Six foreign languages and 13 currencies made overseas invoicing a headache for Cannondale, a bicycle manufacturer in Georgetown, Conn., which does 37% of its sales in Europe. So the company adapted an off-the-shelf software program to produce invoices in each customer's currency and language.

Why go to such lengths? The translation software simplifies the billing of Cannondale's European distributors and retailers, and makes it easier for the U.S. company to blend in. "We're 'transparent' to the local customer because we can invoice in the local language and currency," says Cannondale Europe president Dan Alloway.

Cannondale's programmer Peg Beasley spent about three weeks rewriting the invoicing and billing functions of the company's business planning software from Chicago-based SSA. At first Beasley organized files by country, until she realized a Swiss customer might speak German, for example. She switched to a language base, setting up a separate file for each language. It took another week to work out the technical snags. Here's how the order process works today: A sales rep enters an order into the computer; then it's downloaded to Cannondale Europe's central office in Holland, where invoices are created according to the customer's "language code."

The system ensures accurate billing by accounting for fluctuating currencies. Once a month, staffers key in current exchange rates for 13 countries, based on exchange rates given by Cannondale's bank. The system recalculates any outstanding accounts receivable. That's a helpful feature, whether you're booking $1 million in overseas sales -- or $40 million, like Cannondale. -- Robina A. Gangemi

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