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Comments for Triton survey on invoicing

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Captains need detailed invoices to keep boss, boat happy

 

Ideas, suggestions and advice about invoices from yacht captains:

The invoices to which you refer are very important and should be itemized completely. The importance cannot be overstated, as many yachts are de-facto businesses as well, and many expenses can be amortized on the owner’s taxes. The invoice also “keeps everybody honest”, as I have had several yard periods where we were over-billed and a properly itemized invoice proved the point. The invoice itemization is also important inasmuch as it is often a proof of date purchased for warranties, maintenance intervals and the like.

Also, it’s very important for the captain to record the time aboard of the workers, even checking them in and out. Some work is done at the shop and I want to know what was done.

The most important thing about quotes is to be as honest and detailed as you can. Hidden costs and surprises will make boats not want to use you again.

It’s not the job; it’s the surprises you find along the way that leads to issues.

I would like to see vendors keep me better informed when a quote is being exceeded so there are no surprises at the end.

If you don’t take credit cards, put your wire transfer details on the invoice

Weak invoices begin with weak estimates and contracts. The contracting party allows this out of laziness or lack of knowledge. The contractor or vendor does this in order to increase profit through “unseen changes” and change orders. Yes, this is premeditated, and it happens all the time.

We require complete information on invoices. To not do so is negligent. We have worked for many different types of owners/managers with regard to their reporting requirements. Regardless, we believe that accurate and complete information is a required part of any employee’s job description. How/why would an owner/manager trust employees who do not submit complete and accurate information of any type, cost, time, log-keeping, schedule, etc.?

I personally want correct invoice or receipts to cover my own backside and prove how professionally I operate the vessel. Maybe that is some of the captain’s issues — not operating a vessel as a business with business management, planning, accounting, human resources, reporting, etc.

All the small details — including accounting and having adequate invoices and receipts — add up to a professional and well-run operation. Whether it is called a business or a yacht, it’s the same thing.

If you receive an estimate from a vendor, you should receive updates and clarifications if expenses start to exceed the original estimate. If I received an estimate for $1,000 I do not want to receive an invoice for $2,000 without some prior notice and explanation.

It’s all about accountability. We’re held by the owner to be accountable for the money we spend on his/her behalf. Therefore, anytime we deal with a vendor, be it a marina, contractor, agent or government office, we need to able to account for how we’ve spent the owner’s money.  Accurate and timely invoicing is a necessary component of this. The more complete an invoice is, the less chance there is for anyone who might be down the line in the review process to raise an eyebrow. Transparency is key. After all, the appearance of impropriety is often just as bad as impropriety itself, so shame on us as captains if we do not require a sufficient amount of transparency when doing business with vendors. Not doing so only leaves up open to unnecessary scrutiny and suppositions down the road.

Weekly Friday or Monday morning meetings are essential, as is interim billing. I like to pay every one or two weeks. If there is a billing issue then it’s easier with 40 hours than 4,000.

Invoices should include exact part numbers and quantities for any repair or replacement and especially for one-off yacht-specific equipment. The pricing contained in an invoice is an easy way for crew to compare pricing in the future. Even if it is not a one-off part, the filed invoice is the source of a previously vetted vendor, his contact details and bank details, along with the parts required again in the future. Much easier that letting your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages all over again.

We need decent invoices from vendors for our clients (yacht owner and/or broker) basically to justify or explain where their expense account funds are going and so they can see what exactly has been done in terms of repairs, maintenance, upgrades and modifications to their vessel.

Proper invoices are also crucial  for tax purposes. Most of our clients’ yachts are owned by corporations and they need to be able to categorize the work done. On our end, it’s also a good way for me to keep track of which vendors offer competitive prices.

If you get a detailed estimate or quotation for the work to be performed, then you do not require a detailed invoice, otherwise a more detailed invoice is necessary, depending on the complexity of the work performed. Remember, excess paperwork costs money. Some vendors that I trust, I tell them I do not need a detailed invoice; first timers, I want a very detailed ticket.

The captain/project manager should do their own billing. You must be on the job site 24/7 if possible and verify, log and confirm who and when workers start and stop work. Keep your own logs. You can not take a vacation when the vessel is in the yard.

Always expect a yard bill fight; never let it blindside you. Be prepared with your own time sheets. Sometimes you will be underbilled. Be honest with the yard and let them know this.

 

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Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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