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Top 7 Strategies for Writing Accounts Payable Procedures

By Chris Anderson

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An organization with $600,000 in monthly payables needed assistance. We examined their payables process to understand and quantify workflow, paper processing and credit issues. Then we designed and implemented a process to increase their use of payables and discounts, improve their payables cycle efficiency, and tie it to their purchasing and receivable cycles. We then reinvested $50,000 back into an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program to automate some of the processes that weren’t automated already.

The metrics we developed reduced their purchasing & payables expenses by 25% and increased their efficiency from 50% to 75% within 2 months of implementing the new procedures. With these new processes and reports, the company now tracks payables cycle efficiency and average days payables, rather than just bills paid on time or outstanding balance, as the measure of their payables effectiveness. The result: an extra $300,000 in cash plus a 50% increase in process capability (capacity).

But how?

  1. Eliminate Paper. The single biggest cost for any purchasing and payables department is paper, including: purchase orders, purchase order follow-up, small-dollar purchases, delivery tracking & receipts, and vendor payments. Utilizing paperless invoices, Web-based supplier self-servicing, centralized vendor files, automated workflows for electronic or imaged invoices (see ERP below), and payment methods, such as business credit cards, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), can reduce paper handling costs by as much as 90%.

  2. Increase Payment Terms. Negotiate payment terms based on receipt of goods or the invoice. This can add one week or more to your terms, which can be 25% of 30 day terms. Use EFT for just-in-time payments to maximize your payables terms and minimizing the impact to your credit.

  3. Take Payment Discounts. If you are getting 2%/10 net 30 terms, then consider taking it. This means you are offered a 2% discount if you pay within 10 days, instead of the normal 30 day terms. This translates into an 18% return on your capital, and for many organizations this is a good return on your investment.

  4. Review Purchases. Purchasing is a continuous process that requires continuous review. Consider: transportation charges, expedited fees, odd lot penalties, new pricing, new products, consolidating vendors, new vendors or buying groups, payment terms, and more. Communicate with your suppliers to improve the process. And review and monitor everything to account for changes in your environment.

  5. Eliminate Disputes. Disputes with your suppliers are typically the result of a problem with your purchasing/receiving process. When disputes occur, review your purchasing procedures to ensure that they are producing the correct metrics and that you are not forced to pay for your mistakes.

  6. Reduce Errors. Overpayments, payments made to the wrong vendors, fake invoices, or even late payments represent a common problem for payables. Increasing your focus on error control, along with written procedures and audits, can reduce these errors considerably.

  7. Train personnel. Provide your accounts payable staff with regular formal training. This will arm them with better knowledge of frauds, negotiating skills, and an understanding of the economics of payables – which will result in improved effectiveness.

    Time is the key. All you have to do is own it.

Chris Anderson is currently the managing director of Bizmanualz, Inc. and co-author of policies and procedures manuals, producing the layout, process design and implementation to increase performance.

To learn how to increase your business performance, visit: http://www.bizmanualz.com/?src=ART81

Source: http://Top7Business.com/?expert=Chris_Anderson

Article Submitted On: January 25, 2005