Leadership & Productivity

How to tune-up your expense set-up for 2018

6 min read

14 December 2017

The frenetic pace of life when you’re scaling up a business makes it easy to lose sight of the "bigger picture". You’re so busy dealing with the day-to-day that you don’t get chance to take an overview - to assess the direction of travel.

It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. This is what makes the new year period a precious time; when the holiday lull provides a brief opportunity to properly take stock – to identify weaknesses and tighten processes.

Employee expenses is one area of business finances where it can really pay to take a look at with fresh eyes. Inefficient expense systems can burn through company resources and provide a breeding ground for workplace fraud.

So here’s a look at some simple tasks that can be done during a period of relative calm to prepare for the storm ahead:

Review your system

Moving to a better system to manage employee expenses is one of those business tasks that tends to get put on a to-do list and then…forgotten. But if your company uses traditional methods – paperwork, spreadsheets and manual processing – it’s a task that needs to be faced.

Cloud-based management systems have transformed the way that expenses can be controlled – replacing cumbersome manual tasks with efficient automated processes. It typically boosts processing times by 25 per cent and reduces related costs by ten per cent.

It also futureproofs a growing business – providing a flexible and scalable system that’s able to grow with an organisation. The inherent lack of scalability with traditional methods poses a significant risk to an organisation as it grows.

Tidy up expense categories

Making sure that expenses are properly categorised is essential for effective control of costs. It’s something that has a tendency to become “messy” over time, particularly when using traditional management methods.

A common problem is with any kind of “miscellaneous” category becoming a convenient dumping ground for assorted costs that don’t fit neatly into existing groupings. Adding new categories is a fiddly and time consuming process when using manual methods.

Digital systems have removed this hurdle, allowing any number of categories to be easily created – ensuring that each and every cost is accurately accounted for. Taking time to tidy up expense categories can prevent a multitude of potential problems further along the line, particularly with ensuring HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) tax compliance.

Making it mobile

To get the full benefits from digital expense management, your employees need to make use of its mobile capabilities. A system such as webexpenses provides a smartphone app which offers a simple and effective way for workers to manage their expenses while on the move.

Employees use the app to convert any paper receipts they receive into a digital format – speeding up the entire process. But some workers, particularly those who are used to manually submitting claims, may not yet be making the best use of the app.

So it’s worth making sure that staff fully understand the benefits and to provide any support that’s required to help them make the switch. It gives them a simpler way to submit claims and ensures quicker reimbursement of their costs.

Check petty cash accounts

One of the expense areas where businesses often get caught out is petty cash. This is traditionally handled via an imprest accounting system with an office float providing the cash for any everyday expenses.

The danger is posed by the fact that petty cash often operates outside of a company’s main expense management setup – not benefiting from the same checks and balances. So it’s really worth taking a closer look to ensure adequate processes are in place.

The most effective solution is provided by a digital expense solution such as webexpenses which integrates petty cash into the regular expense management process – providing automated checks and real-time information.

These are just some of the ways that you can make best use of that quiet time before everything kicks back into gear for the new year. It’s a great opportunity to take stock and look for those tweaks and improvements that will boost your ability to scale up in 2018.

Webexpenses provides a smarter way to manage employee expenses. Find out how it can help your business 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.