This is how not to handle expense management in your business. Whilst a substantial part of managing expenses can be compartmentalized into how people make claims, and how those claims are processed, there are times when you’d benefit from thinking outside the box.
To illustrate the point, I’m going to look at telephones, the way your business uses them, and the way changing that can be part of an expense management strategy. Many years ago, in another life, I asked a senior manager how much he spent on line rental and calls for the fax machines in his business. He didn’t know, and asked his secretary to being in the relevant invoices.
She appeared carrying two large ring binders. Looking at them, he asked her for just the fax machine invoices. She pointed at the binders. “Those are the fax machine invoices,” she said.
He had no idea at the scale of the costs involved, and we immediately set about reducing them. And there’s the lesson: Show me any cost you’re not controlling, and I’ll show you an unnecessary expense.
Of course, fax machines are consigned to history with quill pens and carbon paper, but let’s stick with telephones; we still use those. Here are some areas in which you might be spending too much for mobiles, (and here’s the important part) without being aware of it.
1. Data roaming: Set up a company policy that it should be turned off except for short periods to allow emails to be delivered or sent, rather than being on 24/7. Data roaming charges can be high, and can mount significantly if you have a large number of employees travelling
2. Use one company: Don’t have a series of providers. Restricting services to just one allows you to negotiate better deals for new handsets and connectivity
3. Go for VOIP: For office phones there are lots of ways to use the internet to make calls, giving the traditional desktop phone a new lease of life. VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and means there’s no need to have a traditional phone contract, so long as you have good broadband connectivity. Providers of phone systems like this will usually deal with you on a rolling monthly contract, and their systems are extremely, so you can add or subtract handsets almost at will.
4. Be careful with perks. If employees are able to use company phones for personal use (and we’re back to mobiles here), then that permission should be restricted. OK, make short personal calls, but talking for hours to an aunt in Australia, or streaming a box set to a hotel room in Berlin could soon set you back a considerable – and unwelcome – amount.
5. Don’t leave legacies. When an employee leaves the company, make sure to cancel or transfer their part of the phone number, and don’t toss the handset into the back of a drawer. Re-use it, or send it for recycling _ once you’ve cleared any company data from it.
More than just number reduction
Consider the benefits that come alongside mobile phone use, and blurring the distinction between company and private life. When you’ve automated your expenses by implementing a solution based on business expense management software using an app, everyone’s going to need a phone so they can use your system.
Allowing an employee to make personal calls, to that agreed cost limit, might have a payback in loyalty. It might mean they’re more amenable to taking a work-related call out of hours, as part of a bit of give and take – but make sure that you track the benefit so that all the necessary tax is paid. There’s no future in saving money by cheating the taxman.
Applying this kind of thinking to all aspects of your business can make a significant difference to your bottom line, and be a useful ally to your business expense management software.