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"The Cheese Has Moved".

Not too long ago, I read the book, "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson, M.D. (by G.P Putnam's Sons, New York). It's a short tale about two mice and two "littlepeople" who face a major change--and about how these four characters react to change. These four characters, who live in a Maze, return to the place where they have been able to find Cheese--their sustenance--only to find that there is no more.

Of course, the two mice are not surprised by the change. The mice, appropriately named Scratch and Sniff, move on -- venturing out into the Maze in search of new Cheese. Because Scratch and Sniff had always "sniffed" out their environment, they weren't caught off guard by the change at all. They had realized all along that each day, there had been a little less Cheese available and that it wasn't quite as fresh as time went by.

For the two littlepeople, it was an entirely different story. The littlepeople, appropriately named Hem and Haw--did just that. They hemmed and hawed, analyzed the situation, searched for reasons that the change happened--and even tried to pinpoint who was responsible for the change. They decided that they needed to work harder to find more Cheese--they arrived earlier and stayed later--only to find that there still was no Cheese. At one point, Hem and Haw were so convinced that there had to be more Cheese in the place they had become so accustomed to--that they bought a hammer and chisel to search for more Cheese behind the walls. They simply ended up with big holes in the walls--and no Cheese.

The Cheese in this tale really isn't cheese at all, but rather it's a symbol for what is important. To the four characters in the story Cheese was sustenance. To us, the Cheese could be anything and everything--our job, our family, possessions.

Let's suppose that the Cheese is our job. How many of us have become so comfortable in our job that we act the same way? How many times have we taken more time than we should to arrive each day, knowing that our job would always be there for us? And, how often have we not taken the time to look around our environment to gauge whether anything has changed?

How many of us have done exactly what Hem and Haw did--moved closer to the Cheese--built a life around the Cheese--become so entrenched in the routine and the comfort -- that we just stop noticing anything? We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day routine that it's easy to miss the signals of change. It's easy not to notice the small things--those little, subtle changes. Maybe your business is changing because of the impact of technology; or maybe for another reason. And it's easier to just not acknowledge change, or to blame some outside force for change. Change can be difficult, depending on how you look at it or how you choose to react to it.

I don't necessarily think that all change is good--change just for the sake of change is often a mistake, While it's often difficult to determine whether a change is for the good or if it will have an adverse impact can be a challenge. But, I do believe that how we react to change can make an enormous difference in our professional lives. Do you embrace change or do you fight it? Do you ever initiate change? Are you a change maker?

The credit profession has undergone a huge amount of change in the past 20 years--we have gone from being a cost center to our companies to an integral part of the management team. We have overcome the label of the "anti-sales department" and have become the "customer financial services department" or the "sales support department." We have emerged as the leaders who find ways to support new sales to enhance our businesses. Our company's management team looks to us to find new ways to support its sales growth and its customer base.

NACM is no stranger to change. As a 105 year old organization NACM has had to reinvent itself over and over again--as times have changed. In 1896, there was no free flow of information about commercial credit transactions--the telegraph and telephone had just been invented and there were no fax machines, no calculators and certainly no computers. Today, we face information overload -- information moves at the speed of light via the Internet. While its original purpose, which was to support the business credit profession hasn't changed, how it supports the profession has.

Our Cheese has moved--we are different today. Our jobs and NACM have changed, and both will continue to change. We can act like the two littlepeople--and hem and haw about the need to change--or we can act like the two mice and "sniff out" our environment, always being prepared for change. It's our job--our challenge--to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities and above all--to examine and re-examine our business environment--searching for the signals of change.

We can search for the reasons that things change, spending valuable time placing blame--or we can wisely use that time to prepare ourselves for what is to come. We can choose to make big holes in the walls of whatever has become our comfort zone--or chart a new course by venturing out into the Maze in search of new Cheese.

We are in charge of managing today's changing business environment, that will ultimately ensure the continued success of business. We are responsible for ensuring that NACM will provide us the products and services that we need-to help us not only do our jobs better, but to help us, and others grow After all, "noticing small changes early help you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come."

Jack Clark, CCE is the Chairman of NACM-National and Vice President and Corporate Credit Manager of Hughes Supply in Orlando, Florida.
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Title Annotation:National Association of Credit Management adapts to change
Author:Clark, Jack
Publication:Business Credit
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:990
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