This week, I spoke with Gloria Macias, Director of Credit and Collections for Action Gypsum Supply. Gloria is a veteran credit manager who has been in the workforce learning and growing since she was just 18. Gloria discusses her journey into credit management, the importance of learning through networking, and the vitality of bridging the gap between the credit and sales departments.
Lori: So tell us about your career journey — I know you were with an auto finance company before construction, but how did you even get to that?
Gloria: Yes, actually. So I started in indirect auto finance young — straight out of high school, 18 years old. I started working for the Friedkin companies. They’re the parent company to Toyota and Lexus, and it was an entry-level position. I was a data entry clerk — that was back in the day when you went to a dealership and they submitted your application, and we got your application and we typed in every single detail.
I started there as a data entry clerk, and prior to that, as a student, I worked in a dealership. So that’s where I kind of found a love for that. But, you know, I was a go-getter. I wanted to do more. But I wasn’t very suited for school, and it’s something that I decided to forgo at the time.
So, I quickly went from data entry clerk to a loan processor in the funding department. And then from there, I went into a buyer position — which is a credit analyst, reviewing the credit applications that are submitted from the dealerships and making those decisions — as well as “selling paper;” that’s what we did.
I got experience with sales and credit very early on. But I wanted to be in management — I just feel that that’s my niche. Training, mentoring, leader, being a leader. That was definitely what I wanted to do. So I spoke to my management team about what I needed to do to get there, and worked my way ultimately then to being a funding manager. So, I was a department manager of our funding department and managed about a team of 12.
Right around 13 years at the company, which was now Auto One, they closed their auto division. So as I said, I started there when I was 18 going on 19 — and then I’m 33, finding myself having to get back into the workforce. I hadn’t had an interview in years. But thankfully, I found my home very quickly with GM Financial.
Auto One was closing and losing all of their buyers, so these other finance companies were picking us right up. So I didn’t really miss much time: I went to GM Financial, I got hired there as a credit analyst, but then quickly got promoted to a credit manager. I ended up moving from GM Financial to Chase Auto Finance. I needed a change, but I realized really fast that it wasn’t a different company that I needed. I needed something new altogether.
I had become widowed and was a single mother right around that time. The hours in auto are super demanding. So, I started submitting my resume pretty much to anything that said “credit analyst,” “credit manager,” credit anything. It was a few months until I finally got a phone call directly from Terry King, the managing partner of Action Gypsum Supply.
I didn’t even know what “gypsum” meant, to be honest. But I came in for the interview. It was super close to home, the hours were perfect, and I think the fact that I knew nothing about construction, what gypsum was — I remember in my interview, Terry said to me, “I need someone who can protect our lien rights, file our bond claims on time, make sure that our AR is protected.”
And I said to her, “I don’t know any of that, but I will learn it. Give me an opportunity and allow me to take my years of management experience, my years of credit experience, and just discretion and using good judgment, and I will learn.” And it worked out! I got a call three or four days later and got hired as Action Gypsum’s new credit manager in 2013.
She likes your confidence! When you started at Action Gypsum, what were your tools to learn about construction law and the credit side of construction?
I had the basic and credit management skills down, you know — I knew how to manage a team. I knew how to mentor. I had nearly 15 years in credit, analyzing credit bureau’s decisions and consumer loans, and managing a team of up to 12 people. So with that part of it — overall management credit skills — I was confident. Learning construction law, and lien law, and falling bond claims and statutes, and all of that good stuff — that was a whole [different] story for sure.
Want to learn about lien law? Check out Mechanics Lien Laws: What Are Lien Rights?
Action was incredible. They provided me all the resources and the support that I needed to learn the business. And one of the main things that both [managing partners] introduced to me was the NACM (National Association of Credit Management). Action Gypsum was an existing member of NACM, but the credit manager at the time wasn’t involved. Plus, my management — they didn’t just encourage it. They pretty much required it. It was on the list, when you look at the position and requirements, was “attend NACM industry group meetings.”
So I did! I went to the first few meetings every month, and didn’t know everything that they were talking about, but listened intently and took notes. Then, the first industry group meeting that I attended was the builder supply group, and few people I remember stuck out in my mind as I listened to them have a dialogue back and forth with their inquiries and information.
Lisa Childres is one person that really stands out for me. She knew what she was talking about and she was tough. Like I said, I paid attention. I listened to the input that they were giving each other during the exchange, and I wrote down a lot of things and I just took a lot of it in — and then I asked them a lot of questions during and after those discussions.
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Aside from them, if not all of my lean training came from the Andrews Myers’ team. Jason Walker and Debbie Gregerson are literally my lien law heroes. They gave me my own one-on-one lien law class in their offices. It was just me, Jason, and Debbie, in their conference room with the slides going with the handout — you know, the same class they give during the regular lien law classes, but it was just the three of us one-on-one. It was so nice because I got to ask all of the questions; I had all of the time! I felt like they were my own personal trainers.
I learned very quickly that the peers of credit managers are an asset to each other. We may be competitors, but as far as an actual credit team, we’re definitely not. We’re a very united team, and that was different for me. Carl Williams came in after-hours and showed me a mail-merge system that he used because they did their own lien etters. We were doing our own lien letters at the time, and it was very manual.
And I remember when we first did it, I thought to myself, “There’s no way we’re still doing this. This is so outdated.” So he came and he helped me. So that’s how I learned! And then I just picked it up as I went, and asked questions, and utilized almost every webinar or class that NACM offered, to be honest.
So you’ve got your team, and apparently, you got a position that somebody else had taken — how did that go?
The credit team, when I was hired in 2013, consisted of myself and one credit assistant — and that credit assistant had formerly been the credit manager — not to discredit her in any way. At the time, Action was growing. And she wasn’t an experienced credit manager. She had done a great job up to what she could, but because Action was growing and on the uptick, they knew at that time that they needed an experienced manager. And that’s where I came in. So it was just she and I at first.
At that time, we had just actually had just opened a fifth branch, which was our branch in Austin, but I did quickly hire a second credit assistant almost immediately in early 2014. Now, granted that was 2013: Today at Action, we’re in four states, we’re 17 branches, and the credit team is a total of nine, including myself. So I had a team reporting to me the minute I stepped in, one person, and I quickly hired a second, and as we opened new branches and went into new states, I kept hiring.
So what were you looking for when you were hiring somebody?
You know, to be honest, based on what I could offer, and how we were growing, I just kind of looked for someone who was hungry and wanted to learn and needed an opportunity just like I did when I was leading auto into construction, to be honest.
I like hiring. I think it’s exciting to meet new people, hear where they’ve come from, and hopefully learn something from them. Everyone can bring something new, whether it’s just a software that they know better than I do, or just a shortcut on software. I just looked for that. With the exception of one of my hires, all of the people I hired were green. They were without experience, and came in, entry-level. And I got to train and watch their growth.
When you hire a new employee, especially someone who doesn’t have industry experience, and you watch them excel and you watch them succeed, their success is your success. I’ve been through a ton of different styles of managers, and the one that I’ve always tried to imitate is the managers who helped me grow, who taught me, and wanted me to be as good if not better than the way they are.
It’s been great. I’ve grown the team. As I started hiring more people, I would make sure of course that they were a good fit with the people we already had existing because a positive work environment is so important. Everyone’s not always going to like everybody, but it’s important that there’s at least a good culture.
So, what’s your day-to-day look like?
My office life looks exactly like my home life: busy and constantly moving. The team expanded quickly from where we started, so my day-to-day is different now than it was in 2013. I’m not in the trenches making as many of the collection calls, or signing the lien waivers, or taking payments. I’ve got a great team who’s doing that. They are divided by market, but I still stay very heavily involved with each of them on a day-to-day basis overseeing the performance of each market, their progress DSO, of course.
The credit specialists pretty much handle all the day-to-day, the A through Z — everything for each account, and applications as well. I am the final look on most applications, especially if they’re over a certain credit amount or if they’re limited. I’ll take the final look usually on those,
Reports all day, every day, our performance dashboard, DSO, monitoring and following up on the ineligible collateral list, payment methods. Credit card activity, I think probably for most, is a red-flag item for all of us credit managers, so it is definitely a component that I watch and keep on my radar. It’s an operational cost, and if there’s a way that we can contribute to driving that down, then I definitely watch that and look at ways that we can do that as a team.
I do sit in on mostly all manager and sales meetings. We conduct a monthly sales meeting with each salesperson and credit specialist together right after lien week, to go over their aging. We initiated that as another way to try to bridge that gap between sales and credit — being their ally, making sure they’re aware of who’s about to hurt them as they roll over into the next column. So we do that, and then all of the credit training, hiring, and refreshers when needed. I also assist with the training for our sales teams to make sure that they know how to type up an order the right way so that we can get the information we need.
There you go, right off the start!
Right off the start. I want to know when there’s a new outside salesperson, inside salesperson — anyone who’s going to type up orders, so that we can give them just a quick “this is what we need; this is why we need it. And this is your role, to help us protect the order that you’re about to release.” Constantly reminding them that it’s not a sale until it’s paid for.
Also of course in Texas, we do still handle all of our intent to lien forms and liens in-house. I take the lead on that and manage that. It’s important and it’s my baby, so it’s one of the things I’ve had a hard time letting go. But in January, I did get sick and I was out for the first time in almost eight years on the 15th of January. I was freaking out, but I have a great team and they took over, and they made me realize that I do need to pass the torch as well. So I’m currently in the process of training all of our credit specialists on how to process intents, file the liens, record them, what information to gather, and you know, how to get it.
I’m sure they like getting that extra knowledge as well.
I think they were all a little shook at first, but they’re okay now. Then after liens, I decide which and when liens need to go to foreclosure, to suit, to demand, and then do all of the communication with our attorneys. On the West coast, it’s a little different, cause they’re a preliminary notice state. So we do not do it in the house. It would be way too much. And we do use a service for them.
You have to send one on every job there, right?
Every job. We have a threshold, but every job that meets that threshold, within 20 days of the first delivery. And that’s a whole lot of jobs.
Read more: How to Use Notices to Get Paid on Every Job
What have been some of the highs and lows of your position?
To be honest, there have been lots of highs. It feels like it’s been an eight-year high. Because it’s been constant growth, constant having to adapt, and going into a new market every few months and just meeting new people, hiring new personnel.
I know it sounds super cliche, but I love it here, and it’s been mostly all highs. I joined the team just as it was kicking into high gear, so it’s busy. It’s kept me on my toes. It’s taught me how to adapt. I’ve always been known as one of those people who don’t exactly like for you to move her cheese — but I’ve adapted. And I continue to.
There have been challenges, but it’s just been so rewarding just to have success in each market, and be able to grow and be able to build. And then, personally, just to be able to have gone from a strong credit manager, but knowing nothing about this industry, to feeling pretty darn confident about what I know, and what I can do, and what I can teach.
I would say when I first started, the greatest challenge was, again, building that bridge between sales and credit. There wasn’t much unity at the time. Not for any bad reason — sales didn’t understand credit, and credit didn’t completely understand sales. So aside from learning lien law and learning the business, my first order of business was fixing that.
I started getting out into the field, meeting customers — something that the credit manager here had never done. Getting to know the salespeople, getting to understand what their challenges are in the market, and then understanding how we could help, and making sure that my team understood that it wasn’t us versus them. We are a support team to our salespeople. They’re out there face to face getting the business, and then we need to do everything we can on the inside to support the efforts they’ve made and make sure that we get paid. It benefits all of us when you work together.
Absolutely. Sales and credit have always been the toughest part. I don’t know if it’s in every industry, but at least in construction. So the fact you saw that right off the bat, I bet I really appreciated that, because then they got to know you right off the bat as well.
Absolutely. And it would be safe to say that they didn’t like me at first. It was like “Whoa, whoa, woah. Who does she think she is? And why is she getting into our business?”
But that’s one of the highs. Having salespeople say, “You know what, Gloria, I’ve made more money since you’ve been here.” You know, because we’re protecting them from losses. Without getting into too specific of numbers, our bad debt went from a negative to a positive just after the first year here — and not solely because of me, just because of implementing the rules, making sure we send intents.
Salespeople and managers would be scared, saying “Don’t send it in, you’re going to make the mad,” or “You’re going to ruin a customer’s relationship with the GC.” But then, even teaching our customers how we’re protecting them, and teaching them how to send their notices.
The benefits have completely outweighed the bumps in the road that we hit. We’ve got a great team between sales and credit. I sit in on their bi-weekly sales meetings. Sometimes there’s nothing for me to contribute in those meetings, but I get to hear what their challenges are, what they’re running into, new customers that they’re prospecting, and see if I’ve heard something about them. Just anything, anything that we can do to help.
So I would say it’s definitely been an eight-year high. I can’t define any real true lows aside from the fact that there are some days that are more trying than others. Having to hire quickly — but again, even with having to hire, it’s all been good hiring, because it’s because of growth. Never because of turnover.
What advice do you have for credit managers — or even just students that are still trying to pick their career — about getting into construction?
Well, first I’d definitely say don’t let construction scare you! Hard hats and heavy equipment might not be the most attractive thing when you’re first looking and starting out. But there’s definitely a lot to learn. I think in construction, you’ll find yourself a part of an industry that’s just growing and evolving. And I think we’re only going to continue to do that.
For all new credit managers, I’d say just definitely utilize your resources. Keep an open mind, and be willing to learn from your peers and other experienced credit managers. You may think “We know what we’re doing; I got this. You’re not doing anything different than I’m doing.” But I learned, and I think I’ve always known this, that there’s always something to learn from someone else.
Definitely be adaptable, because the processes will change. The procedures will change. And then they’re going to change again.
Take advantage of networking opportunities — that was huge for me — attending the industry group meetings — and even some of the ones that perhaps the subject itself wasn’t directly pertinent to me in my role — but being there and meeting other credit managers, and just getting to know them, and building those relationships and a rapport with them. It’s invaluable.
When you can pick up the phone and call another credit manager and ask anything — whether it be about the software you’re using, or a mutual customer, or just to borrow some walls-certified envelopes because you ran out and forgot to order enough — it’s happened! True story. Just building a rapport with your fellow credit managers.
As a credit manager too, you mentioned confidence earlier, and I think confidence goes a long way. We know what we’re talking about. We’ve attended the lien law classes. We’ve been in these webinars. We know what we’re talking about, but we have to have confidence and we have to season our words and to be teachers. We can’t take that attitude of “This is why we’re doing it: because I said so.”
Learning the laws and the industry, and then teaching others so that they can understand as well has always been huge. I’ve always been huge on our relationship and communication with our internal customers is the same as our external customers. Salespeople are our customers. Accounting teams are our customers. And the more that we can help them understand what we’re faced with and what we’re doing — then they’re going to be more supportive. I feel like I’m going on and on about how supportive my sales team is, but honestly, it’s because it’s really true. They’ll get on the phone and back us up. And that just goes a long way.
Knowing that they are part of your team — a lot of salespeople just don’t feel that way. We’re trying to work on a way to get them to feel it, and connect better with their credit people right now. It’s a good thing to have.
Absolutely. And the industry — it’s amazing, it’s fun, it’s got lots of moving parts, and never a dull moment. I can’t think of one day that I sat in here with nothing to do.
Finally: Just never stop educating yourself. And then pay it forward. I appreciate to this day the leaders and mentors throughout my career who took the time to share their experience with me, and teach me, and even correct me when it needed to be done. Feedback, both positive and constructive — be willing to give it, and then be willing to take it.
Who has supported you? Who’s been your mentor all along?
Aside from my family — because I have to mention them and my friends, because I’ve always been the go-getter and they’ve been 1000% behind me on that — professionally, since I worked in auto, I’ve had wonderful mentors. Regional managers, credit managers — different roles still in the auto business, some retired — but they showed me tough love.
And then I’d say, again, the support of my peers. I have to continue to mention that because that’s taken me a long way. The support and understanding, the fact that they know how important the credit manager role is and how difficult it is. You know, we joke about sales and credit being “good cop/bad cop.” We don’t always want to be the bad cop. We want to not have to hide our faces at every event when they’re like, “Oh, you’re the credit manager?”
Their support honestly has been indescribable. I have a voice here, and they allow me to use it, and they’re open to my ideas. They’re open to my suggestions. They’ll allow me to try something new and see if it works or if it doesn’t, and then to change it from there. So the management team here, the owners here, the NACM and Andrews Myers — they’ve been amazing.
How do you think the industry might change in the next 10 years? I know we’ve got COVID going on, so it’s kind of throwing it in its own direction, but do you see any other types of changes?
You know, that’s the first thing that comes to my mind to be quite honest. Obviously I imagine there’s going to be changes. Like I said, we are evolving in construction, like with automation — we’re hearing so much more about it. We’re seeing amazing things with the software that we’re using here that we’ll be able to use out in the field that will get signatures to us faster. There’s so many ways now that customers can access their AR, and they’re online making payments.
And you mentioned COVID — I think that the COVID pandemic will certainly change the way we build, and even the way we communicate, We’ve seen that it already has, right? I don’t know for sure, but I definitely know that it’s going to be ever-changing. And it’s going to be fun to be a part of.