Part of the equation when considering a payment plan is a solid relationship with the customer and to ensure the plan doesn’t breach PACA trust rights. A commitment to work together will also strengthen this bond.
Nicole Flacco, credit and collections supervisor for Dole Fresh Fruit Company BB #:111521, Westlake Village, CA, agrees.
Dole Fresh Fruit’s willingness to be flexible “built good relationships with those customers because they will always remember the empathy and understanding we provided during unprecedented times.
“Building good relationships with our customers is key,” she adds. “Whether I contact them through email or by phone, communication is crucial.”
Such measures can also prevent the collections process from becoming adversarial. “Being genuine and positive creates great bonding,” says Cathy Jimenez, credit manager at Del Campo Supreme, Inc. BB #:163269 in Nogales, AZ.
Another relationship, an internal one, also needs TLC to thrive. The relationship between the sales team and the credit department should be one of harmony, not fraught with discord or seeming incompatibility.
While it is true salespeople are most interested in finalizing sales, and the credit department is all about accounts receivable, there is middle ground. Both want to augment a company’s bottom line; they just have different ways of doing it. Each side needs to understand the other to succeed.
Charles Brown, director of credit for Hapco Farms, LLC, BB #:104132 a grower and importer in Westhampton Beach, NY, reports that he works closely with Hapco Farms’ sale team on approvals, limits, denials, and customer problems.
Jimenez is hands-on too, working with her sales department to prequalify credit customers, but she admits there can be some backlash if she doesn’t think a customer is qualified.
In these cases, salespeople should be reminded of the company’s credit policies and why they exist—as they protect the company and everyone who works there.
Costs and Consequences
A credit department, despite its function to keep money flowing and protect the bottom line, should never be a liability or overly expensive to operate.
While it’s certainly necessary to have adequate coverage, cross-training associates for both core and nonroutine tasks adds valuable depth.
Regularly reviewing processes and procedures and updating as needed can also help the department run smoothly and stay cost effective.
And although certain expenses may seem superfluous when business is good and customers are paying on time, it’s important to remember: credit policies and the personnel who enforce them more than pay for themselves when things go awry.
A focused and determined credit department brings in the dollars that allow produce businesses to thrive.
This is an excerpt from the Credit & Finance Department in the November/December 2021 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.