Dear Crabby,

As the credit manager at a small tools manufacturing and distribution company of 50 employees, we’ve been closed since April 1st and it looks like we’re going to be closed for the rest of May. Fortunately, during this time our company has continued to pay us, and along with the PPP assistance, we are surviving on the generosity of the owners. But this could change if we need to extend the business cessation longer than this month. 

While we’ve been closed, no new credit applications have come in and customer payments have almost all dried up. As a result of this short-term business cessation, I’m pretending to work without having really anything to do, and I’m bored. Any suggestions on how I can make my time more productive?

Signed: Bored in Cincinnati

Dear Bored,

You’re certainly right about one thing and that is your company is very generous to still be paying you despite this terrible business interruption. But rather than only being appreciative of the financial support, take advantage of this time to transform your department and function into a model of improvement. Here’s my list of “Rebuilding” ideas and projects for you to consider during this opportunistic down time. 

1) Review credit files and credit limits – When was the last you had a significant period of time to carefully review the credit lines of all of your major customers. It’s probably something you wanted to do but kept putting it off with the excuse, “I just don’t have the time right now.” Well, now you’ve got the time and a careful review may reveal an overextension of credit on some customers, and conversely, the possibility of granting an increase in credit on others. 

2) Refine your scoring models, formulas and data analytics – Scoring models, formulas, and other analytics are a work in progress and if yours have not been revised, then it’s time to understand if they’re giving you the proper information. Scoring models in particular need to have actual collection results over a long period of time incorporated into them so that going forward, they can be applied to provide a more accurate estimate on the credit and payment ability of future clients. 

3) Rationalize the credit department operation – Here’s where you can really become a post pandemic hero by looking for ways to cut redundant and over the top expenses, and making your department run as cost effectively as possible. 

4) Revise credit applications and other documentation – Is the information required on your credit application too much or too involved? Or, is it lacking in the kind of information that impedes your ability to process the credit application smoothly? Now is the time to have a virtual meeting with your sales team members and get their input on what kind of information you and they need to make the sale proceed more smoothly. 

5) Reconsider your post pandemic collection outsourcing needs – When all of this is over, you’re going to have to spend more time collecting from customers who, like yourselves, will be having cash flow issues as you try to ramp your businesses back up. But not all businesses will be affected by this pandemic equally and whether it’s you or your collection partners, the approach to segmenting and communicating with those who can pay their bill in part or full will be imperative to your own company’s cash flow survival. 

6) Receivable Financing – In view of the pending orders that have yet to go out, accounts receivable financing companies would probably be interested in looking at your new billings, once those orders are shipped and billed. This would be a great way to generate some immediate cash in the coffers to at least cover your operating expenses and more. 

7) Reach out – I’m sure you have several customers who would appreciate hearing from you during this time, inquiring how they and their staff are doing. Laying the communication groundwork now, showing genuine care, will facilitate discussing collection issues in the very near term. 

I hope the above will be helpful in solving your boredom. Please let me know what happens. 

Crabby

Dear Crabby is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (nseiverd@cmiweb.com) are most welcome!

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