Credit management is an art, not a science
“Credit management is an art, not a science,” that’s the motto of Omar Ayubi, Credit Manager at Koninklijke Jongeneel. “That doesn’t mean that we’re completely outmoded and operate very artificially,” Omar is quick to clarify. “The challenge is to keep all the balls in the air at the same time. That in itself is an art form.” Omar is a credit manager in heart and soul. In his ‘spare time’ he trains his colleagues and shares his experiences in the world of figures and debtors with others at the Credit Management Institute. How do you bridge the yawning gap between credit management and commerce? How do you get everyone in credit control on the same page? How do you facilitate a good relationship with your customer?
221 years of experience
Omar makes use of the credit management knowledge and experience he accumulated at Koninklijke Jongeneel in Utrecht. Koninklijke Jongeneel is a wholesaler in timber, sheeting- and building materials, with a network of 43 branches in the Netherlands. As one of the oldest enterprises in Utrecht, Jongeneel recently celebrated its 221st anniversary. Although time inevitably leaves traces, some of them are very positive. Thanks to technological developments, products such as timber can be applied in an increasing variety of ways. And Jongeneel has no less than 221 years of experience. “That’s quite something,” says Omar, who joined the Koninklijke Jongeneel-family three years ago.
Bridging te gap at Tabs Holland
Many organizations feel that what commerce considers as opportunities to sell, credit management perceives as risks. Misunderstandings both ways cause problems, while both departments share the same goal: to make the most of opportunities and mitigate risks. “We are definitely not the party-poopers,” Omar counters. “We benefit as well when sales opportunities are being capitalized! That was my first priority: bridging the gap between commerce and credit control: promoting mutual understanding.”
Omar explains that a clarification of the DSO calculation was decisive. “I showed them that when credit control facilitates more sales – because we determine a client’s credit limit and credit – we actually facilitate revenue. It doesn’t help us if we only see risks and keep limits artificially low, because we are being held accountable for DSO. So, the higher the financially justified revenue in proportion to the accounts receivable balance, the lower the DSO is. And the lower the DSO, the better the credit control department performs. The penny dropped: commerce and credit control share a mutual goal.”
Together we are strong
“We started with a good tool and accurate information from CreditDevice. We didn’t have the facilities to take the right decisions. Sound and up-to-date credit information reports offer a solid basis for assurance and self-confidence. And self-confidence is crucial when you need to signal opportunities and risks.” Omar then provided internal training to help his colleagues read and interpret business information reports. “How do you interpret the annual accounts? And how do you establish a link between the various items in the report? And how do you link this information to the knowledge you got from commerce or the information you collected yourself? And finally, how do you reach the right decision?
Maintaining financial stability
This resulted in the individual credit controllers being capable of functioning in the blurred areas where finance and commerce meet. By doing so, they could facilitate maximum turnover while maintaining financial stability.”
The customer relationship now plays a major role in credit assessments. That took some adjusting, Omar explains: “As I see it, a conversation with a debtor covers several important aspects. The credit controller should determine a certain goal beforehand: what I am going to get out of this meeting? That’s the only way you can steer a conversation. How many invoices are we talking about? Roughly how much money is involved and when will it be paid? In the meeting, we steer towards a firm commitment, but we also perform the art of pure credit management. It’s all about give and take, sensing what is going on at the client’s company by asking open-ended questions and connecting at the level of the ‘undercurrent’. Besides that, visiting the customer has proved to be very valuable! Getting the most out of doing business is complex because it involves so many different aspects. And that’s precisely what makes CreditDevice so special: you can request, find and record everything within the system; not only the credit information and figure analyses, but also notes about the current situation and the customer relationship. This keeps you informed about what’s going on and how business is going. A good credit manager can combine all that and then reach a single conclusion.”
The art of credit management
“The DNA of a good credit manager has a perfect balance between rational thinking and emotional empathic thinking,” Omar continues. “It’s the combination of those two abilities that lets you give and take, as well, as letting you sense precisely what’s going on. I’ve just revealed the secret art of credit management to you there. It isn’t just about figures and formulas and a note from time to time. There are so many more issues that you need to be aware of in order to get to a good customer relationship, to get the most out of doing business and to properly maintain that relationship.”
According to Omar the self-confidence of the credit manager plays a major role in addition to rationality and emotion. He sees it as his challenge to keep improving credit controllers’ knowledge, proper attitudes and skills, so that they can base their credit assessments on several dimensions of value creation with the customer, namely cashflow, profit or loss, value proposition, innovative strength and the source (the Why) of the existence, which can be found in an organization’s genetic DNA.
Appreciation = motivation
“The credit control team is extremely motivated,” concludes Omar proudly, ”because nowadays commerce often asks us for advice and because they are highly appreciated by others in the organization. They are praised not only for their good results, but also mostly for being such a wonderful partner for commerce to cooperate with. I am extremely proud of that appreciation because it motivates us to keep improving and perfecting. And that is possible because CreditDevice adapts as we change.”
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