Customer Story | Country Club
How The Club at Ravenna Streamlined Invoices and Bill Payments With AP Automation
“Managers can approve invoices from their phones, wherever they are, and have vendors send bills directly to the platform. So it’s been a lot more efficient. I spend so much less time doing AP processing because of the transition to Plate IQ.”
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In the heart of Colorado’s Waterton Canyon sits a golf club and lifestyle community called The Club at Ravenna. Covering more than 630 acres of pristine terrain just outside downtown Littleton, Ravenna is a private club and real estate community in growth mode.
Since its founding in 2012, the property has gone through a number of changes before arriving at its current phase of expansion. Today the club consists of a golf course, fitness center, restaurant, and more, with a brand-new clubhouse on the way, along with a rapidly expanding community of on-site homes.
Ravenna is a big operation. But in the club’s back office, all of the various entities and departments that make up Ravenna are tied together with one lean finance team.
Stephanie Liby is the Accounting Manager at Ravenna. Alongside a part-time CFO and an officer manager who lends a hand when necessary, all the invoices that come into Ravenna — even during the busy season — get processed by that handful of people.
The team’s secret? Smart, efficient processes.
“Our club has about 50 employees year-round,” Stephanie says, “and we go up to 100 in the summer. But our team is the same. We have a pretty good process going, so even though the volume increases, it’s still kind of the same process for invoices.”
As part of the team’s commitment to running efficient processes, Ravenna decided that one urgent area of improvement was to the way it collected, approved, and paid invoices. Setting out to fix that put them on the road to greater efficiency and more cohesive operations across their business.
“A lot of manual paperwork”
When Stephanie first joined the country club, the bottleneck in AP was apparent right away.
“There was a lot of paper going around,” Stephanie recalls. “I was spending a lot of my time just trying to sort through what invoices we’ve already entered, which ones we haven’t entered, which ones were approved. It was really kind of confusing.”
Even then, Ravenna’s invoice approval was simple: all invoices flowed to the AP team, who would then get approvals from the relevant department heads.
“We would scan them in and send them to the department and wait to get them back, approved. Managers would have to print them out and code them, then send that in an email back to the accounting team just so that we knew they were approved and that they could be paid.”
But getting approvals from department heads in a country club was easier said than done.
Each director kept different hours and were physically spread out across the property. They had different preferences for things like bill pay and inventory. Accommodating everyone was difficult. As a result, invoices fell through the cracks.
We’re not in the same space as the other managers. They have their jobs, they’re running around. It’s hard to get them to come to our office and approve these invoices. They all have different priorities.
“And I think some of those invoices just got lost,” says Stephanie. “Even this year, I still get calls or emails saying, ‘Hey, this invoice has been outstanding since last year,’ and I didn’t even know about it.”
The result of this paper-based system was a lack of coordination around what was paid, and even what was outstanding. The reporting, says Stephanie, was inaccurate.
“I don’t even think any invoices were being entered into Jonas until they were approved. That led us to understate what amount we had outstanding to vendors. Especially in the summer, when all the managers got busy, we didn’t get invoices back in a timely way, so we didn’t know what was approved and what was yet to be approved.
“It was kind of a mess.”
But if getting invoices approved for payment was a hassle, going through the process of paying them doubled the team’s manual work.
“We would save copies of the invoices and organize them based on the due date, then we would pay everything in Jonas. That meant physically printing checks and stapling them to the invoices and stacking them up for the CFO to sign. And, you know, in the summer, there were a bunch of them. So it was a very manual process that took a while.”
With a major expansion on the way, the staff at Ravenna knew that the status quo wasn’t going to suffice for much longer. They went looking for solutions that could integrate with their technology, which included Jonas and Club Essentials.
They found Plate IQ.
Automating custom workflows with Plate IQ
For a finance team looking to streamline accounts payable across a large and diverse property, Plate IQ’s invoice processing and bill pay automation was perfect.
A digital source of truth for invoices
For the first time, the team was able to eliminate paper.
“It’s a lot more efficient with Plate IQ,” says Stephanie. “Now they can hit ‘Approve’ instead of having to physically write the coding on each invoice and send it back to us so we can code it.”
The team also gained their first-ever source of truth for invoices.
“It’s really been helpful to get the managers to send all of their invoices to Plate IQ, so that at least I know I’m dealing with all of the invoices in one spot, as opposed to trying to track down a bunch of paper and scan those in.”
Coding, splitting, and approving by department
And having a streamlined AP process didn’t mean that Ravenna had to change the approval workflows they wanted to implement. Stephanie was able to recreate all of the approval procedures she had before — just in a much more user-friendly system.
“We code invoices by department and have the heads of those departments approve them. If it goes to G&A, I have our CFO approve it. If it goes to horticulture or housekeeping, that’s the same manager for both those. There are specific vendors that the golf pro approves and then specific vendors that the Player Services Manager approves.
“So the chain of approval depends on which invoice we get. And if there’s an invoice over $10,000, I have the manager approve it but I also have our CFO approve it, too.”
Plate IQ also automated each invoice’s department coding — and made the process of splitting invoices between departments very user-friendly.
“If I upload an invoice to the golf course maintenance email address, for example, that would be automatically coded to the golf course maintenance department, which is great,” Stephanie says.
“But if the invoice is for items like, let’s say, apparel over at the golf shop, the actual inventory would be coded to a different department than the delivery fee, which goes to the golf shop.
“With Plate IQ, the coding is pretty easy, and the approval is streamlined. And then obviously the exporting to Jonas is only one little step.”
Zero-touch bill pay and segmented reporting
After the invoices are approved, Plate IQ also helps Stephanie pay the bills without touching a single paper check.
“Our bill pay process used to be just paying out of Jonas and printing checks. We’d put a little packet together for our CFO to approve: we’d have the check on the front and the actual physical copy of the vendor invoice behind it. And then she would go through and sign everything and then we would put them in mail.
It was very manual before. Now we do all of our bill payments through Plate IQ. It sends out the checks for us.
Finally, after the AP process is done, Ravenna’s accounting team can use Plate IQ as the basis for reporting on their finances in a sophisticated way to their stakeholders.
“In both Plate IQ and Jonas, our total financials combine all of our departments. But we can also split them out and see how, for example, F&B is doing at our clubhouse, how the fitness center is doing, stuff like that. Every department that we have, we can see individually.
“We just want to make sure we’re performing to our budget. So that’s why we keep track of actuals in that same way.”
Saving a day per week on smarter AP
As a result of Plate IQ’s rollout at Ravenna, the country club’s various departments now have one simple invoice process that everyone understands.
No more chasing people around for Stephanie. Plus, it’s made life easier for the department heads and GM.
“Each manager has a different process,” she says.
I used to have to cater to different schedules. Now it’s the same process for everyone: they have to go onto Plate IQ and approve it in order for it to be paid. It’s just streamlined how people look at invoices.
For Stephanie, the time savings alone have changed how she does her job. She’s now spending about 90 minutes a week on something that used to take her a full day.
“I was spending a full day every week just sorting through paper and making sure I knew the status of each invoice. It was taking a lot of my time. Now, since Plate IQ recognizes a lot of the different line items already, that’s about 30 minutes a morning — max. Most of the time it’s 10 or 15 minutes.”
And for Ravenna’s CFO, who isn’t always on-property, managing bill payment has never been easier. According to Stephanie,
Bill payment has also been streamlined the same way. Every week I just set up payments through a certain date. It’s pretty seamless. And like I mentioned, our CFO isn’t in the office a lot, so it’s great that she is able to approve those payments from anywhere. I just feel like it’s more efficient for everyone.
With plans underway to add amenities and residents to their community, The Club at Ravenna is a big property that’s only getting bigger. With the help of Plate IQ, Stephanie and the accounting team have transitioned to a highly efficient AP process that’s easier on everyone, while keeping all their departments and P&Ls organized.
It’s made a lot of difference.
“It’s been so much better getting everything on Plate IQ. They can approve invoices from their phone or wherever they are, and they can have vendors send bills directly to the platform. So it’s been a lot more efficient. I spend so much less time doing AP processing because of the transition to Plate IQ.”
To learn more about The Club at Ravenna, visit RavennaGolf.com. To see how Plate IQ can help your country club’s accounting team get more efficient with invoices, bill pay, and more, request a demo below.