The modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition can be traced back to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England.
Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks for the good things we’re blessed with. At AvidXchange™, we’re thankful for many things this year, including our customers! In celebration of Turkey Day, we sat down with Valerie Vance, Accounts Payable Lead at Newland Communities, to talk about her experience with our AP and payment automation solutions and services.
Tell me a little about yourself and your company…
Valerie: My name is Valerie Vance, and I am an Accounts Payable Lead at Newland Real Estate Group, LLC. Newland is a diversified real estate company that operates and develops mixed-use real estate across the US. We are headquartered in San Diego and have more than 140 diverse real estate developments, over 20 million square feet of commercial and retail space, and 175,000 residential units in 14 states.
Newland Communities implemented AvidXchange Invoice back in 2014 before you joined the company. How would you describe the onboarding processing?
Valerie: I found it super easy to use. Within a month, I was a pro. The training process was easy and intuitive. Regarding the service I’ve received from AvidXchange employees, it’s been great. I’ve been here for a little over a year now, and if I ever have a question or an issue, they email me back almost immediately. The longest I’ve ever had to wait for a response was a few hours, around the holidays, but other than that customer service has been terrific.
What accounting system do you use, and how is the integration with AvidXchange?
Valerie: We use J.D. Edwards as our accounting system, and the integration is great. The only issue is with code validations, where we have to import or export that data into the system. When we upgrade our system, it will have that functionality, where it automatically does code validation for us. Other than that, it’s a smooth and completely seamless experience.
What was Newland’s process like before AvidXchange?
Valerie: There was a lot of paper. When we did our invoicing, we would FedEx the invoice to another office across the country, and they would approve it and FedEx it back to us. We have eight offices across the country, and each office would do this every week. AvidXchange eliminated all of that – costs associated with FedEx, all the paper constantly being shuffled around, etc. It’s changed their world and my world. Coming from an office that was still using a paper-based process, it’s amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Do you have any insight into what the long-term effects of automation might be for Newland?
Valerie: Every year we want to get more and more paperless. And so every year, even this year, like we have a payment process when we create payment groups, and part of that process was printing all of these pages out and verifying it that way. And now, with AvidXchange, we don’t need to do that. All the information’s in the system. It makes us more aware of how much paper we are using, and so it’s helping us focus more on making everything paperless within our company.
Are there any other efficiencies that you can think of that it’s created?
Valerie: Getting bills paid on time is huge. We pay bills weekly, and we never usually have anything that’s paid late because we’re on top of it. We’re aware if something is late. We get reports. You know, it simplifies so much. It helps with cash flow too – we know how much is going to each company. Even if it’s not fully approved, we can still forecast that. It has helped us out greatly with that process.
Would you say that that there’s been a reduction in operating costs?
Valerie: Yes, I would say so. The FedEx fees alone, I mean that was huge. Another thing that people forget about are late fees. Before automating, it could take almost a month to get some things approved. So by approving things and delivering payments on time, you save a lot of money by avoiding late fees.
What would you say the impact has been on employees? How many people are on your team?
Valerie: There are 50 in this office and about 10 in each of the other offices, so I would say somewhere around 100 employees. AvidXchange has helped us with communication between offices and teams. Just being able to say, “Hey, look at this invoice, this is wrong,” and being able to follow-up and not forget about it (because AvidXchange isn’t going to let you forget about it) is huge. It’s always a struggle trying to get people to change their ways, but once people come on board, especially new employees, they’re like, “Oh, this is the greatest thing ever.”
Because automation eliminates manual tasks like data entry, it frees staff up for more high-level tasks, more strategic tasks. Have you experienced that?
Valerie: Oh yes. AvidXchange’s reports help immensely. Instead of manually going in or putting it into Excel, we created a report called “Create Payment Groups.” After we batch, we cross-compare what’s in J.D. Edwards to AvidXchange. Before, this process would take four hours, every Wednesday. With this report from AvidXchange, we can get it done within an hour. I used to dread Wednesdays, but not anymore.
What advice would you give to companies that may be, you know, hesitant to automate their process?
Valerie: If you have a large company and you have a lot of people that have to sign off on an invoice, you should absolutely automate. If it takes two or three weeks to get an invoice processed, approved, and out the door, automation is huge. With AvidXchange, it only takes three days to complete that process. The time management savings alone is huge. If you want things to get paid on time, this is a great program to use.
Can you imagine going back to a paper-based process now?
Valerie: No, because I don’t want the paper cuts [laughs]. No, honestly, I can’t imagine going back. I really couldn’t. The process of getting everything signed off on was such a task and such a headache, and I never want to go back to that. That would be awful. We would be going backward instead of forward.