Article | April 7, 2020
Who’s ready for some good news? Well, we’re probably not going to hear any truly good news, especially in the travel world, for some time. But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate about positive developments in the post-COVID world. From better environmental protections to more flexible booking options, here are some ways travel could improve in the long run.
Article | August 26, 2020
The September 11th attacks. The Great Recession. The COVID-19 pandemic.
All three of these seismic and tragic events have resulted in heartbreak to humanity, including loss of life and our emotional well-being both individually and collectively. Of course, accompanying these global crises were monetary meltdowns reminiscent of the Great Depression that commenced in 1929 and lingered until the late 1930s.
After a “relatively” calm 70 years, the United States economy has suffered three devastating developments inside the last two decades, alone. There have been wars fought throughout the world and inflation escalations along the way, to be sure, but the start to the 21st century has suffered escalating and unusually concentrated economic calamities some that have profoundly altered the very fabric of our lives, both personally and professionally.
Indeed, on the business front, such periods have been among the most perhaps the unequivocal most trying of times. Amid current circumstances as the coronavirus rages on around the globe, I recently connected with internationally-renowned business restructuring executive James “Jim” Martin, founder of ACM Capital Partners with offices in Charlotte, Denver and Miami. Having spent the last three decades leading international middle-market companies through periods of distress and transition to actualize stability and growth, Martin is uniquely well-positioned to share insights on how business can rally to best assure a “COVID comeback.” Here’s what he had to say.
MK: First, before addressing the current coronavirus situation, what can you tell us about how you’ve helped companies navigate previous “rough waters”?
JM: Relative to the September 11th attacks back in 2001, I’ll share a representative example of a strategic pivot that didn’t just help a company survive, but actually drove profit. After that horrendous event, I stepped in to assist a large aviation maintenance repair-and-overhaul facility whose revenue had been cut fully in half immediately following the attacks the result of many carriers permanently parking older aircraft (including the 727 fleet). The sizable challenge presented was to maintain a 1000-person labor force while allowing the industry the necessary time to recover. To do so, we created a captive subcontracting company to which we transferred one-third of our labor force. During our troughs, we contracted this labor to our competitors and, during peak periods, we utilized this labor for ourselves. Thus, not only were we able to retain our skilled, well-oriented labor force during the recovery, but that very staff actually provided additional, supplemental profit. The end result was that we sold the business for $138 million, which provided our new investors with a 33 percent internal rate of return (IRR).
Less than a decade after 9/11, amid The Great Recession in 2008, I entered another industry that proved to be among the most brutalized by a global economic downturn: automotive supply. My client was a key supplier to the “Big 3” U.S. auto manufacturers.
At the start of 2008, the industry forecast was the production of 18 million vehicles in North America. Come summer, however, it was clear the automakers would not come near reaching that forecast due to the financial crisis. This did not come as a complete surprise to us, though, because amid our firm’s protocols we had had already fully immersed ourselves in our client’s industry and employed forecasting tools alerting us of trends ... this one in the wrong direction. So, we were privy to the situation well before management and others within the industry. By late June 2008, we instituted cost-cutting maneuvers and furloughs that enabled the company to withstand the industry’s brutal second half of ’08 that would result in two of the “Big 3” automakers filing for Chapter 11. Despite the industry producing less than half—as much as eight million—of its original vehicle-production forecast, our client not only survived, but ultimately grew and prospered.
MK: Turning attentions to COVID-19, what do you feel is integral for businesses to survive and recover?
JM: For businesses to recover from the coronavirus shutdown, it’s going to take a two-pronged approach: both financial and human capital. Starting with the financial, it will be a “loan-ly” world for those not well-versed in the intricacies of SBA, PPP and other “economic disaster” lending. Consider how expeditiously those programs were rolled out. Then consider how even more quickly they were scooped up. Did anyone really read those loan documents in full, or even halfway through, initially or even to this day?
My guess is at least half of the companies receiving COVID-related loans took a very “CliffsNotes” approach to these agreements. The result is there’s a solid chance funds were used incorrectly, which is going to make a lot of the loans, shall we say, less “forgivable.” For example, if your company’s payroll roster is shorter today than it was pre-virus, the portion of the loans forgiven is likely to be less.
And while your mind may rush to claiming ignorance and throwing yourself upon the mercy of the government to which you already pay taxes, realize that third-party capital is likely to participate in this market through securitization. This means that thousands of SBA loans could be bought, then packaged to be sold to the secondary market, at a discounted rate, no less. If this happens, understand that the purchasers will have the full intention of holding their borrowers (i.e. small business owners) to paying back 100 cents on the dollar.
So, those companies who received loans and are required, but unable, to pay them back in full may be exposed to either foreclosure or, worse, a “loan to own” scenario. In other words, much like the agreement that comes with your big-tech user agreements, like those prompting users to “click agree,” the fine print matters.
What this means to recovery is that, once again, cash is king: gather it; preserve it; cease lines of credit; liquidate what you can; negotiate costs down with suppliers. And if your company had a healthy bottom line pre-COVID, than a professional familiar with these trenches can help you look to refinance or bring in equity.
With all of that said, the key to a COVID-19 recovery is going to be adhering to the rules of a lender’s road, as well as the ability to navigate the red tape when you veer off that road. If you have read all the fine print and properly managed your loan, congratulations! You’ve acquired some really cheap capital. For those who didn’t do their research, however, this road to recovery likely will need some paving.
MK: What about the human capital you mentioned?
JM: Yes, and then we arrive at the human capital. Lots of companies today are excessively top-heavy. Remember the part about removing emotions from this process? Companies that quickly recognize cuts need to be made will be better positioned to recover than those who dawdle. Again, compiling and preserving cash is going to best position a business for recovery.
This is an instance where it’s especially beneficial to know when to pull triggers (best if earlier than others) and to make decisions that are not based on emotions a tall order for many CEOs, which is why many turn to turnaround experts. However it’s undertaken, what’s certain is that reducing human capital is painful, but it is also often necessary and almost always beneficial.
The upside is that, when the virus no longer exits, businesses can already be well-positioned for a fairly quick recovery. Maybe not v-shaped sans a vaccine, but quick relatively speaking due to the downturn having been so specific to one singular causing factor.
MK: Tell us a bit about your role as and general value of a turnaround expert when turmoil strikes a business.
JM: During times of difficulty, owners and executives can greatly benefit from specialized knowledge that’ll help them best navigate those unchartered waters that are often entangled in a lot of red tape. So, turnaround experts bring to the table a litany of tried-and-true “been there, weathered that” experience and expertise. There’s simply no substitute for engaging with a partner whose entire mandate is ensuring your company’s survival and success during some of the most grim and challenging times it might experience those professionals who are willing to spend sleepless nights figuring out how to ensure the company meets payroll; who’ll work around the clock to keep the company’s doors open; and who can tackle challenges without being hindered by emotions that understandably weigh on a business owner or manager. It takes this kind of specialized expertise, experience and grit to lead companies through periods of distress and transition, to stability and growth.
No stranger to corporate chaos, during Martin’s own three decades as a globally-regarded turnaround expert, he has reportedly created and restored nearly $1.5 billion in value to lower middle-market companies; raised an additional $1 billion in capital; and managed mergers and acquisitions in excess of $500 million all collectively representing his company restructuring portfolio valuation in excess of $3 billion.
Today, as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on business operations far and wide, take heed that there are various key strategic and creative tactics that can help businesses not only weather the storm, but even emerge stronger and more financially secure on the other side.
Article | February 21, 2020
Drawing on its expertise as a leader in travel and technology, Booking.com predicts 2020 will be a year of travel exploration like never before, fueled by technology as well as a growing sense of responsibility and deeper connection with the people and places we visit.
Article | December 10, 2020
As every department is going through digital transformation in travel companies, finance processes are no exception. The advancements in technology are influencing how travel expense management is evolving. Technology is widely affecting how travel expenses are captured, submitted, audited, processed, and reimbursed. The automated travel expense management is helping most of the corporate travel companies with inclusion of the latest travel management and expense management tools.
In 2016, the share of corporate travel expense management was US$1.3 trillion; therefore, by 2023, it is predicted to hit US$1.6 trillion. Companies today are rethinking modern travel expense management policy and developing corporate travel expense management system including expense management best practices. They are actively using travel management and expense management tools to create a smoother workflow.
Looking at these developments in expense management policy, it’s important to understand what companies were facing before implementation of automated version of expense management system.
Main Hurdles While Managing Travel and Expense
Multiple layers of forms
Delayed submission of expense reports by employees
Increased processing cost
Lack of visibility into the process
Heaps of productive hours were wasted because of the manual processes involved in the expense management policy. Managing the excel reports and cross-verification for policy compliance resulted in increased costs. Delayed submission of expense reports caused late input tax credit claims, which affected businesses to generate revenue. Consequently, to minimize the hurdles of managing travel expenses, an automated travel expense management system, and some best practices for travel expense management were the need of the hour.
An Overview: Modern Travel Expense Management
Modern travel and expense management systems and its practices help employees manage the financial process in real and measurable ways. The system governs how the finance team spends company money on corporate travel and other related expenses. It includes an automated expense management process, which has drawn attention to seamless receipt generation, auditing, reimbursing, submission of finance reports, and cost savings.
To implement modern travel expense management, some best practices for travel expense management are suggested to help build a consistent workflow. Many corporate travel companies have included it to automate the expense management process but are little aware of practices that can enhance their workflow. In this scenario, it's important to know the importance of including the best practices for travel expense management.
Why Talk about Best Practices for Travel Expense Management?
In the finance department, various types of frauds such as multiple reimbursements, overstated expenses, fictitious expenses, and more always stay at the top of the mind for most CFO’s. A well-controlled travel expense management system helps prevent misuse of company assets and prohibits misconduct from dealing with such situations.
According to the Aberdeen group’s research, 43% of top travel companies and their CMOs consider T&E management a critical strategy for their company to handle travel expenses. In comparison, 48% of them say they “need to reduce expense processing costs,” which is why they implemented best practices for travel expense management.
Whether large or small, companies realize the potential benefits of a well-managed travel spend mechanism that had best practices for travel expense management to automate the expense management process. They invested heavily in expense management software, which helped them frame a consolidated expense management policy.
In the end, corporate travel policy best practices need to be tailored specifically to employees to create best-in-class expense management and improve performance. By following expense management best practices, you can also define and implement an accurate policy and ensure your employees implement potential tools to automate the expense management process. This will create an efficient finance process that will lead to a friction-free travel and expense management system. If you are updating your finance functions, this small expense management guide to the best practices for travel expense management will help you far to reach your goals.
Best Practices for Travel Expense Management
Create Ownership of the Policy
Before you start implementing T&E management as a critical strategy, defining ownership of the policy clearly is crucial. Ideally, your finance team needs to understand it thoroughly while using the best expense management software. Creating ownership of the policy will benefit as follows:
First: You will have clear ownership that will ensure that your finance team tracks the policy accurately and makes necessary changes to cater to corporate travelers and their requirements.
Second: Your employees will be able to address queries and concerns related to corporate travel a defined way. This way it will become easier for them to handle multiple queries at a time and cater to possible services.
Include Simple Policies
Your expense management policy should outline what it is accurately. It can only be practiced if you keep policies simple based on the company’s culture and its budget. Using the right travel management and expense management tools, your company’s travel expense management mechanism will be quick and easy for employees to work on expenses claimed by corporate travelers, submit, and audit them. Including simple policies will help employees track receipts through mobile applications and even upload them immediately. This entire process will help minimize errors and lessen receipt loss possibilities.
Accurate Expense Reporting
To include accurate expense management reporting is considered one of the most successful best practices for travel expense management. Around 30% of CFOs believe that to review expenses reporting for policy violation is the biggest pain point. As you automate the expense management process, the mechanism of expense reporting and expense claim management also gets smarter. There are multiple benefits to have a sound reporting system.
It gives budget creators a better understanding of how a specific travel expense budget is consumed.
Finance teams get a proper structure and create a defined spending pattern to identify transactions so that there are no fraud possibilities in the management system.
The reports under expense reporting become accountable because the total spends are available to senior management for a broad review.
Expense Payments Are Timely Processed
The right expense management software usage can help your employees process expense payments on time and faster to reduce errors. By implementing this expense management best practice, your employees can present expense reports timely to managers. An automated expense management system eliminates the tedious job of manually checking expense payment violations and encourages initiating flawless expense payment processing.
To keep accountability in expense management is vital for a finance manager. The automated travel and expense management system creates an opportunity to enable accountability option for your company’s expense plan so that managers are made aware of the transactions, submission of reports, expense claims, reimbursements, and more that are taking place. In order to gain high accountability in these areas, the new travel expense management process provides easy access to review and gives appropriate reports. You can easily implement this corporate travel policy best practice to your system and keep a check using expense management software that provides access via mobile applications. Practicing this will give your finance team more power and guide them to generate better revenue annually.
Conduct Regular Audits
By implementing this as best practices for your travel and expense management, you can efficiently conduct regular audits of the travel expense. Many CMOs have followed it and attained success while implementing it. Similarly, a regular audit also identifies areas of improvement and can point variances that could generate exemplary revenue. Practicing this in your finance process will also help uncover expense fraud. In this case, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) reveals, 20% of small businesses and 13% of larger firms reported fraudulent expense reimbursements in 2019. The activities that were highlighted as
Multiple reimbursements for the same expense
After putting your time and effort into recreating a new travel and expense management system and inculcating best practices for travel expense management in your company, it is crucial to choose the right ways to enforce it. Consistent use of best practices for travel expense management will let you save costs, and there will be no adverse impact on your company's budget. You can make effective decisions for your business as it eradicates your finance team's hurdles that were before.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a travel and expense policy?
A travel and expense policy is a set of rules that covers the process of reimbursement and claims for expenses that are incurred by employees on corporate travel plans. This policy outlines how a company’s employees should set procedures for corporate travel.
What is business travel management?
Business travel management includes policies that set a company’s function in a strategic way. It includes various types of contracts made with airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, and other business travel related management services.
What is expense management?
Expense management works according to two key elements—how a business pays for employee-initiated expenses and how to track all employee-initiated spending. In this, management of costs is included mainly for corporate travel, accommodation, meals, flights, and car rentals.
What is expense management automation?
Expense management automation encourages services like collection, storage, submission, reporting to function automatically. It implies the use of analytical tools to help companies maintain accountability and compliance through accurate tracking and reporting process.
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