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Creative Lodging Solutions - Executive of the Year

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2016, Click to Enter The 2017 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer service

Company: Creative Lodging Solutions, Lexington, KY USA
Company Description: Creative Lodging Solutions (CLS) is an award-winning corporate lodging services provider that is passionate about great travel management service. Launched in 2002, CLS aims to disrupt the business travel industry by combining the values of flexible hotel and corporate apartment solutions with reliable travel expense and billing management. CLS has reserved over 13 million traveler nights.
Nomination Category: Management Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Executive of the Year - Hospitality & Leisure

Nomination Title: Della Deerfield, VP of Finance

Tell the story about what this nominated executive has achieved since 1 January 2016 (up to 650 words). Describe the impact he or she has had on your organization. Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.

Della Deerfield, VP of Finance, manages Creative Lodging Solutions’ (CLS) internal auditing process, forecasting, cash controls, and budgets. CLS is an award-winning travel management company that partners with clients to develop customized lodging programs that ensure business travelers adhere to their company’s travel policies while guaranteeing no unauthorized charges on their invoices. CLS aggressively negotiates hotel and corporate apartment rates, saving clients an average of 22%. They also provide consolidated, timely, and accurate billing coded to each client’s specifications.

In 2016, revenue exceeded $144 million after CLS increased their client base by 21%. The ongoing increase in market share following several years of fast-paced growth left the finance department struggling to keep up with the increased volume of hotel invoices and client billing despite increasing their staff. To better handle the increased workload, Della focused on process development and improvements and researched and invested in technology solutions.

After restructuring the finance department into two smaller departments, CLS invested in new software solutions for both. These technologies are streamlining the billing and collections processes and resulting in faster client payments.

Put in place late summer, the collections software is semi-automating the collection follow-up process. This allows for consistency in messaging while speeding up the collections process which in turn also provides faster payments to hotel partners.
CLS processes more than 300,000 hotel invoices annually. To continue providing the exceptional level of service clients demand while fulfilling their commitment to accurate and timely client invoicing with no unauthorized charges, Della must ensure her departments are continuously improving the quality and efficiency of processing hotel invoices. The organization needed a solution that is capable of processing hotel invoices as they’re received while reducing data entry errors and that would also help better scale the hotel invoice processing service as they continue to grow.

Della located and began implementing a document management and workflow solution with optical character recognition to automate hotel invoice processing. Della’s strategic vision resulted in automating hotel invoice processing, providing a faster billing turnaround time for clients, and eliminating data entry errors.

CLS began testing the new document management system last fall for a limited number of hotels. During Q4, the system automatically matched and processed 34% of the hotel invoices it read. This workload represents the equivalent of more than one additional staff member and will increase as more hotels are set up for automated invoice processing.

Once fully implemented, the new system will allow the accounts receivable and billing teams to focus on what they do best – problem-solving and working directly with the hotels to correct billing errors – while eliminating the need for monotonous, repetitious data entry tasks and overtime. These process improvements will allow CLS to expand client services and contribute to the organization’s scalability during its ongoing growth.

Della’s team also incorporated a fixed asset module into their existing accounting system to set up, enter, and maintain company asset records. The new fixed asset module replaced an older system which the company had outgrown and includes monthly reports on depreciation and amortization. Having the fixed asset records in the accounting system allows for automation in month-end entries which provides more accurate reporting.

Della’s Finance Management Team was recently named the Management Team of the Year Gold Winner at the 2017 American Business Awards. CLS was named the Company of Year Gold Winner at the 2016 Golden Bridge Awards. They’ve also been named one of the Best Places to Work in Kentucky seven times and named to the Inc. 5000 List of the most entrepreneurial and fastest growing companies the past seven years.

Giving back to the community is an important part of CLS’ vision and culture. Employees receive one week of paid community service time as part of their benefits package and are encouraged to serve with the non-profits of their choice.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief accomplishments of this nominated executive since the beginning of 2016.

-Streamlined the billing, collections, and fixed asset management processes
-Restructured billing department to improve quality and efficiency
-Began automating hotel invoice processing which provides a faster billing turnaround time for clients, eliminates data entry errors, and reduces costs
-Implemented process improvements which will allow CLS to expand client services and contribute to the organization’s scalability during its ongoing growth
-Implemented a new standard credit approval process for new clients
-Implemented regular credit review processes and meetings to better assess credit risk and issues
-Designed finance components of new reservations system
-The Finance Management Team was named the Management Team of the Year Gold Winner at the 2017 American Business Awards
-Named to the Inc. 5000 List of the most entrepreneurial and fastest growing companies for the seventh year
-Serves on both the board and finance committee of Frontier Nursing University