While most accounting firms have existed by traditionally serving an open-ended list of industries, an emerging trend is showing a transition into focusing your offering within specific sectors, or niches. Given the differences in the types of accounting demands across business types, it stands to reason that serving a niche audience can be a lucrative approach – one in which your expertise can extend far beyond simple tax and audit services.
In this case, we will be exploring how the Circulus AP Automation platform benefits clients in the Property Management industry, including benefits that extend beyond the AP function itself.
Develop consistent and effective workflows
Traditional AP workflows are notorious for ad hoc approvals and scrambling to make it in time for a check run or to get board approvals on significant property expenditures. A surprising amount of effort goes into something as simple as paying a supplier. From opening mail and entering data into accounting software to tracking down approvers and support documents. Add into the mix multiple properties, each with their challenges and priorities, and you can see how quickly this simple process can escalate.
An efficient workflow is only as good as the ability to enforce it. Once again, the cloud comes to the rescue. By taking your client’s AP to the cloud, virtually all of the processing overhead can be minimized, if not eliminated. This also removes mistakes or non-compliance with internal invoice routing and processing policies – it is enforced digitally, and the ability to modify these processes can be restricted to your firm, or some combination of you and your client.
Maintain cross-property visibility
Which locations keep up with their payables and which fall behind? Do some properties frequently incur late payment penalties while others receive early payment discounts? Are all properties using approved suppliers? Unless you have a centralized view of payables activity across all properties, it can be difficult to tell.
By consolidating into a single cloud payables platform, you can quickly view the payables of any location at any time. This helps find areas for improvement, identify possible cost savings and illustrates where additional client training may be needed to maintain timelines.
Sometimes, significant expenses must involve additional approval processes. And, in Property Management, that can mean board members or a treasurer. Rather than being bound by monthly expense reviews or in-office meetings, providing everything they need to proceed with approvals can be sent in real-time, eliminating geographical limitations and access to information. Circulus allows the entry of all expense data, along with supporting contracts, proposals, pricing schedules and warranty documentation. From there, it’s as simple as assigning your required approvers (board members included) and completing your workflow.
Decisions can be made and payments executed quickly, while still honoring the required approval process.
Having access to data at the very moment it’s needed is crucial. However, so is having this access whereit’s needed. Busy property managers are not tethered to their desk and employees can be hard to track down when timely approvals are required. It’s a daily mad dash in and out of units, or between property blocks, cities or even states away.
So, while this is the nature of the profession, the need to pay suppliers does not account for your busy schedule. Access is another fantastic capability of the cloud. From virtually any device with Wi-Fi capabilities, you and your clients can access the data of all properties with a few mouse clicks or taps on a mobile device. By making this information readily available, any workflow steps required by your firm or the client can proceed uninterrupted.
When done at an average level, the AP function can keep things moving along. When done well, it can operate as a profit center. It takes effort and discipline in the approach, but enforcing consistent processes can affect many factors related to your client’s spend.
Avoid erroneous payments
With so many suppliers, it’s easy to accidentally pay a vendor twice or to pay the wrong vendor entirely. After all, in a hectic accounting workflow, Evergreen Gardens and Evergreen Gables can look pretty similar. Circulus can automatically alert you about potentially duplicate invoices, while the oversight provided by our approval workflow can help prevent misdirected payments.
Increase purchasing leverage
There are obviously common goods and services utilized across all properties. If locations are all securing their suppliers for frequently ordered products, your clients could be missing out on substantial cost savings. By consolidating suppliers, their overall purchase volume can have a direct impact on reducing unit costs.
Identify potential fraud
So, how can a busy property manager find time to examine their data in order to proactively prevent fraud? Internal fraud is surprisingly common, but if payables data and access exist only in the physical world, warning signs will be tough to spot. So while fraudsters are inherently resourceful and crafty, Circulus can utilize a digital footprint to identify some telltale signs that may raise an eyebrow or pique your interest into a deeper dive:
- Invoices are missing important details, such as GL, class or quantity
- Vendor details include PO boxes or public emails, such as Gmail or Yahoo
- An abnormal change in expected vendor pricing
- Approved amounts are just below the approval limits of a given user
- Rounded or even invoice values ($25.00, $50.00, etc.)
- Invoice volume for a specific vendor is significantly higher than usual
- After-hours logins and changes to invoice and vendor bank account records
A single business location is difficult enough to run smoothly, much less a portfolio of properties. By migrating your client’s AP function to Circulus, your choice of access and workflow can be developed on a per-client basis, providing streamlined payments, efficiency and security throughout.
- AP automation can expedite the process of board-approved payments
- Payables data across properties can help find purchase leverage opportunities
- Identify signs of potential internal fraud
- Manage multiple properties from a single portal