The Arizona Charter Schools Association is a non-profit professional organization that engages a diverse coalition of policymakers, school leaders, and community members. This non-profit enables high-quality charter schools to flourish throughout Arizona.
Without the right purchasing solution, however, this wasn’t possible. So, the Arizona Charter Schools Association set out to find a smart and efficient way to make purchases. Their goal? To cut costs, create airtight purchasing controls, and save more than US$1 million.
Director of School Operations & Development
Damon Norris was the Director of School Operations and Development at Arizona Charter Schools Association. Before starting his career in education, Damon was a procurement specialist at Fortune 500 companies such as Nestle. His passion for improving processes, operations and cutting costs in schools led him to become a purchasing manager at Legacy Traditional Schools. Damon is now the Director of Operations at A+ Charter Schools.
In 2013, Damon Norris — a seasoned business leader who, in various capacities, worked at a string of Fortune 500 companies — took a decision that would take his career into places he had never imagined. Until that year, Damon had held a high-ranking, not to mention lucrative, position at Nestle Purina. By early 2014, however, he had taken a rare opportunity to work in education and, with it, a pay cut.
Damon, a newly appointed purchasing manager at a charter school in Phoenix, had found a new mission: to make a real impact in the field of education.
Damon desired a real impact; he wanted to see tangible improvements in how schools would be able to serve students. And with his solid credentials in Procurement, Finance and Operations, he was perfectly positioned to help schools where it really mattered — their finances and their ability to manage their money.
Damon wanted to leverage his deep knowledge as a procurement expert and his hard-won skills as a negotiator to improve the purchasing process at schools. He wanted to see money “flow back into classrooms rather than places that it shouldn’t be going.”
And by all accounts, he succeeded. Six months into the job, he was nominated as the Business Person of the Year. Since then, he’s taken on more responsibilities and tried to extend his expertise across a vast spectrum of charter schools in Arizona. As the Director of School Operations & Development at Arizona Charter Schools, he has helped realize over $1 Million in savings. What’s more, Damon has also helped grow one of Arizona’s charter school networks to double their number of students across 12 campuses.
“Working in a big company is like being on a big cargo ship — you make a decision, and the ship follows. Whereas schools, specifically charter schools, are different; it’s like being on a speedboat — you have to make decisions quick, and if you don’t get it right the first time, you invite trouble. And if you don’t make a decision, you’ll hit that levy soon.”
“I’ve worked for companies where it would take between six to eight weeks to get a purchase order approved. The process was manual, and involved a lot of paper shovelling. Many charter schools require that every single purchase be signed off by the CFO — this slowed down processes entirely, as it caused a bottleneck when the CFO was not in the office.”
“When I first started working for Charter Schools, there was no visibility into who was purchasing what and why. It was extremely hard to match invoices to P.Os, and there was no easy way to determine why something was purchased. There were duplicate orders and fake invoices that were paid, which led to these organizations losing over $50,000.”
“In many schools, it is hard to find out who is purchasing what and why something was purchased. The only internal controls established were that every purchase needed to be personally signed off by the CFO.”
“Procurify offers you the flexibility to implement a custom approval routing process that only allows certain purchases to be approved by certain people based on the respective dollar amount that they are authorized to approve. This way, for bigger purchases, more people have visibility into what is being purchased — this helps schools catch procurement fraud, non-compliant spend, or duplicate orders before they happen.”
“I’m no longer tied to my office. I could be in the field or a factory or the school and I can be issuing purchase orders, purchase requisitions or anything that I need from that location — I’m not tied to a location. I can get digital signatures from my boss who’s sitting on a beach in San Diego; I can get his approval on purchases without having to wait for him to get back.”
“With Procurify, the approval process has become dramatically easier. You get a purchase request, and everything can be approved within 30 minutes with Procurify — instead of 6-8 weeks, which is typically the timeline for more traditional processes.”
One of the biggest advantages in using Procurify’s platform was its ability to assist in negotiations with vendors.
“Because I am able to see all my past purchase orders and the amount of purchases I made with a vendor, I can now go into vendor negotiations with confidence. I can say “hey -— here’s the data, backed by Procurify’s reports”, and this capability allowed me to reduce costs across the board for our school by over 30%.”
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