Balford prides itself of the quality, value and service they provide to their customers, but their legacy ERP was holding them back. Managing complex and stacked rebates, tiered structures, customer hierarchies and geographical exclusions was already hard. But manual reporting which required lots of work after hours, was simply unsustainable. Balford wanted to invest in the most efficient platforms they could to serve their customers. Enable seemed a perfect fit for them. This is why.
Balford is a diversified food distribution company specializing in providing customized distribution services to foodservice and retail customers and the sale of dairy products throughout the Northeast. Founded in 1892, Balford remains a privately held corporation with a leadership team and employee workforce who has built a solid reputation for and takes pride in delivering Quality, Value, and Service to its customers, many of which who have been customers for over 25 years.
We spoke to Chris Morris, Director of Commercial Operations and Kerry Camp, Credit Manager at Balford. Chris has been with the company for six years and Kerry 20 plus years. They discuss the challenges they’ve seen with rebates and how to manage them more effectively.
What teams are involved in rebates at Balford?
Chris explains, “Firstly, our sales team, we have a relatively small sales organization. We have four field sales reps and then a sales manager. They're obviously all involved in the rebate process. Another important team involved is finance. There's really one key individual in finance that really facilitates enabling our rebates today and our current environment. Of course, all our customers are involved too. A few our customers have reports that they require. So, it's really interacting with them on a regular basis, making sure that we can report back to them in a format that works best for them.”
What types of deals and rebate programs do you have in place today?
Chris says, “Ours go from rather simplistic where it's just a straight percent of sales that we provide back to our customers to some really complex rebates. We deal with several corporate food service organizations that have not just tiered structures, but it's both the ship to location and the corporate location that participate in those rebates. So, it's kind of a two-level rebate or a stacked rebate. Our most complex rebates are with the state of Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, we're a dairy distributor and the state has some regulations relative to how rebates are applied on the dairy side. Those are both geographically specific, as well as product and volume specific.”
The challenge of complexity
Chris explains, “With our corporate food service customers, they have many clients that they support. So, having those rebates in place for each one of their locations, as well as being able to get it to the corporate location as they grow, that becomes more complex. With the dairy, we take on additional customers that are eligible for that, it's additional layers of support that we must manage for those. So obviously from our perspective, we try and find the most efficient platforms that we can serve our customers, whether that's on the ERP side, whether it's on the driver mobility side or whether it's on the rebate side.”
Chris continues, “Managing scalability is certainly challenging. You're trying to make sure that you're doing the right thing for the customers.
We haven't been very good at identifying when we're close to those rebate tiers or when they're close to those or how they could get closer. So, as we went through our process and we walked through the steps that we went through today and talked to Enable about the platform, that was certainly one of the selling points that was a factor in our decision ultimately.”
How did you manage rebates previously?
Chris says, “Our legacy ERP had a rebate program embedded in it. It did provide the data. However, the problem was that it was really time intensive to run those reports. The person running those reports would do those after hours or on weekends or off hours just to free up processing time. So having real time information to where you were or where the customers were, has been a challenge when using the old platform. As we were looking at what were some of the key factors, we wanted to have available to us, it was ultimately to get to more self-service type applications.
Kerry adds, “We have a lot of hierarchy with our products and our customers, and that’s the problem which our ERP can’t handle. We totally depended on that for our products and for our customers. That’s why Enable was perfect because it can deal with this complexity.
What made you look for a rebate solution?
Chris says, “All of the larger ERPs will tell you they have a rebate platform that they can manage rebates within their systems, and natively that's true. However, what we found what was on offer was a very limited scope of what can actually be managed on the platform which was NetSuite. It was a very sales or revenue focused activity. It didn't allow you to change to a percentage base or to have volume based.”
Chris continues, “We have product hierarchies, we have customer hierarchies, geographic exclusions and product exclusions, and all of those things then become customizations on the ERP side. We were weighing up of what’s the returns on spending to customize the ERP versus looking at third party platforms that might already have these capabilities natively embedded in them. That's really our decision-making process for moving to Enable.
Were you evaluating any other rebate management solutions? What made you choose Enable?
Chris says, “In the distribution space, we were aware of a couple of other providers. One is specific to distribution and there is a niche provider that provides a rebate platform. There are also some other pure rebate applications. We looked at them, who their customers were and how their programs worked. Again, some of the key issues were for us the product hierarchy and the customer hierarchy and those inclusion/exclusion components that really were more geared to how we do business. So, we felt Enable was a much better fit for us.”
Kerry adds, “We were researching for a solution that could link with our system.
What piece of advice would you give to others looking to move to a rebate management system?
Chris says, “I would say for us, I think ultimately we were late in the game to really look at purely rebate specific applications, we would have liked to have done this earlier. So, I would say if you're looking at different ERP platforms, or you're looking at different rebate platforms make sure you understand what your actual use cases are, what data you need transacted between the systems and how it aligns between those two systems.”
Chris continues, “There's a lot of time and effort and energy spent around getting that data. We did find some issues relative to our own data that we thought we were transmitting in a certain way in our current environment and found that that wasn't the case. That did create some additional challenges of making sure that we understood how that deal was really meant to be structured versus what was the workaround we had done in our legacy system.”