Meet Your 2015 NACM-National Chairman
Gary Gaudette, CCE, ICCE
When speaking about the credit profession, NACM’s 2016 national chairman, Gary Gaudette, CCE, ICCE is full of optimism. New tools, like bank payment obligation (BPO) and supply chain finance, along with the ever evolving lobal marketplace, are helping further solidify the credit department’s essential role within a company.
“I just think it’s a really exciting time to be in the business of credit management and accounts receivables. There are just so many opportunities for us as professionals to provide value to our organizations,” said Gaudette, senior treasury analyst for Hypertherm, Inc. “There’s constant change in the global markets, and being able to provide ways to help our companies grow business is key to what we do. … There are new tools out there for us to learn, understand and use, and we need to be able to guide our organizations through those.”
As NACM’s chairman for 2016, Gaudette’s goal is to expand NACM membership and increase engagement among members. He particularly would like to see more contributors to NACM’s Credit Managers’ Index (CMI), a monthly survey that asks U.S. credit and collection professionals to rate factors that may affect business. More participation in the CMI as well as in other NACM surveys means that more relevant material will be available for members to use. “NACM is already the best source for much of that information, but we can make it better,” he added.
Forming new committees is also at the forefront of Gaudette’s plan for the year ahead. He hopes to recruit members who have a genuine interest in helping to grow both the credit profession and NACM. Joining a committee can give interested members the experience needed and opportunity to eventually serve on NACM’s Board of Directors. There are lots of bright people out there who have a great deal of knowledge and experience,” he said, “We need to get them more engaged, and work with them so they hopefully become the new leaders of our profession and organization.”
A relative “newbie” to the credit field, Gaudette moved into the profession as an accounts receivable specialist 13 years ago. Shortly thereafter, he joined NACM and took full advantage of the educational opportunities offered, obtaining the ICCE (International Certified Credit Executive) certification as well as the CCE (Certified Credit Executive) certification after attending NACM’s Graduate School of Credit and Financial Management at Dartmouth College. Coming from the supermarket industry with no credit background, Gaudette found the education he received through NACM to be an invaluable asset to his career. “I didn’t have someone who has been in this business to mentor me and show me how to do what I needed to do,” he said. “Most of what I have learned has been through the education department through NACM’s offerings.”
And while Gaudette implores credit professionals to take advantage of educational opportunities and NACM’s Online Knowledge and Learning Center, they also need to stay on top of current events that can affect their profession. “It’s not a lot of time, but every day I try to spend at least 20 minutes reading and keeping up with what’s going on around the world,” Gaudette said. “It changes so fast. We’ve become a global economy. Nothing is completely localized anymore.”
Since beginning his credit career, Gaudette has seen significant changes in the field, and the greater global economy. This includes the economic crash of 2008. Thereafter, banks tightened standards drastically and credit became less available. Gaudette also noticed a shift in the overall dynamic with his customers. Even though the market has stabilized, some companies continue to struggle. As a result, suppliers face added pressures and slower payments. “I think that the pressure on suppliers to be that source of working capital is a big deal. It is significantly less expensive for companies to push [payment] down on their suppliers and try to extend out terms than it is to obtain other financing,” he said. “I think that pressure is really going to continue.”
Another major change over the last decade is the impact of technology, which has provided credit professionals with new tools that can help assist in vetting customers and other aspects of the job. One of Gaudette’s favorites is the free Google Street View, which provides him with an actual image of the customer’s location. This online tool allows Gaudette to gain a sense of the business without stepping onto the property, which can be especially helpful when doing business in another country. “You wouldn’t have had that 10, 12 or 15 years ago,” he said. “That availability of information has allowed us to find information a lot easier.”
International trade has been on the rise as well. The currency exchange rate continues to impose a major challenge on the global marketplace, especially when one country is doing more poorly than another. Gaudette cited the Turkish lira, which fell to an extreme low against the U.S. dollar in 2015. “We sell to customers in Turkey in U.S. dollars and that puts tremendous pressure on them,” he explained. When the deal was originally made, the exchange rate was better for Turkey. However, once payment became due, the rate took a significant downturn. This common scenario is an issue not only for the customer, but also for the creditor trying to collect payment.
“Just because things are happening out there around the globe, don’t overreact and don’t let it drive you away from the standards of the way you do business,” Gaudette advised. “We believe in the partner philosophy. We want to work with customers and try to help them when situations arise—but we can’t let those things become ongoing and forever situations.” Finding solutions to various credit industry challenges is one reason why increasing NACM member engagement is so important. Gaudette wants more credit professionals to look to each other for feedback and answers. FCIB’s online discussion board and annual conferences, like Credit Congress, provide excellent opportunities for members to connect and bounce ideas off one another. He would also like to see more members take advantage of webinars, online courses and the NACM and FCIB Resource Centers.
Gaudette places a heavy emphasis on the value of the credit manager position, noting that it is much more than managing accounts receivable. The true role of a credit professional, Gaudette said, is to overcome obstacles and find ways to successfully do business with a customer—a perception that needs to be continually expressed to upper management. “What we want is for people to look at you not necessarily as the person who is controlling or managing risk, but as somebody who helps them solve their problems,” Gaudette said. “Ultimately, our job really is figuring out how to make things happen.”