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Food buying consortium, Caterforce, gets real-time visibility with Enable
When Clare joined Caterforce as their Financial Controller, she knew old processes had to be changed. Little did she realize that the information Enable puts at her fingertips would help them make informed decisions so quickly. Today they’ve gone from an antiquated, laborious system to accurate forecasting and information that flows through systems to help buyers and suppliers. This true collaboration helps with cash flow visibility – and would have been invaluable during COVID crunch time. Clare Greensmith, Financial Controller, explains why.
Established in 1991, Caterforce is one of the largest foodservice buying & marketing consortiums in the UK. They source products from a huge range of leading suppliers and manufacturers to support nine leading independent foodservice wholesalers. From their head office in Macclesfield, Cheshire they provide a central hub for their members supporting both their group buying needs and marketing resource, allowing suppliers to push out a consistent and coherent marketing plan nationwide, with just one point of contact.
We spoke to Clare Greensmith, Financial Controller, who joined the Caterforce team in January 2020.
What led to looking for a solution?
Clare says, “Well, as the Financial Controller within Caterforce, I'm the person that looks after the beans, counts the beans, looks after the purse strings, and make sure that everything's audited. One of the first jobs I did when I came here in January was to go through all the terms agreements. As Caterforce was set up in the early 90’s it was a very antiquated time laborious system, which we had to tick through. Sometimes things hadn't quite been understood and processed correctly.
“In April 2020 when the country shut down food service, everything went on hold, restaurants closed, one thing that was paramount in all our businesses was cashflow. So, it was making sure that every penny was accounted for. Therefore, it was important to go through the process of making sure suppliers had given the rebates back at the right time.”
“This is when I reached out to Enable to see whether there was a slicker way of actually processing all this.”
How did you manage and track your rebates before?
Clare explains, “Well, tracking before was on our own internal web-based system, in PDF format so it wasn't giving you any real-time stamped information, or as a workflow telling you have you done X. It was more, you went to the library and checked had it been done. We wanted to change the process with Enable to give us that information so that we can flow that through and highlight from a forecasting point of view where the big wins were. We also wanted to monitor the impact of the pandemic, which was a very different concept of what Caterforce had done before because it was always in growth, growing in members, growing in rebates. Whereas this is more about now getting back to 2019.
“With Enable, we were able to see that you can get those trend lines very quickly and effectively. The buyers can go in and do a ‘what-if’ scenario to see ‘If we do X what is the impact?’ Our members can also have real-time, up-to-date information rather than in our old system, it was very antiquated.”
“You had to wait for the month-end, wait for the quarter or the year to finish. This meant they were blind probably for six months of the year.”
Enable helps in times of uncertainty
Clare explains, “The pandemic certainly impacted our decision to look for something like Enable.
“We wanted more information at our fingertips rather than go hunting for it. If we had Enable as soon as the pandemic hit, we could have made quicker informed decisions.”
Enable take the time to understand our business
Clare says, “Well, Enable actually came to us. Lucy, an Account Executive at Enable, called us but she was so polite. Normally, I'll be very, very honest, I just whip people away like that. Lucy was lovely, she went through the detail.
“It wasn't a pushy sale, it was a collaboration. We chose to go with Enable because we were very open and honest with what we wanted, and they were open and honest with what they could do.”
We did go and have a look at a software house to develop a bespoke rebate system for us because we're a little bit different from other buying groups. We are the custodian of the terms and conditions so from a cash flow point of view, it's a lot easier for the members to collect their monies themselves. We wanted to make sure this was highlighted. What we found with Enable is they were very good at understanding this and working through where we needed to be.”
We wanted more information at our fingertips rather than go hunting for it. If we had Enable as soon as the pandemic hit, we could have made quicker informed decisions.