Customer Story | Country Club

Northstone Country Club Ottimate customer story graphic

How NorthStone Country Club Eliminated Manual AP with Ottimate

“If I took Ottimate away from them, the team would be unhappy, very unhappy. Some of them would be livid.”

Steve Foster
Invoices GL-coded Automatically







Founded in the late 1990s by Bob Ryan, NorthStone Country Club is home to an 18-hole private golf course, tennis facility, restaurant and bar, and wide range of family-friendly amenities. Membership at NorthStone is designed to be accessible to the community, with no initiation fees, no minimum spending requirements, and no assessments. 


NorthStone sits in the heart of Huntersville, North Carolina, just 30 minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Charlotte. Bob still owns the club and continues to keep community at its forefront. 


Steve Foster, the Chief Financial Officer & Assistant General Manager, has been at NorthStone since 2014. “There’s definitely some heartstrings to this club,” Steve explains. “Bob has a fondness for it that goes beyond business.”


The Challenge: Navigating a Manual Workflow


NorthStone Country Club’s operations is split among several departments, including administrative, golf, course maintenance, food and beverage, and club operations, among others. Each department has its own budget, and each department head is responsible for invoice management, inventory, and vendor payment processing — making the end-to-end accounts payable (AP) process tricky to navigate.


In the past, NorthStone received invoices by hand, through the mail, or via email. Invoices were then routed to the appropriate department head, who would review, code, and approve each one. 


Once approved, invoices were returned to the AP office, where the office manager would have to manually key each one in. Finally, the office manager would have to cut checks twice each month.


This manual process faced two key challenges: the amount of time it took to complete and its high risk for errors. 


1. A Time-Consuming Process


While some departments process relatively simple invoices that only require coding for one or two GL accounts, other departments face more complex coding — particularly, the food and beverage departments. According to Steve, manually coding invoices for a vendor like Sysco required roughly “ten different GL accounts, ten different expense accounts, and ten different asset accounts for food cost.” 


For these invoices, seeing the detail and individual expense accounts for items like meat, seafood, produce, and supplies is key to managing inventory. But achieving this level of detail meant Steve and his team were spending large amounts of time coding invoices every week. 


2. High Risk of Errors


Processing a high volume of invoices by hand also puts the team at risk of making mistakes. Each error added extra time to the team’s plate, as they’d have to go back and correct any issues — lengthening the total time they spent on invoices each week. 


The Solution: Discovering the Value of Ottimate


When it comes to operations, part of Steve’s role includes overseeing technology improvements that will help NorthStone’s finances run more efficiently. During his tenure, he has implemented new systems for payroll, digitized paper files for employee and membership documents, and made the decision to switch the club’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to Clubessential.


Once the new ERP was in place, Steve began researching invoice and vendor payment solutions — but without high hopes. 


“I could just see so many challenges associated with AP automation,” Steve shares. “I wasn’t aware of a comprehensive AP automation suite that I felt would really help us. In my mind, I had all of these obstacles [with invoice processing] that no solution was going to be able to overcome.”


So when Steve came across Ottimate, he knew he’d found the one solution that could meet NorthStone’s needs — and mitigate the challenges of manually processing invoices. 


A Niche Need: Food & Beverage Granularity


Before choosing Ottimate, Steve considered several other AP automation solutions. But while other software offered many of the functionalities that NorthStone was looking for, it was Ottimate’s ability to handle the specific needs of food and beverage invoices that sold Steve and his team. 

I felt like Ottimate did food and beverage better than anybody else, and it wasn’t close. That was ultimately the tipping point for me. 

Steve says that the course maintenance and food and beverage departments are the two biggest spenders at the club, so he kept their needs top-of-mind. 


According to Steve, a typical invoice for course maintenance will only have one or two GL accounts. But when it comes to food and beverage, Steve explains: “It’s not uncommon for an invoice to be $12,000 and to have 18 GL splits on it. So it’s really helpful when filet mignon goes to the same GL account every time.”


Due to the high number of GL splits in food and beverage invoices, “the level of granularity and detail that Ottimate can process on an invoice” set the software apart. And Steve and his team love “the high level of visibility of price changes that you get right on the dashboard, [as well as] how accurate Ottimate’s processing engine and processes were to get GL coding correct.” 


‍An Additional Perk: EDI Integration


Steve was also impressed with Ottimate’s Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) integration.

EDI was a selling point for me. The fact that you guys had relationships with and did process several of the major vendors that we use, via EDI — it just doesn’t get any cleaner than that. It greatly removes the possibility for human error. 

NorthStone has been able to leverage the EDI integration with multiple wholesale vendors, including US Foods, Sysco, Gordon Food Service, Performance Food Group, FreshPoint, Inland Seafood, Pepsi, Coke, and Fintech. “Ottimate targets a lot of the vendors that we use, and I don’t recall any of the other applications that I looked at offering that,” shares Steve.‍


Implementing Ottimate at NorthStone


After the heavy lift of implementing their new ERP, Steve and the NorthStone team decided to launch Ottimate with a soft rollout. This allowed them to gradually ramp up with Ottimate and ensure they got everything up and running smoothly for each department’s needs. 


They decided to start with the food and beverage department, because — as Steve explains — they “wanted to get the people who benefited the most on board.” 


The approach paid off. “Food and beverage could really see the benefit, so they bought in quickly. They were probably 100% adopted within four weeks — and maybe closer to two weeks.”


Team Feedback on AP Automation


While Steve didn’t receive much of a reaction from the team when he first showed them how to code invoices in the system, their enthusiasm grew as they got further into Ottimate’s ability to streamline their workflows. 


In fact, the first time the food and beverage team saw the full power of Ottimate “was kind of an ‘a-ha!’ moment.” And with each new invoice Steve showed them, the food and beverage team could see that more and more items were coming in already coded. 


“Within a month, 90 percent of all of their invoices are coming in coded,” Steve shares. That’s when his team really embraced the potential of AP automation. 


For the food and beverage team alone, Steve says, “I would suggest to you that the Ottimate invoice automation saves hours. It probably saves that team four or five hours a week, minimum, in terms of just coding invoices. And then of course, the accuracy component adds to that.” 


The implementation also brought new data insights along with it. “I just had our food and beverage director ask me for his purchases last year, in case counts,” shares Steve. “And he was really impressed that I could do that [with Ottimate]. 


Increased Invoice Accuracy 


The department heads at NorthStone want to know the granular details of operating costs — and with Ottimate, they can. 


The team works hard to make sure items are coded to the correct GL and that their budget matches what they spend. 


“They have control over the timing of expenses on their income statement — to the extent that it’s reasonable — but we all still have visibility into the process,” Steve says. The automated GL coding process helps save time for the department heads, while also helping improve accuracy in coding invoices. 


With Ottimate, Steve’s team has embraced the control they now have over the invoice process. 

I’d code it as ownership. They have complete ownership for not only the budget, but also the expenses that go up against that budget. They can make sure that things are exactly where they need to be.


The Results: Greater Efficiency through AP Automation 


With Ottimate, NorthStone processes almost all of its invoices electronically, with invoices coming in through EDI, email, and mobile uploads. 


The ability to submit invoices via mobile invoices has been especially useful in streamlining NorthStone’s AP process. Steve shares that the club’s superintendent oversees course maintenance from a satellite location. “He’s big on taking pictures [of the invoices]; that’s an easier way for him to work,” he says, explaining that Ottimate’s mobile invoice option “is just another thing that you guys offer that makes it very easy.”


Streamlined Payments & More Accurate Records


NorthStone has also benefited from VendorPay, Ottimate’s payment automation solution.


Prior to using Ottimate, NorthStone would manually run checks twice a month. Now, they only have to run checks once a week, directly through the Ottimate platform.


With manual checks runs, Steve and his team would have to process 80 to 90 checks at a time, which would each need to be signed by two people before getting mailed out. 


But with Ottimate, the process is very simple. 


Although there is still some manual data verification between NorthStone’s ERP and Ottimate, Steve says, “Paper is way down. Before, we’d write that manual check, we’d multi-sign it, and then the stub of that check would get stapled to whatever invoices were being paid.” Paper documents were then stored in filing cabinets, so any department head who wanted information would have to take time to search through physical files to find what they needed. 


“Now, you just open Ottimate, you find whatever you want, whenever you want it, wherever you are,” Steve continues. “If you’re on the beach, and somebody says, ‘Hey, did you buy a driver from Titleist on August 3?’ you just go look and see if you got it right.


“It’s just an incredible time saver to be able to just instantaneously find what you’re looking for, anywhere that you are. It becomes a system of record.” ‍


AP Automation: A Lasting Impression


When Steve first started the journey to find an AP automation solution for NorthStone, he and his team didn’t quite anticipate just how much Ottimate would impact the organization’s operations. 


“You know, when you don’t know another way, you just assume how things are is how they’re always going to be. And so you don’t really have a feeling one way or the other. [AP automation] is a huge win; now that [the team] knows that there’s a different possibility, they’re excited about it.”‍

‍If I took Ottimate away from them, the team would be unhappy — very unhappy. Some of them would be livid.

Steve encourages other country clubs considering adding automation to their AP operations to focus on two key areas: efficiency and the people you serve.


“For me, it’s all about efficiency. I think that the more efficient we can be in things, like paying bills, the more time we have to spend with our members, which is where we make our money. It’s all about people, right? We’re in the people business.


“[Ottimate gives] time back to the department heads, so they can do what I think are important things,” Steve adds. “Spend time with your employees, spend time with your members, and we’ll all do really well.”


Schedule a demo today to see how Ottimate’s Invoice Automation solution can help your country club achieve greater efficiency!