A Plea For Americans to Be Americans

The TV show “60 Minutes” ran an interesting but depressing feature this week, discussing how it has become impossible for people with different political views to reasonably discuss the election.  Whether Democrat or Republican, Progressive, Conservative, Libertarian or something else, whether men or women, whether old or young, whether urban or suburban or rural, from any place in the nation, no matter what race, no matter what education or environment, everyone is upset with the content and tone of the election.  What is especially alarming, is that people almost universally talk over each other, refuse to listen to different opinions, and quickly resort to personal insults and attacks.

This is not just about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  Some of this, I fear, goes back much further, to a point I won’t identify because when it started is irrelevant except that it’s real, and it threatens all we hold good in our nation.

Look, in 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama won election and re-election, but more than forty percent of voters wanted the other guy.  In fact, not since Nixon won re-election in 1972 have voters given sixty percent or more to a Presidential candidate (and we have since learned a lot about how Nixon got his numbers, enough to call the results into questions).  But the new President pretty much always acts as if he won total support by right, to the point that the losing party is treated as if they don’t represent many millions of Americans.   Both Trump and Clinton have made it clear they intend to do just that, should they win.   In addition to everything else we have suffered as a nation this election season, Americans now feel as if the stakes are poor-or-nothing; put up with an unethical candidate they back, simply because the alternative is abominable. 

Later this week, we’ll know the results of the election (maybe even by end of night, Tuesday).  But the fate of the nation depends on us, whether we hold the new President accountable, and whether we hold ourselves accountable to the ideals put in place for us by so many citizens before us.

Win or lose, let us be Americans, in spirit and practice.     


The Credit Professional, 2013

Well, it's been a few years since I posted here (I've been busy elsewhere, including posts on LinkedIn and other online media), but in the very strange event that someone reads this blog, I'd like to cover some recent history from a personal perspective.

People blog for any number of reasons, including - unfortunately - some which do not result in well-reasoned, easy to read articles.  So, here's why I think you should care about my perspective.  If you are at ll unsure about your career path, or how you will get to the place you want for yourself and your prospects, I think I can help.  If you see some people succeed while others fail, and you want to know why without falling into lame conspiracy theories or just hating people for success, I think I can help.  With that said, read on if you wish.

Most of the books and presentations you'll hear about these days come from people selling things.  You can be a millionaire, but first you have to buy the book, video and plan from the guy who may well have made his  fortune selling things like that to people before you.  I come from the Old School, with rules everyone OUGHT to know but somehow many forgot or never learned:

1.  Everything has a price
2.  You can't make something of value without doing the work needed to create it
3.  There are bad people, who are quite willing to steal from you if you don't stop them

That last part is where I come into the picture.  I'm a credit manager, which role is all too often disparaged by salesmen, because I represent prudence and caution, which qualities are deemed uncool in the mind of people chasing quick sales and high margins.  I'm not their enemy, though it can be difficult to explain why they should be happy with me.  The short answer is kind of like why you pay for a home security system - you may not like the cost, but it's there to prevent really bad things from happening to you.

My history in Credit started in, perhaps oddly, Operations.  I was a manager of a large movie cinema, and had about sixty employees under me at the largest of the locations I ran.  I learned that when you have a certain amount of turnover (common to the industry), you find that some of your employees will be outstanding, many will be good, but there will be some you regret hiring, and some will be out and out criminals. If you have money around or things of value, there are people who will try to steal from you.  This problem is not just about employee theft, or even theft as most people know it.  I had a number of customers who would buy tickets to one show, then sneak into another theater so they could see two or even three movies for paying once.  There were people who would eat food from concessions, then demand their money back for no better reason than they hoped to get free food.  At least some of your customers are crooks.  Worse, there are a number of customers who think they should get a better deal than what they agreed to, and this shows up across the board in commerce.  I witnessed attempts to cheat a bit on products, service, and especially payment not only in the Cinema industry, but also in Healthcare, Energy Distribution, and in Wholesale Distribution as well.  There are plenty of people who feel entitled to pay late, pay less than they owe, or to complain just so they get free things or a financial benefit.  It's a fact of life, and one you have to include in your plans for a business.

In my experience, somewhere around three percent of potential business customers will try to cheat you out of money for an order (I don't include valid complaints, but just the ones who deliberately withhold money they really do owe), and between twenty and twenty-five percent will pay you late (as in at least two weeks after the due date.  That second point is important, by the way.  A lot of Sales guys will say it's no big deal if a customer pays late, as long as they pay you eventually.  The obvious reply to that, should be to ask how happy the Sales guys would be if their paycheck was delayed by a few weeks.  Any business needs to know what to plan for in Cash Flow, and that means AR has to come in pretty much on time.

A Credit Manager exists to protect the company from loss or slow payment.  That makes us unpopular, but we are as vital as any other member of the company.

[ NEXT - what does a Credit Manager do to help grow a company? ]    


The Need for a College Education

I notice that education has come under attack again. For examples, a Washington Post article challenges the value of a college education, and the Town Hall website suggests that many people should start a business rather than go to college. It’s become a trendy thing, challenging the value of a college education. It’s also a very risky thing, and many of the challenges are intellectually dishonest.

According to the Small Business Administration, about half of all new businesses fail within 5 years. But the University of Buffalo released a study showing the failure rate to be much higher rate, at 80% failure within five years. It’s difficult to track precisely, but the general message should be clear that simply starting a business does not mean it will survive, let alone become successful. And it’s not hard to figure that while some business owners are unfortunate, failure to study, plan and work hard will contribute to failure. In other words, if someone is a poor student, they would probably be a poor business owner as well. The people attacking schools for failures miss the fact that intelligence, diligence and inspiration are uncommon traits, and it’s not the schools’ fault if someone does not do their work. They get worked up about the cost, but really , from a historic perspective it has always been expensive and difficult to get a really good education, and if someone really does their homework, so to speak, they can get their credentials for a lot less than some other people. But the main reason the challenges fail, is because the challengers do not understand the basic purpose and function of collegiate education in the first place.

My dad grew up in the Depression. His first job was a factory shift when he was 8 years old. The child labor laws were not of much concern to folks in those days, nor were safety or compensation standards. He came to believe that the key to getting a better life was to get a solid education, so he earned a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Mathematics. He also took some business courses at Wharton. My father made it clear to all of his children, that he expected us to do as well as possible in school. My mom earned a Bachelor’s in Sociology, and four degrees were earned by the four children, in six majors. My brother did not earn a degree, my sister and I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and I later earned my MBA, and my other sister triple-majored in Chemistry, Physics, and Business for her Bachelor’s. Between my parents and us kids, we earned seven degrees plus certifications in nine majors at seven different universities. I believe I can claim we represent broad experience in education.

Besides the practical value my dad felt that advanced education represents, my father also felt that education was mental exercise, a vital need to seek intellectual growth just the same as we should use nutrition and physical exercise to develop our bodies, and join religious and ethical organizations to grow as moral individuals. Long before continuing education became commonplace, my dad believed and taught that a person should never consider their education complete or finished. I mention this because my values largely follow the same line of opinion. I also think that these additional points need to be included in the discussion.

Let’s start, then, but addressing the biggest real problem in the college decision – most young students are not able to make a good decision about college on their own. We live in a world where people get into routines and tend to do what they believe is expected from them. So a lot of kids know by the end of high school whether they are going to college, not because they have thought out the decision with the care it should be given, but because they know what is expected. The decision will only be about cost, opportunity, difficulty, or value to a very small degree; it will generally be about what the person’s family and friends say and do about the matter. As a result, if you are friends or family with someone going into their last couple years of high school, or if they talk about deciding on going to college, speak up and let them know what you think.

The next thing to consider is the career path you want to follow. The people criticizing college seem to imagine that only college students have hard choices. But for good or ill, life in general is hard and a lot of young people have no real idea what they are getting into when they choose their lifestyle. Media is not helpful; the celebrities and glamorous people we see in movies and television, look, they are just not normal folks. In fact, even the stars and athletes often warn folks that the image does not match even their own reality. Most new businesses fail, as I said earlier, so the idea that kids coming out of high school should plan on being the next instant millionaire is pretty close to being complete fiction. And working for a living straight out of high school with no special training or advance education, is a ticket straight to hard times and a poor future. When you get right down to it, what everyone needs to do is reach a place where they understand the three circles of their career horizon; what you are able to do, what you want to do, and what someone is willing to pay you to do. That’s it, simple but hard to work out. And answering those questions takes the ability called critical thinking, which is not often taught anywhere these days. I’m not saying you get perfect results from talking things out with your family and friends, or from trying to figure out what you want to be in 20 years, but you’ll definitely get a better sense of which path is better for your situation right now.

The decision about education also can be seen as a window of opportunity. Back when I graduated high school, there was really only one way to go to a decent school; full-time at a school and on-campus, living in the dorm and basically immersing yourself totally in the school’s culture. And in those days, almost everyone at college started right after high school; the older students were generally military veterans or professionals seeking advanced degrees and certification. Alternatives to traditional colleges existed, but these were generally night schools and were commonly regarded as inferior educational opportunities. Today, the demographic is much broader as is the window of opportunity. In addition to full and part-time campuses, there are online courses, commuter campuses, and a number of flexible options. Accreditation insures the quality of education provided, and the smart individual can check out a school on virtually any desired criteria prior to submitting an application. Cost, regimen, focus and degree criteria can all be determined and compared, and should be weighed in balance to the student’s need. The days of one-size-fits-all are long gone, and it is well that they should be.

The critics of modern education blame the schools, which is sometimes deserved, and a culture which demands a degree for most professional positions, or to advance in a company. What these critics fail to consider, is that the student has the right and responsibility to choose their path, that there is good historical reason for believing that higher education produces, generally, superior employees, and the critics completely fail to grasp that non-collegiate careers are generally limited, low-paying, and, well, dismal. This is another reason why anyone deciding about college should talk carefully with their family and friends – the consequences of the decision are literally life-changing, and you should not make a decision that important on the advice of strangers.

A college degree does not guarantee a person is competent, nor intelligent, nor really much of anything. But if you’re considering hiring them for your company, your part includes interviewing them and asking the right questions. There’s no use blaming the educational system if you get lousy people because you make a choice on appearances and don’t find out about the person you’re bringing aboard. Same thing if you’re considering education for any other reason; you need to find from the individual what he or she really understands and about their character and personality. Come to that, if you choose to enroll at a college, and the courses you take do not challenge you, force you to grow, then it’s your responsibility to do something about it. College-level students are presumed to be adults, and adults are responsible for their decisions and choices. Choosing the right school, the right regimen, and working hard to produce your best possible results can change your life for the better, but simply going to college is not enough. Conversely, while a college graduate is not guaranteed to be smarter or harder working than someone who did not go to college, a degree proves that the individual had enough initiative, intelligence, and follow-through to accomplish the degree, while not going to college proves nothing of the sort. Many companies require management candidates to have college degrees, because the degree demonstrates at least a minimal level of discipline and accomplishment; at the very least, a college graduate can be trained for somewhat detailed work and to gain additional skills. A college graduate has demonstrated at least a willingness to grow and expand his or her horizons.

The critics also have a habit of sneering at degrees they consider non-academic, especially business degrees. Of course, by that myopic mindset one should reject medical school for ignoring literature, law school for ignoring biology, and even the liberal arts for focusing on just one area within the academic realm. Never mind that most people go to college in hopes of acquiring a marketable skill, and many businesses sponsor executives to return to school for specific training relevant to their work. Anyone who sneers at a student with a 3.5+ GPA proves their self an idiot unworthy of further consideration. Work is work, and accomplishment which sets a student apart from his or her peers deserves praise and recognition. Some folks simply don’t understand case studies don’t work the same way as rote memorization, but still count for developing relevant competency, that skills-based coursework in quantitative analysis is as valid as traditional math, and serves a more direct application, and that simulations and models in business theory are as valid as in the ‘hard’ sciences. Perhaps more so, because modern scientists seldom seem willing to test their assumptions and double-check whether their models produced valid results. At least business students understand the Deming Cycle.

In the end, we each make our own choices regarding career and education, and it’s no one else’s fault if we make bad choices. We have all the tools we need to succeed, and while success is not guaranteed, opportunity is abundant and a college degree is, in general, still the best road to intellectual competency and financial success.

Daniel Drummond, Resume

Daniel DrummondHouston, Texas

Proven Credit and Management professional with solid experience in multiple industries, including energy and oil & gas support. Long experience with Risk Analysis and Credit decisions. Recognized for strong analysis skills and team building. Also noted for preventing/reducing losses through process improvement and cross-training. Work experience includes auditing and internal controls.

Credit Policy ◦ Accounts Receivable ◦ Internal Controls ◦ Audit ◦ Risk Analysis ◦ Reconciliations ◦ SAP ◦ Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance ◦ Budgets ◦ Project Decision Experience ◦ Large Material Responsibilities ◦ Statistical Analysis ◦

NEWMANS, Houston (2009-date) Manufacturer and Distributor of pipeline valves to international customers. Joint Venture partner with Cameron Industries.
Established credit limits, managed collections, bad debt, specific reserves, liquidated damages, retained payments, review terms and conditions on project contracts, reconcile accounts and disputes, managed revenue recognition.

Global Credit Manager (2009-date)

RELIANT ENERGY, Houston TX (2000 – 2009) Subsidiary to NRG Energy, Princeton NJ
Public company selling electricity to Retail, Wholesale, and the Industrial market.
Monitored payment histories on large accounts, addressed credit risk and financial instability of customer accounts. Determined security requirements for new accounts. Collected delinquent A/R and settled disputes on Reliant Energy gas accounts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in 2001.

Supervisor, A/R Management (2005-2009)
Supervisor, Business Services Credit (2003-2005)
Lead, Retail Business Services Credit & Collections (2001-2003)
Credit Consultant, Retail Business Services Credit & Collections (2001)
Credit Analyst, Retail Business Services Credit & Collections (2000-2001)

• Increased Escalated Collections recovery by over $1 million from previous year
• Improved revenue metrics: Agency Revenue up 30%, Small Claims revenue up 40% year-to-year
• Redesigned Small Claims process for Retail accounts, resolution time reduced by 37%
• Developed Sarbanes-Oxley provisions into Business Credit procedures and business rules
• Led credit analysts addressing security and A/R issues for small-to-medium businesses, producing $8 million 2003-2005.

Private company leasing/selling wholesale and retail office equipment. Created first-ever A/R department for company with $2 million annual sales. Determined credit risk for new applicants and credit covenants for all customers.

Manager, Accounts Receivable (2000)

• Created first consistent Credit and Collections policies for Marimon, resulting in better internal controls
• Created A/R sub-ledger. Located, organized and filed source documents. Standardized collections process, and determined escalation actions. Greatly reduced loss from delinquency, fraud and non-payment
• Reduced A/R by 60% in six months (March A/R $540k, August A/R $215k on same accounts)

Private third-party medical claims administration and repricing company and health provider network. Conducted site audits and credential inspections of medical providers applying to network with over 1,200 members and annual revenues of $4 million. Investigated insurance claims and medical service issues. Examined claims records for trends, unusual activity, or suspicious behavior.

Site Auditor, Provider Relations (1998-2000)
Provider Representative, Provider Relations (1996-1998)
Repricing Team Lead (1995-1996)
Claims Repricer (1994-1995)

• Directed a team of claims repricers, verified claims accuracy and process rate, increasing rate of production from 50 claims/day per agent to 80 claims/day per agent.
• Created standard compliance verification process for network admissions, improving security and customer satisfaction in provider quality.
• Expanded network from 400 providers to over 1,200 providers in three year period

CINEPLEX ODEON, Inc., Multiple Texas locations (1983-1994)
A private multinational corporation providing cinematic exhibitions. Full operational responsibility for 60-employee facility, including all financial reports. Created and defended budget for facility. Performed inventory management and tracked performance metrics. Conducted area operations audits.

Senior Manager (1988-1994)
Manager (1984-1988)
Assistant Manager (1983)

• Created internal controls and operating practices, instituted effective cross-training, which resulted in significant decrease in shrinkage and employee theft, best loss control in District five years straight.
• Increased gross profit margin from 58% to 70%
• Improved concessions per-capita revenue from previous Manager by at least 10 %

M.B.A. (Accounting) University of Houston at Victoria. Victoria, Texas.
Member, Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society
B.A. Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

What I Can Do


This web page exists not only for easy reference to my resume, but to provide a few insights into who I am and what I can offer to my next employer. If you are reading this page, in all likelihood you were directed here as part of my application. Since I have been a hiring manager in my career, one thing I know is that managers hate having their time wasted by people who just cannot qualify for the job. Therefore, if I have applied to your company, it was after I considered who you are and what you do, and what I can offer if I become part of your team.

You are what you do. That's sort of my motto, and for me that means that in everything I do, I want to excel and to accomplish every goal and surpass expectations. I am flexible and have a lot of exprience at multi-tasking, but I also know how to be organized and stay on task. My two key strengths are analysis and leading teams in projects. I have solved some difficult problems for my companies, found new and improved ways to track performance and improve communication, and I have always been good at spotting and maximizing the strengths of my staff.

I've done a lot of work with SAP, Microsoft Excel, Word, and Powerpoint, but I have also worked on many other spreadsheet and query systems as well, and I have some experience in just about every business machine out there as a user, including ADP, Kronos, Cognos, PeopleSoft, Quickbooks, Dun & Bradstreet, Pacer, and Lexis Nexis. That, of course, is in addition to all of the normal business machinery, such as copiers, fax machines, scanners for Documentum, and so on. I have all the nominal technical skills you would expect for an experienced business manager and accountant.

My best strengths, however, are displayed in how I do my job, and to that end I am presenting some situational stories where I show a problem or opportunity, my solution, and the results from it. These stories should also help you see my style of work and ability to come up with effective solutions.

Thanks very much for visiting my page, and reading my work.

Finding a Few Extra Million

In mid-2005, I was moved from Business Credit to AR Management as a Supervisor. One of my teams was a four-member desk who provided information to various agencies which provided assistance for customers having trouble paying their bills. The team provided information to the agencies, who then determined whether to make a "pledge" on the account, a promise by a credentialed agency to make a payment on a customer's behalf. In 2005, about six million dollars in revenue came in from agency donations on behalf of customers who otherwise would have been unlikely to have paid their accounts, and so this reflects not only revenue on electric service for residential customers, but revenue from what would likely have been additional bad debt.

The problem is that I had four people answering calls and faxes from over 1,800 agencies across Texas. There was a real logjam at times, and if an agency could not receive sufficient information to decide on making a pledge for the customer's electric service account in a short time, they might decide to spnd their money on other bills for the customer, so increasing speed of answer was a high priority. But how to do that?

Most of the social agencies offering assistance use computers, so Grenda Monroe, one of my team suggested that we could set up internet access for agencies to find out account information. The problem there, was that our IT people considered customer account information extremely sensitive, and had set up our computers to prohibit any outside access. When I first suggested creating a portal for agencies to access selected data, they looked at me as if I were crazy.

I pursued the idea with my superiors, the Operations Vice-President, and established common ground with the IT Manager. Everyone agreed that the portal idea was necessary and a good solution. Even so, the actual portal was not operational until 2007. I stayed on top of the project with follow-up calls, e-mails and status meetings, found and addressed dozens of glitches and obstacles, persuaded teams to keep the project on the radar and moving forward, until the project was finally rolled out in 2007. The delay was frustrating, but the results were immediate. Qualified agencies were given access to the new portal, given instructions on how to use it and I stayed in contact with their contact individuals to work through getting used to the new system. Revenue from agency pledges for 2007 were three million dollars higher than in 2006, and this increase was primarily credited to the avilability of the portal to the assistance agencies. Consistent focus on the value of the web portal, coordination of effort and commitment to moving it ahead, led to about fifty percent year-to-year improvement in productivity, as measured by pledge revenue.

Order Out of Chaos

In February of 2000, I answered an advertisement for a company which sells and leases office equipment, especially fax machines and copiers. The initial interview with the company owner went well, and I was offered the role of AR Manager. What made the job especially chalenging, was that while the company had been in business for over twenty years, there had never been a formal Accounts Receivable department, no standardized credit policy, and delinquent accounts from some customers ran back for years. Worse, source documents were not organized and there had never been an internal audit to test any of the procedures which were in place. I had to build the department from scratch.

I created a triage of sorts, first finding and filing contracts, bills of lading, and files on the major customers in default or delinquency beyond 180 days. Later, I expanded those files to address customers who were 90 days past due, then eventually all 30 dpd customers. I considered and wrote up credit policies for new customers, including the criteria for waiving security and hwo to determine credit limits.

The bad debt situation was truly scary. I hired two AR clerks to work on collections, and personally addressed delinquency on accounts which had the largest balance or the greatest length of default.

The company eventually decided to roll AR Management back under Sales and Marketing, but in six months I reduced outstanding AR by sixty percent, created a comprehensive and user-friendly system of credit policy and docuemnt security, and developed effective internal controls where none had existed before.