The Joffrey Ballet is a Chicago-based international ballet company. Built on a foundation of passion for dance, The Joffrey Ballet’s mission is to spread that passion to the wider community.
When Gee Hoon Lim joined The Joffrey Ballet as Director of Finance, he was on the hunt for a way to increase efficiency at the organization. “I’ve actually worked in both tech and non-profits, so I'm primed to be on the lookout for innovative solutions that can help us improve our systems and eliminate manual work.” Historically, though, The Joffrey Ballet’s payroll and reimbursement process was highly manual and time-intensive.
“We were cutting an average of 30-50 checks per week,” explains Gee. The AP coordinator—who represents one-third of the The Joffrey finance team—devoted an entire working day each week to cutting checks: a highly protracted and time-consuming process that required multiple spreadsheets and submission forms.
The highly manual nature of the process also precluded real-time visibility into spend across departments. “We were trying to automate all this information to present to the departments, but it was difficult to time things right,” Gee says. It was impossible to give an accurate picture of real-time expenditures mid-month, which was frustrating.
Issuing corporate cards for employees’ use was another cumbersome process. “We had an American Express card in our production department, which was used in various different places and was thus heavily targeted for fraud,” explains Gee. “Every time [a fraud charge] happened, we had to close the card and wait for a new one from American Express.”
These various time-consuming manual processes were frustrating for the finance team and suboptimal for the department’s goals.
Gee and his team partnered with Ramp to streamline their fragmented process and gain efficiency across the business. “Ramp has really allowed us to navigate [payroll and reimbursement] in a way that makes it much more streamlined, so we can focus our time and resources and knowledge on creating other efficiencies and being a better steward of funds,” he says.
Ramp has eliminated the need for multiple forms and complicated processes and reduced the burden on The Joffrey’s AP coordinator. “People are able to be self-sufficient in a way they weren’t before and have insight into who’s spending what and how much they’re spending in a month,” says Gee. The team uses a Ramp-based project segment called project codes, which allows them to view spend by category within a given timeframe nearly instantly.
“Automation is honestly like a whole new world,” says Gee. “I could not believe how efficient and flexible it was—and not only our end, but also with vendors.” Ramp has expanded the range of payment options available to the Joffrey team, which leverages Ramp Bill Pay to pay invoices via credit card, ACH, and international wires.
“One of the things I was looking for, and which Ramp has done for me beautifully, is to consolidate credit cards, ACH payments, check payments, and reimbursements into one place and give us a full picture for insights,” says Gee.
Ramp gives Joffrey multiple options for corporate card issuance as well. “We now have so many options,” says Gee. “We can issue physical cards and close them when we need to. We can issue virtual cards. We can reimburse in real-time. We can issue cards to people who typically would not have gotten a card with the knowledge that we have intentional controls in place.” Using Ramp virtual cards has eliminated the fraud issues that had previously been a concern.
Ramp has completely overhauled the previously cumbersome reimbursement and payroll process, which has restored a full work day for Joffrey’s AP coordinator. “Now that the process is more streamlined and smooth, we have the time and resources to focus on other projects we had been pushing off,” says Gee.
Automating the process has also enabled real-time visibility into Joffrey’s spend management. “Now, we’re able to get departments an accurate picture in the middle of the month much more easily,” says Gee. Whereas the team previously had to wait until the end of the month to view the past 30 days of expenses, they now conduct a manual import twice each week for more granular, more up-to-date accounting. “It’s a much clearer picture, because we’re not trying to do the whole month within five days,” Gee says. “It’s a much smoother process where we can review things as we go.”
That smoother process has resulted in time-savings at month-close. A process that they can now complete in just 15 days, with all AP activities wrapped by day 5.
Ultimately, the product of these various time-saving measures is greater than hours, dollars, and cents. “It always comes back to the mission and being good stewards of donor funds and the revenues from our performances,” says Gee. “The more we’re able to quickly assess and accurately see where our current big picture is, the quicker we’re able to pivot if needed and make the correct decisions so we’re humming along with the mission.”