Why should you as a finance pro for a community association management (CAM) company start using accounts payable (AP) automation for homeowner association (HOA) management?
We’re going to answer that question – but in a different way. We’re not going to give you an extensive list of 15-to-20 generic reasons. Instead, we’ll share four carefully selected and actionable reasons most relevant to you now.
Reason 1: More time to provide services to customers
As a finance pro, your ultimate mission is not to spend big portions of your time doing paperwork. While important, your biggest responsibility shouldn’t be processing paper invoices and payments for pool, lawn and trash vendors who provide services to associations you represent.
But too often in this paper-heavy industry, an unnecessarily large portion of your workday is consumed with processing invoices and payments. This needs to change.
By shifting to AP automation, finance pros could free up time to serve better their HOA customers and help grow their businesses.
“Our industry is very paper-driven,” said Tom Freeley, president and CEO of the California Association of Community Managers (CACM). “A lot of times in this industry finance leaders with community management companies get bogged down in all the procedural tasks instead of getting into board meetings and on properties they represent.”
Automating AP processes will cut the time you spend on these processes and free you up to, among other things, build better relationships with board members at their regular meetings and other events. At these gatherings, you’ll learn first-hand how you can help them solve their problems, serve their community residents better and grow your business.
Reason 2: Anytime, anywhere invoice and payment processing
If you depend on paper for invoice and payment processing, what do you do when a senior board member who has to approve invoices leaves town on business and won’t be back for two weeks?
Using a paper process, that person won’t be able to approve invoices until they return. As a result, until that person signs off, vendors won’t get their money.
Fortunately, this approval bottleneck goes away when you automate and digitize your AP processes. Simply by logging in from anywhere on a smartphone or PC, a traveling businessperson can access and approve invoices from anywhere at any time. This flexibility ranks among the most important reasons to automate AP processes.
‘Almost imperative to offer online access’
“Nowadays it’s almost imperative that a management company offer online access, real-time reports, instant communication and all the bells and whistles,” Heather Collins, owner and director of accounting and operations at Emerald Management & Consulting told AvidXchange during a recent webinar.
Some HOA boards hesitate to use technology such as video conferencing for board meetings, Collins said. Still, most of her company’s current and potential clients expect some access to online data.
With that in mind, her company’s bank provides her business a customized online payment website where business owners can log in and set up recurring or one-time payments.
“Being able to offer online payment options is a necessity to our clients and minimizes the number of paper checks we use,” she said.
Not only does automated AP offer a fast and easy way to gain visibility into the status of invoices and payments, it eliminates several time-sucking steps synonymous with paper processes, including:
- opening mail
- sorting invoices by property and accountant
- entering invoices into an AP system
- getting invoices approved
- printing, signing and mailing checks
“This process is all so much better with AP automation,” Collins said. “Not only can our team focus on making sure invoices are coded correctly instead of handling and organizing paper invoices. Vendors also get paid quicker, and happy vendors make property management a lot easier.”
Empowering remote work
There’s another “anytime, anywhere” reason to shift to AP automation: the massive remote working trend which has become, at least for now, a massive paradigm change throughout the HOA industry.
Interestingly, an AvidXchange survey of nearly 500 members of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) found “working remotely makes the managers more productive and better able to manage their time.”
Along these same lines, 42 percent of management company employees said at least half of their organization works remotely. Remarkably, association boards learned homeowners are more likely to join HOA meetings when they can do so from their homes.
Given strong momentum for remote work, organizations need to ensure the right technology, such as automated AP, is in place to enable their employees to successfully work at home and other places besides the corporate office.
Reason 3: Increased efficiency
It should go without saying, but being able to approve and check statuses of invoices and send electronic payments remotely leads to higher productivity, better customer service and more efficiencies throughout your business. And efficiency, as it turns out, is not just a pie in the sky buzzword but rather a high priority among this industry’s finance pros.
Among CAI survey respondents considering payment automation solutions, 56 percent cited overall inefficiency as their motivation for seeking an AP solution to automate invoicing and payments. Consistent with this, 78 percent cited the creation of operational efficiencies as the primary focus.
AP automation also eliminates the need to run to the office to get paper checks and invoices, which has been a serious health risk and logistical hassle during the pandemic.
Our survey revealed 73 percent of respondents have someone working in the office regularly just to check physical mail for invoices and payments. It simply doesn’t have to be that way.
Reason 4: Scaling for growth
Finance pros should always look for ways to grow and take on more customers while minimizing costs. AP automation solves that problem because you won’t need to hire more AP managers or specialists as your business grows and fields more invoices.
That’s smart scaling of your business, which means being prepared to take on new work, new customers and more demands on your operations.
AP automation will take care of the mundane and repetitive tasks faster and more accurately. Spending less time on this work, AP managers can focus on ways to grow the business smoothly – without the disorganized and scattershot problems of paper processes.
The truth is there are many compelling reasons to automate your AP processes. But the most persuasive are the ones we’ve focused on here. So what’s next? We suggest you consider taking the following steps to make a successful shift to AP automation:
1: As a finance manager for a community management company your main responsibility is not spending large portions of your day processing paper invoices and payments. HOA members – your customers – need you to be with them to offer advice and help the community grow by delivering more personalized and satisfying services.
Community association management is a people business. and the more you build relationships with these people the more successful you’ll be at pleasing your customers.
2: When vendors are paid late – often as a result of slow paper processes – they’re usually not happy and may stop doing business with your company. Avoid that. Automate AP so your invoice approvals don’t get bogged down because a board member left town. Make sure that person can approve invoices on their PC or smartphone from wherever. Keep the process running smoothly.
3: Efficiency counts in the HOA industry. More than platitude, efficiency is something HOA board members treasure. You can’t run your community association management company at top efficiency levels using paper invoices and processes. You can with AP automation.