As a startup, business travel is important not only to grow the company rapidly but provide teams with the ability to meet with shareholders, employees and investors to build value. However, we typically need to do these things on a constrained budget and limited resources. While corporate travel policies usually aren’t top of mind when you’re busy starting up, these policies are critical for ensuring your employees have the right financial parameters and feel confident they have the tools that enable them to go where they need to go.
But how do you create a “startup flexible” corporate travel policy while also keeping expenses under control? Below are a few tips I’ve learned throughout the process:
Set General Guidelines, Instill Mutual Trust
I work with a distributed and nimble team. We fly across the country on a minute’s notice and rarely have time to get budgets pre-approved. This means we all have to trust each other’s best judgement and be flexible, but guidelines are always helpful. Our general guidelines include reimbursement for the below travel expenses. Anything out of the ordinary or outside of these parameters usually warrants a quick text or conversation to ensure everything can be paid for on behalf of our employees, or reimbursed:
- Airfare and train tickets, up to the premium level. In the case of a domestic red-eye flight, upgrade to first class.
- Hotel room or Airbnb that are business-friendly and budget-oriented, provide good WiFi access and a good night’s sleep.
- Meals up to $75 a day, but remember to keep the booze to a reasonable minimum J
- Transportation. This includes public transportation, rideshares or taxis, renting a car and paying for parking when necessary.
- One drop-in exercise class or day pass per day.
- One hotel in-room movie per day.
75 is the Magic Number
Meaning, any expense over $75 requires a receipt per business requirements by the IRS. Employees should know that any expenses over $75 will not be paid for or reimbursed without a receipt, so make sure this is made explicit before business travel.
Use Expensify. Categorize Everything. Burn the Receipt.
Everyone has heard the phrase, “there’s an app for everything” – and it’s true. When it comes to small business tools to track corporate expenditures, there are several apps you can choose from to track, and categorize your company’s business expenses. At SEEVA we use Expensify, which enables us to snap pictures of our receipts and upload digital invoices. This tool allows us to categorize each expense, track purchases, and compile group expenses into a single report. By utilizing a free expense tool or application, it means your financial manager does not have to accept paper receipts or do any tracking because your tool or app will solve any problem. Now you don’t have to feel afraid to throw away those paper receipts!
When it comes time to doing an expense report, you, the employee’s manager or your company’s financial manager should already know and recognize all purchases in question like the cost of the trip or any associated events and tickets. If what the employee is selling does not immediately register as a good use of the company’s money and time, it shouldn’t be a surprise for them if their reimbursement request is turned down or they are asked to reimburse the company for an unapproved credit card charge.
And that sums up the current SEEVA corporate travel policy. If you’ve come across other general guidelines, tips and tricks that you’ve found helpful, or have great stories of business travel gone awry, I’d love to hear them.
In the meantime, happy and safe travels!