In Sports, B2B Ain’t Beanbag

Vendor relationships are critical to all industries and especially so in sports and entertainment — from keeping the concession stands full to printing out programs. For sports teams, paper-based payments dominate, but that may change as technology makes getting cash to suppliers speedier than a Nolan Ryan fastball.

In the world of sports and entertainment, glitz and glamour may rule. Instant replays vie with fireworks, chants and expensive shoes; jerseys and hats vie for fan dollars.

Behind the scenes, however, the activity is a bit more pedestrian. Think payments and the way payments get paid. Then, think paper. And waiting. Lots of waiting, especially for vendors who supply everything from hats to food to, well, anything else.

It’s a familiar refrain that the cash flow cycle could use some updating, and the refrain cuts across industries. In one recent example, the Texas Rangers baseball franchise signed on with B2B payments firm CSI globalVCard in order to help streamline payments and, through technology, to pay vendors in just a couple of weeks, as opposed to the way other firms might (which can take several weeks or even months).

In an interview with PYMNTS, Heather Stone, global executive vice president of CSI globalVCard, said that vendor relationships (in other words, B2B relationships) are ones where the parties are “comfortable in the way they conduct their processes. That is, manual and paper check in nature.” The challenge becomes one in which the shift toward embracing at least some form of electronic payment can be adopted up and down that relationship, with perhaps some trepidation, for example, in the event that vendors may prefer doing business by the older methods.

One way to help clients make the leap to digital payments, said Stone, is to open conversations that show how a shift to electronic payments, and especially accounts payable systems, “can reduce the time it takes for the vendor to see cash payments.” With a check-based, paper-based system, the process can involve several steps and, of course, several days, with several signoffs necessary to approve payments and then issue them, said Stone — not to mention getting checks sent through the mail.

By way of contrast, the adopting of electronic accounts payable systems (such as the one offered by Stone’s own firm) by sports and entertainment firms ensures payments within minutes and not days. As Stone explained it, the movement toward a single-use, virtual credit card payment offers greater security but also ties in with the accounting system or ERP in place within a firm.

This allows for greater flexibility in payments themselves, she added, with, for example, a transaction being handled after the close of business on a given day and with no need to download and process batches of data. Instead, single-function, single-recipient payments can be sped to their ultimate destinations, via mobile. In addition, firms can tailor access to different parts of the approval to limit certain actions to certain executives, such as the CFO, or certain accounts payables clerks.

Cross-border payments also have allure using this system, as Stone noted, with vendor relationships stretching around the globe (a functionality that debuted in January). With teams traveling, paying for everything from airlines to tour buses can be captured in one report, according to the executive.