Strategies for optimizing your accounts payable

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In today’s business climate, organizations in every sector are under pressure to do more with less. That means businesses cannot afford to squander opportunities to free up their working capital. By giving you greater availability to the cash trapped on your balance sheet, a formal working capital strategy can deliver the added liquidity you need to fund growth, streamline processes, reduce costs, enhance service levels and seize new investment opportunities as they arise.

Taking a strategic approach to accounts payable management

Because accounts payable is a back-office function, it doesn’t always take centre stage as businesses look to grow or build competitive advantage. In fact, often accounts payable takes a back-seat to management’s competing priorities. 

When it comes to working capital optimization, however, increasing payables should be a core strategy. To be sure, many businesses work this strategy by extending payables as long as possible to maximize free cash flow. Unfortunately, this approach is not always the right one. In some cases, delaying payment can erode supplier goodwill, resulting in slower delivery times, less willingness to fix defects, slower responses to queries and more onerous payment terms. On the flip side, paying early can sometimes yield substantial benefits in situations where suppliers offer discounts or rebates for early payment. 

To effectively identify these opportunities and determine the right course of action when facing potentially conflicting outcomes, businesses must take a more strategic approach to accounts payable. The Accounts Payable team, along with the Purchasing and/or Procurement departments, must collaborate with senior management to inject a working capital culture throughout the company. This is about more than ensuring invoices are received and processed in a timely fashion. It’s about adopting a management focus that emphasizes the importance of optimizing payables and freeing up working capital to fuel growth.

Adopting best practices

While organizational change is rarely easy, fostering a working capital culture can yield sizeable benefits. For instance, refining your accounts payable processes can help enhance the accuracy of your cash flow forecasts, ultimately positioning you to improve liquidity, mitigate potential funding gaps and realize higher profits. Using the insights gained from improved processes, you can also strengthen your own negotiating power, potentially partnering with major suppliers to share risk, extend payment terms, increase warranty periods or even hold some inventory on consignment.

 

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