A Story of an Accounts Payable Addict… By Samantha Ryan
by Jamie Radford
My name is Samantha Ryan and I am an APoholic. There I said it. It’s out there. The first step and all that …
But I don’t want to be cured! I want to love what I do. I want to have the highs and the lows that make my job so interesting.
I started my career as an office junior in a wool merchants (a very archaic industry but one Bradford was well known for in its long ago heyday). I remember typing up letters on a word processor and receiving messages from our exporters across Europe via telex (what do you mean what is a telex?? … this is a reflection of the industry not my age!). I got the opportunity to start learning about the ledgers. Now, at that time, the ledgers consisted of a big handwritten double entry book (ok, ok so it was a few years ago and computers were around but not being used as widely as they are now). This is where I got the bug for accounts. So, I decided to give up my job making coffee, typing letters and generally being a dogsbody and go after a job working in an accounts role.
After a few short roles working in Credit Control, AR and AP, I got my first role managing an AP team in 2004 at a greeting cards company. The ethos of the company was that we sold emotional connections. As a young woman at the time with my emotional maturity still under construction this appealed to me. I really connected with the company and in turn with my role managing the AP team.
I spent 8 years there. I was on the “Have Your Say” team where we met with the Senior Management to share issues and ideas. I had an amazing opportunity to go through an Investors in Excellence programme which really changed the way I thought. I spent 3 months seconded onto an Innovation team helping to develop new product ideas. I went out to Hong Kong to our intercompany manufacturer to help develop new ideas for how we could handle intercompany invoices. I implemented my first ever auto matching solution.
The company was creative and I learnt I was too. I can’t draw (my attempts are very close to what my 3 year old son brings home from nursery). I can’t turn a lump of clay into something beautiful. I can’t even bake a cake that doesn’t look like a fat pancake. But, I can look at a process and have a vision for how it could be better, simpler and more efficient. I can lead a team using crazy ideas for motivating and developing them. So, because of my love for the company it also reflected to what I was doing … AP.
The company, the role, the challenge was addictive. I would wake in the middle of the night with an idea for my next team meeting or how I could improve a process. I had to keep a notepad next to my bed so I could write down my ideas otherwise I couldn’t get back to sleep.
After 8 years I had to say goodbye. It was with a heavy heart that I left, but I was ready for another challenge. So I jetted off to my new company, a leading northern airline and tour operator (groan … I couldn’t resist the pun). I spent 4 years here. The culture was very different, but as a fast growing company I just loved the pace at which we had to work. The tour operator was really taking off (I just can’t stop myself with the puns!). We were soaring to new heights (that’s the last pun I promise).
A few months after I started I had to start work on designing a new in-house built system for managing invoice matching and query handling. I worked closely with an amazing developer, Stuart Bass. He was the other half of my brain. I knew what I wanted in a system and he could build it. Together we created a system that was optimised for manual invoice entry (minimum keystrokes achieved), we achieved an average of 75% of electronic transactions with touchless processing and also created a query automation tool that would send automated emails to our suppliers detailing the query, chase up suppliers if no response was received and raise a debit note to ensure we could pay what we agreed to within the 30 day terms. What an opportunity! To be able to build a system for AP, designed by AP with paying on time every time the ultimate goal … I wish I could market it or at least take it with me to every company I work in!
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Building the system was a high. But even better than that was building the team and seeing them grow. I started with a team of 7 managing 100,000 invoices. By the time I left in 2015 we were processing almost 7 times that volume with only 3 times the number of staff. The system helped with keeping headcount down, but the team were what made it special. Because of the continuous business growth we had to have continuous people growth. So some of my team developed into other roles in Treasury, management accounts or the reporting teams and my team leaders became my managers. The team were so strong and the next generation of managers were in place and I was no longer needed.
A couple more roles and now I am at the world’s largest international TV and broadband company. I spent 3 months this year working in Amsterdam transitioning the P2P function over to Bradford. I have a truly phenomenal team and we are all working together to look at how we can optimise the P2P function. I wake up at 4 am some days, raring to get started with the day. I sometimes switch on my laptop on a weekend, just wanting to get my thoughts and ideas down. I can be sat watching TV and have to get my notepad out to start jotting down the work-related thought that just popped into my head.
It’s an obsession. It’s an addiction. But I really don’t care. I spend more than 40 hours every week at work and I think I am one of the lucky ones because I love what I do. My son will grow up seeing his mum happy and enjoying work.
So I know this seems like an article that is just about how great my career has been and I make no apology for that. I am owning my addiction. I love my addiction. It inspires me and I just hope that in some small way it could inspire you.
Having a career you love isn’t always about the industry or even the function you choose to work in. Go out and find the opportunities, challenge the norm and always look for the next improvement or the next thing that will inspire you. Understand yourself and what motivates you then make sure you build the opportunities around your day job.
And if you are already doing this, welcome to the club J