Leadership & Productivity

How to stave off expenses horrors this Halloween

5 min read

26 October 2017

What makes spotting future expenses horrors difficult is that expense management problems tend to emerge slowly. It’s the gradual slowing down of systems as staff struggle to cope with the increased demands caused by scaling-up.

It’s a classic trope of horror movies – you see an early glimpse of the terrors about to be unleashed. It could be the fleeting sight of a mysterious shadow or a door suddenly slamming shut in the wind.

These same kind of spooky omens can be spotted when you’re scaling up a business. They are those small, seemingly insignificant, day-to-day occurrences that can signal scary times ahead.

A common cause of sleepless nights for any growing business is the challenge of keeping control of employee expenses. It’s a failure to do this which means that UK companies are continuing to lose more than £100 million each year to expense errors and fraud.

It’s a particular risk for organisations relying on traditional methods to manage their employee costs – using a combination of spreadsheets, paper forms and manual processes. So here’s a look at some of the omens you should be looking out for:

Smothering processes

What makes spotting dangers difficult is that expense management problems tend to emerge slowly. It’s the gradual slowing down of systems as staff struggle to cope with the increased demands caused by scaling-up.

The most obvious area this shows itself is with the increased length of time it takes for employees to be reimbursed. With receipts needing to be manually processed and paperwork having to be shuffled between offices, backlogs soon start to build up.

This creates staff discontent and means that finance teams no longer have the time or resources they need to properly check claim and to robustly challenge any costs that don’t appear to be legitimate business expenses.

With manual processes automated and paperwork virtually eliminated, a switch to a digital system such as webexpenses provides a fully scalable solution which reduces processing times by 25 percent.

Creeping costs

A surefire sign of a misfiring system is a continued rise in reimbursement costs. Without adequate monitoring, there’s a very real danger that fraudulent behaviours begin to embed themselves within a workplace culture.

While increased costs are to be expected in a growing company, a closer look at spending patterns and expenditures can provide early warnings of potential fraud and noncompliance threats.

Digital systems offer powerful ways to spot these kinds of issues, webexpenses provides integrated reporting tools to allow spending patterns and trends to be easily analysed.

A digital set-up can also carry out automated checks each time a claim is made to ensure that each cost falls within any limits set by the finance team. If they don’t, it triggers an alert that allows a finance professional to check their legitimacy.

Deadline dread

If looming deadlines have the power to cause terror within your organisation, it’s a good sign of potential problems ahead. It’s a symptom that’s particularly likely to be spotted at the end of the financial year.

With an inefficient system, the need to collate information and hit external compliance deadliness heaps pressure on finance teams who are already struggling to handle the day-to-day demands of expense management.

It can lead to deadlines being missed and mistakes being made, putting a business at considerable risk of fines, demands for backdated payments and even possible prosecution for tax breaches.

It’s another area where digital processes help to take away the strain with accurate information able to collated within hours rather than days. It helps to remove that traditional dread of deadlines and to reduce the risks posed by compliance breaches.

So with Halloween approaching, there are simple and practical ways that you can make sure those early warning signs don’t come back to bite your business. By knowing what to look for and how to tackle the symptoms, you can make sure your growing company stays safely out of the shadows.

Webexpenses provides a fright-free way to manage employee expenses. Find out for yourself by requesting a free demo.

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.