As a business owner, it’s unlikely that you wake up every morning saying, ‘I can’t wait to track my expenses today!’
Chances are, you started your business because you wanted to build something and watch it grow; you didn’t become a business founder because you had a burning desire to organise your team’s business expenses and slave away on Excel.
The reality is: under every milestone that you achieve, there are hundreds of smaller day-to-day tasks that are equally as fundamental to the success of the business. Approving, processing and paying expensesis a big part of this. But sometimes, it can be difficult to keep on top of these smaller tasks.
Here’s how to organise your team’s business expenses and keep everything under one roof.
The modern world is a marvellous place
With the rise of technology comes a rise in digital automation tools that make your life as a business owner easy. Whether you’re an organisation with 100+ employees or a one-man operation, there are a plethora of tools online that you can sign up to for free and begin using immediately.
But knowing where to start with expenses management can be confusing.
Let’s go back to basics
As a business owner, you’ll deal with different types of business expense claims ranging from deliveries, products, services and staff travel costs. They can come from a variety of sources including vendors, clients and employees. Tracking your expenses by yourself, then, can quickly become unmanageable.
In the absence of your future finance dream squad, you need to establish some expense management basics:
- Standardise the process:How are expenses paid, tracked and reimbursed?
- Set the expectations:Does your team know what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to claiming?
- Define roles:Who is responsible for each step in the process and does the whole company know this?
- Security:Are expense payments subject to sufficient scrutiny and oversight?
- Shared ownership:Is every member of your team familiar with your system/s?
In an ideal world, your finance team will do the heavy lifting. But if you sit at a table for one, your expenses are all on you.
Build your expenses before you grow
Having a handle on your company expenditure is vital for any business owner. The challenge is to have a simple and easy process for signing off expenses (preferably before the money has been spent) without generating any additional paperwork.
Right now, you likely think that it’s easy if there’s only a small team of you. Chances are, you have a tray on your desk labelled ‘expenses’ that you put your forms and receipts in.
But picture this: five years from now, your start-up business becomes a global operation. You rival the likes of Google or Facebook, and your in-tray now resembles one of those Dilbert cartoons with paperwork stacked up to the ceiling, spilling over the desk and no human being in sight. There’s just a small voice coming from behind the mountain of paperwork saying, ‘I’m fine.’
Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you understand the sentiment. As your organisation grows, your initial paper process of forms, receipts and claims won’t be fit for purpose.
Real-time expense tracking and approval is a convenient way to ensure confidence and clarity around every company expenditure. It also allows you to have oversight of all business expenses, letting you keep track of them as they arise.
However, it’s not just the managing part of expense claims that these online tools help with...
The art of good communication
When your staff are paying for things upfront, and then claiming back their expenses, a good level of communication is a must have. Ensuring that managers (who are signing off expenses) and staff (who are claiming) understand the process and the time scales is very important to ensure everyone stays happy and in-the-know.
Your policy and process must be clear and easy to understand.
Keep it up-to-date
Keeping your expenses claim form and process up-to-date is important. Make sure the form reflects the ever-changing needs of the business and your employees. Using an online platform such as Turbine HQ alleviates this burden.
Reduce your waste
When you start to use an automated and digitised expense claim process, you reduce the need for so much paper and waste. No more paperwork stacked in your in-tray waiting to be approved. No more sending forms to the fifth floor for approval. Instead, it’s all stored digitally and securely, with instant approvals.
Reduce your risk of fraud
UK businesses are losing up to £1.9 billion a year on over inflated expense claims, according to a survey conducted by Soldo. There’s no argument that a manual, paper process will open your business up to fraud.
A digital process (and a clear formalised policy) allows for greater transparency when it comes to expense claims. Consequently, you can cover and protect the business against this type of deceit (or human error).
Keep it simple
If your expense process is complex and contains multiple steps, you open yourself up to misinterpretation and mistakes. An automated online system simplifies the entire process and ensures that you and your staff don’t get confused with the process.
The tools of your trade
To do expenses (and other HR processes) well, you need access to the best tools so you can do the best job possible. Of course, you can set off down this road with nothing more than a spreadsheet and a calculator, but there are several tools that can make your life much easier.
An expense management system
With a system like Turbine HQ, you can set expense limits for specific areas of the business (and teams), you can keep track of payments in real-time, and you can authorise expenditures as they arise.
You can also get rid yourself of the curse of paper receipts!
There are lots of accounting software options available online today.
Most tools have free trials so you can find the solution that works best for you. Your priority should always be to make sure your chosen software is flexible and works with your other tools, especially your expense management system.
Staff feedback tools
Ensuring you’re in touch with the overall ‘vibe’ in the office will help you understand any issues before they occur. Using dedicated employee engagement software can help support staff engagement and motivation by seeking regular input on project performance, company strategy, culture and business needs.
Expenses: Everything under one roof
Expenses don’t need to be the bane of your life. Using a cost-effective platform like Turbine HQ can take the bulk of the work off your hands, giving you more time to do what you love: growing your business.To find out more about what Turbine can do for you, sign up for a 30-day free trial here.