By adopting digital commerce, Cortland is finding new ways for its procurement team to drive automation, save time, and unlock savings.
Cortland is an apartment community management and investment organization that operates more than 180 communities across the US, with more than 60,000 apartment homes. Cortland looks for ways to make its communities run more efficiently to ensure a quality experience for community teams and their residents. Increasingly, this means leaning into digital solutions.
When it comes to managing multi-family communities, ordering and distributing supplies to ensure the comfort and safety of residents is an important responsibility.
In the past, Cortland communities were purchasing for their individual needs using purchasing card accounts (known as P-Cards), and relying on expense reporting to manage. Each community was using different suppliers for office supplies, maintenance repair and operations (MRO), cleaning supplies, and other product categories relevant to community management.
According to Cortland procurement leadership team, this presented two challenges that were barriers to growing the organization in a scalable way: Community managers were spending too much time on ordering and paperwork that could be better spent on higher value efforts to improve the experience of residents, and Cortland was missing out on cost savings that could be achieved by consolidating suppliers and creating lists of products that could be used across all communities to realize economies of scale.
“Our community managers were spending too much time ordering, expensing, and waiting for what they needed to keep the communities running smoothly, whereas their time would be better spent outside of the office ensuring our residents were getting an excellent standard of service,” said Jonathan Kirn, Director of Ancillary Services at Cortland. “As we began using digital solutions to improve everything from amenity reservations to paying rent, we also needed a better solution to standardize what we were ordering across the communities and realize time and financial savings from doing so—this is what brought us to Amazon Business,” said Kirn.
When visiting communities during regular check-ins, Kirn learned that the communities were using personal Amazon accounts to source both every day and hard-to-find supplies. The community employees were comfortable navigating the store and ordering from it as in their personal lives, but ordering on individual accounts posed a possible security risk. This presented an opportunity for Cortland procurement leadership to partner with Amazon Business to deliver on what its internal customers were using, while leveraging business features to standardize and scale the offering to eliminate pain points in the procurement process.
“As we began using digital solutions to improve everything from amenity reservations to paying rent, we also needed a better solution to standardize what we were ordering across the communities and realize time and financial savings from doing so—this is what brought us to Amazon Business.”
— Jonathan Kirn, Director of Ancillary Services, Cortland
Cortland worked with Amazon Business to perform a Spend File Analysis, which uses a customer spending data to highlight themes and trends in purchasing habits to demonstrate how Cortland would be able to consolidate suppliers, realize efficiencies, and increase transparency into spending. This was done by evaluating the last 12 months of purchasing data and comparing to availability in the Amazon Business store to show specific areas of opportunity for cost and supplier reduction. Once the trends were evaluated and areas of savings were identified, Cortland procurement leaders were able to create essential Product Lists of the most commonly purchased items and then share the lists out to the community managers for easy reordering.
Beyond consolidating suppliers and delivering an experience their community teams were comfortable using, Cortland found that Amazon Business had unique tools and features that were built with procurement challenges in mind.
For example, Cortland is using the Pay by Invoice feature which allows each of its communities to order everything needed on a monthly basis from Amazon Business against a credit line, and receive one invoice from Amazon Business with 45-day payment terms. This allows each community to open one purchase order each month in its existing accounting system, receive one detailed invoice from Amazon Business for everything that was ordered in the store, and process one payment—eliminating the need for P-Cards and processing expense reports entirely while increasing visibility into spending and trends.
“We’ve discovered huge savings by purchasing light bulbs through Amazon Business, but we’ve also seen savings in other areas,” said Lauren Brown, Community Manager of Cortland Bryan Place in Dallas, Texas. “When we’ve had to change locks in the past for the retail doors, we had to rely on a locksmith. Our service manager was able to find the right parts on Amazon Business and change the locks himself, which saves us nearly $1,000 per instance. We always check Amazon Business first before ordering anything now,” said Brown.
Scott Purcell, Community Manager of Cortland Peachtree Corners in Atlanta has provided similar feedback: “We’re able to source most of our standard day-to-day items, like office supplies and bottled water as well as difficult-to-find maintenance parts. We’ve even seen a 50 percent cost savings with water filters. It also been easy to use Amazon Business, especially now that we’ve integrated it into our billing system,” said Purcell.
Going forward, Kirn plans to continue using the Amazon Business store and business tools to continually improve the way Cortland operates its apartment communities and to automate processes that allow community managers and residents to self-serve, while allowing the procurement team to deliver on its goals.
“The focus across industries, including our own, is how we can leverage technology to evolve beyond the status quo and deliver a top-notch experience,” said Kirn. “I’ve seen a lot of procurement innovations in the community management space, and Amazon Business’ platform is unique in that it can deliver on what our users expect, while simultaneously creating efficiency across geographies.”
“We’ve discovered huge savings by purchasing light bulbs through Amazon Business, but we’ve also seen savings in other areas. When we’ve had to change locks in the past for the retail doors, we had to rely on a locksmith. Our service manager was able to find the right parts on Amazon Business and change the locks himself, which saves us nearly $1,000 per instance. We always check Amazon Business first before ordering anything now."
— Lauren Brown, Community Manager, Cortland Bryan Place in Dallas, Texas
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