100 years of continuous service and contribution to a large community is a remarkable milestone, achieved by only a few schools, organizations, and businesses. Every decade brought new challenges that required the stewardship of St. Anthony High School in Long Beach, California to adapt to new circumstances.
In 2020, St. Anthony High School welcomed an enrollment of 445 students – drawn from 28 communities in the greater Long Beach area – who represent a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds. Donations from alumni and the community to fund scholarships enable tuition to remain among the lowest in the Archdiocese.
In smaller classes, students receive the recognition and personalized attention they deserve, and a strong college preparatory curriculum prepares each student for success in post secondary, career, and life. Every graduate meets the University of California admission standards with 100% of St. Anthony’s graduates going on to college or service in the military.
St. Anthony High School continues to trailblaze a new path in Catholic education leadership as they adapt to new ways of education, based on a combination of faith, technology, and human connection.
Joe Garrow holds an MBA from the University of Southern California, and a BBA in Marketing and Risk Management from the University Wisconsin Madison. As a Business Manager with prior experience in technology companies, Joe has helped to modernize St. Anthony’s financial processes by implementing 5 cloud-based solutions.
Although St. Anthony is (and has always been) one of the most viable and innovative high schools in the United States, it once suffered from an old-school purchasing process and relied on using on-premise solutions and paper purchase orders.
“I inherited someone else's work and I couldn't trust which version of reports were right or wrong. So I decided to… fix it,” explains Joe Garrow, Business Manager at St. Anthony High School. “I decided I needed to modernize things.”
St. Anthony continues to follow the wealth of tradition that has seen it through over 100 years of service, but holding onto outdated processes hasn’t been part of that legacy. In recent years, increased enrollment and additional funding allowed St. Anthony to make investments into new programs, facilities improvements, and technology.
With more money, came more responsibility. In 2017, the search for a modern purchasing process that would help support St. Anthony’s future financial stability began.
St. Anthony has a Principal and President model. In short, the Principal runs the daily operations, and the President runs the long-term development side of the school.
Before Procurify, St. Anthony's procurement process looked something like this:
While this may sound like a few simple steps, this process involves a lot of time and energy. And for a $6,000,000 school who processes a high number of purchase orders from a variety of departments and locations, an inefficient paper-based process like this leads to mistakes, and mistakes are costly.
“There was no system,” explains Garrow. “In the case of QuickBooks, we would punch in a line in QuickBooks PO number, 7613, but it didn't really mean anything because QuickBooks wasn't tracking the number.”
Specifically, there were several major problems:
Not only did these issues add unnecessary manual work, but the paper-based process failed to align with the technological advancements that St. Anthony was committed to trailblazing.
“The paper process was not allowing us the ability to control our purchasing process. And that was a problem because people could fill out purchase orders, but until you produce the P&L at the end of the month, you didn't know whether you were above or below the budget for that particular line.” says Joe.
Before coming to St. Anthony, Joe had worked half his career in technology companies so he brought experience leveraging and implementing cloud software. Joe was aligned with the St. Anthony tradition of providing leadership in Catholic education based on a combination of faith, technology, and human connection.
Joe had a vision to move St. Anthony’s entire financial system from paper and on-premise to electronic and on the cloud. With Joe’s experience working in technology and change management, St. Anthony recently moved from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online and wanted to continue creating a process that would be more accessible, efficient, and offer better controls.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a vision for change in the organization,” Joe explains. “I've implemented five cloud-based solutions and for the most part we’ve managed to get off of on-premise solutions.”
In the search to modernize a traditional process, Joe evaluated quite a few options, from the smaller vendors to the fully-customizable enterprise solutions. Ultimately, Procurify proved to be the winner because of its feature capability, the number of manual steps it automated, and overall dedication to customer support.
“Procurify did what I wanted the system to do.” remarks Joe. “Half of them were manual and a half were automated. With Procurify, it's a system that's doing the work. And from a support standpoint, Procurify has a much better support system to be able to get this thing up and running.”
St. Anthony’s innovative approach to education and resource development, and its philosophy of “renewal from the inside out”, has enabled the school’s leadership team to meet challenges with clarity and creativity. Keeping with that spirit of renewal, Joe has helped modernize one of the oldest schools in Los Angeles.
Since implementing Procurify, St. Anthony has seen several improvements across the board. In particular, three major areas were revamped:
As a school of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, St. Anthony is required to produce a monthly P&L report. Joe needed the ability to capture all line items and allocate them to their respective parent financial account codes. With Joe’s migration to the cloud, St. Anthony can now manage a large chart of accounts despite being a smaller business.
Part of the challenge of managing a large chart of accounts is trying to track all the individual purchases to the specific department and account code. Procurify helps capture purchase information at the request level and automatically connects the data to the correct line items and department to show purchasers their budget in real-time.
“On both sides of the equation, I’m no longer the bad guy!” exclaims Garrow. “Procurify is the bad guy because the system is telling you that you have exceeded your budget line item. Managers can now see what I was seeing, which is whether you were within or outside of the budget.”
Department heads are not only more aware of their budgets, but St. Anthony now has a system to proactively control which purchases get approved before any money has been committed.
“I have no idea how much time I've saved because there was so much time wasted before,” Joe continues. “I couldn't tell you how long it would take to process something before Procurify because you’d have to track it and back then we didn’t have a system to do that.”
St. Anthony previously relied on paper purchase orders to get purchases approved and tracked. On top of creating unnecessary interruptions, the paper process created a lot of ambiguity in the process with PO numbers not being trackable in QuickBooks.
With paper purchase orders, people could write whatever they wanted in the fields. This made it difficult to understand what departments ordered, how purchases were being charged, or when something was purchased.
“We no longer have paper purchase orders, and now all the formatting is consistent.” St. Anthony still needs to write paper cheques for a few purchases, but all other work for the business office is now done electronically. No one has to distribute paper forms, knock on office doors for a signature, or try to figure out where the forms went.
“I still crank out paper checks for certain things that we’re doing. But a lot of the work I do for the business office gets done electronically with online banking. We went from 200 cheques a month to 100.”
“2020 is our 100th anniversary. We're celebrating it by not having any paper purchase orders!”
St. Anthony moved from processing and storing carbon copy purchase orders to managing purchasing from any device with access to the internet.
Instead of requiring physical signatures from all approvers of a purchase order, Joe created custom dollar thresholds so certain high-value purchases would bypass certain approvers and be handled at the appropriate level. This removed approval bottlenecks and dramatically reduced all the back and forth communication about individual purchases.
On top of saving the team time and effort, the removal of physical signatures and being cloud-based meant more flexibility in being able to work from anywhere.
“I do a lot of work from home at night and on the weekend. Whether it's inputting the budget, running requests through, or approving purchase orders,” explains Joe. “During the week, if the phone's ringing, I don't have a lot of time to do some of the things that I like to do which is to be able to produce reports for people.”
Joe now has more time to focus on value-added tasks like managing a $1,000,000+ financial aid budget or figuring out the next technology he will implement to differentiate St. Anthony from other schools. And it’s not just Joe who has benefited from a more convenient and accessible purchasing process.
"Our president has been here a long time and now she has access to everything on her phone. So she can just approve stuff when she’s out of the office. That’s pretty cool,” Joe explains.
Everyone has more time to support business operations, too.
It is from this willingness to embrace a steady course of continuous renewal that has allowed St. Anthony to serve students and the community of Long Beach for 100 years.
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