During the annual ACCED-I conference in Portland, OR, we had a survey in our booth. We asked folks which took them longer: creating a rooming list, generating a final invoice, creating a complete BEO, or brewing a cup of coffee?
The winner? Generating a final invoice, by a large margin.
Why is this?
While you drink that cup of coffee, let’s talk about invoicing and highlighting areas you are probably seeing lost revenue and a lack of accountability. Or download our worksheet to start your self assessment now.
10,000 steps should be goal for walking, not completing an invoice
Let’s start with the invoicing process, on two levels.
First, does your full invoicing process look something like this?
Notes are organized and a charges spreadsheet is filled out for each event. This is then sent to the finance department or a conference director for approval. Then back to you, or another finance person, to build and enter in each line item again into the billing software. Then possibly back to the director for approval and off the invoice goes to the group.
This does not even take into account entering the revenue into your financial system by account code.
On an individual level, when filling in the charges spreadsheet, your process goes something like this:
After the group leaves you are sitting at your desk with your charges spreadsheet or the billing program up and running. You have your coffee and you are ready to start the process of inputting charges starting from the ground up because there is no way to build from the original proposal.
You open the group’s folder and… post-it notes and sheets of paper fall out. Each recording a change or additional item the group requested that should be included on the final bill, if the item was even written down. Oh and did you know you needed to be able to decipher handwriting?
How long does this piece take you? Thirty minutes? An hour?
While many departments are tied to the process requirements for the campus (approval from the finance department and directors), there are ways to evaluate whether you have the ability to simplify and shorten the process.
- Identify which parts of invoicing are taking the longest. Is it the organization of charges, all those post-it notes? Or is it rebuilding the original proposal in the invoicing system?
- Do you have a centralized place for conference staff to enter into new charges against an event? Or are you held hostage to post-it notes, email copies, and scribbled to-do lists?
- What about a way to pull the original proposal or quote into the final invoice template rather than building it all over again?
Just giving away free money
You can work to streamline steps while still meeting procedural requirements. But if saving time isn’t motivation enough, let’s just bottom line this and talk money.
It is possible your invoicing process is causing you to leave money behind.
Conferences and events are busy times; hundreds, even thousands, of people milling around. Everyone is asking for something. What are the possibilities that conference staff just fulfilled the request for a chargeable resource and didn’t record it?
How much revenue did you just lose out on? Are you even able to calculate the loss?
Might not seem like much, but losing even just $100 per event over a summer of 40+ events? There is $4,000 that was lost.
So what could you do to stem this leak? Again, self-assessment is a great place to start.
- Do your staff have an efficient way to record changes to or add additional charges against a conference or event master bill? Or does your efficient way include post-it notes, emails, or to-do lists?
- Are you able to accurately validate numbers from a conference group? Can you guarantee you have 2 people in each room through a check-in process? Do you require a rooming list ahead of a group’s arrival, listing everyone in each room, then check in each person to guarantee they are the only person staying in the room? Aside from the financial hit, not knowing this information from a security standpoint can be huge.
- The point above can apply to meal counts. If you are using a card system, you have a more accurate accounting of the total meals. But maybe you have a dining service director who has a staff person with a clicker. Or do you give guests little paper slips to turn in?
- Think about occupancy in general. At the booking process, do you know exactly how many meeting spaces or overnight rooms you have left to sell? When meeting revenue goals, filling up every space becomes imperative.
- Do you have a process to hold conference services staff accountable for their actions? “Could you just open up a small room for our staff to meet briefly?” While you don’t want to nickel and dime your guests, is it ever for just a few minutes?
“15 minutes could save you…”
We are hearing more and more that accountability is becoming a focus, both within the conference department as well as in-between departments (finance to conference services).
Invoicing is one area to work toward achieving greater accountability.
Efficient guest charge verification, accurate cross-department reporting, increased invoice turn-around, and decreased frequency of disputed invoices can work to cut excessive time while tightening up on procedures to help strengthen accountability.
Test a few of these ideas. Take 15 minutes to estimate how much time you spend on invoicing and why it takes extra amounts of time. Are there areas you could trim to improve your time, efficiency, and accuracy? The results might surprise you.
Download our free self-assessment worksheet to begin the process. Record your current stats and work to determine your new goals and benchmarks. You will have a plan providing you specific areas to focus on.
What would you do if you could reduce the time you spent on invoicing by half?