Leadership & Productivity

The evolving challenge of expenses for a growing business

5 min read

01 November 2017

In the early days of a business, it is easy to keep track of who's spending what, but as you scale up expenses becomes an evolving challenge.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” It’s a famous quote from the 1953 novel, The Go-Between, but it can be equally applied to the ways our businesses change over time.

As a company grows and evolves, the challenges faced are also constantly morphing. Ways of working which may have been perfectly adequate for a small start-up will become increasingly impractical for a larger operation.

It’s something that many companies learn about the hard way, with systems beginning to struggle and strain when pitted against the additional demands of a larger and more complex company structure.

Without having the tools to handle these evolving demands, scaling-up can start to become a risky business. Employee expenses is one of the areas where this evolving challenge can be seen the clearest.

Simplicity of a start-up

For a small business or new start-up, managing employee expenses can initially seem a fairly trivial task; something that’s liable to be placed near the bottom of business priorities.

With a single location and a small number of employees, managing and processing expense claims can be adequately handled with a basic management set-up.

For many companies, this means using traditional methods to control expenses – forms being filled, paper receipts collected and Excel spreadsheets manually updated.

While it’s not fast or efficient, it’s able to cope.

Growing demands of an SME

As a company starts to scale-up, with increased employee numbers and multiple offices, the expense challenges being to change. Tasks that were previously simple, start to become a significant administrative burden.

With information having to be manually processed and paperwork shuffled between sites, account departments can find themselves overwhelmed by any increased volume of expense claims.

Effective monitoring becomes impossible, allowing errors, fraud and compliance breaches to go unchallenged. Simple accounting tasks, such as reporting expense information to tax authorities, start to pose dreaded deadlines.

Challenge of global operations

When a company starts to operate globally, the expense challenges change yet again. Along with the logistical headache, there’s the need to comply with the rules and tax demands of different jurisdictions.

You also have the headache of handling multiple currencies and fluctuating exchange rates. Trying to handle this with a traditional set-up can make global expansion prohibitively costly and complex.

Painfully slow processing of reimbursements and an inability to properly manage or monitor costs can have a stifling effect on a growing business, causing financial losses and considerable compliance risks.

So for any company that’s looking to scale-up, it really pays to understand the dynamic nature of the expense challenge. How systems that can cope with the early stages of a business are liable to collapse as the organisation evolves.

Digital solution

It’s the reason why any growing business should be using a digital expense management set-up from day one. A system such as webexpenses has been designed to grow with an organisation – providing complete scalability.

It does this by replacing paper-based and manual tasks with digital and automated processes. The system handles anything from the basic needs of start-up to the intricacies of a multinational corporation.

By future-proofing your business, it avoids having to find out about weaknesses by things going wrong – when finance teams become overwhelmed, when errors and fraud start to go unseen.

Webexpenses provides a smarter way for a growing business 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.