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Keeping business travel costs on the ground

In an increasingly globalised world, travel has never been more integral to the success of businesses of all sizes. If you’re a travel manager or a CFO, managing your organisation’s travel spend without using an effective travel policy can feel like catching rainwater with a sieve – a pointless task involving disproportionate effort.

Australian companies spend on average $5,341.70 per business traveller per year, according to Locomote’s 2015 travel trends report. Whether you have an army of ‘road warriors’ in your team, or a mere handful of employees who regularly travel on business, an effective business travel policy will enable you to take control of corporate travel budgets while ensuring employees are offered reasonable flexibility and quality of travel. The key is to ensure your travel policy works for you, not the other way around.

Taking control of your travel spend needn’t be an arduous task. By deploying smart thinking about your business needs and using technology to your advantage, you can easily design a watertight travel policy – or enhance your existing one – and streamline your organisation’s travel expenses.

1. Automate your expense management

Tracking travel, expenditure and managing approvals via streams of emails and paperwork can turn information management into a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Tracking receipts of travel expenses, and ensuring they are cost approved can equally take up a lot of time and resources, particularly if the documents are scattered and displaced across your company’s various departments.

Choose to automate your systems where you can. Implementing an expense management platform will make your life significantly easier, and crucially for auditors, leaves a digital ‘paper’ trail that ultimately will increase compliance. Processing documents through an expense management platform, will allow users to capture photos of various receipts that then go directly to the appropriate people for approval. This streamlines the overall process, ultimately saving on time, while increasing overall business efficiency.

2. Be consistent in your approach to travel management

An effective travel policy framework is vital, both to keep corporate travel expenses under control, and so your team knows exactly what is and isn’t covered by the company.

Grey areas will inevitably lead to gaps in understanding by your team and ultimately poor adherence to the standards you are trying to set. Developing a clear criteria for activities that are permitted and those that aren’t can prevent any misunderstanding and loopholes in the future. A detailed policy will enable you to assess travel budgets, and make adjustments to ensure employees’ needs are met. Transparency and consistency is important to maintain employee trust as well as enabling effective budget management.

3. Prioritise the safety and well-being of employees

As we know, long business trips can become strenuous and impact the road warrior physically and mentally. Making sure your employees arrive at their destination safely should be your number one priority. Effective travel management is as much about distinguishing between short and long trips and what is required for each to provide employees with the optimum level of flexibility and comfort and make sure they arrive at their destination refreshed and ready to work. While it can be challenging to maintain a reasonable budget for business trips of diverse length and it is ultimately in the best interest of the business to ensure you have a team who feels taken care of by the company.

As businesses become increasingly global, effective management of corporate travel budgets will become a critical tenet in the financial services strategy of every company. Choose to take control of your travel expenditure now and commit to ensuring that your travel policy works for your business, rather than the other way around.

Kochie's Business Builders first published this article - visit kochiesbusinessbuilders.com.au for all the latest on small business and to sign up to their inspirational newsletter here.

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