As a small business owner, we know you are super busy. In fact, many of you are out of the office more than in. This reality can cause issues. Does your bookkeeper have trouble tracking you down to review and sign checks? Do you struggle with delinquent payments as a result? Maybe you have incorporated a signature stamp to alleviate this problem or added your bookkeeper as signer on your business checking to help solve the issue. Quick fix, right?
While the two options above certainly make it simpler for your bookkeeper to process payments and does reduce the risk of late payments, they create a wide-open door to internal financial fraud in your business. But what else can you do? That is the topic of this installment of our Financial Protection Toolkit series.
Incorporate an Approval-Based Bill-pay System
What exactly is a bill-pay system? A bill-pay system (or service) is a third-party software application which links directly to your accounting system, giving you the ability to schedule and send ACH payments or physical checks to vendors and suppliers. These are typically online services attached to online accounting applications, such as QuickBooks Online. Bill-pay systems add robust automation and (most) approval-based workflows to ensure only the payments you approve are released. These systems also come equipped with mobile applications. These systems are typically monthly subscriptions with additional fees involved, while a few are free.
By incorporating an approval-based bill-pay system, you create a secure, transparent environment built to accommodate busy, mobile business owners. You can review and approve bills no matter where you are or what device you are using. If set up correctly, your bookkeeper is protected from fraud risk, as is your business.
Additionally, you can pay many vendors via ACH by simply emailing them a one-time invitation to complete. ACH is a cheaper, easier, and faster way to pay vendors and these systems are designed to accommodate and encourage this form of payment. There are quite a few bill-pay systems in the marketplace and which one you select is largely determined by the following criteria:
Integration with your specific accounting system
The cost of the service
The inclusion and complexity of an approval-based workflow
For our clients, we’ve landed on these two systems: Bill.com and Melio Payments. The reason for these two options comes down to the clients’ needs and pricing.
Bill.com is the largest and earliest entrant into the online bill-pay System market. It integrates with several common accounting applications. It has built a huge network of customers and vendors (set up for ACH payment already), which you can search for and add without sending email invitations. Bill.com supports extensive, sophisticated approval processes, if required. It also is capable of international payments. Right now, it is the best of the best. As you might expect, being the best – it is one of the more expensive options in the market. We use this application for our larger clients with more complex approval requirements and/or large vendor lists.
Melio Payments is a relative newcomer to the market; active since 2020. Melio Payments entered the market as a FREE Bill-Pay System option that includes both ACH and physical checks*. It also includes a simple approval-based workflow. This has proven to be a great gateway application for our smaller clients who are more cost sensitive, have a simple approval requirement and smaller vendor base.
*Effective October 1, 2022, physical checks are no longer free, but incur a small fee for
processing after a certain number of checks per month.
There are other bill-pay systems in the marketplace, and it seems like new ones are introduced on a regular basis. From our perspective, both Bill.com and Melio Payments provide the range of service we need for our clients. Yet, we are always evaluating the marketplace to understand what new innovations are introduced.
Modern technology provides a very tangible solution to a common small business scenario. By incorporating an approval-based bill-pay system, you can eliminate the risks created by having your bookkeeper as signer on your checking account. Furthermore, you now have necessary transparency and accessibility to review and approve bills anywhere BEFORE payment is made. It is a logical tool to add to your business Financial Protection Toolkit.
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