For a business to achieve truly sustainable success, every single aspect of the organization has to function as effectively as possible. You can offer the best products and services in your industry and have a killer sales and marketing plan to back it up, but unless your behind the scenes business practices are buttoned up (particularly your payment practices), all of your efforts will struggle to achieve your desired levels of success.

Not sure how such a seemingly unrelated business function like payment processing can have such major impact on your success? Consider these scenarios…

Business A sells widgets. Great widgets that customers not only want and need but ask for. Sales are consistently strong, but profitability isn’t quite where it needs to be and no one can figure out why. Expenses are high and despite a desire to expand the business to offer other types of widgets, a lack of visibility into cash flow and position makes it impossible to find the funds to do so. Finance is buried in the manual daily tasks of paying bills and processing invoices and can’t even think about cash management best practices. As a result, the company maintains its position in the market but struggles to truly excel.

Business B also sells widgets. Pretty good ones too. Sales are solid and business is going well. Executives are encouraged and decide to expand into other product markets. Supported by a finance function that makes effective use of payment automation, a funding source for R&D is easily found, a new product is developed and launched and sales rocket as Business A is left in the dust.

In fairness, this example is grossly exaggerated to make a point. But the point is nonetheless valid: if your finance function is still mired in old-school business practices, you are sabotaging the success of your business — it’s as simple as that.

Thankfully, there’s a solution. A simple one that starts with this 5-step plan to creating an effective payment strategy that will make your business more competitive.

1. Focus on what matters
That sounds simple enough, but according to a study by the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC), 49% of finance professionals spend all of their time processing transactions. Repetitive, manual tasks are a huge distraction and a big barrier to success. Imagine what you could accomplish if 49% of your staff could focus on higher-value tasks!

2. Get it right the first time
We all make mistakes, there’s no shame in that. But if your organization is one of the 30% revealed in a report by Experian to have paid suppliers twice as a result of poor tracking capabilities, then your mistakes are costing you more than just money. An automated payment solution validates and verifies payment data to eradicate the high cost of correction and human error.

3. Always know who did what, when
Internal fraud and human error lurk in the background as a constant threat to your financial operations. In fact, investigations by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners confirm that 78% of fraud losses are committed by internal employees. With an automated payment solution, you can remove the blinders and maintain ideal levels of visibility into who did what and when, eliminating the unknowns that can cripple your business.

4. Make better decisions based on facts
In the world of finance you can’t afford to make decisions based on gut feeling, not when the success of your business is at stake. Cold, hard data is essential to make the best decisions. Yet according to the Institute of Financial Operations, 33% of finance professionals don’t even know how much they’re spending to process invoices. Don’t fall victim to this lack of visibility! Adopting payment automation will help monitor financial activity to optimize decision making.

5. Plan for growth
Your business is in a continual state of growth. To maintain success throughout the constant changes, your payment process needs to be able to adapt to a variety of different factors, such as multiple payment types — often across borders and with numerous partners and institutions. The ideal payment automation solution will be flexible and designed to grow with your business, ensuring your payment options are never restricted.

You work hard to create a winning business. Make your efforts count by taking care of the behind-the-scenes details that really are critical to your success.

Liz Ashey is a payment professional with 20 years’ experience working with major financial institutions, Fortune 500 corporations and businesses across varied market segments to implement effective, cloud-based Treasury solutions. She is Vice President of Paymode-X Channel Strategy for Bottomline Technologies. 

Posted by Elizabeth Ashey