Golder Hospitality is a full-service hotel management, development, and consulting group based out of St. Paul, MN. The group was founded in 2000 by Ken Golder, a seasoned hotel executive, and manages a portfolio of eight hotel properties throughout the Midwest under brands such as Staybridge Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn, and more.
Golder Hospitality prides itself on growth: both for its emphasis on the professional development of its staff, and on its plans for expansion to new hotel properties. But a few years ago, as the company assessed its capacity to add to its portfolio, they noticed a bottleneck in accounts payable.
Solving it would be an important step towards adding new hotels in a manner that kept the financials clean and the staff in control.
When Golder first attempted to overhaul its accounts payable process, it was trying to streamline the communication between property-level staff and the back office — both of whom were doing too much paperwork, according to Shelby Tufenk, the Controller at Golder Hospitality.
“We were looking for a way to cut back on the amount of mail going back and forth. We wanted to simplify the whole process so that there wasn’t so much manual scanning and labeling going on.”
The first solution they found began an ordeal for Shelby.
“We were with Concur,” she says, “and I hated them. I felt it was beyond expensive for what it offered.”
What began as an attempt to cut down on the complexity of invoice processing ended up adding to the amount of effort that went into monitoring the process — at a very high cost.
For example: because the solution didn’t integrate with Golder’s accounting software, GMs had to manually enter invoices in order to code them properly to the chart of accounts. And they had to get it exactly right.
“Concur had all these tiers that meant you could only process so many invoices per month. If you went over that amount, you got charged per invoice. Even if you had a situation where a GM didn’t pay attention and scanned a blank piece of paper, or put it in the wrong way, you got charged for that."
The process for creating custom reports was also challenging.
“Using their reporting section was painful. Getting a check register from Concur was really weird: the best you could get was this CSV file. Trying to create your own custom reports was really complex.”
Golder’s AP team tried using the bill payment functionality, but it was not easy.
“The moment you approve a payment, it goes into this queue. And if you did not know the exact batch that the payment went into, it just sat. You then had to go through all these different batches to try to find that payment.”
Worse, the bill pay functionality actually limited which invoices the system could even process.
“Concur was set up on terms, which meant that if we didn't want an invoice paid, we couldn't process it through Concur.”
Customer support wasn’t great either.
“You’re just a number with Concur,” Shelby says. “You’re faceless. Supposedly we had a contact person, but that seemed to change quite frequently. Sometimes I just didn’t know who it was.”
What truly severed the relationship was the high cost (thousands of dollars a month) that Shelby didn’t feel was returning equal value.
“It was quite a lot for our business. I mean, it sounded like they had some great features, but it was so expensive. And it just wasn’t needed for our organization.”
With that, Golder Hospitality went looking for something that fit their business better.
Shelby searched online for AP solutions and came across Plate IQ — a product built to serve the wide and unique world of hospitality.
One thing I really liked about Plate IQ was that it understood hospitality. Hospitality is a unique industry. We’re not just a regular business. And so whenever we're looking at vendors, we need it to be a vendor that understands the space, that is accessible 24/7 — because we're an industry that doesn't shut down.
Aside from Plate IQ’s experience with hospitality accounts payable, Shelby also appreciated the value compared to her former solution.
“It’s just far more efficient than Concur ever was, in my opinion,” says Kirsten Haley, the AP manager at Golder Hospitality who uses Plate IQ every day. “Printing off a check register from Concur — I used to go cross-eyed. Plate IQ is far more friendly. You can organize it by company or by invoice number or however you want.”
Plate IQ was also able to offer Golder Hospitality a touch of concierge service they had never had before: a custom-built integration with their accounting software, CenterPoint.
“Our accounting software is a little uncommon, but it is really affordable and it does exactly what we need it to do,” says Shelby.
Plate IQ was able to build us a way to connect with our accounting software. I told them, this is what I need, and boom, they did it.
“That was another way Plate IQ was so much more adaptable than Concur. With them, they had a certain format to which I had to conform my ways. Plate IQ allowed us to work together and come up with our own system.”
Plate IQ started Golder’s AP team on the road to more streamlined invoice processing and bill payment.
For one thing, Shelby was finally able to reduce the role of property-level staff in the AP process, and the time that it took them.
“I love the fact that every property has its own email address. After the invoices are automatically coded, the GM goes in and says, ‘Yep, this all looks good.’ Then Kirsten goes in to give final approval or make any changes. It’s so easy: it’s just one, two, three — done.”
“At that point we can just go into Plate IQ and make any change we need. It’s just so user-friendly to go in and reassign an item’s GL code.
“I’d rather have it this way than having the GMs spend more time on invoices. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Plate IQ from them.”
Shelby is also a fan of the faster turnaround time per invoice with Plate IQ.
One thing I love about Plate IQ is the turnaround time, from scanning to when it’s available. It’s a lot faster than Concur. A lot faster.
“I like, too, how once you scan something, you can actually see its progress,” says Kirsten. “Like even if it hasn’t fully uploaded, you can click on it and it tells you what property and what invoice and the amount and everything before it even comes in. so that’s nice.”
With Plate IQ, the team is able to quickly select what gets paid when, which according to Shelby, gives them greater control over their cash flow.
“I do like the fact that we can go in and tell Plate IQ when to schedule which payment. So Kirsten pretty much just goes in and says, ‘Yes, let’s cut all of these.’
We have a lot more control over our cash flow management with Plate IQ.
And with Plate IQ as their digital filing cabinet, the entire Golder Hospitality team can access the information they need when they need it — across properties, and between GMs and back office personnel.
“A huge source of time savings for me,” says AP manager Kirsten, “is when a GM is looking to see if a specific invoice has been paid. In the past, they were never able to figure that out on their own. I had to do it.
“With Plate IQ, the GMs know that they can click on the invoice and see that it was paid. They can actually hover over the page to see the check number, click on the check number, and get a copy of the check. It’s incredible how much time that user-friendliness alone has saved me.”
“Plate IQ’s customer support is way better than Concur,” Shelby says. “We actually have a contact person who Kristen reaches out to whenever she has questions. And she gets a response.”
Finally, setting up new properties on Plate IQ has been a breeze — something that gave Shelby a great deal of confidence heading into a period of expansion for the hotel business.
“When you add a new company on Plate IQ, it's basically just, ‘Here's the new email address, here’s, all the information,’ and boom, you're good to go. Plus your setup costs are beyond reasonable, which is great for adding new properties.”
For a busy and growing hotel management company, Plate IQ has been an indispensable resource in their efforts to improve efficiency, communication, and financial organization.
The biggest thing I find with Plate IQ is the simplicity of it, the user-friendliness of it.
You don’t need all that behind the scenes stuff and complex setup,” says Shelby. “No. I need a new company, here’s the information, here’s who’s attached to it, the end.”
Kirsten agrees: “It’s definitely made my life a lot easier.”
For more information on Golder Hospitality, visit GolderHospitality.com. To learn how Plate IQ can streamline your hotel group’s Accounts Payable, schedule a demo below.