Understanding Accounts Payable - Key Terms, Definitions & Meanings

In the world of construction, managing finances can often feel like navigating a maze. To make things a bit easier, we’ve put together a handy glossary of key accounts payable terms.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, this guide will help you understand the essential lingo and processes that keep your finances running smoothly.

Why Read This Accounts Payable Glossary:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the accounts payable process and key terminology
  • Discover how AP automation can help you save time and money
  • Improve your ability to manage invoices, payments and supplier relationships
  • Enhance your company's financial reporting and cash flow management

What is Accounts Payable?

Accounts payable represents the money your business owes to suppliers and vendors for goods or services received but not yet paid for. Think of it as a tab you need to settle.

Every time you receive materials, equipment, or sub-contract work for your projects, these transactions are recorded as accounts payable. It’s a crucial component of your company’s short-term liabilities, reflecting the obligations that need to be paid off within a stipulated period.

Effective management of accounts payable ensures that your business maintains good relationships with suppliers by paying invoices promptly, avoiding late payment penalties and maintaining a healthy cash flow.

In essence, accounts payable is not just about settling debts; it’s about managing financial commitments efficiently to keep your business operations smooth and your supplier relationships strong.

Accounts Payable vs. Accounts Receivable

While accounts payable (AP) is all about the money your business owes to suppliers and vendors, accounts receivable (AR) is the flip side — it’s the money that customers owe to you.

Both AP and AR are crucial for maintaining your financial health, but they sit on opposite sides of the balance sheet. AP affects your liabilities, reflecting your short-term obligations, while AR impacts your assets, showing the money you expect to receive.

Together, they play a significant role in your net working capital, which is vital for keeping your operations running smoothly and investing in growth opportunities.

Managing both AP and AR effectively is like walking a financial tightrope. You need to ensure that you pay your bills on time to maintain good supplier relationships and avoid late fees, while also making sure that your customers pay you promptly to keep your cash flow healthy.

This delicate dance requires careful coordination and strategic planning. Mastering the balance between AP and AR means achieving financial stability for your business, allowing you to meet your obligations and fund new projects seamlessly.

By keeping a close eye on both, you can ensure that your construction business remains robust and ready for future growth.

Understanding the Accounts Payable Process

The accounts payable (AP) process starts when you receive an invoice and ends when you make the payment.

In between, there’s a lot of action: verifying the invoice, matching it with purchase orders, approving it, and finally, making the payment. It’s a well-choreographed routine that keeps your business moving efficiently.

To better understand this process, let’s define some common AP terms:

  • An invoice is a bill sent by the supplier detailing what you owe for the goods or services provided
  • A purchase order (PO) is a document you send to a supplier to request these goods or services, acting as an official confirmation of your intent to buy.
  • Payment terms are the agreed timeline for paying the invoice, such as Net 30 days, which means payment is due within 30 days of the invoice date.

Mastering the AP process is crucial for maintaining good relationships with your suppliers and ensuring the smooth operation of your construction projects.

Automating Accounts Payable

Automating accounts payable (AP) is a game-changer for construction businesses aiming to streamline operations and boost efficiency.

One of the primary benefits is the reduction in manual data entry, saving time and minimising errors. Automation ensures that invoices are processed quickly and accurately, freeing up your team to focus on more strategic tasks.

AP automation also streamlines invoice processing and payment. Automated systems handle the entire invoice lifecycle, from receipt to approval to payment, with minimal human intervention.

This means invoices are matched with purchase orders and approved based on predefined criteria, reducing the need for manual checks and follow-ups.

Another key advantage of AP automation is the streamlined invoice processing and payment. Automated systems can handle the entire invoice lifecycle, from receipt to approval to payment, with minimal human intervention.

Beyond just processing invoices, automation provides real-time visibility into your financial picture. You can easily track invoice status, monitor cash flow, and generate reports, allowing for better decision-making and financial planning. That’s helpful!


Accounts Payable Glossary

Accounts Payable (AP): The money your business owes to suppliers and vendors for stuff you’ve bought but haven’t paid for yet. Think of it as your company’s tab.

Accounts Payable Automation: Using technology to make the accounts payable process less of a headache. It cuts down on manual tasks and boosts efficiency, so you can focus on more exciting things — woohoo!

Accounts Payable Process: The journey from receiving an invoice to making payment. It involves verifying, matching, approving, and finally, paying the bill.

Accounts Payable vs. Accounts Receivable: Accounts payable is money you owe, and accounts receivable is money others owe you. Think of them as the yin and yang of your business finances.

Accrual: Recording revenues and expenses when they are earned or incurred, regardless of when the cash actually flows. It’s all about timing.

Automation: The use of technology to streamline and simplify the accounts payable process, cutting down on manual tasks and improving efficiency. Think robots doing your paperwork!

Balance Sheet: A snapshot of your company’s financial health at a given moment, showing what you own and what you owe. It’s like your financial selfie.

Cash Flow: The movement of money in and out of your business. Positive cash flow is like a warm hug; negative cash flow, not so much.

Credit: An accounting entry that represents either a decrease in assets or an increase in liabilities or equity. Think of it as money going out or obligations going up.

Creditor: Someone your business owes money to. They’re the folks sending you those invoices you need to pay.

Debit: An accounting entry that represents either an increase in assets or a decrease in liabilities or equity. It’s like adding money to your wallet or paying down your debts.

Days Payable Outstanding (DPO): The average number of days your company takes to pay its bills. Lower is better — your suppliers will love you for it.

Discount: A lovely reduction in the price of something, usually offered as an incentive for early payment.

Early Payment: Settling your bills before the due date, often to take advantage of discounts or just to keep your suppliers happy.

Financial Statements: The reports that tell the story of your company’s financial performance. Think income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement.

Financial Report: A detailed summary of your company’s financial performance over a specific period. It’s the big picture view of your financial health.

General Ledger: The master list of all your financial transactions. It's like the Hogwarts library for accountants, where every entry has a place.

Invoice: A bill sent by a supplier detailing what you owe for goods or services received. It’s the official “You owe us” note.

Invoice Capture: The process of collecting and digitising invoices, so you don’t have to chase paper around the office.

Invoice Processing: The whole shebang from receiving an invoice to paying it, ideally without any hair-pulling.

Late Payment: Missing the payment deadline, which can lead to grumpy suppliers and pesky late fees.

Liability: The financial obligations or debts your company owes to others. It’s the stuff you have to pay back, like loans, invoices or IOUs.

Liability on a Company’s Balance Sheet: The section of the balance sheet that lists all the money your company owes. It’s the financial “to-do” list.

Managing Accounts Payable: The art of keeping track of what you owe, paying your bills on time and making sure your cash flow stays healthy.

Net Income: The profit left after all expenses, taxes, and costs have been subtracted from total revenue. It’s the “bottom line” or the financial scorecard.

Payment Processing: The act of handling and executing payments to your suppliers. It’s the part where money actually leaves your account.

Payment Terms: The rules of the payment game, like “pay in 30 days for a discount” or “pay now to avoid a late fee.”

Purchase Order: A document you send to a supplier to request goods or services. It’s the official handshake that says, “Let’s do business.”

Supplier: The folks who provide the goods and services your business needs. They’re the ones sending you all those lovely invoices.

Vendor: Another term for supplier, but let’s be honest, “vendor” just sounds fancier.


Wrapping it up

There you have it — a comprehensive glossary of key accounts payable terms tailored for the construction industry. Understanding these terms and processes can help you navigate your financial responsibilities with confidence and efficiency.

Whether you’re managing invoices, balancing your books, or considering AP automation, knowing the lingo is the first step to mastering your accounts payable.


Ready to Simplify Your Accounts Payable Process?

If you found this glossary helpful, imagine what automated accounts payable could do for your business! Streamline your workflow, reduce errors and save valuable time with Lentune’s AP automation solutions.

Ready to see how Lentune can transform your AP process?