The nerve center of every company I have ever been involved with is the accounts payable department. You probably would have expected Sales, Marketing, Merchandising, Human Resources, etc... Your last choice was probably the lowly accounts payable department. I mean, all they do is push paper and pay bills, right?
Yeah, that’s part of what accounts payable does, but they also get to see the underbelly of a company. No matter what “glib” talk goes on in a company, the bills have to be paid. If you ever want to really know what’s going on in a business, just become friendly with the person that runs accounts payable. They see all the bills from vendors and the expense reports from company owners and employees. They know how much is being spent, what is being purchased and who is spending money in the company. They are the first affected by tight cash flow…” the check's in the mail, etc.”, so they have a healthy chip on their shoulder when they see money being spent in ways that doesn’t make any sense to them. If you are an accounts payable clerk making a small salary, it is difficult for you to see expense reimbursements going out for golf dates and wine dinners.
Those two expenditures may have resulted in millions of dollars of business, but to the accounts payable staff it appears the sales guys got a free round of golf and some nice wine (let’s be honest, many of those golf dates and wine dinners are complete boondoggles and deserve the ire of people in the company).
Note to all company employees who are fortunate enough to go on golf outings and drink great wine on the company….don’t be a jerk and flaunt it around the company. Sooner or later that accounts payable clerk is going to find something you did wrong and try to bring you down, or at a minimum your expense report will go to the bottom of the pile. Best you downplay your “perks” and not make a big deal about the last time you played Pebble Beach.
Most “entertainment” items don’t get much attention in a company. However, golf and wine seem to generate a disproportionate amount of hostility in a company for expense report reimbursements. There is something about these two items that smacks of elitism and draws the ire of people in the company and others who may be looking at the company from the outside.
I wish that golf hostility were only limited to expense reimbursements. I worked at a company in the late 80’s that had a group of avid golfers. We were close to a golf course and could occasionally go on a long lunch and play nine holes in two hours. When it started to “get out” that we were doing this, the looks we got from people after coming back from lunch were very, how shall I say...COLD. Ironically, this company sponsored yoga classes, paid for gym memberships, encouraged employees to run/walk at lunch, etc. If I had run ten miles at lunch, I would have been a hero. Playing golf on the other hand was looked at like a group of guys going out to lunch to rob a gas station. I should have said we went for a two hour hike with sticks. That would have given our two hours a virtuous quality.
Wine is also one of those items that generates a high level of hostility. I have had accounts payable staffers bring me expense reports from salespeople complaining about the cost of a bottle of wine on the restaurant receipt...and this is in a wine company! I have to remind them that we are in the wine business and it’s ok to buy expensive wine, even if just to have a reference point against our wines. I think it goes back to the elitist attitude associated with wine. The industry doesn’t help itself from a perception standpoint, which I have mentioned in several past rants.
It seems like every 60 Minutes segment on the excesses of corporate America includes some reference to wine……..”the disgraced CEO of company X, spent $100,000 on wines during the year as he simultaneously embezzled the life savings of old ladies, widows and orphans.” Well of course he did…….he probably bought all the wine at a golf country club! He would have been better off if he had gone on “hikes with sticks” and drank “fermented grape juice.”