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Seasonal trading? Don’t forget the back-office

seasonal trading

The 21st of June marks the astrological start of summer. But for many of Yorkshire’s seasonal firms, such as those in the tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors, the gradually warmer weather means that trade is likely to have already heated up. It is vital that firms expecting a seasonal uplift are prepared for the busy months ahead. And as part of this, it is critical that they don’t overlook the back office, particularly their finance and administration departments.

Busy periods can create cashflow and administrative chokepoints.

For example, for firms that sell business-to-business, growing trading volumes can mean that the amount of working capital they have tied-up in unpaid invoices can also spike. This can put significant strain on their own finances – preventing them from quickly deploying cash to seize upon new trading opportunities, or, in the worst cases, straining their ability to meet overhead costs.

Similarly, busier periods will mean that some firms will need to purchase stock at a faster rate to meet demand. This can result in a swell in inbound invoices from suppliers, which, if not processed in a timely manner, can result in them paying their own suppliers late – straining, and even critically damaging, valuable relationships.

Help at hand

Managing these challenges is, of course, easier said than done. But there are a few things that can help management teams reduce pressure on their back-offices and to manage any associated risks.

The first is simple, but essential: forecasting.

Developing and maintaining accurate, detailed, demand forecasts, incorporating information such as team availability and suppliers’ payment terms, will keep business’ finances on an even keel and help management teams plan so that there’s capacity within business’ finance departments to manage credit and settle payments.

This becomes even more important given what may be heightened demand for staff holiday time during the peak summer season.

Technological support can help alleviate back-office pressure

However, even if firms can forecast and anticipate capacity chokepoints, there will be cases where they simply won’t have the resources to meet anticipated demand without putting other parts of their operations under pressure.

Here, it will be important to consider how they can leverage the support of third-party partners and their automation technology.

For example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) helps to shoulder the mundane, time-consuming parts of invoice processing.

With RPA, invoices are automatically matched against purchase orders, and the software shares the invoice to the correct staff member within a business for speedier authorisation. If there are any irregularities, the software follows pre-established rules to escalate the problem to a team member for review and resolution, supporting strong oversight.

This reduces pressure on teams under stress, or increases capacity to provide an extra, digital, pair of ‘hands’ during peak periods. And, it can often be applied to existing systems without the need for any changes.

In our experience, the results are transformative. Parseq’s automated end-to-end invoice processing solution captures, extracts and uploads data from our clients’ invoices all on the same day to 99.9% accuracy. All data is fully digital, and the solution is accompanied by daily reporting for complete visibility.

Similar solutions are also available from third-parties like Parseq to support effective, efficient credit management within digital back-office services. 

These blend the skills of experienced, accredited agents with automation to help proactively, sensitively manage cash tied up with debtors and control credit limits on business’ behalf. Like with invoice processing, automation shoulders the mundane, time-intensive work, allowing staff members to focus more on the most sensitive, complex challenges.

Importantly, using partners for solutions like these – whether invoice processing or credit management –means that businesses don’t have to make an upfront investment to access time and money-saving skills and technology, and can scale the solution to meet their specific needs, at the time they need them.

Seasonal trading brings its challenges. But with the right support in the back-office, this summer will be a season remembered much more for its opportunity.

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