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UAG: Transitioning from manual spreadsheets to automation with Enable
United Aqua Group are a membership organization with approximately 300 pool and spa professional members across the United States. Mainly made up of pool builders, retailers, service professionals, etc. They refer to all of their members, as owners. They banded together starting to form United Aqua Group in 1963 because they saw an opportunity, not only to increase purchasing power and buy in consort, but also to enjoy a wide array of other benefits, such as part ownership in United Aqua Group.
Scott’s role as vice-president, is a position with a wide range of responsibilities. Marketing, member care, operations in general. UAG run big events for their owners, so Scott is responsible for those as well as strategic vendor partnerships, or as they call them SVP. This is where Enable comes into play, because that is the department that is responsible for negotiating all of our rebate programs, which of course, have to be processed.
Referring to his role as vice-president, Scott says “I've been at United Aqua Group for about a year and a half now. We are in the pool and spa industry, of which I have been apart for 21 years, believe it or not. It's a wonderful place to work because what we strive to do is to serve our members”.
How does the rebate process work at UAG?
Scott’s team, as well as the accounting function and strategic vendor partnerships, are working together on a very regular basis taking in rebate information and then processing, reconciling, verifying, and then allocating rebates out to all of their owner members.
Scott is responsible ultimately for all of that and making sure that everything works properly. The background is they work with about 265 different vendors, primarily manufacturers in the pool and spa industry. And most of them are good enough to provide rebates to our owner members simply for buying their products. Their owners purchase products through us, the vendors offer rebates, which we pass along in their entirety to our owners.
Frustrated with using spreadsheets
Scott says “Were we struggling with manual processing and having to use Excel spreadsheets for everything? Yes. Yes, indeed. So, when you are working with as many vendors as we are, again, about 265. And you are trying to receive and process and analyze spreadsheets from each and every one of them and then compare them to our own purchase records and our own systems, that is a recipe for, if not disaster, I would say frustration”.
“It's just a tremendous amount of work and processing and manual effort and plugging in formulas and making calculations and checking one thing against another. So that kind of activity strikes me as something that a crazy person would choose to do, because they really don't want to enjoy their work life at all”.
Rebates are a big deal
Scott says “Rebates are such an important part of our world, just for purchasing products, our member owners earn rebates. They're applied to virtually every purchase they make. So they are a really, really big deal. And it's happening every day. To some extent, rebates come into our world and our transactions and effect our owner experience every single day. And so, to get it right, and to have everybody be on the same page and to have a system that we can count on, is extremely critical. There's no exaggerating that”.
The realization that UAG needed a rebate management system
The UAG team knew for a long time, long before Scott even started and so on, that they should try to come up with a different way of processing all of their rebates. It was clearly obvious that it was causing a lot of pain and challenge for them. That underlying feeling was always there for them. Rebates have been a part of the pool and spa industry in a variety of ways for a very long time, for whatever reason, it's just been a long-term part of our industry and of our business.
Scott says “I think the realization that there had to be a better way was always there. And then when we actually made the decision to say, "Enough already, let's really research some possibilities." And we saw that Enable was out there, and by the way, Enable really stood out quickly”.
Finding Enable was an exciting prospect
When Scott came on board and was asked to help find a better way to manage their rebates. Himself and his team started to do some research and they found Enable. Scott says “It was as if the heavens had opened up. And all of a sudden, there was light shining down on us. I mean, that was really how excited we were about the prospect of having calculations made automatically and having data flow automatically and regularly from our system into Enable”.
“And once we worked with the Enable team to get all of the programs or trading programs set up. We saw that everything was calculating the way we expected. We realized that we had achieved what we wanted to achieve”.
Enable is ahead of the game
Scott says “True story, if you guys have any really serious competitors in terms of system capability and what you're able to offer, I'm not sure who they are. We did find some who claim to do some of the things that Enable does, but it became very apparent very quickly, that Enable was ahead of the game and also in a constant ongoing development process, which was a great appeal to us when trying to decide on a partner”.
“So again, we knew, I think early on that we had to come up with another way to manage these rebates. And when we all got together and threw up our hands and said, "This is no longer an option. We have to find a better way." And started to do the research, then it was really a no brainer once we got details on Enable, and we just took it from there”.
What is the main reason UAG picked Enable?
Scott says “Well, in terms of choosing Enable, and I believe personally that in business, it always comes down to the people. You can have a great system, and obviously that's what Enable is. Enable is a tool and it's a piece of software or whatever you want to call it, but for us, it was and continues to be about the quality of the people that we've been working with at Enable. So, the real answer about why we chose Enable started with a wonderful young lady named Hope who gave us a tremendous demo. It was very straightforward. It was simple. It was clear. She answered all of our questions and we were very impressed”.
Scott continues to say “And without having had that, we probably never would have chosen Enable. So really, Hope deserves a tremendous amount of credit herself. Then we had, I think the privilege of working a little bit with Andrew Butt directly. He was very flexible, in terms of working out a deal that was appropriate to get us signed on. Which we were elated to work out. And then from there, the implementation team has just been extraordinary to work with”.
How does Enable compare then to the way UAG were previously doing things?
Scott says “There's no comparison at all between Enable and the way we used to do things other than to say we were mired in a clunky, manually-driven nightmare. And now we have a system that makes the calculations for us, and that comes with such incredible human support that I can't imagine doing it any other way”.
The Enable implementation and customer success team are second to none
Scott first started out with Enable by having a demo of the software and then got the chance to talk and work with Enable’s CEO Andrew Butt. Scott says “Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I've been blown away by the people and the support. I want to say a big thanks to Corey and Lukasz on the customer success team for putting up with us and helping us every step of the way with an unbelievable patience, deep seated expertise, organizational skills, keeping us all on track, not dropping a ball and never missing a beat. These guys are rock solid, incredible people to work with. Who have made all the difference in the world, because Enable is a sophisticated rebate management system”.
Enable has a lot of capabilities. Therefore, there is a lot to it. There's a lot of substance there. And even though it's easy to use, it does take some time to get everything set up properly, so that you are sure that all the calculations are working as you expect.
Scott says “Well, these guys, Corey and Lukasz, have just been truly incredible. Tirelessly helping us, weekly calls, regular meetings, any support that we need to make sure that everything is spot-on-perfect”.
In addition to that, UAG also worked with a dedicated Customer Success Manager, Matt Haynes. Scott says "He has been delightful to work with, asks all the right questions, we get a regular check-in and follow up with Matt, and we can count on him to make sure that if it's, say something that we're looking for in terms of development in the system, or some specific need that we have, that he's listening, and he’s able to arrange discussions with the engineers”.
Scott says “We've had meetings with them to offer our input on some additional features that we would like to see in Enable. We feel like we're always being heard on that front. It's exciting to be a part of the development of Enable and to be able to make a little bit of a contribution and chime in on some stuff that you can add into the system, to the benefit of all of your clients”.
Why do you think others should consider a system like Enable?
Scott says: “I will put our crazy rebate programs up against anybody else's in any industry, and I am very confident that ours will match a lot of others, on just the amount of detail, different tiers, different thresholds to meet, different percentages for this or that".
“If you are working with rebates, and you want to go to work and not tear your hair out, you should work with Enable. If you're working with rebates and you want to work with an incredible group of people, who's just going to make the whole process infinitely easier, than you want to work with Enable”.
“I think that anybody who's working with rebates in any way, shape or form, should use Enable. It's an absolute no-brainer. If you think that your rebate programs are complex and too special for Enable, and that you're not going to be able to load them in and have Enable make the calculations, you're wrong”.