Riemer Week 2006 Highlights

Hyatt Hill Country San Antonio
(Click to enlarge)

Our 23rd Riemer Week

This was our 23rd Riemer Week. In all that time, only one hotel has hosted Riemer Week three times, and that was this year’s choice: the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch. Attendees love the three-story waterslide, ten swimming pools, 27 holes of golf, the lake with its singing gondoliers, but don’t get us started! See our Around the Hyatt photos for a quick tour.

Actually, we weren’t there for fun. We were there to learn, and our speakers certainly came through for us. With flying colors.

To prove the point, each year we post a lot of our speakers’ handouts and PowerPoint presentations. All are invited to participate and almost all of them do. We hope you’ll find these a valuable source of information on sessions you could not attend and share them with co-workers, as well. They are in PDF and require software like Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded for free from Adobe’s web site.

Photos Say It All

Photos also tell the story, so Tom Martin, our intrepid photographer/Senior Programmer, has worked his way through hundreds of shots—some serious, some silly, some simply beautiful, and lots in between. Including the traditional group photos, of course. Here you’ll see business credit professionals and others sharing experiences, establishing ties, and building ever-larger networks of productive business contacts. He’s divided them into subjects:

Handouts & PowerPoint Presentations

Reporting from Scottsdale…

Monday Musings

Our perennial lead-off batter, Dr. Chris Kuehl, hit one out of the ballpark as usual. His Monday morning topic was global threats and included this insight: Drug smuggling has become such a sophisticated business that they now have meetings and seminars in hotels—just like Riemer Week. Speakers provide high-tech reports and fancy presentations as they try to solve major problems including the fact that the U.S. is awash in drugs because there are way too many suppliers. This depresses the prices and lowers their profits, which depresses them. So they get together.

After lunch, Alan Andrews demonstrated how to twirl a (Pittsburgh Steelers) Terrible Towel, before attacking international customer financing. His material included seven reasons to sell internationally.

First, the increased sales:

  1. Lower costs and improve profits
  2. Lengthen product life cycles
  3. Lower research & development costs
  4. Help flatten business cycles

In addition, new markets:

  1. Produce ideas for innovations
  2. Bring new technologies
  3. Increase licensing opportunities

Monday night featured the traditional opening evening reception in the crowded Riemer Suite. Lots of cheerful noise and laughter at the reunion of old friends and the in-person meetings—at last—of phone, fax, and e-mail credit contacts.

Tuesday

Chris Kuehl flew to Milwaukee to give a speech but left behind a videotape of World Markets in Review and another home run. (After seven years in a row of doing this subject, business called Darin Narayana to India at the last minute.)

Tuesday afternoon is the time when international and domestic credit subjects collide, and members involved in both have to make hard choices. International risk mitigation? Credit Department automation? Lowering credit card processing costs? Improving collection agency selection? (The amusing title of this one was The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly—Things You Should Know about Collection Agencies.) Changes in check processing? In this last one, as Riemer’s Tom Martin snapped a fourth flash photo, speaker Priscilla Burris laughed, “I’m not used to having paparazzi at my sessions!”

The Hotter’n Hades Party Tuesday evening featured rubber ducky races (in keeping with the evening’s theme, our duckies had devil horns). However, the wind had shifted since the event was fine-tuned earlier in the day and some of the ducks went in the wrong direction, while others just sat there. Eventually winners emerged and their owners received pitchforks, flame-covered mini beach balls, and the like. Later, on his arrival back from the Milwaukee gig, Chris Kuehl received a red cape and a set of life-size devil horns which he said he will take to the office.

Wednesday

If you didn’t have a credit group meeting Wednesday morning, you went to the legendary Bill Creim’s update on new developments affecting business credit, and/or you sat in on the automation session, or negotiation strategies and tips, or the claims put option analysis. Then lunch and the Riemer credit tools Q&A, plus the showcase where lots of members started visiting the exhibitors to earn free pulls on a Jackpot where many won free credit reports (but no one won the possible $50,000).

Mike Brown’s Aligning Your Life’s Work finished the business part of the day with a play-by-play of how to create your own personal brand and reinforce your leadership style. He included dynamite advice like this from the YRC (for Yellow Roadway Corporation) president, “Fail fast and learn quickly.” And, yes, Mike worn his traditional orange socks and a flaming orange shirt. (Because orange is the color of Yellow’s trucks.) (Got that?)

Wednesday night was the Showcase’s Mexican themed reception, where attendees kept collecting stickers from exhibitors and the Jackpot starred again. Again, lots of winners but no one won $50,000. After the reception and some dinner, members wandered off to hear the live band in the lobby bar and on the adjacent Fountain Court, visit the Jacuzzi, swim in the pools, or enjoy the singing gondoliers and the beautiful desert night.

Thursday Thoughts

Credit group meetings shared the morning with domestic workshops (same as on Tuesday afternoon) plus Second Lien Debt and Its Impact on Restructuring. Lunch, another shot at Riemer credit tools Q & A, and the Retail Action Group Panel—a highlight of every Riemer Week for those selling mass merchandisers. (And, we hope, also a high point for the representatives of those retailers.)

An alternative choice was Chris Kuehl’s not-first-not-second-but-third Riemer Week 2006 session, this time tackling a domestic subject, Crime and Finance—Struggles for Control in the U.S. He reported that after writing the presentation, “I am now three times more paranoid than I used to be,” but he didn’t sound paranoid, just practical. Another confession was that in an earlier part of his life he spent a lot of time trying to figure out the “difference between Russian organized crime and the Soviet government. I found that sometimes there is not a lot of difference.” Question: Guns are strongly controlled in Russia but there are two armed groups there—what are they? Answer: The military and the mafia.

Much of the organized crime described has developed in countries where there are a lot of educated, skilled individuals with very low prospects of getting legitimate jobs. If they are “willing to cross ethical lines” the rewards can be attractive. Russia is certainly one such country but there are many others around the globe.

Global crime is going high tech. The Nigerian scams now operate from legitimate-appearing web sites as well as via spam. U.S. gangs earn billions of dollars a year dumping hazardous waste for U.S. companies. And Canadian gangs make a fortune smuggling toilets into the U.S.—toilets that don’t have the water-saving features required here.

Another joke: The good news for Microsoft is that everyone in China is using Windows. What’s the bad news? Answer: That they only sold one copy there.

To cheer us up after all of this, we proceeded back to the Showcase for a last go at the Jackpot (we thought) and door prizes from the exhibitors, plus beverages, of course. Then out to the beautiful, lakeside Palm Court for a Festa Italiana under the stars (we thought). First problem was that stars were not going to be visible. Just clouds (we thought). But it was very pleasant out there (we thought). The bars were busy, the conversation was lively, and dinner was about to be served when— plop, one big raindrop. It didn’t seem serious. This is the desert! It can’t rain here (we thought). Plop. Plop. Plop-plop. Plop-plop-plop-plop. The tall palm trees weren’t any help at all. Pretty soon we were all making a dash for the nearest hotel entrances and all got in before the hard rain became a downpour. Soggy but cheerful, we eventually made our ways back to our designated rain site and our Festa Italiana reappeared. So did the Jackpot! Lots of winners of free reports but the evening and the week ended without a $50,000 winner.

But we did have more winners. Two tables won the Mad-Libs fill-in-blanks contest involving some happenings in Italy. The winning table had a credit theme and each tablemate had a role acting out part of the story as their designated narrator read their words. The other winning table had an Italian theme—obviously fueled by information from some lucky tablemates who had been there. The winners received rides with the singing gondoliers, and the weather cleared just in time for this to happen.

Finally Friday

Mother Nature, apologizing for letting things slip last night, presented us with a beautiful day today. Retailer appointments, more credit group meetings, and a reprise of the Wednesday morning workshops took up the morning. One final luncheon and now Riemer Week 2006 is over.

The weather was hot and our speakers were cool. We thank them all, especially the ones we didn’t have room to mention here. Credit professionals expanded their networks of contacts as well as their knowledge. Retailers and credit managers continue to get along (which used to surprise attendees and others in the industry). The social gatherings were lively, the hotel is magnificent, and even the food was well-received.

One final thought—thanks for all the suggestions for planning the next Riemer Week. If you haven’t returned the survey you received at your meeting, or you haven’t gotten a survey yet, feel free to zap us an e-mail, drop us a line, or dial that phone. Now would be a good time. Your thoughts are absolutely as important as anyone else’s. Thank you!

September 15, 2006