Last year, Tori, a scheduling manager with one of my favourite clients called me. “I know your usual topic is Accounts Receivable,” she said, “but I was wondering if you also conduct programs on ‘Accounts Payable’? I don’t know the topics myself,” she added,” but how different can they be?”

Well, the short answer, as most of you know, is “A lot!” However, I am always preaching to folks about getting out of our comfort zones and expanding our knowledge, so for a number of different reasons, I accepted the assignment.

There are several hours of work involved for each half-hour in a program and there was a fair amount of work involved: reading, interviewing, general research and then putting together a program. But in the long run, it was a good investment.

 Somebody said that the best way to learn about a subject is to teach it. My knowledge of accounts payable has increased. That is good on its own but it isn’t the biggest benefit. As I have returned to the other side of the collection/bargaining table, my understanding and knowledge of what many of my clients and customers face is going to make me a better trainer and collector.

We often talk about trying to understand the other person’s point of view, but most of the time (me included) it is just talk. We need to go ‘walk-about’ in our customer’s shoes and the very best way to learn about a subject is to teach it.

You may find a benefit too, visiting your dark side. Perhaps it is staff and management of accounts payable you often deal with, but it could be others and you don’t have to teach a course:

1.) Go to a seminar on ‘Accounts Payable.’ Embarrassed to tell ’em you’re in collections? Tell ’em you’re from a different department and wear a disguise if necessary 🙂

2.) Pick up a book or two on the subject, check sites on the Internet for Accounts Payable Associations.

3.) Sign up! Your ‘dark side’ could be small business, engineers, or the purchasing department. Some good advice I received was that you should always strive to belong to at least two groups – one of your peers and one of your customers.

4.) Take a walk down to the Accounts Payable department in your own company. Ask if you can share some information. After their initial shock wears off, you will soon find that it is a win/win situation.

What do you gain from a better understanding of their point of view? It won’t be agreement, at least not necessarily. But you will have a better understanding of the other person’s point of view and they will know you have listened to them!

You become stronger and perhaps it is best summed up by the philosopher Yoda:

‘Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you.’