Managing Cash Flows in Real Time
by Mauro Ficara, Chief Financial Officer, TechnoAlpin Group, with Massimiliano Cirelli, International Cash Management Sales, UniCredit
TechnoAlpin is the global market leader in providing and supporting snowmaking technology worldwide, and has built up a strong reputation for its innovation, engineering precision and industry expertise. We have 25 locations managed through five subsidiaries in Europe, one covering US and Canada, and one in Australia, with 940 customers across 41 countries, including many Winter Olympic, World and European Cup venues. TechnoAlpin has grown very rapidly over our 20-year history, achieving consolidated net revenues of over EUR100m in 2009. All our production takes place in Italy, and we distribute to customers directly from our production facility. Therefore, our subsidiary companies, which typically employ ten to twelve people, are primarily engaged in sales, order management, client relationships and after-sales support.
TechnoAlpin is headquartered in Bolzano, northern Italy which has historical connections with Austrian Tyrol. This means that the region benefits from a unique mix of German and Italian language and culture that has strongly influenced the company’s ability to deliver solutions that combine creativity and engineering precision.
Striving for customer satisfaction
When I joined TechnoAlpin in 2006, our subsidiary companies, other than the Australian business, were already established. Most customer-facing activities, including invoicing and collections, were decentralised, which continues to be the case today. We had an arrangement in which head office invoiced the subsidiary company for fulfilled customer orders, and the subsidiary in turn invoiced the customer. The difficulty arose when head office was chasing the subsidiary for payment, but the subsidiary was still waiting for payment from the customer.
As a business, our primary driver at TechnoAlpin is customer satisfaction. If customers are satisfied, they will place repeat business, pay invoices in a timely fashion and act as ambassadors for the company. Spending time addressing internal issues between subsidiaries and head office is counterproductive to our customer satisfaction objective, and detracts from our customer focus. Consequently, we were keen to find a solution to our internal invoicing processes to centralise cash flow while ensuring that business unit staff spent less time communicating with head office on outstanding invoices, and more time on customer-facing activities.