NACM Credit Congress 2021

Every year, the National Association of Credit Management (NACM) hosts the Credit Congress & Expo, one of the best networking and educational events for credit and collection professionals. Attendees come from all industries, but there is always good representation from building material suppliers, both big and small. In mid-October, I had the opportunity to attend the 125th annual Credit Congress in Kansas City, Missouri. 

About the NACM Credit Congress

The NACM Credit Congress & Expo always has a good selection of educational sessions on a variety of topics. Some are industry-specific breakouts, like “How to Interpret Construction Contracts,” and a Q&A session with executives in construction credit. Others were accessible to anyone in the credit field, like “The 5 Cs of Success for a Credit Champion” and “The AP vs. AR Tug-of-War: Ending the Struggle to Manage Multiple AP Platforms.”

The Credit Congress also offers exam review sessions and continuing education units (CEUs) for members who are seeking any of the 6 levels of NACM certifications.

Getting the most out of it

Group of credit managers in the ballroom at the NACM Credit Congress 2021
NACM Credit Congress 2021

The conference did not disappoint. In the weeks leading up to it, we were all worried it might be cancelled due to the pandemic, but thankfully it wasn’t. There were around 500 people in attendance and, although that was a relatively low number, it left so much time to get to know more people. 

Since there was more time to talk with peers and partners, I was able to learn more about what drives them, where they find their motivation, and what I could do to help them become the “Heroes” to their companies. 

Being a member of the NACM has always been a priority in my education and career. The network I have built through these conferences have helped make me who I am today and has given me the jump into building the Payment Professionals Community here at Levelset.

From Credit Manager to Vendor

I have been attending the NACM Credit Congress since 1993 (yes, I’m aging myself). I have been able to travel all over the nation, establishing long-standing relationships with exhibitors, vendors, and peers alike. Some of us have even attended this conference together for over 10 years! Missing last year because of the pandemic was heartbreaking.

For the last 20 years or so I was attending as a Credit Manager for a construction supply company. This was the first time I attended the conference as a “Vendor” representing Levelset. It was a very new feeling for me, but I enjoyed every second of it. 

The Credit Congress kicks off

I arrived in Kansas City, MO and immediately checked into my hotel and then made my way over to the Kansas City Convention Center to pick up my registration packet. Walking into the NACM Registration and Bookstore brought so much excitement! It has been way too long since we have all been together. 

The opening reception takes place on the Sunday evening before the week kicks off. The exhibition floor opens, and we have a fun time seeing old faces — and meeting new ones — over a drink or two. 

Sunday evening I was invited to Jack Stack BBQ with CreditSafe. Coming from Texas, I thought we were the BBQ capital of the world, but I have to say that Jack Stack lives up to its reputation! I even got to experience it again on Tuesday night, compliments of Auditoria.

On Monday morning the ballroom was packed with credit professionals hanging on every word from Ross Bernstein (the best-selling author of nearly 50 sports books). Ross, a highly touted speaker, talked about the similarities between sports and the business world. He shared tips and inspiration to think and act like a champion team player. But the frosting on the cake? I got to meet him later in the expo hall where he signed a copy of his book, America’s Coach, Life Lessons & Wisdom for Gold Medal Success: A Biographical Journey of the Late Hockey Icon Herb Brooks.

During the days, I attended educational sessions taught by some of the brightest and knowledgeable experts in the credit field.

Financial analysis & digital etiquette (plus wine and a paintbrush)

On Monday afternoon David Osburn, MBA, CCRA shared valuable insights on Key Ratio Analysis, including his 5-step analysis plan that includes liquidity, activity, leverage, operating performance, and cash flow analysis. I know everyone in attendance takes pride in their ability to hit their credit department’s KPIs, and we all welcomed an intermediate-level conversation on the topic.

Credit professionals at NACM Congress education session
Ready to learn!

In “Professional Ettiquete for the Digital Age,” communication strategist and trainer JoAnne Funch talked about updated standards for digital communication. At its core, being a successful credit manager is all about communication, so this session was a must-attend. Joanne covered privacy and confidentiality, best practices for email etiquette, social media and common sense, and a lot more. 

On Monday night, HighRadius invited us to “Sip & Paint” — what a great time! Having a drink while painting can easily turn into a mess, but the paintings turned out great. It is always amazing to me how people can paint the exact same thing, but each person’s individual creativity makes it look completely different!

Reducing risk & understanding bankruptcy (axe throwing, anyone?)

On Tuesday Amber Hamilton, CCE, a Senior Credit Manager with  US Silica Company, led a session called “Writing Your Wrong: De-risking Your Customer AR Portfolio.” Company structures are getting more and more complicated, and it’s important for credit pros to make sure we’re contracting with the right entities. Amber broke down this topic in simple, easy to understand terms, and gave us all some helpful risk-reduction tools to use when we got back to the office.

Later, I attended the first construction-specific session of the event, “Bankruptcy and Mechanics Liens: Why it’s not all bad news.” Mike Murray, Esq., a construction attorney and Principal at Lanak & Hanna, talked about recovery options when a customer files for bankruptcy — and how it affects your right to file a mechanics lien claim to recover a missed payment.  

After all of the education sessions on Tuesday, we were treated to a night of axe throwing thanks to CreditSafe. If you haven’t gone and thrown an axe anywhere yet, you truly need to! It is not only fun, but it is absolutely hilarious — Wanda Borgess and her husband David were a hoot! I will say that I was unable to throw the axe and hit the board because I was in heels. Seriously, heels just don’t work!

Oh, and gratitude!

One of the best sessions that I attended was actually one I party-crashed! I was invited to sneak in to listen to David George Brook, also known as “That Gratitude Guy”. I was FLOORED at how much I enjoyed this session and very thankful to the CFDD (NACM’s Credit & Financial Development Division) for allowing me to crash the session. George was amazing! He talked about living a life of gratitude, and gave some examples of ways to accomplish this, including keeping a daily gratitude journal. “Gratitude turns what you have into enough.”

Construction credit pros get together

Later that night I was able to hold an impromptu networking event for construction credit pros. We gathered over at the Stilwell Bar at the Loews Hotel, and enjoyed appetizers, drinks, and great conversations. Many community members were in attendance, including Levelset’s October Credit Manager of the Month, Anne Scarcella, CCE.

It was so much fun to not only meet them in person but to learn more about who they are and their goals for the future. When I got back to Levelset after the conference, I was treated to a fun surprise. Some of the people I met at the conference signed up and pushed the Payment Professionals Community over 1,000 members! It was an exciting milestone.

I am SO grateful to each and every person I met and am looking forward to keeping in touch. One of the reasons I love the Payment Professionals Community is it gives everyone an outlet to share their experience and education with others, meet at more in-person events, and share news of promotions and new positions!

In addition to meeting and getting to know the amazing credit professionals, I was able to reconnect with some vendor partners and make new connections that will not only help the credit community at large, but will directly contribute to the education and knowledge of the Payment Professionals Community.

What’s next?

Be sure to keep an eye out for the first educational event put on by the community in January 2022: “LevelUp CreditCon” in Houston, TX. You won’t want to miss this event, featuring some of the amazing vendors that we all know and love so much — and instructors that knock it out of the park!