At first glance, Ren\u00e9 Lacerte, the founder and CEO of Bill.com, one of the nation\u2019s leading business payments networks, seems like many other successful serial entrepreneurs. He\u2019s from a family of entrepreneurs (he\u2019s the 4th generation) and has more than 20 years of experience in the finance, software, and payments industries, making him one of the most experienced players in the fintech space. With all that experience, Ren\u00e9 realized business owners needed a way to simplify the payments process, so they could better focus on growing their businesses. So, he set out to redefine how business payments are made and launched Bill.com in 2006. And for seven consecutive years, Ren\u00e9 has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the accounting industry by Accounting Today. But dig deeper, and you\u2019ll find more than a successful entrepreneur. You\u2019ll find that Ren\u00e9 Lacerte is driven by passion. He wants to\u2014he needs to\u2014help small and midsize business owners be more productive. Ren\u00e9 is determined to help SMBs get through the COVID-10 pandemic\u2014and beyond. Recent research shows that 90% of the U.S. businesses surveyed still rely on paper checks and other manual processes. Issues like long approval cycles and missing information on invoices are the leading cause of payment delays and missed discounts. It\u2019s a time-consuming, inefficient, and costly way to work. I recently talked to Ren\u00e9 about how Bill.com not only helps small business owners get paid faster and pay their bills on time but how it frees them up to focus on the revenue-generating aspects of their businesses. You\u2019ve served the small business space for a long time. How do you think businesses are going to do this year? Ren\u00e9 Lacerte: SMBs are resilient. They do everything they can to make their businesses last. And from what we\u2019ve seen, more survived than people thought. There has been attrition, of course, that we can see on Main Streets [across the country] where there are buildings for rent that weren\u2019t before. Some won\u2019t make it, but as a whole, SMBs are quite persistent. Resilience and persistence\u2014I learned that from my parents and grandparents. They had many businesses, and I saw them push through hard times, push through with their clients, and extend them extra credit when they needed it. COVID-19 has been hard on so many small businesses, pushing them to places they weren\u2019t ready to go yet. Ren\u00e9: One of the things we\u2019ve seen is the pandemic, in some ways, is an inflection point highlighting the need for digital tools. If you\u2019re going to persist, you need tools to help you do it better and more efficiently, while working remotely. Streamlining your business processes will help these go hand-in-hand. And that\u2019s something we at Bill.com do well\u2014we help our customers by making it possible to run your business from anywhere. We put the back office in your back pocket. And all of it is right on your phone. For example, I can look at every invoice, every payment I\u2019ve ever made for Bill.com on my phone. And even though I\u2019ve changed my phone four times since I started the company, everything\u2019s here. I couldn\u2019t have that 10 years or 15 years ago. In addition to being able to do business anywhere, I can be very efficient about it. When I\u2019m deciding whether to make a payment or collect from a customer, I have all the information I need. I\u2019m not wasting time walking around the office, looking for files, looking for employees, looking for historical data that may help me make a decision. All that time gets saved. And that\u2019s why our customers tell us they save 50% to 75% of the time it takes to manage that back office. Using a program like Bill.com allows business owners to run leaner\u2014and smarter businesses. You don\u2019t need to have as many people in your accounting department, for instance. Ren\u00e9: And you\u2019re also being more strategic. The thing I heard from my parents and grandparents was \u201cCash is King.\u201d And, what I heard from them was stretch out the payables, pull in the receivables. Intuitively, we all pay our biggest bills at the latest possible date. And we all ask the people who owe us to pay us. But, if you have a tool that does that, then you can be more strategic about your billing cycle, your customers, your suppliers, how you\u2019re paying them, and managing that cash flow. So, it\u2019s not just doing it with fewer people; it\u2019s also doing it better. Our technology enables collaboration and allows business owners to be more strategic. Tell us about the process. Ren\u00e9: Look at the typical pay cycle if your payment process isn\u2019t digitized. Documents come in, and they have to get filed and entered into the accounting system. Then you have to find out, should you pay this bill or not? Did you get what you asked for? Were you happy with the service? Do you want to work more with that supplier? Is this customer using more of your product? [To get answers] you have to walk around the office, looking for people, leaving sticky notes, asking people what they think. You leave a message on somebody\u2019s desk, and then it can get lost. Or you want to see what the actual terms of the contract are and have to search for it in the filing cabinet, where it may\u2014or may not be. This is what I experienced. And so now let\u2019s fast forward to Bill.com\u2019s process. When you receive a paper document, you take a picture with your phone or scan it with the scanner digitizing it. If you have 10 documents that came in via paper, you can throw all 10 in the scanner and scan them all at once. If you get an electronic document that comes in via email or PDF, you just send it to your bill.com account email address. And now you have one place for all your files. And now we do the data entry around it, using AI machine learning to say what vendor the document is for, how much, and when it\u2019s due. We\u2019ve taken care of all that walking around and eliminated all the many steps a business traditionally had. When it\u2019s approved and ready to be paid, we\u2019ve now eliminated printing and signing the check, stuffing it in an envelope, mailing it, and then receiving the reconciliation later. All that goes away for small business owners because we\u2019ve taken care of the payment. Plus, because we manage all the payments, the risk of check fraud goes away. Nobody knows your bank account numbers. We can help businesses have a more secure process. When you eliminate filing, data entry, workflow, printing checks, and reconciling payments\u2014that\u2019s how you save customers 50% of their time or more. We have more than 100,000 businesses that use us to automate their payables and receivables, but they interact with 2.5 million network members electronically. That\u2019s another example of how we\u2019ve eliminated steps. That\u2019s my focus\u2014I like efficiency and eliminating unnecessary steps. And that\u2019s what we do. Bill.com is regulated by the states as a licensed money transmitter. What do you see going forward? Ren\u00e9: What I see in our customer base is that the hybrid model is now part of the DNA. Before, business owners thought about how technology let them go anywhere, but it wasn\u2019t part of our DNA. And, and now it is. I can speak personally\u2014it does not matter where I am; I can still lead and manage the company from anywhere. I used to think I had to be in the office. We have employees that have started and never met the employees they\u2019re managing. And so, our ability to embrace the digitization and transformation of business and have this hybrid experience of being in person and online is something interesting. The online world is now part of our DNA, too\u2014not just for millennials but throughout society. According to our latest Bill.com Small Business Owners Survey, during the pandemic nearly 80% of SMBs have already or plan to start digitally transforming their businesses. Ultimately that will lead to increased productivity. Flexibility means more productivity, more time to work out, more time to spend with your kids, more time to do work. One bright spot was the pandemic led to communities rising up to support local businesses. Ren\u00e9: At the beginning of the pandemic, we, as an organization and me personally, gave money to charities and to help businesses get through. We\u2019re the lead funder of the African Diaspora Network\u2019s (ADN) new pilot program designed to expand economic pathways and advance the entrepreneurial efforts of African diasporans and Black business leaders in the U.S. The inaugural enterprise accelerator, Builders of America\u2019s Future, provides online and in-person training and mentorship. All this makes a difference. Companies needed a lifeline to help them stay around and adapt. The ones that adapted still are in business. When things open up this summer, they\u2019ll hire employees, and people will get back to work. The businesses didn\u2019t go away because the business owners were able to make that shift. And technology made it easier to make that happen. That\u2019s another example of persistence and resilience. A business is a community. You work with your friends, and your customers become your friends. All you care about these people. So, you work hard to make sure that community is going to last. And that persistence becomes fuel. That\u2019s why SMBs are so important. They are the passion of our economy.