Get to Know Your 2024 NACM Chair:
JoAnn Malz, CCE, ICCE
Leadership is not just a title; it’s a commitment to steering the course of an industry that is ever-evolving. The National Association of Credit Management (NACM) proudly introduces its newly appointed chair, a seasoned professional with a proven track record of excellence … JoAnn Malz, CCE, ICCE, director of credit, collections and billing at The Imagine Group LLC (Shakopee, MN). As a dedicated credit professional and NACM member, Malz has big plans a strategic vision for the future of the industry and our association.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in B2B credit management?
A: I love being able to problem solve and fix things for internal and external customers. In credit, no two days are alike and there are always challenges and opportunities to keep learning and growing. Like many others in the credit profession, I landed into credit and fell in love with it. My entire career of 38 years has been in the credit and collections field spanning different industries such as business equipment leasing, agriculture, manufacturing, dental distribution, printing and visual communications. I have been fortunate to work for companies that invested in me and rewarded me with fulfilling career growth.
Q: What attracted you to become a part of the NACM family?
A: The entire NACM National organization, FCIB and all NACM affiliates, are some of the most professional and dedicated people I have met in my lifetime. They live and breathe their purpose of serving members and always go the extra mile to deliver. I became a NACM member back in 1987 as encouraged by one of our team leaders who was very active in NACM North Central. For me, it was the education aspect of NACM that attracted me to membership and active participation. You just don’t learn how to manage credit in secondary education programs. But NACM, FCIB and NACM affiliates provide members with what they need to learn about global and domestic credit and collections. If you need a wider network (which we all do), join NACM. It is a life changer!
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a leadership role as National Chair for NACM?
A: NACM is directly responsible for my career growth and I wanted to give back to the organization. I am passionate about NACM and couldn’t think of any better way to actively demonstrate that passion than by pursuing a leadership role. My career is in its final chapter. At NACM, we all feel so strongly about ensuring the entire organization is poised and ready for the generations now and those to come. I wanted to be part of that generational transformation.
Q: Can you share a defining moment from your career that significantly shaped your leadership style?
A: I have to say it dates to my Cargill days. They were phenomenal in providing training to its leaders, especially females. I was leading a team shortly out of college with zero training and made tons of mistakes. Thankfully, my team was patient with me as I learned and grew into the leader they needed. I was never perfect but I was always willing to work to improve and add depth to my leadership skills. We had so much to learn from each other and embraced the high-performance team methodology as we worked towards becoming a self-directed team. A few concepts stuck with me forever as the primary principles I work under, one being there is no single right answer to any challenge or any single way to effectively manage a team.
Q: What advice would you offer to emerging credit leaders?
A: Engage yourselves with NACM and get involved in their education, their resource offerings, their industry and specialty groups and network with other members. The credit industry is never boring nor does it remain static. Businesses will always need credit leaders who are able to confidently assess risk and apply business judgment to manage risks. Credit has been a wonderful and fulfilling career for me. When you are in the credit organization of a company, you learn everything there is to know about that company and your customers, which makes you an invaluable team member and business partner. It provides a great foundation for role expansion and career growth.
Q: Can you talk about a time you felt challenged in your career and how you worked to overcome that challenge?
A: As I look back, I would say the most challenging time in my career was when I was responsible to implement a major credit, collection and deduction software globally. Initially, the challenge was obtaining approval. After my second failed attempt to receive approval for the needed funds, my treasurer and manager at the time came into my office and asked me the following question, “JoAnn, do you believe in this tool and do you believe it is what your team and our company need? If yes, then don’t give up. Try again.” On my third attempt to sell the solution to our CFO, I was successful. In exchange for the capital funding, I had committed to implementing an out-of-the-box software without customization. At its peak, we had about 86 nightly extracts from over 25 ERPs. I overcame the challenge by leaning into my project management skills, my attention to detail and my ability to connect the dots (and people) from one process to another. But most importantly, I relied on my team to actively contribute to process designs, collection templates in multiple languages, collection strategy design and data normalization activities. During this time, I had access to team members with prior experience that were willing to share lessons learned before the implementation project started so that our company wouldn’t make the same mistakes. Other team members were experts in database design and report writing. Together, we found ways through our data warehouse and data staging process to normalize and translate data, which allowed me to stay true to my commitment to my treasurer and the CFO. The data we captured in our nightly extracts became widely used by other functional groups because at the time, our system was the only consolidated customer level data warehouse in the company. It was a great learning experience and a memorable team accomplishment.
Q: Are there any mentors or role models who have influenced your career path?
A: I have so many mentors or role models who have helped me through challenges and helped me to personally grow and become self-aware. But I’d like to think that everyone I encounter every day is somehow responsible for shaping me whether it is from simple support to challenging me to think in different ways to coping with conflict.
Q: What are your plans for NACM in 2024?
A: I am so excited for the future of NACM. In 2024, NACM National and our affiliates will be focused on poising NACM globally for growth and transformation for future generations so that we remain the strong and viable organization we are today and to remain at the forefront of our profession. We will find new ways to reach our members and prospects. We will continue to be the go-to organization for the credit profession globally.