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Are you a coach or a player? Here’s why it doesn’t matter.

For almost 10 years I’ve had the pleasure of working in the Fintech industry, and I’m still amazed at the growth, the tech, and more importantly the opportunities that are on the horizon. As I reflect back over this period of time and the exciting changes within this industry, I notice similarities between Fintech innovation and my time spent coaching volleyball. I have played volleyball since 1987, starting at college in an areas known today as Silicon Valley. When I was there, the companies that would define the area including LinkedIn, Google, and Salesforce had yet to emerge and yet they play an integral role in the relationship I have with the sport that I love.

I mention coaching volleyball because back when I was a player I always looked up to my coach to teach me the game, the rules, and how to play it. I remember thinking about the type of player I wanted to be, and I decided the best players were the ones who acted like sponges, taking in instruction and lessons and converting them into game play. I was one of those players, and my mind is still filled with volley philosophy and instruction. It was not until I started coaching 10 years ago that I discovered that there was much more to be learned.

A coach drawing out a plan in front of his sports team

Over the past few decades coaching has changed. Gone are the days of dictatorial coaches who don’t tolerate dialogue and debate with players. Today there is so much information to assimilate that coaches see the need for conversation to ensure that players understand not just “what” we are doing but also the “why”. This valuable level of understanding has lead to smarter players who can challenge the status quo and use strategy more effectively to help them win.

I’ve seen that the same can be said about companies and their internal processes. How companies function internally is rarely seen by customers, and that is probably a good thing. Those of you who work behind the scenes can testify to the dirty little secrets of dysfunctional back office workflow.

A few years ago my oldest daughter ventured out into the workforce. Fortunately she didn’t have to struggle to find work as my neighbor was an AR manager who needed some temporary help. My eager new worker was excited to have the job. After she settled into the role, I asked about her new job. She described her office in detail and mentioned the lack of action each day. So I asked her specifically, “What do you do each day?” She launched into an explanation. “Well, as a temp in the accounts receivable (AR) department, I spend most of my time trying to close out invoices. They give me a check for something like $350,000 and I have to spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what invoices the customer is trying to pay and close out whichever invoices they are trying to partial pay and dispute. Sometimes the customer will send remittance information, but usually the info they send doesn’t match our records.”

At the time, the company she worked for automated their invoicing and payments with Billtrust, but not their cash application process. I asked my daughter why they handled all of this manual labor within the accounts receivable (AR) department, and she said that the answer she frequently heard was, “that’s just how we have always done it”.

As I think about the companies I work with and the conversations I’ve had with employees, there seems to be two types of people: players and coaches. The players are the ones who learn the back office processes and the coaches are the ones who teach them how it is done. Unfortunately, in most cases, no one in that process is asking the tough questions. No one questions why they are teaching or learning inefficient, manual processes when there are technological solutions to automate the entire process. With all of the innovation within the Fintech industry today, there’s no reason for companies to be stuck with, “that’s just how we have always done it.” It’s time for accounts receivable (AR) teams to begin a dialogue, starting with the word “Why?”

At Billtrust we help companies that have the guts to ask, “Why are we doing it this way?”

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) my daughter didn’t have a very long career as a temp because the company she worked for found a way to work faster and more efficiently with an automated cash app solution. The full-time employees at the company were relieved of their manual labor, and given more important tasks to handle each day.

It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself to be a coach or a player within your organization, anyone can be a driving force for change. It starts with simple questions, and ends with a team of finance professionals who are motivated to improve efficiency and speed up cash flow. So take a moment, think about the work you do, and ask yourself, “Why do we do it this way?” Whenever you’re ready, I’m here to show you there’s a better way.

About the author:
Scott Nugent is Partner Enablement Manager at Billtrust. He can be reached on LinkedIn.

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