On January 27, 2011, The Detroit News featured Billhighway for their business section’s “Small Business Spotlight”. The article is printed below or can be viewed on The Detroit News website here.
The age-old problem of how to split a bill has intrigued Vince Thomas since college, when he watched roommates struggle over who would pay the utilities.
Thomas dissected that painful interaction, added some modern ingenuity and uploaded the problem on the Internet. The result is Billhighway, a Troy-based company that helps organizations collect payments and keep tabs on the tab, so to speak.
The challenge the 33-year-old CEO and founder faced as he grew his collegiate company was how to expand the business to include organizations as small as local mothers clubs, to larger fraternal or sporting groups, to huge, international not-for-profit entities with thousands of members.
Thanks to his investment in technology and customer feedback, Thomas said Billhighway has developed a scalable system that lets its clients improve their financial health and operate more efficiently.
The result is huge growth for Billhighway.
The company’s revenue has grown 100 percent annually for the past three years, and it has added more than a dozen employees in the past 12 months, Thomas said. And he expects to keep that pace going for the near term regardless of local or even national economic woes.
“Throughout the downturn, Billhighway has been growing exponentially. A lot of that is due to the product and technology,” Thomas said. “But a lot is also due to our clients, who in good times and bad times need more efficient ways to streamline their organizations.”
Since forming in 1999, Billhighway’s proprietary system has processed more than $3.5 billion in transactions for thousands of member-based organizations.
National women’s fraternity Delta Delta Delta has been a Billhighway client since 2004. The system is “responsive and flexible,” Executive Board Director Phyllis Grissom said, and helped student financial officers at 140 chapters in the United States and Canada develop the skills to manage their chapter’s checkbooks.
“Thanks to Billhighway, Tri Delta’s overall collection percentage is 99.5 percent, and our collegiate chapters’ cash on hand hasincreased 300 percent, going from $12,000 to $53,000,” Grissom said. “Perhaps our most impressive statistic is that we’ve seen our average annual net loss of $1 million turn into an annual net gain of $1 million.”
Here is how it works: Groups sign up for one of two levels of service at Billhighway.com, the company’s online site. Smaller groups can use the “Local” site while larger ones focus on the “Global” application. Global is ideal for groups that have more than 10,000 members or collect $5 million in dues or more annually, Thomas said.
The site collects the organization’s data, such as members’ names, when they joined and how much it needs to collect. The software then sends automated messages to members, who create an account to pay their dues through Billhighway by credit cards, eChecks, telephone or the mail.
Billhighway collects a small percentage of the dues to cover its costs. Smaller Local clients typically pay a flat 4.99 percent charge on all payments processed and collected. There is no member or monthly service fee.
Groups can manage their collections, deposit money into their online bank accounts and issue money requests via Billhighway. Overdue member fees are easily tracked and remedied, allowing groups to be more profitable and organized, Thomas said.
What makes Billhighway different is it combines cash management and accounting in one seamless system.
“Think of it as placing PayPal with QuickBooks in your online banking experience,” Thomas said. “Every dollar in revenue or expenses is accounted for — in real time — on an organization’s balance sheet and income statement.”
It also can show larger organizations areas where they could be saving money, such as vendor management. If all of the chapters of a national group are collecting money for T-shirts, Billhighway could show the volume being purchased, allowing the group to go to its vendors and ask for lower prices based on its order size, Thomas said.
Karen Dybis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.