With the rebate management platform Enable, B2B collaboration is simplified with maximum performance, which also improves “financial transparency and operational efficiency”. Andrew Butt, Co-founder and CEO of Enable will be discussing this in detail with us in this exclusive interview with TechBullion.
Could you please tell us more about yourself?
Andrew Butt, Co-founder and CEO of rebate management platform Enable. My two passions in life were always flying and computing and I had dreams of being an airline pilot. I was lucky to stumble into a flying school at the age of 12, and the owners gave me some great advice: “stick to aviation as a hobby and make a career out of computing.” It was inspirational being around entrepreneurs learning to fly. And they all had software challenges! Therefore I formed my first software company as a teenager to help solve these challenges for them. I left school at the young age of 15 and compressed five days a week of schooling into four hours on Saturday mornings.
I met my co-founder, Denys Shortt OBE, at age 16 who was already an established entrepreneur building the DCS Group, the largest distribution company for health, beauty and household products in the UK. Since then we have founded three companies together, the latest and most exciting of which is Enable, a modern, SaaS for B2B rebate management.
What is Enable and what unique services are you bringing to the market?
Enable empowers distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers to make better trading decisions to drive mutually profitable growth, while improving cash flow and reducing risk. Companies use Enable to create, execute and track their full range of trading programs, helping them to work seamlessly with their trading partners so they can better serve customers.
Unlike other platforms, we cater for virtually every conceivable deal mechanism that exists – product specific, location specific, defined time periods, tiers, different units of measure, and so on. We also provide collaboration tools so trading partners can review the deals being proposed to them online, comment on them, and sign them off. There’s also a full audit trail to show who did what and when.
We’re here to democratize B2B deals and rebates, with software that’s accessible, affordable and usable by every distributor, manufacturer and retailer. Most people don’t dream about managing rebates — it’s not the most exciting space! But we’ve injected modern Silicon Valley SaaS into this area and we are disrupting the category making us the go to platform for rebate management.
Could you tell us more about your history and experience in the software industry and what inspired you to create a platform like Enable?
Rebates, incentives and trading agreements were hugely important for DCS and their trading partners, so they wanted a smart, efficient way to manage their many complex trading agreements with suppliers and customers. But it couldn’t find a single solution that met all its needs forcing DCS to resort to manual tools like Excel spreadsheets.
Denys and I realized that the complex rebate agreements that were giving DCS a headache were also giving problems to every other distributor in over 50 other sectors. There are more than $1 trillion of B2B rebates in North America and Europe with the vast majority being managed poorly.
We had initially built a custom solution for DCS and version 1.0 was not the prettiest. But every manufacturer, customer and buying group who saw it, wanted to purchase it. At the time, Denys and I had a steadily growing and profitable software engineering business, with a team of 100 supporting customers in many sectors. But the opportunity to launch a SaaS product to solve the rebate problem was so compelling that we pivoted the whole company in this new direction.
Before Enable, what problems were distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers facing with their trading programs?
We find a lot of distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers are resorting to excel spreadsheets to manage either customer or supplier rebates because they are undeniably easy to use, widely available and highly adaptable. However, when their deals get too complex they risk of human error increases and they become unmanageable. The smallest error can result in losses of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars or even a delay in payment, meaning disputes can occur between trading partners.
We also have found that on average, 4% of vendor rebate claims are missed which can have a large negative impact on the bottom line for businesses in industries where rebate agreements are commonplace. This is due to relying on manual processes. When companies implement Enable, they are often astonished at the amount of rebate income they have missed claiming.
There is also a lack of collaboration when signing off trading programs. We find that there is a lot of back and forth over email with trading partners to get a deal approved or contracts are filed away somewhere and forgotten about. To solve this issue it’s best to use an online platform where you can view all your trading agreements and have a clear audit trail and status updates.
What is the global market size of cloud-based B2B software solutions and what trends should we expect in 2021 and beyond?
Many IT departments have been slow to adopt SaaS, preferring to use on-premises solutions, but this model may soon all but disappear. At a time when Covid-19 has put a massive strain on budgets and SaaS is becoming more powerful, user-friendly and affordable, many companies are going to be increasingly focused on growing SaaS as a part of their operating expenditures instead of making the capital investments required to implement cumbersome legacy systems. Expect surging SaaS growth to continue in the post-Covid-19 era.
I predict we’ll see the rapid evolution of the SaaS model — companies will demand even greater flexibility, more robust onboarding services and support, increased functionality, and more user accessibility from SaaS providers. While I believe SaaS has emerged as the dominant model for digital productivity and communication tools, the market is becoming increasingly competitive. The innovations this competition produces will be the story for SaaS in 2021 and beyond.
In a saturated market, users have a lot of leverage. This is why the SaaS providers that offer more flexibility, high-quality onboarding support, responsive customer service, improved user-friendliness and expanded functionality will capture a larger share of that market. The most successful SaaS products are the ones that provide and enhance the essential features users are looking for: low cost of entry, flexible contracts and fees, strong customer support and a powerful, intuitive digital platform that can help employees collaborate and get the job done from anywhere.
In 2022, the software as a service (SaaS) market is estimated to be worth approximately 145 billion U.S. dollars.
Could you give us a walkthrough of the Enable platform and how to use it, any success stories to share with us today?
Enable is the system of record for trading programs and deals. We encourage buyers and sellers to set up all of their deals in Enable. Trading Programs is just one of the many apps available in Enable. It serves as a web-based rebate management system to help you streamline your business and be confident in your rebate earnings. It allows complex rebate agreements to be configured, will accurately calculate earnings for these agreements, and can then allocate the earnings across each source transaction line.
Enable offers analysis, modeling and forecasting tools to help buyers and sellers check the impact of their deals, negotiate and agree deals with their trading partners (typically suppliers, be also be customers) and get those deals signed off by the relevant people within their business and their trading partners’ business.
Collaborator allows you to easily and securely see and sign-off trading programs and program lines provided by your trading partners, and allows you to submit your transaction data directly to them. Collaborator also supports comments on trading programs, providing a hub for you to nurture your trading relationships and facilitating negotiations if proposed deals aren’t quite right!
Enable tends to pull in ‘master data’ (data on products and locations) and transaction data (purchases, and/or sales) from a company’s ERP system. Once deals are agreed, Enable calculates all the deal earnings, allows cash to be collected and/or paid against deals, and sends journal entries back to the accounting system.
We have found many distributors, manufacturers and buying groups in the UK and US who have had great success by implementing Enable. Including reclaiming lost rebate revenue, precious time saved and streamlining their internal processes. All our success stories can be found here – https://enable.com/customer-stories/
At what stage of development is Enable now and what is next on your roadmap?
At Enable we are constantly updating and improving our products every six weeks. This leaves our customers to focus on the day-to-day running of your business, whilst we maintain the tools being used.
Our newest piece of functionality is the Deal app. It allows you to set your Special Pricing Agreements and Ad-Hoc Deals up with ease. It also creates an agreement PDF, similar to the Trading Programs app, so that the sign off process with your trading partners will become a breeze.
We are also currently working behind the scenes on an exciting area called Organizations. This is a visual area to view the trading partners you work with, in addition to key information. We have lots planned for this area which will be heavily integrated within the Enable Apps and make collaboration easier for you and your trading partners. Watch this space!
For full transparency, we publish our product roadmap on our website – https://enable.com/roadmap/
Do you have any available opportunities for partners and investors at Enable?
We are always looking for partners and investors! From a partnership perspective, we have a big responsibility to get our product out into the market as fast as possible to benefit all of the manufacturers, retailers and distributors who participate in B2B deals. Anyone who can help us to do this faster through their customer base should get in touch with us.
In terms of investment, one of the things I have learnt is that we must always be raising investment. Significant investment will be required for Enable to make a major dent in the global supply chain of 50 industries. Fortunately, we have some amazing investors already onboard, and we are in the center of the world’s best ecosystem for software investors, in the heart of Silicon Valley. So competition for investment is quite tough, but any serious investor who would like to participate in a fundraise should get in touch!
Could you tell us about your team of experts and customer support?
As an ambitious, fast growing business, we are defined by the quality of our people. They aren’t just the face of Enable, they are our heart and soul. It is their ability that drives our success and delivers positive outcomes for our customers. Essentially, we are our people — and our people are free-thinking, trustworthy and passionately committed to excellence.
We have experts across engineering, product, revenue, IT, marketing and customers success. Our large team of software engineers use modern software technologies, and contribute to the technical design, implementation, testing, deployment, ongoing support and maintenance of the software.
Working in collaboration with the engineers, the product team ensures customer value is being realised through targeted product enhancements which are timely and documented clearly and sufficiently.
In terms of customer support not only do we have a fantastic customer success team who use their expert knowledge of the product to get our customers up and running as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We also have a 24/7 support service, ticketing system and a help center which explains everything you need to know about the product.
Our customers trust that they are in good hands, with employees capable of understanding complex problems and recognizing how software can be used to solve them.