A few weeks ago, I got the chance to visit sunny Miami Beach and do what every tourist dreams of– learn about accounts payable best practices. While that may not be everyone’s idea of fun in the sun, to the attendees of TAPN’s AP Leadership Conference 2012, there is nowhere else they would rather have been.
The conference ran from April 16-18. During those three days, the 250 plus attendees took part in more than 30 information-packed sessions. Of course, they also had the valuable opportunity to meet dozens of their peers and learn how other organizations solve the kinds of challenges they face every day.
I had the chance to meet several interesting people myself, each with their own unique ideas about what constitutes an accounts payable best practice. During one of the sessions, everyone in the room agreed with the speaker that it is wrong for accounts payable departments to take unearned discounts. The consensus was that if you can’t pay in time, you pay in full.
However, one AP manager who flew all the way from Ontario, Canada disagreed. She said that her organization takes all discounts, whether they earn them or not. Rather than feeling like she is taking advantage of her vendors, she views her company’s actions as a smart way to maximize working capital. She bragged that her vendors have never once attempted to reverse a discount.
While we consider it a best practice to only take discounts you earn, I couldn’t help but respect her courage to speak. The rest of the room was shocked – and maybe more than a little judgmental – but she is proud of her discount policy.
Another attendee was at the conference hoping to learn everything she could about purchasing cards. I met her at a roundtable discussion during the conference’s first day. Her company wanted her to investigate how a card program would help them save money on large-dollar purchases.
She seemed very skeptical at first, claiming that cards would not allow her to keep her traditional purchase order/invoice process. However, she attended a session on virtual card payments that I also attended. Based on her questions to the speaker, it seems like she saw something she could use.
Virtual card payments are single-use account numbers that vendors can only charge for the value of a specific purchase. Buyers follow their traditional procure-to-pay process, where cards become just another payment method. The vendor receives guaranteed payment – often sooner than if they received a check – while the buyer earns rebates, increases payment float, and eliminates the costs of cutting checks.
I also met plenty of people just dipping their feet in the accounts payable automation pool. As someone who writes about the latest and greatest in accounts payable technology, it’s easy to forget that most organizations are not at that level. Many conference attendees were at the event because their departments are highly manual and they want to find a better way.
That is the beauty of events such as the Accounts Payable Leadership Conference. Regardless of your department’s level of expertise, there is someone who can learn from you and someone you can learn from. Never underestimate the power of networking.
I look forward to meeting more interesting AP professionals at next year’s conference in Orlando.