If the news that close to half (42%) of the 958 travel managers polled in the 2014 AirPlus International surveyare bracing for significant increases in travel costs has you tempted to go back to micromanaging every nickel and dime – doling out travel vouchers like they were a precious commodity – you might want to rethink that strategy.
TWO PERSPECTIVES ON TRAVEL
You don’t have to pull all the company credit cards to control the budget. Curbing travel expenses doesn’t look the same for every company. Some successful leaders embrace high-tech solutions like video conferencing and virtual meeting platforms as alternatives to transcontinental flights and quarterly sales conferences – eliminating all company-paid travel.
However, there are advantages face-to-face meetings offer that shouldn’t be ignored when trimming the fat from the budget. Arne Sorenson, CEO-Marriott International, cautions financial leaders to think before they leap to extremes. According to Sorenson "There's nothing like meeting colleagues face-to-face, on their turf. It not only expands a leader's perspective, but it also builds relationships that are the foundation of every company."
BALANCING THE BUDGET
The logical approach for most enterprises is striking a healthy balance between travel avoidance and lavish reimbursement policies. Research shows transformational leadership is highly effective for achieving financial and performance goals throughout the organization.
What does this look like in the real world? Create clear expectations for employees – then get out of the way. Controlling costs through restrictive policies and disproportionate micromanagement tactics is one approach. Shifting responsibility for achieving financial goals is another.
Given the opportunity to govern personal spending – treating company finances like personal funds – most employees will naturally find less expensive travel solutions. By modeling expectations (choosing more economical hotel accommodation, scheduling flights in advance that offer reduced fares, and focusing on relationship building and not trying to impress clients with personal limo service to the most exclusive restaurant in town), CFOs clarify expectations rather than create confusion.
EQUIPPING YOUR TEAM
Equipping your team for success is critical. If you expect superior performance and financial responsibility, invest in tools that support achieving those outcomes. SaaS expense management tools eliminate cumbersome paper-based reporting – giving your employees more time to focus on increasing sales volume and relationship building.
Other advantages include direct integration with in-house financial systems that eliminate duplication and data-entry errors and streamline real-time access to analyze expense vouchers by department or category. Analytics and reporting options make it easier for leaders to spot overspending and inappropriate purchases faster. When necessary, enforcing compliance is simple with customized spending caps for certain departments or individual employees.
DEPLOY ALL ASSETS
Curbing travel expenses doesn’t have to be painful. Respect all stakeholders. Modeling desired behavior and equipping the organization for success enables team players to understand and pursue company goals and objectives. Build stronger relationships, not bigger budgets.
Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.