The important thing about being a true credit professional lies in the results that you achieve. Some people feel like an impostor, just because they didn’t start out to work in credit. The reality is that no one sets out to work in credit, they fall into it. Some hate every moment and run a mile, others, who have what it takes, go on to a long and rewarding career.

So, what does it take? I have listed some of the qualities required, this list is not exhaustive, so, feel free to add to it through your comments, if there are any obvious omissions.

To be a great credit professional here are my Top 20 traits you have to master:

  1. You have to be a great communicator. Dealing with customers can be challenging. Dealing with the other departments within your own business can be frustrating.
  2. You have to be a natural problem solver. So much time in credit is spent solving problems and correcting things that have gone wrong. Rather than getting annoyed by the issues, a true professional will relish the challenge to get things done, not only fixing the problem at hand but making the necessary adjustments to prevent an occurrence.
  3. You need to be the source of all information within your business, the go to person when information is required.
  4. You need to be numerate. Dealing with numbers is a large part of what you do.
  5. You need great attention to detail. Mundane tasks like cash entry and allocation, customer account and bank reconciliations, have to be 100% accurate at all times.
  6. You need to keep an eye on the big picture at all times.
  7. You have to know all the legal and regulatory requirements of your business.
  8. You need an understanding of systems both manual and computerised to maintain the required controls and to keep things moving seamlessly.
  9. You should work as if an auditor is looking over your shoulder at all times.
  10. You have to naturally curious. Getting as much information as you can to make the best possible decisions.
  11. You need to be results focused. Hitting the monthly cash targets (provided they are set correctly!) is what drives the true credit professional.
  12. You have to feel the “Buzz” – when a payment arrives when an account is cleared when an old balance is resolved – celebrate!
  13. You should remain positive at all times, this is a central theme of all the training we deliver.
  14. You should have confidence in your own position.
  15. You need the courage to stand up for what is right, even when faced with opposition.
  16. You need to care about your (internal and external) customers, making sure they are looked after courteously and professionally at all times.
  17. You need to have a great understanding of your own business from start to finish that is encapsulated in my new approach that encompasses the Lead to Cash cycle.
  18. You need to present a positive picture of your achievements to the senior management team. Tell them what you have done (e.g. cash collected, issues resolved) and avoid telling them what you didn’t do (e.g. Overdue debt, Provisions and write offs). Most credit professionals focus exclusively on what they didn’t do and wonder why they are not appreciated!
  19. For sanity, you need to leave the job in the office and focus on the people that matter to you when you are not at work.
  20. Most importantly, you need to look after yourself, staying positive, focused and friendly at all times.

I have always said that the three most important things in any business are: happy customers, profitable sales and positive cash flow – a true credit professional will deliver all three. As such they should be recognised as the Heroes of Business. This can only happen when you start to believe that you really are a hero, and hopefully this article has gone a little way to convince you of this.

Declan Flood, Chief Executive, Irish Credit Management Training.