Albert Einstein once said: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” As global credit professionals we need to change and adapt if we were to succeed in a global world environment. But change does not mean to empty ourselves of our values and real nature—core and substance, to adapt.
The 21st Century has introduced many challenges that credit professionals need to face and work with in order to succeed. One of the key challenges is the speed of change and the transformation of the digital and tech environment. This environment is forcing companies to seek efficiency to stay relevant. Some have lost their humanity and human touch by depending on robots and machines. As credit professionals we do not need to fear that robots will take our place. What we need to fear is to lose our human touch. Moreover, we cannot afford not to use technology and be digitally savvy; otherwise we will be left behind.
If I were to ask credit professionals for their elevator pitch, some might echo these words:
“I am a credit professional, my function is to help all stakeholders—the company, the customer, government and the global community. How? By helping the company fulfill its purpose and expand its top line of sales revenue through credit offerings and increasing its bottom line. As a cashflow specialist, I help the company protect its profit by converting its accounts receivables into cash. As a credit professional, I wear many hats; I am a consultant, coach, mentor, trainer, compliance officer, risk specialist, credit and collection expert, and a customer service champion. I approve credit, mitigate risk, collect the cash, extend customer service, and build lasting relationships with all stakeholders. As a credit professional, I also represent the company in the community as a caring global citizen. The goal is to fulfill the needs of all stakeholders, build loyalty and goodwill, in a responsible and profitable way.”
One of the key elements of success is the application of knowledge in performing our credit tasks and duties, the hard and technical skills. As credit professionals, we need to perform due diligence, help promote sales, maintain relationships, collect past due accounts, and from time to time write off some bad debts. These functions require certain processes and steps to be followed to secure efficiency and effectiveness. But is this a sure path to personal and professional success?
The 21st Century has amplified and revealed one of the secrets for our success: the ability to combine hard and soft skills in the right proportions. We cannot have one without the other. The art of combining the skills is personal and situational. In fact, no two credit professionals are alike.
Yes, in addition to the tasks that credit professionals need to master and the roles that they need to play, or the hats that they need to wear, credit professionals need to understand the value of soft skills and their acquisition. Why? Because soft skills help us to build trust and advance to reach our full potential. How many a credit professional has lost on promotions and advancements due to lack of soft skills!
Let us illustrate! A credit professional needs competency to perform the tasks and duties of a job description. But to get promoted, the credit professional needs to show empathy, adaptability, agility, self-awareness, political savviness, understanding of company culture and values, ability to negotiate and resolve conflicts, capacity to relate to others, just to name a few. A good resume can get us an interview, but connecting with the interviewer, by applying the soft skills, will get us through the door.
Another secret of success is to continuously make sure of the more important things—the fundamentals and global best practices. Credit professionals should always make sure that their foundation is always there, cemented and enforced by best practices. Technology and short cuts should not sacrifice the foundation; i.e. technology can help us to communicate with customers and others with efficiency, but building a relationship requires human interaction. Furthermore, technology can freeze or malfunction, thus requiring human intervention. Moreover, credit professionals need to constantly inspect the foundation to ensure that it is solid, stable, safe, and secure. A foundation that cracks or moves could be dangerous.
Today, we need more than IQ to succeed. The secret lies in EQ, CQ, SQ, and I would like to add DQ. What are these acronyms? EQ stands for Emotional Intelligence, CQ stands for Cultural Intelligence, SQ stand for Social Intelligence, and DQ stands for Digital Intelligence. There are books and videos that explain these concepts and that can help us acquire these skills. Acquiring and honing these skills will arm the credit professional with the tools needed to shine in the global environment.
In conclusion, as credit professionals we cannot be static, we have to be dynamic and keep moving, changing, and adapting. We need to be global and holistic, always relating and embracing the big picture. We need to become masters of our destiny.
Eddy A. Sumar, MBA, CCE, CICE, and CEW, is the Founder of ERS Consulting Services in Rancho Cucamonga, California; he is an International Trade Financing Consultant; a Consultant for the Center for International Trade Development (CITD); a member of the Guidepoint Global Advisors, and an Associate of Quote 2 Cash (Q2C). Mr. Sumar is a research consultant, author, and a public speaker and enjoys writing and traveling. Contact: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.