In a move to strengthen its
leadership of the small-business market, American Express OPEN has
unveiled an online invoicing and payments solution to help US
business owners maximise cash flow.
AcceptPay allows business owners to create,
send and track invoices at one internet site. Through AcceptPay,
customers can pay the invoice through a variety of methods,
including major credit and debit cards, eChecks cash, or cheques.
Resulting payments are deposited directly into the business
owner's bank account.
“The economic crisis has revealed a common
need among nearly all small businesses: to get paid faster,” Mary
Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, senior vice-president of American Express
OPEN told EPI. “E-billing reduces the time it takes to get paid; it
also can cut down on time spent processing invoices and
“There is also an opportunity cost associated
with manual invoicing systems – they take up time that could be
spent on revenue-driving activities and are often prone to human
error. Online invoicing and payment acceptance solutions improve
efficiencies and reduce risks.”
Significant cash flow issue
According to the American Express
OPEN small business monitor, a semi-annual survey of business
owners, 60 percent have cash flow concerns, with 20 percent of
owners reporting that the ability to pay bills on time is the most
significant cash flow issue they face today.
In addition, 32 percent of small business
owners are most likely to be more aggressive in collecting accounts
receivable in order to improve cash flow – the most popular tactic
of those offered in the survey.
“The economic crisis has made getting paid
faster a top priority for small business owners,” Reilly added.
“According to our latest research, the
majority of small businesses report are having cash flow concerns.
Small businesses are often caught between their suppliers allowing
fewer days to pay, and their end customers taking longer to
“In essence, small business owners have been
caught in the middle of this economic crisis.”
Among cash flow concerns, the biggest worry
for business owners overall is the ability to pay bills on time (17
percent). One-quarter of business owners in the retail sector are
concerned about the ability to pay bills on time, versus 16 percent
of manufacturers and 10 percent of services companies.
Additional concerns for businesses include
accounts receivable (15 percent); having enough cash to win new
business (10 percent); the ability to meet payroll (9 percent); and
the ability to accurately track cash flow (7 percent). Less than
one-quarter of all business owners (24 percent) believe their
accounts receivables are too high; however, 6-in-10 entrepreneurs
(61 percent) are concerned about having cash available to pay bills
over the next six months.
Muliple payments options
For smaller businesses lacking a
unified payments solution, AcceptPay claims to offer benefits found
only in the services offered to much larger enterprises. Not only
does AcceptPay offer faster payments and the ability to choose
multiple online payment options, but it also the ability to create
and send invoices, as well as track and organise invoices, payments
and outstanding receivables online.
Business owners can also track and view
invoices and receivables via automated or custom reports. All of
these records can be seamlessly integrated into QuickBooks
Every business owner, whether or not they are
an OPEN card member, is eligible to apply for AcceptPay. There is
no set-up fee, and the service is priced at $20 a month. Any
business owner can also register for AcceptPay Lite, which is a
free invoicing-only solution that provides the opportunity to test
To design AcceptPay, American Express
partnered with PaySimple, a Denver, Colorado-based provider of
on-demand electronic payment-software services for small
businesses. American Express and PaySimple worked with business
owners and used feedback from product test groups to create the
Several of those business owners appear in a
new television advert featuring real business owners asking each
other questions about how to better run their businesses.
The national ad underlines the primary thing
small business owners want to know – how to get paid faster – and
highlights AcceptPay as a solution for business owners looking to
turn the page on a challenging 2009.
Small business owners are also encouraged to
ask their own questions and join the conversation by logging on to
OpenForum.com, an online resource and networking site for business
American Express is not alone in
offering an increasingly diverse portfolio of payments-related
products to the small business sector. A number of players are
marketing ways for small businesses to make their bill payment
processes faster, easier and more convenient.
iPay Technologies, for example, has targeted
small businesses with Biz 2.0, an online bill pay product with
tools that connect bill payment, payroll deposits and invoicing
into a single solution. Like AcceptPay, Biz 2.0 integrates bill
payment processes with electronic invoice generation. It also gives
small businesses the ability to manage their payables and
receivables within one single bill pay solution.
More than 400 banks and credit unions already
offer the solution to small businesses nationwide.
According to recent reports by consultancies
Celent and The Aite Group, small businesses are increasingly
selecting their banking relationships based on online banking
features and usability. In a Celent study, 60 percent of small
business respondents said they were willing to switch from popular
software products and accounting to bank-based tools if they were
The arguments for such products are quite
clear in the middle of an economic downturn. During a contraction
as severe as this, speeding up the order-to-cash cycle by
collecting faster is the name of the game – and electronic billing
and the ability to receive payments electronically can deliver
In addition, such solutions are increasingly
affordable, sophisticated and customisable, providing a return on
investment that will sell itself.