credit has become a member of the sales and marketing team—that’s what has made the job more interesting. At West Coast Paper, credit is part of the overall business plan, and I’m very fortunate to work for a company that’s highly ethical.”
Wood is a strong proponent of education and views it as one of the main missions of NACM and its Affiliates. She firmly believes in the education of the individual member. She noted that NACM has progressed in its ability to provide educational and training opportunities to its members. Pointing to the online resource library, Wood said, “It’s one of the best tools around; to go online and have the information right at your fingertips.”
For Wood, her appreciation of what education can do for the business credit professional comes from first-hand experience. “I didn’t bump into NACM until I moved to the Northwest. I started out without a lot of education, and no mentors. NACM has helped me grow within my own organization and given me the additional respect to be able to move into the job as Director of Credit. I would not have had that opportunity without my CCE designation.” She also noted that mentoring is another valuable tool to help educate NACM members. “Here in the Northwest, we have a very strong mentoring program available online.”
NACM can also produce significant results in legislative areas, Wood said. She pointed to the recent enactment of S. 256, known as the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005”. NACM pushed for and was in favor of the provisions of that bill, which will help protect business creditors during commercial bankruptcy proceedings. For Wood, her involvement on NACM’s Government Affairs Committee has taught her much about the legislative process: “I was so naive in how I thought politics should work… there was a big learning curve. Our legislative representative, Jim Wise, and the other members of this committee were patient teachers. It’s so rewarding to watch the bankruptcy bill finally go through. I had begun to think it would never happen.”
In Wood's view, NACM leaders and all its members need to embark on a concerted effort to revitalize the organization. She noted that the NACM-National and its Affiliates must find a common ground and work harmoniously in strengthening its core functions. Pointing to the motto of NACM, "Strength in Numbers", she said “There is also ‘Strength in Unity’. Maybe we need to work on unity in order to achieve our strength in numbers. High on my priority list is to continue to build trust between all the Affiliates and divisions of our NACM family, and to develop a strategic plan that supports our growth as one united organization. This has to be an ongoing process. It’s going to require listening, understanding, respect—and honest, open communication among all of us.”
Wood evoked a family theme in her conception of the type of connection NACM members must have with one another. Like most families, Wood noted NACM members may not always agree, but they must be able to accept each other’s differences in an amicable and constructive manner. “We’re all related,” she said. “Sometimes we may not like what each other is doing, but we need to keep the communication flowing. We need to keep moving forward; we need to come up with new resources, tools and products, and the whole family needs to work on it. I believe we should realize that we need each other, and appreciate the power of our unity more,” she continued. “We must better learn to tolerate our differences while we find common ground, and build upon that. We’re not always going to agree—but we need to listen to each other, and work together.”
NACM can achieve even greater successes with a focused and cooperative effort, Wood said. She mentioned the importance of spreading the word about the positive accomplishments of NACM; not only to its members, but also to others in the business community. “Not only should all credit professionals know what NACM is and what it can do for them and their companies, but so must every CEO and CFO. NACM and business credit must become synonymous. The problem is finding more and better ways of getting our name out.”
Wood emphasized that she views her role as just one member of an entire NACM Board, working together to accomplish the same goals. “The Board should be in touch with the Affiliates, who in turn should be in touch with their members. We’ve got Board members from all across the United States, with many different backgrounds and areas of expertise. That’s my philosophy. It takes teamwork.”
In the scheme of NACM’s diverse network of individual talent, Wood views her role of Chairman as a facilitator. “I don’t posses a magic wand,” she said. “But hopefully, I can be the catalyst that harnesses the wonderful and diverse talents we have within NACM to accomplish our goals.”