Controllers Council recently held a panel discussion on How SMBs Can Sustain Cash Flow During Turbulent Times, sponsored by BILL.

BILL is the leader in financial automation software for small and mid-size businesses. our expert panelists are Philip Peck and Joe Fleischer. Philip Peck is Vice President Advisory Services and Finance Transformation Practice for Peloton Consulting Group. Joe Fleischer is webinar content marketing manager for BILL, and he has more than 16 years’ experience, including and Argyle.

Following are key takeaways to this discussion. If you are interested in learning more, view the full webinar archive video here.

What are the most prevalent challenges small and mid-sized businesses are encountering with managing cashflow?

The focus around cash flow is just of paramount importance for all organizations, but especially small and mid-size businesses. So, thinking about the prevalent challenges, I personally like to start first with data. Disparate fragmented data sources requiring Herculean efforts to collect, to manipulate, to transform, and then use the required data and information sets. Many organizations often lack a single source of the truth where a fragmented web of Excel spreadsheets is used to support these foundational business needs. So really starts foundationally there at the data. Along with that manual people dependent processes and lack of enterprise governance across the core end-to-end processes, procure to pay, order to cash, forecast to fulfill.

These processes in SMB organizations while designed with the best intentions often have silos and then silos within the silos where the overall end-to-end processes are sub-optimized, resulting in actions in one area that could negatively impact another area. Another prevalent challenge is that I see limited adoption of working capital management. Best practices areas, especially relevant for SMBs include elements like robust customer credit approval policies, automated invoicing receivable collections based on segmentation of aging, near real-time payment application, single PO discounts, focusing on accurate invoice processing, actively working through dispute management and certainly many others. Other elements are around modeling, lack of robust working capital modeling, liquidity management modeling and direct cash flow Forecasting models in general are challenging for SMBs. Another area limited deployment of what I’d like to call fit for purpose. Enabling tools and technology platforms enabling automated lights out processes. For SMBs this is not necessarily the top priority given other investment and resource needs but has an impact on their ability to manage and plan cash.

The last one I’ll touch on is master and metadata management challenges. Here areas include how to establish, maintain, update, and then the leverage throughout the organization’s data management ecosystem. Master data for critical areas like customer, product, vendor channel, GL account department, cost center, and other master data elements, metadata management such as changes to accounts, departments, segments, and related roll-ups, they often lack robust governance, controls, and system enabled automation capabilities. In many organizations, this area master, and metadata management, it’s highly manual, reactive in nature, people dependent and fraught with errors and omissions.

How can finance leaders recognize and mitigate risks concerning cash flow as economic conditions change?

Our world is very dynamic, our world is highly ambiguous, things are changing almost a daily basis. So, for organizations to think about what they can put in place today to anticipate an uncertain future is important. So, a couple elements here I’d like to highlight:

  1. Establish a comprehensive set of forward-looking reporting and analytics.
  2. Look for opportunities to significantly reduce decision making cycle times supported by methodologies and frameworks.
  3. Focus on a more data-driven perspective, data-driven what if modeling data-driven, business simulation, data-driven scenario analysis.
  4. Continue to accelerate or look to accelerate digital transformation efforts with looking for grab the low-hanging fruit.

Which aspects of managing cash flow lend themselves best to automation?

The challenges that organizations face, and admittedly it’s not all just what can we automate to support those challenges, but a large element of the improvement opportunities does center around how can we better leverage enabling tools and technologies, how can we do things different to automate things along with some of the process improvements in other aspects here. Some aspects include:

  1. Master Data Management
  2. Data Sourcing
  3. Data Integration
  4. Cash Forecasting
  5. Vendor Portal

What specific goals should finance leaders establish before determining whether and how to automate cash flow management?

It’s important to establish those goals. They’re certainly elevated, think of them as north star goals, guiding principles goals, but there’s also some specific more tactical and nature goals where all of them work in concert to drive out the elements that we’re looking to achieve as an organization before determining where to automate cashflow management. Some goal areas include:

  1. Efficiency: organizations should have in mind a baseline to start from.
  2. Risk management: minimizing errors and omissions, mitigating people dependencies where we know in our processes we may be relying on those critical few people, etc.
  3. Business partnering: we need some tangible targets around are we able as an organization and as practitioners to be able to support improved insights and analysis and enhanced decision making?

Greater agility and flexibility from a cash flow management perspective, improving the transparency then and visibility of how did we come up with the forecast, how did we come up with the plan, what are the elements that contribute to it, the leading and the lagging elements, how are we able to influence those establishing targets around it?

To view the complete webcast, download full webinar here.


BILL (NYSE: BILL) is a leader in financial automation software for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). As a champion of SMBs, we are dedicated to automating the future of finance so businesses can thrive. Hundreds of thousands of businesses trust BILL solutions to manage financial workflows, including payables, receivables, and spend and expense management. With BILL, businesses are connected to a network of millions of members, so they can pay or get paid faster. Through our automated solutions, we help SMBs simplify and control their finances, so they can confidently manage their businesses, and succeed on their terms. BILL is a trusted partner of leading U.S. financial institutions, accounting firms, and accounting software providers. BILL is headquartered in San Jose, California. For more information, visit