A Chance to Shine
David Beckel, CCE
The economic maelstrom that has pummeled the United States has left almost no industry unscathed. All the while, credit departments, the heart and soul of businesses the country over, are continuing to be squeezed and pressured to do more with less. The trend will continue in 2009 and be a year of challenge and change for NACM and its membership of credit professionals. For NACM-National Chairman David Beckel, CCE, manager of sales service and credit for MiTek Industries, Inc., todayâ€™s calamity is an opportunity for credit managers to prove their worth. â€śNACM was formed in 1896 as the result of a financial crisis, and that is something we are experiencing again today,â€ť said Beckel. â€śI think credit professionals as a whole will become of greater importance during this current turmoil, and proven professionals will be elevated to much higher value and influence within most organizations.â€ť
â€śNow, more than ever, credit departments have the chance to shine, both within and outside their companies, as a key cog in the economy.â€ť
Beckel, whose chairmanâ€™s term swept in with the new year, added, â€śThere seems to have been basic practices that were lostâ€‰â€”â€‰at least on Wall Streetâ€‰â€”â€‰that we, as credit professionals, deal with on a day-to-day basis: the basic acknowledgement that we need to evaluate customers not only on their ability to pay, but also on their willingness to pay, and the recognition that everybody should be kept within a certain credit limit to ensure that they can pay their bills.â€ť The resounding theme from Beckel, and many others in the industry, is that now, more than ever, credit departments have the chance to shine, both within and outside their companies, as a key cog in the economy.
Beckel has been a leader at MiTek for more than 17 years and has been involved in the credit industry since working part-time with Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) while he was in college. After graduating from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a B.A. in political science and history, Beckel became a business analyst with D&B. Over his 27 years in the credit industry, he has worked in manufacturing, durable medical equipment, restaurant equipment, truck leasing and for a trucking company. But regardless of the industry, there are problems that are simply universal.
â€śWhat Iâ€™ve found is that most companies experience the same type of problems that you continually see in credit,â€ť said Beckel. â€śHeadaches, such as pricing errors, shipping and quality problems, are the norm. No matter what company you work for, those problems always seem to be present. And I always thank God for bad payers, otherwise Iâ€™d be out of a job.â€ť
He noted, â€śYou would think that financial expertise would change over time, but it has kind of gone the other way in certain aspects. Companies now work more off of high-leverage situations, trying to use their vendors to help finance their operations. And thereâ€™s more pressure now than in years past to ensure receivables are staying in line while sales goals are being met with fewer people in the credit department and more demands put on them.â€ť
In 2008, as is seen in corporate structures the world over, MiTek took customer service responsibilities for the companyâ€™s largest product line and wove them into Beckelâ€™s role in the credit function. The increased scope of responsibilities is something credit managers are currently being subjected to, and it is a trend that is expected to continue as the customer service and credit functions are anchored more securely together and headcounts are reduced.
â€śThe common theme I hear from everybody is that they are constantly being asked to do more with fewer resources,â€ť said Beckel. â€śI think thatâ€™s something as an association we have to make sure we are helping our members cope with, either by doing an outsourcing-type of arrangement or just with education on how to handle different problems that arise on a daily basis.â€ť
He stated that over the next year, NACM is going to be focusing on ensuring the value of membership; making sure that the association is properly focused on the members and their needs. Beckel is advocating an â€śopen door policyâ€ť for members to contact him, NACM affiliate and National offices for input on new services that the association should consider developing.