Lara O’Connor Hodgson, cofounder of NOWaccount, an innovative invoice payment system, can guarantee that your customers pay on time and in full for the products and services they buy from your B2B or B2G company. NOWaccount functions like a credit card to give business owners quick access to the monetary value locked in their outstanding accounts receivable invoices.
NOWaccount promotes healthy cash-flow and shields companies from revenue interruptions that can result in financial instability that has the potential to threaten business survival. NOWaccount mitigates the risk inherent in accounts receivable payment policies that favor the customer and returns the process to what it’s intended to be.
Lara O’Connor Hodgson grew up in Atlanta, Ga., where she still lives and works. She’s a serial entrepreneur who launched her first venture while still in elementary school. “I started making barrettes for myself and when my friends told me they liked them and wanted to have some, I sold them to friends,” she said.
Business took off when the owner of her favorite ribbon store questioned why she was buying so many yards of merchandise, prompting Hodgson to show her the unique and lovely barrettes she’d made. The store owner was impressed and asked to place an order. Suddenly, the third-grader found herself operating a thriving small business and employing her mother. But as the venture took up more of her time, her mother suggested that operations cease, so she could keep up with her homework.
Hodgson went on to graduate from Georgia Tech at the top of her class with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, one of only two women in her class to do so. USA Today named her an All-USA College Academic Top 20 student. “I thought I’d become an Aerospace Engineering professor,” she said. But when one of her Georgia Tech professors suggested that she pursue entrepreneurialism, she instead embarked on a career as a consultant at McKinsey, eventually leaving to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School.
Hodgson later married and became a mother herself. Caring for her two children caused her to recognize a need for a delivery system that would make it easier for parents to provide a basic nourishment, water, for their children. In 2008, that need motivated Hodgson to found Nourish, purified water packaged in a patented spill-proof bottle that’s designed for infants and toddlers.
Nourish quickly experienced phenomenal growth and was picked up by Whole Foods and other large grocers. Hodgson was thrilled by the orders flying in the door, but dismayed that the large companies on which the success of her startup depended often waited up to 120 days to make good on invoices. “They’d take sometimes three or four months to pay and it was killing my cash flow,” she said. “I couldn’t pay my suppliers without difficulty. Whole Foods refused to pay with a credit card. I was trying to get paid.”
According to a 2016 study by Atradius, a global credit insurance and collections service, 93 percent of B2B companies have experienced late payments of receivables. When customers fail to pay on time, some business owners have no choice but to resort to credit card or bank financing to shore up cash-flow as they struggle to meet expenses such as payroll, rent and utilities.
“Innovation comes from the demand side, not the supply side,” Hodgson said. When she couldn’t find the right barrettes for her hair, she made them. When her children were very young and she tried to get water into them without making a mess, her inner engineer drove her to create an upgraded version of the standard baby bottle and patent the process. When slow paying customers wreaked havoc on her start-up’s finances, she sought a way to enable business owners like herself to get invoices paid quickly and with a minimum of fuss, regardless of how big companies chose to operate. “When you tell me I can’t do something, that is exactly what I’ll go ahead and do,” Hodgson proclaimed. “I care about impact.”
Prospective NOWaccount members must first be approved and they will then become eligible to submit for review B2B or B2G customers whom they’d like to enroll. Once accepted, customers are invoiced as usual and the full amount due, minus a 3 percent processing fee, will be deposited into the member’s bank account within five business days. Customers continue to make checks payable to the business as usual, the only difference being that payments are mailed to a NOWaccount post office box when the customer is ready to pay. For more information visit nowaccount.com.
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