SEMA News - June 2009
SEMA Vice President of Administration
SEMA News: Can you briefly explain your role and the role of your department at SEMA?
Linda Czarkowski: The administration department’s focus is primarily on the internal operations of the association. Every program or service offered by SEMA will come through or affect this department at some time, in some fashion. The department consists of the executive office, accounting, budgeting, finance, insurance, human resources, benefits, equipment, the mail room and facilities maintenance. I am the liaison to the audit review, budget review and investment committees as well as the internal safety committee, and I participate on various internal cross-functional teams.
SN: What are some of the programs and initiatives you and your staff are working on?
LC: We have been working for some time on the implementation of NetForum, an Internet-based management system. We will be going live with this system for our membership billing in June. Once fully implemented, the system will allow new members to complete their applications and pay for their memberships online. In addition, current members will be able to manage and update their membership information online.
We are also working with the SEMA Educational Institute (SEI), developing procedures to include management of agreements as well as online payment processing and making sure that we have the appropriate insurance coverage.
Internally, this is the time of year when we review all of our insurance policies, ensuring that we have appropriate coverage at the best available price. We also are diligently working on developing our annual budget for fiscal-year 2010. Additionally, we are looking at our own practices to see where we can implement new or improved ones to find cost-saving opportunities or eliminate waste.
SN: What advice can you give to member companies that are dealing with the challenging economy?
LC: I would advise member companies to focus on relationships. Relationships with their banks can be very beneficial. Make sure that you are in a bank that caters to the size of your company. There are several banks that cater to the needs of small- to midsize companies, providing a more personal touch. I would also advise companies to look at the services their banks offer. For example, is it cost effective to take advantage of an eDeposit system? With this system, you scan the checks in your own office and get same-day credit to your account. It’s a great opportunity to increase your cash flow.
Additionally, pay attention to your merchant statement if you are a credit-card merchant. There are often erroneous charges to these accounts.
There are service providers that will analyze your merchant statements on a monthly basis, working with your credit-card processor to correct errors. These service providers typically charge a 50% fee on any savings that they find, and their agreements are usually for a period of two years. SEMA utilized this service over the past two years and recovered several thousand dollars in erroneous charges. These companies will also assist you in negotiating with your credit-card processor.
If you are having cash-flow problems, keep the lines of communication open with your creditors. Many times, you may find that they are open to offering special payment terms. This is beneficial to both parties involved. It is SEMA’s experience that it is better to have a company on a payment plan rather than having to send that company to collections.
SN: What do you see as the greatest opportunities the association offers its members?
LC: SEMA offers members a variety of programs and services, from market research to our efforts on regulatory activity as well as the opportunity to get involved. I think involvement is one of the greatest opportunities we can offer. For younger people in the industry, the Young Executives Network (YEN) is a great opportunity to network and become involved with your peers. SEMA also has two political action committees (PAC)—a federal and a California state PAC. Get involved with the PACs to help SEMA promote the causes of the industry to both state and congressional leaders. Involvement in any capacity with any SEMA program could mean a nomination and election to the SEMA Board of Directors. What better place to have your voice heard and have a hand in molding the future of the association?