A new job as a credit manager! What an exciting place to be; a new job is an opportunity to do things a little differently than before, and to make a fresh start. You can build a reputation for doing things right. You can decide not to play political games and make a real difference at work. Anything is possible!
But what do you do? The Carswell Controllership Guide suggests that you only have a short honeymoon period in your new job, so you should set a deadline of 100 days (about 3 months) to get up and running. It is not a long time, and it requires some planning and discipline that may be hard to maintain after even the first week.
Carswell’s guide suggests that you plan to write a report after the first 100 days, even if it is meant just for you. 100 days may seem like a long time, but it is set at 100 days because this sort of thing is not easy to do. If you are done in 10 days, you might suspect that you have missed something. If the company is very small or you are the whole credit department, then it may not take as long as 100 days.
Because you are writing this to yourself doesn’t mean that it should be kept on a napkin or ‘in your head’. You owe it to yourself and your long-term professional development to write a proper report, on paper, and ensure that it is complete. The following six areas are areas you should consider including in your report:
Meet key operational and sales personnel. Impressions are quickly formed and hard to change, so meet the key people that you will work with, and that make operational decisions. Establish a good and professional rapport, ask them what they do, take notes and listen more than talk.
Establish immediate priorities. Meet with your staff and review the key reports for the credit department and identify any ‘hot spots’ that need attention right away, and set about dealing with those problems.
Determine the company’s expectations for the department. Your boss and other senior people in the company will have certain expectations of the credit department, and often it is based on how well or poorly your predecessor did in the role. Other key personnel can help you with the history of the department, but you should ask the direct question about expectations from sales and general management.
Assess the department’s competence. Individually and group meetings with your staff and a review of department reports, customer files and performance reviews should provide an idea of how the department is functioning. Obtaining an understanding of what worked and didn’t work under your predecessor should help you judge how the department is performing and why.
Understand the company’s operations. Credit Managers who fail to understand the main drivers of the business risk being seen as the “anti-revenue department” and will not be seen as part of the sales team. Understanding how the company identifies, cultivates and maintains customers and sales is an important piece of information that helps you fit into how the company does business, and possibly more importantly, how to make credit part of the process if it isn’t already.
Understand the credit function. Don’t delay understanding the specific duties of each employee in your department, and each employee who impacts the AR function. Look at the documentation they use and produce, and follow the data they enter through to the reports you will use to track credit and collections. Don’t just talk, document. You can use process diagrams, narratives, or even point form lists that outline what information is used by who and how it is used. It is your department and you need to know it inside and out.
So, 100 days later, you have done this work and have presented yourself with this report. Then what? First, congratulate yourself, that sort of work is not easy. Take yourself out for a coffee, and start thinking about what you need to do with this information.
No doubt you found room for improvement somewhere. Think about the end goal or two that you want to achieve – whether it is to improve performance of the department or increase your influence in the organization, making an improvement somewhere will help do either.
Add that goal to the top of your report.
With your end goal in mind, go through each of the six points above and list two or three things in each area that you want or need to change. Those two or three things should all relate to the one or two end-goals you have in mind. Note that the things to change should also include what you need to change about you! If you are supervising staff for the first time, or responsible for some new area of credit that you only know about from school, you should include some things you need to do differently, like attending a seminar or webinar, or finding a mentor to help you handle this new responsibility.
Once you have a list of 12 or 15 things to change, congratulations, you have a task list. Add those tasks to the end of your report. Think about them, estimate the time needed, what you need to do and who or what you will need to put in place to accomplish those tasks.
Now you are done!
Well, except that now you have to go and do all those things! It may take you months or years to accomplish all of the tasks, and some you may never complete.
With this report, you have harnessed that nervous and excited energy that comes from being in a new job to create a long-term to do list that you can use to keep you focused on goals that will make a difference to you and your job! You have a long-term tool that will help you and your department to grow and improve. What could be more awesome than that?!