Rocky Thomas, CCE - January, 2015

chairman rocky thomas 2015Meet Your 2015 NACM-National Chairman

Rocky Thomas, CCE

Value to one’s company comes, in part, from making yourself relevant to your profession and to your industry, said Ben “Rocky” Thomas, NACM’s new chairman, and relevance comes from keeping yourself current with the tools and processes that will help your business succeed. That’s where the association can help, Thomas added. “I don’t know where I’d be professionally without it.”

Thomas’ membership has helped make him a vital part of the companies that have employed him. In fact, Thomas credits his association ties with helping him to be a part of building North America’s largest flooring distributor. “My skill set has directly contributed to the growth of our company.” CMH Flooring Products, Inc., where he served as vice president of credit and financial services for more than 16 years, recently merged with J.J. Haines Co. to form a business with nearly $500 million in annual sales. “I’ve been on both sides of the merger and acquisitions process,” Thomas said. “This is by far the largest and most detailed.

”Despite the size of the merger, Thomas felt at ease with the process because he already had a professional connection with the other firm. Both Thomas and Haines’ vice president of credit were long-time NACM members with CCE credentials. Although neither had met nor spoken with each other previously, “when you have those credentials, you already know you’re both professionals,” said Thomas, who will serve as the director of credit—South for Haines. NACM “gave us a foundation, and we knew that there was a common level of expertise and professionalism.”

As chairman, this is one of the messages he hopes to convey to members and prospective members. The association provides credit professionals with a connection, helps breed confidence and builds pride, Thomas said. These are important attributes because “accounts receivable management and cash flow are key components of a company’s success. The proper use of business-to-business credit and the effective management of the order-to-cash process are key elements and essential to the growth and success of any company. Credit management is always going to be a vital part of a company or enterprise.” He also views the most important function of credit as being a facilitator of growth; it is about becoming partners with customers as well as a firm’s sales and marketing teams, he added. “I quickly realized the importance of my role and wanted to make sure that I had the knowledge, training and expertise to help my company grow and to continue to play a role in that growth.” In addition, “If our customers are successful, then we are successful. I find great satisfaction in working with our sales organization and getting to know our key customers and partnering with them to help them succeed. I really enjoy the relational aspect and being able to play a key role in my company’s strategy.”

Thomas migrated toward credit while working at a flooring company as he earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Georgia State University. He charted his own course into business-to-business credit by combining his accounting and finance knowledge and his skills as a relationship manager and negotiator with the resources he has taken advantage of by being an active member of NACM since 1982.

Thomas considers himself “a poster boy for NACM. I’m a prime example of someone who grew in the credit industry through the skills I gained from the association.” Prior to becoming a member, “I knew nothing about credit,” he said. Thomas cut his teeth by joining his local affiliate, NACM-Southeast. Over time, he became more involved. “I would not be where I am without the education, the resources and the experience provided by this association. It has been an invaluable part of my professional and personal growth. NACM is where I got my education in the art of credit management.”

Thomas has served the commercial credit community for more than 25 years on local and national levels and has also attended and participated in NACM’s Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, actively lobbying for the commercial credit community. In 2001, his local affiliate named him Credit Executive of the Year. Professionally, Thomas has had responsibility for all extension of business credit, risk management, accounts receivable management and the order-to-cash process, which is essential in creating timely cash flow for your company, he said. “I have helped write and implement all policies and procedures in these areas, and I have had to make some very difficult decisions and have been involved in some very challenging circumstances throughout my career. I hope that I always not only show professionalism, but graceful professionalism.”

Challenges and Opportunities
Business decisions today occur quickly, Thomas said. “The pace of business requires quicker decisions, but we can’t let that result in poorer decisions. We need the resources and technology to do that. As credit professionals, we have to be more diligent—more knowledgeable—about financing.” In addition, the credit community is shrinking by going global, Thomas said. “Domestic and international credit lines are becoming blurry. It’s more important than ever that you keep yourself up to date.”

Without the efficient use of business-to-business credit, both domestic and international economies would be severely affected, he said. “We are constantly looking for ways to do more with less and finding the information, the tools and the services to make sound credit decisions in a real-time environment,” Thomas said. “We must listen to the needs of the credit community and find ways to provide these resources.”

Manufacturers and distributors have an opportunity to work more with customers. “Although banks will always play a role, lines of credit have diminished. The banking crisis has made it essential for us to be more of a resource for our customers. Businesses are playing a more important role in financing their customers.” Without B2B credit, most companies would have a serious liquidity issue, Thomas said. (Trade credit represents 70% of financing for small business, according to the National Small Business Association, and outstanding trade credit represents nearly 20% of the annual US gross domestic product for fourth-quarter fiscal 2013, according to the Federal Reserve.)

Thomas considers himself a “sales-oriented” credit manager. Credit has to support sales, he said. “It should always be the focus of a true credit professional to facilitate sales growth for his company at a level of risk that is acceptable for the owners and stakeholders,” he added. “It is vital that you are involved in the strategic plans of your company, and I have always asked to be a part of that. After all, who knows more about the financial condition of their industry than the credit managers who are analyzing and assessing the company’s customer base?”

What’s an Association to Do?
Thomas plans to guide and motivate board members in line with NACM’s mission, goals and strategies to help the board chart a course that meets and exceeds members’ needs. “The chairman should be a voice for the membership to the association and a voice for the association to the board,” Thomas said. “I love speaking with other members and affiliate managers about the issue and challenges they face.”

Staying relevant will help strengthen the organization’s position as the voice and advocate for business-to-business credit in the business community worldwide, he added. Steps that facilitate this will help add members, and the association needs to find more ways to reverse the downward trend of membership, while providing suitable, innovative and valuable resources.

Thomas does not want to just grow membership, however. He is hopeful his strengths as a relationship builder will help him inspire more members to participate and become involved in the association’s services and programs. “I want to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and become part of the process,” Thomas said, who wants to see more members take advantage of what the organization has to offer. “It’s an invaluable resource. Not enough people take advantage of it.”

Thomas strives for excellence for himself and those whom he supervises. “My biggest challenge has been to constantly make sure that we have the essential tools, the best resources and the proper training to help us succeed in a fast-paced environment. I am constantly looking for ways to improve our processes and help our staff succeed. I always remind our staff that they should not only be doing their best to add value to our company, but it is just as important that they work to add value to their professional and personal lives as well. I have found that the two go hand in hand in defining successful people. If you want to keep yourself valuable and relevant, you have to grow and improve yourself,” Thomas said. The pace and demands could create stress and burnout, he noted. “I am constantly asking for feedback and do my best to make sure that we all keep the proper balance in our lives.”

With nearly 15,000 members, the association has access to lots of great experience, Thomas said. “Our membership has an incredible amount of talent. We need to find ways to leverage membership.” One such way is to grow mentorships within the association. Relationships and networking provide opportunities to share knowledge with less experienced credit professionals. “Business-to-business credit is becoming more relevant and will always be a part of our economy. This makes NACM relevant for new credit professionals because they’re the future for B2B credit and their industry.”

Thomas’ service on his affiliate’s board of directors provided him with a view of the association’s inner workings, which ultimately led him to pursue service on the national board. “Serving on the board has given me a new perspective about the importance of membership and the involvement of membership,” he said. “This is a member-governed operation for the benefit of members. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be involved.” He assumed it is because people either do not know their participation is welcomed or they need encouragement. His message to members, he said, is “Step out of your comfort zone. Your association needs you. The reward will far exceed your expectations.”

drakeMeet Your 2013 NACM-National Chairman

Toni Drake, CCE

Evolution, Education, Excitement: Meet Your New National Chairman Toni Drake, CCE

In a conversation about NACM with Toni Drake, CCE, the association's 2013 national chairman, there are a few words that keep coming up. For whatever reason, they all start with the letter "E": Evolution. Elevation. Education. Exposure.

Credit professionals can expect words and concepts like these to serve as guideposts throughout Drake's tenure, as well as her own development as a credit professional through programs and opportunities offered by the association she now leads. "I was thrust into credit management right after I graduated from college in '81," said Drake, president of TRM Financial Services, Inc. in Midland, TX, who admitted that her origins were similar to those of most other credit professionals. "I relocated to Midland and actually changed jobs and went to another company and suddenly I got more involved with NACM Southwest. I got to know those folks and got introduced into the education, earned my CBA, my CCE and I've been hooked since then."

The similarities between Drake and most other credit professionals end there, however, as she's spent much of her time in teaching roles for NACM Southwest and getting involved with NACM on a national level. "We kicked up education in the Dallas area and I started teaching Credit Administration Program (CAP) classes in 1994 and 1995," she said. "When the Credit Congress was held in Dallas in 1994, I was asked to be on the national education committee, and that's when my exposure with the national association started. That's when NACM National began to design nationwide standards for the CAP and ACAP programs; up to that point in time each Affiliate was basically teaching what it felt was important. The National Education Committee examined every 'must have' element of each course and even rewrote NACM's cornerstone textbook, Principles of Business Credit. Together, staff and members, created an awesome lineup of courses and relevant course content."

This process of being exposed to NACM—the national association—didn't happen overnight, as Drake described it as a "piece by piece" process. "It's like an evolution," said Drake. "I was thinking about it the other day and it was not this exploding, 'A-ha!' moment. As I extended myself more, I began to get more involved and see the differences between my involvement locally, and my involvement nationally." The organization also evolved, recognizing how important education and information really was. A year or two after joining the education committee, she was elected to the national board, which she now leads.

As a card-carrying NACM member for nearly 30 years, when Drake refers to the association she refers to it as "we" rather than "they." "Even though I'm not employed by NACM, it's who I am," she noted. "Sometimes I don't know where I end and NACM begins." Much of this can be chalked up to Drake's ever-expanding palette of educational activities that she's both led and taken part in over the last several years. "It's been such an evolution for me," she said. "My involvement with education has been huge in the past several years because of the speaking and the teaching and the learning," Drake added, noting that this has been driven by a shift in both her participation and in the nature of NACM's services. "When I started, the only involvement we had was strictly with credit groups," she observed. "That's the lifeblood of the membership; that's so critical, but while my industry trade groups are still huge, education has become almost equally as huge."

Education

Indeed, when asked about the changes that have occurred in the credit profession and in NACM over her lengthy career, Drake's first answer is the broadening and enhancement of NACM's educational programs. "I think there's a lot that's different now. When I first started, no one was really aware of the education. I found that when I watched a lot of people, it wasn't a critical part of their membership to NACM," she noted. "Trade groups have always been strong, but I've seen education evolve over a national level."

By "national level" Drake means that the way education programs for credit professionals have developed over the years. "Everyone knew NACMs were there, but we have the big global picture of NACM. Instead it was these itty bitty pieces around the country," she noted, crediting NACM affiliates with fostering an environment where these portions of NACM's services have united across borders. "I see it with the cooperation of the affiliates trying to be a cohesive, almost seamless, organization, and trying to be everything to everybody in the credit profession."

This has at least partially driven the ascendancy of the credit profession in the corporate world. Much has been made in Business Credit and other outlets of how risk management was viewed in a new light after the last recession, and Drake has seen this process unfold in her own experience, among members. "I think people are seeing the value to the education, and I think they're seeing the marketability of it," she noted. "They're looking for credentials. You began to see people recognize those three initials after your name," said Drake, referring to NACM's certification program. "Early on it wasn't the universally recognized credential that it is now."

Other highlights of NACM's educational evolution have been the bigger recognition among companies looking to hire those who have completed NACM's Graduate School of Credit and Financial Management (GSCFM), of which Drake is an alumna. She also believes NACM pushed the value of education to the entire profession's benefit. "I think it follows the same route. There aren't people who say 'I went to college for credit,' they say 'I was thrust into the world of credit,'" said Drake. "But I think they're beginning to recognize the importance of the credit profession, the prestige of the credit profession in a company and the importance of education. NACM's been very good at keeping the education high quality, but also helping people to market that." "I think it has elevated the profession," she added. "They're no longer just the guy at the back desk."

Practically speaking, this has led to, in Drake's estimation, a real change in the process of managing a company's receivables and getting paid according to terms. "I think through the education we've discovered that there are tools to help people to get paid," she said. "Years ago, you called your customers and you sent letters." Now however, with a greater awareness of things like mechanic's liens, oil and gas liens and Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings, Drake noted that the profession looks considerably different than it did years ago. "They've discovered these high-level tools that help them do their jobs better," she said. "I just see it elevated to a different level, and I think that's been a slow process but I think it's become very important."

Vision

One other "E"-word that Drake relies on when she describes NACM is "excitement." "I'm so excited about this association," she said, referring to a number of recent developments in NACM's history that lead her to believe the association, and the credit profession, is on the cusp of being a real national force in the economy. "You look at our Credit Managers' Index and we're getting referenced in the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Finance. The credit profession is getting recognized in those venues," she noted. "My NACM"—National and the Affiliates—are really doing an awesome job promoting my profession and my value in the business press."

"I'm stoked that we're able to offer UCCs now," she added, referring to NACM's newly-launched UCC Filing Services under NACM's Secured Transaction Services (STS) division. "The examples are endless. The NACM National Trade Credit Report (NTCR) is an incredible product, and it was just a result of the Affiliates coming together and saying 'we're better together.'"

Continuing to harness that strength is what Drake will aim to do as NACM's 2013 chairman. "That is my vision: to continue to come together and continue to be premier from a national level as one united organization," she said. "I want every one of our members to think of NACM nationally. We can do it. We're already on our way. We just have to stay the course."

Taking a step back and picturing NACM's role in the global economy, Drake sees NACM's position as a provider of tools and services as a vital one. "We're giving members the tools not only to protect themselves, but I think we're giving them the tools to maximize revenue. We're giving them the tools they need to expand their sales base," she said. "This economy is still so precarious, companies can just shut down and say 'we're not going to take the risk' and I think that would be detrimental to our nation as a whole."

"We give people the confidence to sell a risky customer because they've got the information they need. We can keep the wheels of the economy rolling," said Drake. "That's the role we play for companies."

marshallGreetings From Your 2012 NACM-National Chairman

MARSHALL KAHN, CCE

The Marshall Plan: Kahn Takes Chair at NACM

Marshall Kahn, CCE of Irvin Kahn & Son Inc. doesn’t like change…at least not in the sense of what he believes the word conjures up in reference to the National Association of Credit Management (NACM). Change is not something Marshall, at the onset of his term as NACM chairman, wants to see, hear or talk much about. The key word, and ethos for that matter, is evolution, not change:

“To me, change means something dramatic. Rather, what we need to be about is adding layers to the positive things already being done,” Marshall said. “I think NACM has to continue to evolve not just to be important to the credit profession, but to the entire business reporting chain.”

Evolving is something one in the credit management field needs to continually do, especially if said professional plans to stay in the game for some 40 years, like Marshall, who followed up earning a Bachelor’s Degree at Indiana University in 1971 by beginning his lengthy stint working for the company his grandfather (Irvin Kahn) started in Louisville. It’s also when Marshall started a career-long involvement with his local affiliate, now operating as NACM South Central, for which he served as chairman twice.

The credit and collection side of the family’s business wasn’t initially in the plan for Marshall’s career arc, but as new patterns of customer payment, or lack thereof, formed over the years, he evolved and obviously took to the credit side quite well. “When I started in 1971, we really didn’t have a credit department. Everyone still actually paid their bills,” he said with a laugh. “Someone had to collect the money and my dad didn’t want to do it, so I did it.”

As Marshall sought a position on the NACM-National Board of Directors a couple of years ago, he came in with a “lead-by-example” attitude and noted the importance of empowering leaders and members at both the national and affiliate level to use actions and subsequent word-of-mouth efforts to promote things like education and participation in events. He intimated that it’s now time to take word-of-mouth to another level and that National and affiliates alike need to toot their own horn more or employ “smack-in-the-face marketing,” so to speak. Otherwise, many of the newest offerings and nuances of NACM and the affiliates may not be known or fully understood by the members.

“Just talk about these things more when you get in front of people at events and conferences, like Credit Congress,” Marshall suggested, stressing not to assume the members already know. “Tell people in the audience exactly what we have to offer that they may not have known we even have. We need to be more aggressive at the national and affiliate levels so we can all benefit from getting more attention and thrive. We have to do a better job of getting information out on the evolution of NACM, like the developments within areas like MLBS [NACM’s Mechanic’s Lien and Bond Services] and FCIB, as well as the quality of National staff charged with developing and delivering services to all the members.”

Marshall has also long stressed the importance of being entrepreneurial as an association, not just to survive the rough economic patches but to set the foundation to thrive. These days, he sees an NACM that is becoming, in some ways, not just a business management firm, but also a business itself. It’s one of the reasons that developments within MLBS, in particular, have caught his eye.

“A lot of people are now wearing multiple hats,” said Marshall. “Not only are the lines blurred, they’re overlapping. Look at all the stuff we’re doing to generate revenue outside of dues. Look at the services, like MLBS, we offer members. They are on the cutting edge—MLBS really gets it.”

As for the singular big issue on which to focus for his 2012 tenure, Marshall is not yet willing to pick one. That’s because he sees the role of chairman as a bit of an observe-and-react situation based on current events and trends. He noted, for example, that past chairmen Phyllis Truitt, CCE and David Beckel, CCE focused largely on FCIB because of the significant transitions occurring within that business division during their tenures. In essence, what happens in the business and credit world in early 2012 may change the course of action for the year, or even years, to come and demands a leadership flexible enough to react.

Reflecting on FCIB, the incoming chairman raved about the strides it has made since changing its structure in 2010. One of the most notable things he sees is the new level of inclusiveness and interactivity that its longer-term members really seem to appreciate.

“Several people who came to the [FCIB’s 22nd Annual] Global Conference came up to me and said they used to feel on the outside,” Marshall said. “Now, decisions are being made by an international collection of members and advisors, not just three or four people who’ve known each other for years.”

Marshall noted that this interactive spirit of information and idea sharing helped give rise to the popular “Doing Business In…” series, which has drawn hundreds of credit professionals to live sessions at events like the Global Conference and NACM’s Credit Congress, as well as virtually via webcasts and teleconferences. The “Doing Business In…” series started with 90-minute or longer live sessions about best business/credit practices and advice for working with companies based in places including China, South Korea, Chile, Brazil and Canada. They’ve drawn rave reviews from the start and since then have grown into a regular inclusion among FCIB’s educational offerings.

“Right there is something coming from the opinions of members of the current board,” Marshall said. “Changes like that at FCIB have been extremely positive.”

Additionally, he stressed the need to continue to invest in technology, not just in key educational offerings such as online webinars and teleconferences, but in equipment at the National and affiliate offices. The association’s use of social media, blogs and other web tools to get the NACM message out should also continue to expand. It’s less of “if you build it they will come” to him and more of a “it has to be there, and be good,” for when the membership does come looking for it.

“Every person isn’t going to take advantage of everything NACM offers, but it’s good to have it there for them because, once they need it, they’ll get on it,” he said. “You have to continue to invest in technology, especially at the National office, so the people providing the services and products to the members have up-to-date technologies or are on the leading edge. We’ve got to keep investing so we don’t have to address things in one fell swoop.”

Kathleen Tomlin, CCE - January, 2011

tomlinGreetings From Your 2011 NACM-National Chairman

Kathleen Tomlin, CCE

Time to Look Forward

At various points in 2009, economists and business experts lined up one after the other to decry that the recession was over. Whether or not most U.S. businesses agreed or how much risk of a so-called "double-dip" recession truly exists, the credit industry and business in general can't be wrapped up in thoughts that the past is prologue. While it's worth remembering that those who don't learn from mistakes of the past may be doomed to repeat them, the year 2011 needs to be about looking forward rather than dwelling on past successes or failures alike. That's an outlook held by new NACM-National Chairman Kathleen Tomlin, CCE, manager of credit and collection for California-based Central Concrete Supply Company, as she begins her term in this seat of leadership.

"We are the premier provider of business credit services, and we have to continue that. There can be no resting on our laurels," Tomlin said of NACM. "We need to ask: if we were to recreate ourselves, start from scratch, what would we want to look like? We need to think and plan strategically to maintain our position." She added that the association must work diligently by delivering products and services in new, unique and efficient ways to continually stand out as relevant within the industry and beyond.

Tomlin, who attended St. Mary's College of California, believes her journey into the world of business credit isn't all that unique. Having earned a Masters in Business Administration, Tomlin was performing planning and analysis with Kaiser Cement when the company found itself without a credit manager. The foray started out in a "I'll just give it a try," which immediately led to joining credit groups to learn and network as well as attending her first Credit Congress. "I couldn't write fast enough. I was learning so much," she recalled of her first year at the annual event. Obviously Tomlin got hooked pretty quickly and thoroughly because, more than two decades later, she boasts an impressive array of credit experience.

Tomlin has worked in construction-related industries for about 38 years, 24 of those as a credit professional. About five years ago, Tomlin moved to Central Concrete Supply Company in the San Francisco Bay area. Along the way, she has served as vice chair of NACM's Western Region and CMA Business Credit Services, among other industry positions.

Looking forward to 2011, one word became prominent regarding an area of focus in the Tomlin era: technology. Tomlin noted that while traditional means can be considered tried-and-true, they can also be antiquated or not as efficient as a newer method of doing things.

"We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater," said Tomlin. "But we know we have to do more with less right now. I know that sounds trite, but sometimes we can't do certain things like get out of the office for a meeting or class." Hence, continuing to expand electronic communication and educational opportunities for credit professionals will likely become an increasingly high priority for NACM under Tomlin's stewardship.

Part of it is a need to impress a younger generation of would-be NACM members who need to grow into eventual leadership positions and carry the water, so to speak, down the road. However, another part of pushing the technological agenda is because even many of the old-school credit professionals within NACM's umbrella have adapted their approach to incorporate and rely upon various electronic breakthroughs that make doing their jobs easier and more impactful.

"People expect more things to be delivered electronically now," said Tomlin. "MLBS [NACM's Mechanic's Lien & Bond Services] is an example of that. From submissions to an online exchange of information, it's all right there, online. It's really a wonderful service. And it came from the requests of members. The days of having encyclopedias on your shelf are long gone, so the more that's online, the better." Another strong example of technology at work within NACM is the expanded list of educational offerings, including online courses, through the Credit Learning Center. Tomlin said many high-quality, eager-to-learn credit professionals were simply shut out of attending NACM classes in the past because they, geographically, lived too remotely to make traveling to an NACM offering a cost-efficient or, in an era when professionals are busier than ever, time-efficient pursuit.

"There are a lot of companies who didn't have the money [for hotel and airfare] in recent years or couldn't afford to lose them for that long," said Tomlin. "You have to make it as easy as possible for people." However, by no means is Tomlin advocating being stuck in your office chair every minute of the work day, as important aspects of the job such as networking could never be fully replaced by electronic options. In essence, think of technology as a tool to enhance, not replace.

"Online doesn't always replace synergies and the excitement of being somewhere and interacting in a classroom or collaborative environment, somewhere where you're not going to be distracted by daily happenings," said Tomlin.

Still, Tomlin realizes that justifying technological advancements, in reality, is perhaps significantly more important now than it was just five years ago. During the boom years, technological innovations often weren't hard to defend as many companies comparatively had money to burn, not to mention much deeper staffing. Tomlin noted that conditions obviously tend to skew much more toward the cost-conscious in the present environment. However, the "do more with less" model for efficiency almost requires small businesses, trade associations and anyone reliant on improved economic growth over the next few years to take time to investigate which technological advances are necessary to improve conditions, she argued.

"Now, it's about a cost-benefit analysis that we can't afford not to do more things with technology. I just don't see it going away," said Tomlin, who believes overstaffing was actually fairly prevalent a few years back. "Companies were very comfortable, but now there is absolutely no overstaffing. That's not to say that it's not a good thing sometimes to cut the fat, if you will."

Tomlin also mentioned her excitement over what she believes has been an improved spirit of cooperation between the NACM Board of Directors and its affiliate managers. "I've been very encouraged how we've been working together; we're all in this together. There are going to be differences and opinions, but you look beyond that and work toward common goals. After all, we don't need an organization full of ‘yes men.'" Tomlin said it's one of her goals to build upon the said cooperative environment even more in the coming 12 months.

Additionally, Tomlin looks forward to CFDD continuing the revisit one of its core missions, as it has increasingly done in the last couple of years in her view, of providing real-world professional development for its membership. The incoming chairman believes CFDD can be helpful for any credit professional looking to learn or polish up on the things "you didn't learn in college." That can include everything from improving the content of your writing and presentations to how one carries himself or herself and dresses. They're all elements that can help enhance one's career by coming off more polished, said Tomlin.

 

 

Phyllis Truitt, CCE - January, 2010

truittGreetings From Your 2010 NACM-National Chairman

Phyllis Truitt, CCE

During the past year when speaking with members, the subject of the world economy and all the challenges of 2009 were always discussed. The global economy and meltdown was on everyone’s mind. I find that today we are still discussing the year 2009 and probably will for some time to come.

 

What really happened last year was that businesses and consumers truly began to understand the importance of credit and debt. Credit is a double-edged sword. On one side, it provides business with the means to grow and expand. During this period of difficult time, we, as credit and treasury professionals, became even more important to our employers. We became integral in the brainstorming for new ideas in the ways to conduct business that took place in offices around the world. On the other side, many stockholders and business owners discovered what financial professionals have always known—that too much credit and too much debt can destroy what one is trying to build. Because of the financial discord, the availability of credit became almost non-existent, the economy slowed and the world suffered. Many of our members’ wages and benefits decreased or, even worse, jobs were lost.

The world really has changed forever, and it’s the paths we take now that will have lasting effects on our profession, jobs and companies and our own lives. We could dwell on the past and try to analyze how our financial institutions almost collapsed, but how would that assist our members? It is the future that matters and NACM has stood solid in its purpose. Its National Board, partners and affiliates joined together long ago to provide our members with the tools to not only survive but to prosper.

During 2009, NACM and its partners continued to convey its message to its members, never losing sight of its mission. So that credit and treasury professionals could lead during difficult times, NACM increased conferences and educational opportunities. Actions taken by the NACM staff and Board ensured continuing growth to this association and its members. Not once during these difficult times, did NACM fail to think about what services should be offered to members. Business Credit magazine became an even more important source for members. The magazine contained many articles on how to succeed in this changing world market.

 

Business Credit is only one of the benefits of being a member of NACM. Dollar for dollar, one of the best benefits of being an NACM member is the NACM Scholarship Foundation. This foundation provides scholarships to all NACM members who qualify. Especially during difficult times and cutbacks, scholarships are a great resource in enabling members to take part in NACM functions and educational offerings. I urge you to go to the NACM website and explore this wonderful option. A scholarship will ease, or even erase, the financial obligation of attending conferences and other NACM programs that you might not otherwise be able to attend.

How often do you visit the NACM website? It truly is a valuable source of information. The home page is user friendly and provides links and information to a variety of resources. Included on the home page are links to the Resource Library—another benefit of membership. The Resource Library is an up-to-date database of all kinds of information: NACM publications, magazine archives, presentation materials and more. An easy search by key words or phrases will return a list of material on your selected topic.

Last year was a year of renewal in the sense that every business was looking at revising procedures and becoming more productive. This was certainly true of the government who was planning on rolling out the new Red Flags Rules. NACM staff spent much time and effort working with the Federal Trade Commission regarding the new Reds Flag Rules on our behalf. Conference calls were added to our programs and a sample policy template was added to the Resource Library to educate and train members so that they would be in compliance with this new law. The Government Affairs work group also continued to lobby and send messages to Congress in an effort to consider revising bankruptcy law.

MLBS, our newest service to members, continued to provide professional excellence in services and classes for those in the construction industry. We knew that the construction industry was going to be part of the solution when the economy improved. Construction is showing improvement and our members should allow MLBS assist with their lien notices. Look for an article by MLBS Director Greg Powelson in the next issue of this magazine.

CFDD expanded its fund-raising activities and raised several thousand dollars for its scholarship fund. At its national conference last year in Denver, a national forum that touched on all sorts of issues for the attendees was presented for the first time. It was a successful format that will be developed for future conferences.

CFDD continues to mentor and network with all NACM members, once again, giving members the necessary tools to succeed and many members owe their continued success to the mentoring and networking provided by NACM-CFDD members.

Internationally, FCIB continued to expand and held a very successful Global conference in West Palm Beach, FL last November. This conference also presented a forum that assisted members with issues facing the world economy where doing business involves different kinds of risk. Not only is there company risk, but country risk, currency and others to consider. For those of you doing international business, visit the FCIB website and take a look at the requirements for the prestigious CICP designation. The online course in International Credit Risk Management will provide you with knowledge and hands-on experience in doing business internationally. In fact, refer to the Calendar of Events in this issue for your next opportunity to register for this course and all NACM and FCIB events.

New in 2009 was the launch of the NACM Credit Learning Center. The Learning Center provides 24/7 access to excellent programs and was developed to provide members with an educational benefit without the expense of travel. Certificate sessions will be available and CEU’s will be awarded upon completion of the modules now available, with more to come. What a great year. In the mist of a global crisis, NACM flourishes and continues to grow, preparing and training members to become future leaders.

Providing leadership should be a focus of every credit and treasury Professional. No matter what your position, there are certain skills that every professional needs in order to be a leader. When asking executives what they value most in employees, communication skills are at the top of the list. A leader will always know when and how to communicate.

Communication involves three elements written, oral and listening. Do you ever leave your boss’ office and wonder what was discussed? Do you offer precise information to IT concerning the new report you need? When the report is presented to you, it is totally different from what you wanted or needed? Does your staff continue to forget or fail to follow instructions? All of these situations are results of miscommunication. NACM always provides a program at Credit Congress on learning how to improve communications. If you answered yes to any of the above, please try to attend one of these programs at the Credit Congress.

Leadership requires participation. Members who are leaders participate. NACM is always looking for individuals to serve on workgroups and the National Board. Serving on workgroups and committees will assist in developing your leadership skills. Fresh ideas and planning is a must for any Association to survive. I urge you to get involved and participate—join a committee, apply for a position on your local Board.

What other traits are necessary for leadership? Every leader must be organized, set goals and strategically plan. Goals should be in writing and reviewed ever so often for adjustments when necessary. Goals should be obtainable, but not too easy.

Take time this year to set both professional and personal goals. It is a great process. This is why NACM has the roadmap to certification—it’s definitely a worthwhile goal. The roadmap is a program that provides members with a way to set goals to reach certification. There is also a dedicated NACM Education Department to help you with your certification process.

Leaders have a vision. They will walk a path where others would dare not go. When NACM started MLBS, it involved risk. Yet, the Board and its affiliates had a vision for the future.

Leaders must have the courage to take risks in order to grow and I believe that every leader must have courage. It is one of the most important traits of a leader—the courage to speak up and fight the battles that need to be fought. NACM works the same way for you with its lobbying efforts.

Courage means that you won’t win every battle or injustice you see, but your co-workers and staff will respect you for trying. Courage also involves making certain that the Canons of Business Credit Ethics is followed. Now is a good time to take another look as those ethics. If not already incorporated in your credit procedures, make it happen today. If you need a copy for reference, it’s available through the NACM Bookstore.

There is “Strength in Numbers.” I pledge to you that the NACM Board and its partners will continue to provide you with the services required to be the best this profession has to offer. Your board members and directors urge you to participate in this association. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call. If you have an idea or a suggestion, pick up the phone and call your area director. Find out who yours is in this issue. We are always available to talk and share with you.

Our members and their participation is the future of NACM. This May, leaders from all over the country will gather together in Las Vegas for the annual Credit Congress. Invest in your future and plan on attending. Take advantage of all that NACM has to offer. Make new friends and gather together with your peers to discuss and plan for the future.

I am looking forward to seeing all of you in Las Vegas and I personally thank each of you on behalf of the NACM staff and Board for your continued support.