As we find ourselves tumbling toward a global financial crisis, every business is taking a second and third look at expenses going out the door to make sure they really, truly need them. Based on more than a decade of experience processing billions of dollars in expense reports for the top startups in Silicon Valley, here are the high-level keys to keeping costs low and managing expenses: hire people you trust, keep policies light and flexible, and invest in experiences that bring your team together. On the tactical side, get your travel policies in order (you know, when travel is a thing again), give everyone a smart corporate card and be honest about what really matters. These should all start way before the point of scouring spreadsheets for savings — and as a startup, you have a chance to get it right out of the gates. Invest now so you don’t have to cut later.
Quick background on me: I started programming when I was six and spent the early days of my tech career building 3D graphics engines for video games. Eventually, I ended up working at Red Swoosh, a startup that Akamai bought just in time for the world to descend into the 2008 recession. Since then, I’ve been focused on relieving the world’s frustrations one expense report at a time. I’ve come to see how more than a million companies handle billions of dollars in expenses, and I’m here to give you some of the best expense-management tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Hire people you trust
Rule zero of expense management is to hire people you trust. If you trust your team, you don’t need to micromanage expenses. If you don’t trust your team, no amount of micromanaging expenses will matter. Expense tools aren’t lie detectors or mind readers; they exist primarily to catch mistakes, not criminals.
Keep policies light and flexible