Automation takes care of time-consuming admin
The administrative effort tied up in accounts payable is a big burden for many small business owners. It takes them away from their core business and often encroaches on evenings or weekends.
Yet it’s a job that can’t be rushed because mistakes can be costly. When invoices aren’t paid properly, your clients miss out on early-payment discounts and run the risk of late payment fees. They can also upset suppliers, damage their reputation or even hurt their credit rating.
There are no shortcuts. But there is automation – through online bill payment systems.
Help your clients achieve business and lifestyle goals
A third of small business owners say they need to save time but almost half aren’t doing anything about it. That’s because they don’t understand how software can help.
Setting them up with automated accounts payable could be the biggest impact you have on their business, and their job satisfaction, this year.
What is automated accounts payable?
Regardless of how an invoice arrives – in the post, through email, or via an online portal – software can be used to process it.
- Your clients can scan paper invoices into the system with a mobile phone or upload electronic invoices from an email
- The software advises your client when invoices are due
- Your clients can approve and pay invoices from within the software
By walking your client through this slimmed-down workflow, you’ll be able to illustrate how much more efficient their business will be. If you set the system up for them and provide basic training, they could be up and running in just a day or two.
It’s an easy value-add for you and a great way to cement client loyalty. They’ll thank you every time they effortlessly approve an invoice from their mobile phone.
Five benefits of automating accounts payable
Here are five advantages of automating accounts payable to share with your clients.
1. Reduce errors
With an invoice processing system that relies on manual data entry, mistakes inevitably slip in. Those errors mean your client overpays or underpays, neither of which is good. Both can cause extra work, lost money and embarrassment.
Software can eliminate data entry by automatically extracting data from electronic invoices. Paper invoices can be captured simply by photographing them with a phone. The system reads the picture to identify the amount due and the date to be paid.
2. Streamline invoice approval
When using automated accounts payable, your client can set up a workflow for all invoices to follow, then the software does the rest. It can match the invoice to a purchase order number and send it along to the appropriate approvers.
Those people can authorize payment, deny payment or halt an invoice for further investigation. And they can do it from their phone, so there’s no waiting for someone to come into the office to get accounts paid.
Smart software will also record each step in the approval process for later review. So if questions come up about an invoice, you can see who approved it and when. There’s no need to sift through mountains of paper records.
3. Take advantage of early payment discounts
Paying invoices on time can secure discounts and earn goodwill. Yet an Institute of Financial Operations’ study found that about half of businesses are missing out on early-payment discounts.
Automated accounts payable systems can track early-payment opportunities, while the faster approval process makes it easier for your clients to hit those deadlines. The savings can amount to hundreds of dollars per vendor, per year. The goodwill created by paying punctually can also help them create a stronger relationship with their suppliers.
4. Boost security and peace of mind
Using software to pay accounts is far more secure. The cash can be transferred securely to the creditor online, creating a traceable record of the transaction which is easy to review. The business owner or you, as the accountant, can call up those payments on a convenient dashboard to ensure everything checks out.
This is great for fraud prevention but also protects the business against honest mistakes that often occur with manual handling. Your client won’t suffer from lost, misplaced or forgotten paperwork again.
What’s more, disputes about payment can be quickly settled. If a vendor says an invoice hasn’t been paid, your client can quickly check online. If it’s been held up for a query, they’ll be able to say why. Or if it has in fact been paid, they’ll be able to prove that as well.
Similarly, the records kept by the software will help if your client is audited by the tax department.
5. Get a better understanding of cash flow
With paper-based payment, it’s not always easy to see what a client’s cash flow looks like. You have to manually enter the data into a spreadsheet and then generate charts and graphs from there. It’s labor-intensive and slow. Even when you go to all that trouble, the data is already old and you only get a snapshot of one moment in time.
Automated accounts payable, however, integrates with accounting software so you and your client can track cash flow in real time. This helps:
- keep track of spending
- compare cash-in against cash-out
- see and preempt emerging cash flow problems
Here’s where you can offer an extra service. Watch the dashboard for your client and put together quick reports on the state of the business. It’ll be your chance to flag any upcoming issues or provide advice on how to better structure their cash flow. The information will give them greater confidence in their business decisions.
Switch your clients onto automation
Small business owners want to save time, yet 90 percent don’t realize software can help achieve that goal. Don’t underestimate what a difference you can make to their business and lifestyle by introducing automated accounts payable. For example, you can automate the entire accounts payable process by using a data capture tool like Hubdoc to collect supplier bills and do the data entry for them.
Work with them to choose an app and integrate it with their accounting software. The early payment discounts alone will probably pay for the software many times over.
Your clients will immediately notice how automated payment processing saves time and headaches. And the real-time cash flow dashboard could prove to be the biggest bonus in the long run. It will help them understand their business, while giving you an opportunity to offer extra consulting services.
Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the provided content.