How do you stay out of the “echo chamber” of negativity and the belief that all customers are suspect? Some days I feel that my life is one battle after another against past due customers. How do you avoid becoming the worst version of your jaded self?
—Not Normally Negative in Newport
Dear Not Normal,
Maybe your question really should be, “What is it about being a credit manager that requires me to be brave?” Blow your nose, clean up from your pity party, and stop buying into the negativity.
Over the years I have found what is lacking for you at this point is resiliency. That resiliency is the reason I, and other sanely surviving credit solution providers (see that positive spin there?) are fine having these conversations and don’t let it suck the life out of us. I agree with you there is something to being in this job every day that can become a pattern. Some people are going to hate you and come at you with guns blazing and some are going to be okay with it.
When you have the hate come at you, no matter what you say, no matter what you do, or what solutions you bring, it is a pattern. The anger comes at you and it is incredibly predictable. It takes the same shape, same path, every time. After a while you start to realize it has nothing at all to do with you, it has to do with them and where they’re at, the issues they are having and dealing with by any means necessary to keep their business or life afloat. So I refuse to take it personally. They can’t hurt my feelings; it’s not about you, it’s about them.
What you can do is continue to have those constructive conversations. Demonstrate that you are capable of having an adult conversation about the issue, whether they are or not. Direct the narrative. Bring the conversation back around to solutions. You are trying to get the account paid and salvage the customer—that is your goal. You may not win every battle, but you will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you Eeyore it up all day in your current state. I like to have a more constructive conversation.
Turn those conversations around with your customers. I will listen to a customer, actively listen (that means giving the conversation your full, undivided attention), to help find a solution. I am not going to offer them a hug, a safe space, or a participation trophy for taking my call, but I will listen to what they are saying and assist in finding solutions.
Credit managing is not for everyone. It takes courage to have the kind of conversations day in and day out that most people can’t even have with their spouses. It takes strength and the ability to not be sucked into the toxic drama that can come with the territory.
You do have the ability to be one of your company’s greatest assets…or you can become the stereotype. Choose to be brave.
With more than 30 years of credit management experience in the LBM industry, Thea Dudley consults with companies on a wide range of credit and financial management issues. Contact Thea at firstname.lastname@example.org
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