Financial Operations Network | Articles
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If ever there was a time you want good relations with vendors, it’s now. The impact of the pandemic on the economy is presenting a tremendous challenge if not crisis to many businesses. As businesses work to survive economic bedlam, it is critical they have supply partners they can trust. Rachel Botsman, author of “Who Can You Trust?” says, “Money is the currency of transactions. Trust is the currency of interactions.” Studies that have shown the importance and value of good supplier-customer relationships to success. A 2014 Gallup study was designed to help companies understand how to do it. Gallup identified five elements in gaining supplier engagement and commitment: clarity, simplicity, integrity, reciprocity, and connectivity. Clarity involves expectations of the two parties and open and honest communications. Simplicity is defined as being “easy to do business with.” Integrity means organizations can count on each doing what they say they will do, and when problems occur, working to resolve them fairly. Reciprocity means parties trade considerations with each other, it’s not one-way. Connectivity means they are set up well for easy exchange of information. Those are the things suppliers want from customers and customers want from suppliers in regular times. But times like these prove those...

Coronavirus is now officially a pandemic. In the U.S. a massive effort is on to limit the speed of the spread of the virus, to “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm medical facilities as is happening in other countries. “Social distancing” has entered our vocabulary. All kinds of event cancellations and school closings are now widespread. If anyone is skeptical about all this, call someone in Italy. They’ll sing you a song from the window. An immediate concern after employees is the supply chain. It is critical to know what your suppliers are doing and to what extent supply might be interrupted. Businesses are trying to protect employees and customers while sustaining operations. Because this type of challenge is new, businesses are scrambling.  “No one has a playbook for this,” Dan Levin tells The New York Times. Levin runs a small millwork company outside Chicago. Mindful health practices have been put into place everywhere, starting with the basic and critical admonition to wash hands. Hand sanitizer is ubiquitous. Health monitoring is being put in place and testing is rolling out. Deep cleaning and quarantine programs are being implemented. Large companies, especially consumer companies, are in the spotlight and have declared changes to HR...

The spread of COVID-19 has emerged as a serious event and if not yet officially a pandemic, it has governments worried and newspersons breathless. With new information coming out daily, it’s still unclear what is ahead. But the question organizations have to ask is how it could affect their business. In descriptive reports, COVID-19 sounds like any other flu virus—particularly dangerous to the elderly, but for the rest perhaps just an uncomfortable illness. However, the virus spreads rapidly and has a high mortality rate (2%) compared to influenza (just 0.13%), though much lower than that of SARS (10%) or MERS (34%), according to the World Health Organization. The stock market was sobering last week. Whatever this virus is, it’s already disruptive. Warnings began to sound in early February about supply chain disruption and by the last week of the month markets got the message. This week the Federal Reserve in a rare inter-meeting action has cut the benchmark rate by half a point. The question is how big and prolonged a disruption this may be. Will it mean a two-month slowdown of the economy with a return to growth after? Or will it be much longer and more serious? That is unknown at this...

In January 2020, commercial bankruptcy filings jumped up compared to January 2019. Commercial Chapter 11 filings, in particular, saw a big jump over last year. How are your vendors doing? In 2019, overall bankruptcy filings increased only slightly over 2018. Filings are still way below the number of filings at the peak of the Great Recession, but who wants to use that as the benchmark?  If it is one of yourvendors that suddenly files next month, you won’t care what happened in 2010. The performance of your suppliers is critical to your organization. So too is the financial condition of your vendors. The state of their financial health represents an area of risk to your operations, and those in purchasing and specifically vendor management need to keep abreast of the financial health of your suppliers, along with product quality and timeliness of delivery. Of course, keeping an eye on vendor risk of bankruptcy is much easier said than done. Vendors that are public companies have financial reporting obligations, though those financial reports typically put the best face on things. Companies tend not to divulge things like credit constraints and poor cash flow to their customers. Buyers have limited control over their vendor’s circumstances, though...

How do you collect your vendors’ W-9 information? What about bank information for ACH payments? Here is an instruction that one organization includes on its ACH Enrollment Form on which the vendor is asked for their bank account information: “Please email the completed form along with a copy of a VOIDED CHECK to: … ” What’s wrong with this picture? Email. Email is not a safe means of transmitting sensitive information, such as W-9s or bank account information. Why? Email is not secure. It was never meant to be. It’s one tech tool that is—in internet-age terms—ancient, having been developed in the early 1980s! Its protocols were designed when there was hardly anyone on the internet, and there was a high degree of trust among the few people that were. Despite its antiquity, email is a power app, heavily used for communication and as a convenient method to send attached documents. Email simply was not originally designed with either privacy or security in mind. And while there are efforts to make it more secure, the way it works is not conducive to high security. But of course both the internet and email are ubiquitous and there are armies of ne’er-do-wells seeking to exploit others...

It’s January 22nd — Do you know where your New Year’s Resolutions are? A startling story in the news last week declared that people have already given up on their resolutions. What? Aren’t we just getting started?  According to a 2019 survey by a social network for athletes (admittedly, a select audience), January 12th is the day folks begin to lose steam in pursuit of their resolutions. Take heart though—not everyone quits that early, and depending on the study, more than the oft-repeated eight percent can see it through to success! Failure to keep resolutions does seem to be something of an annual national pastime.  More than 150 years ago Mark Twain wrote: “New Year's Day--Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual…. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time.” Indeed for some, making resolutions is a game played for fun on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, with no intention of keeping...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text] It’s finally out. On December 31st the IRS released the 2020 mileage rates used to calculate deductible costs of using a personal car for business, charitable, medical or moving expenses. Once upon a time the IRS put the rates out in early-to-mid-December. Maybe they were trying to stay abreast of the rapid 21st century news cycle. Never mind that it’s a quixotic quest — two days later came news that would immediately cause a spike in oil prices, though not on the order of 2008. [unordered_list style="circle"] The new rate for business miles is 57.5 cents per mile. That’s a decrease from the 2019 rate of 58 cents. The rate for miles driven for medical or moving expenses is 17 cents, down three cents from 2019. The rate for miles driven on behalf of charitable organizations is 14 cents, unchanged from 2019. [/unordered_list] Here’s a chart of the past 10-year history of IRS mileage rates for business use of a personal vehicle: Year Business Rate (cents per mile) 2020 57.5 2019 58.0 2018 54.5 2017 53.5 2016 54.0 2015 57.5 2014 56.0 2013 56.5 2012 55.5 2011 July-December 55.5 2011 January-June 50.5 2010 50.0 A complete history of the other rates (charitable, medical, moving) can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/standard-mileage-rates. Also the end of this month marks the filing deadline for the new form 1099-NEC non-employee...

We're going to take a break from our usual focus on vendor inquiry self-service, vendor onboarding, compliance and vendor relations. Instead, here are a few fun facts for the busiest shopping (and shipping) season of the year. (Have you finished your holiday shopping?) Can you name the top ten retailers? Here they are, according to the National Retail Federation’s Stores.org: 10. Albertsons (Boise, ID)   9. Lowe's Companies (Mooresville, NC)   8. Target (Minneapolis, MN)   7. CVS Health Corporation (Woonsocket, RI)   6. Walgreens Boots Alliance (Deerfield, IL)   5. The Home Depot (Atlanta, GA)   4. Costco (Issaquah, WA)   3. Amazon (Seattle, WA)   2. The Kroger Co. (Cincinnati, OH)   1. Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AK) You probably guessed number one. How many of the others did you get? (Who knew two drug stores place ahead of Target?) Of course these days, a lot of shopping happens from the coziness of our own couches. Online shopping continues to grow. So who are the leading e-commerce companies? Here are the top five, according to CreatingaWebSiteToday.com, a website devoted to helping you build a successful website:   5. The Home Depot   4. Wal-Mart   3. Apple (Cupertino, CA)   2. EBay (San Jose, CA)   1. Amazon Guessing number one was easy, but did you guess number 3? Number 5? Of course, with all that online activity, retailers need to get the stuff to...

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text] It may be the season of giving, but we’re guessing a "gift" to the U.S. Department of Treasury is not on your list. Whatever the season, though, beware. OFAC happens! Most recently it has happened to Apple. On November 25th, the technology giant entered an agreement with the Treasury Department to pay a civil penalty of $466,912. The fine is to settle Apple’s violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions involving interactions with a Slovenian company SIS and its owner Savo Stjepanovic, both on the SDN list. (We’re not making this OFAC stuff up.) According to Compliance Week, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) called Apple’s violation a “reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements,” though the publication points out that the settlement was not too hefty. Another account, by financial news site Benzinga, relates that the violation was due to a failure of Apples’ compliance screening tool. Apple had done business with SIS d.o.o. (“d.o.o. is a standard corporate suffix equivalent to “LLC”) starting in 2008. In 2015 SIS and its owner were added to the SDN list. But Apple continued to do business with SIS for two years. It did not catch that SIS...

November is the gratitude month in the U.S. A little over a week into it comes Veterans Day, when we remember and thank those who have served or are serving in the military for their service and sacrifice on our behalf. Then towards the end, of course, comes Thanksgiving, when we take time off to reflect on the good things in life we enjoy. Psychologists and doctors tell us that gratitude is good for our physical and psychological health. In terms of body chemistry, acknowledging and expressing gratitude has the opposite effect that stress has on us, and who couldn’t benefit from countering that once in a while! It’s also good for relationships. And that applies not only to individual and personal relationships but business relationships as well. Before doctors started studying the virtues of gratitude, poets told us gratitude is a virtue. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others,” wrote Cicero. Closer to our own time, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Being grateful is good. Expressing that gratitude is better. It’s the next logical step, though it...

Stop Calls and Emails, Enhance
Service and Increase Profit!

InvoiceInfo saves labor hours and cost by helping suppliers and internal staff easily and instantly get answers online to their invoice-payment questions.

If you are like many finance leaders today, you are being challenged to reduce costs more quickly. InvoiceInfo delivers real bottom-line results almost immediately, allowing you to deploy your customer service staff to focus on more productive, bottom-line oriented tasks.

Let us show you how InvoiceInfo's vendor self-service portal can help your organization eliminate invoice inquiry emails and calls while enhancing service to your accounts payable customers.

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Get Up and Running Quickly and Seamlessly

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are standalone applications that can be up and running in as little as two weeks, with little or no IT resources required.

The faster your online portal is up and running, the sooner you will start reaping the benefits. InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are dedicated solely to helping AP and procurement departments slash the time and expense of servicing vendors, while improving customer service for their suppliers.

InvoiceInfo and VendorInfo are simple solutions with big results. They are easy to implement and easy to use. Here’s how one customer described the process: “You give vendors a URL, provide instructions about what they need to know and tell them to go use it.” It really is that easy.

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Improve Productivity with a Self-Service Solution

For most organizations, deploying a technology solution is a significant investment, and like most investments, the decision point ultimately comes down to the expected return on that investment.

According to a recent benchmark study by The Accounts Payable Network, 60% of AP customer service calls are from vendors while 40% are from internal customers. Vendor issues actually make up even more of the AP call volume than the 60% identified. Many times when a vendor has an issue, the vendor contacts their buyer or purchasing representative, who in turn contacts AP. Even though the call comes from an internal customer, the question originated with the vendor.

Vendor calls affect productivity in your organization exponentially. When vendors call the requisitioner, they are affecting that person’s productivity. Your internal customer’s productivity shrinks when fielding the vendor’s call and again when making the follow up call to AP and getting back to the vendor. Finally, AP’s productivity suffers as a result of the internal customer’s call, the payment status research and the follow-up communication.

With a minimal investment of IT time and talent, you can start reducing customer service calls and expense in a matter of weeks. In addition, you improve vendor relations since you are giving your vendors what they want — answers to their questions immediately — a win-win for everyone involved!

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Easy and Economical Solution to Serve Vendors Around the World

InvoiceInfo can help you provide best-in-class customer service to your vendors around the world at a fraction of the cost.

Many organizations today have offices and operations throughout the world and are dealing with many time zones, different languages, and in some cases multiple ERP systems. InvoiceInfo currently supports different languages and can easily work with multiple ERP systems in different locations.

The key to good customer service is to provide the information that the customer wants when they want it. Whether your customer is a vendor waiting for a payment or a colleague that needs information on payment status, they want their information right away. If your organization has vendors and offices in other countries, they can be challenging and expensive to serve. But, with InvoiceInfo, your international vendors and internal customers can access the information they need when they need it.

With InvoiceInfo, you won’t have to staff your customer service team with 24-hour coverage in multiple languages to provide high-quality customer service around the world.

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Enhance AP’s Role As a Strategic Partner

Learn how InvoiceInfo can help AP do more with less while continuously improving productivity and bottom-line results.

Many automation technologies such as scanning, workflow, e-invoicing, ACH, and electronic invoicing require significant investments of money, time and talent, making it difficult to get buy-in from upper management. Not InvoiceInfo!

If your goal for your AP department is to reduce costs quickly, call or email us today to learn more about how InvoiceInfo can help you achieve this goal through a quick, inexpensive and easy implementation of a vendor self-service portal.

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Enhance Vendor Relationships

InvoiceInfo helps suppliers’ AR departments with simple and convenient access to invoice payment status online at a cost savings for all involved.

It may seem that the organization paying the vendor should hold all the cards in the relationship. But sometimes the opposite is true. Past-due payments and customer service perceptions can harm supplier relationships and disrupt the supply chain.

Your vendors and vendor relationship managers are living in a dynamic, fast-paced environment, so when invoice information is required, it is needed quickly and expected to be of high quality. With InvoiceInfo, your suppliers get answers to invoice inquiries real time, 24/7 with no need to leave messages and wait for responses. Studies show that confidence in data increases when suppliers access invoice and payment information themselves.

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Give Procurement and Buyers the Tool They
Need to Respond to Vendors Quickly

Not only can InvoiceInfo be used by suppliers to learn the status of invoice payments, it can also be used internally within your organization.

In addition to reducing calls from vendors regarding invoice status, you can also reduce internal emails and calls from co-workers wanting to learn the status of invoice payment, and save time and effort and boost efficiency and productivity across the organization. Studies show that 40% of AP customer service calls are from internal customers. Many of these are from requisitioners who have received calls or emails from the supplier checking on payment status. These calls are often more expensive for the company because the internal staff member has taken the call or received an email from the supplier, contacted AP for the payment status and had to return the call or email the supplier.

By providing the vendor with a convenient and credible online option to get the answers it needs regarding payment status, you can eliminate multiple calls/emails between the vendor and the requisitioner saving time and money.

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Eliminate Difficult Vendor Calls and See
Productivity and Staff Morale Soar

Reduce invoice payment inquiries and “promote” your vendor service team to more satisfying and profit-producing tasks.

By sharply reducing inbound calls and emails regarding receipt and payment status that your AP staff must handle individually, your staff can focus their efforts on more productive, cost-saving activities, learn new tasks, feel more confident and boost their careers.

According to a recent American Express survey on customer service, more than one-third of consumers have lost their temper with a customer service professional in the past year. Of those who lost their temper, three in ten “hung up the phone.” Your staff will no longer have to deal with difficult collectors who can be upsetting and disruptive. Your staff will feel that their time and talents are being put to better use and will feel better about themselves, their jobs and their organization. Reducing these calls can be a real productivity and morale booster for your AP department!

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Simplify and Streamline Vendor Onboarding

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the average organization spends about $20 in labor to file each paper document, approximately $120 in labor searching for each misfiled document and $220 in re-creation of a document.

Wouldn’t it be great to have all your W-9’s, W-8’s and other registration documents completed online and instantly filed online for easy access when needed? With Vendor Self-Service Onboarding Module, VendorInfo, you can onboard your new vendors in one convenient location and eliminate paperwork and hassles.

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Verify the Accuracy of Vendor Information and Stay in Compliance with IRS and Treasury Department Regulations

Government regulators are increasing the complexity of regulations and penalties associated with vendor-related non-compliance.

Penalties for incorrect 1099’s have more than doubled in recent years. Over the last several years, OFAC has levied more than $1 billion in fines against American companies or subsidiaries that did business with restricted businesses, organizations and individuals on its SDN list. In addition to fining these companies, the Treasury Department posts the names of infringing organizations along with fines paid.

VendorInfo Onboarding Module verifies the accuracy of vendor information and helps protect your organization by avoiding embarrassing penalties and fines.

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