Article | May 5, 2023
Cryptocurrencies have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. They have progressed from a speculative asset class to one gaining widespread mainstream acceptance. And it's not just retail investors who are interested; cryptocurrencies are finding applications in various industries, including tourism. Yes, the travel industry, like many others, has warmed up to these virtual digital assets. It has even spawned a new type of operation, namely crypto tourism.
Introduction to Crypto Tourism
Crypto tourism is categorized into two broad groups: the first has tours and travel packages purchased with cryptocurrency. Emirates Airlines, the biggest airline in the UAE, has said it will soon accept bitcoin as a form of payment. Air Baltic, a Latvian airline, has also been accepting bitcoin for a long time.
The second type of crypto tourism is trips and travel packages where crypto conferences, classes, or lectures are a big part of the schedule. You might not understand why someone would take a vacation to go to a lecture or learn about blockchain. Well, most people don't go on vacations like these. Instead, they focus on entrepreneurs and crypto fans who want to network, meet people with similar interests, and discuss business ideas. In addition to the usual sightseeing and relaxing, these crypto trips include talks by well-known speakers and industry veterans.
Limitation and Scope
Crypto tourism is a small market with few options, and only a small number of travel partners accept crypto payments. Also, the people who put on some crypto trips often use these events to sell ICOs and do other marketing.
However, crypto tours are great for people who want to learn about cryptocurrencies, meet others interested in the same things, and relax. They are also great if you want digital money to pay for your trip. Then, you don't have to worry about currency exchange rates or losing cash.
A Different Reality
Crypto tourism might be niche, but it is a new reality in the travel industry. It allows safe transactions and innovative tours, which many businesses are keen about.
Article | June 20, 2023
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 | May 17, 2023
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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"text": "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."
Article | August 26, 2020
With the travel and tourism sector having taken a gut punch this year amid coronavirus concerns, many business groups and professionals are seeking new and innovative ways to enjoy memorable team events, proffer inspiring staff incentives and have some impactful one-on-one with customers and clients particularly those activities that inherently facilitate large crowd avoidance. With that, I’ve found a fabulous option in the BMW Performance Center West. This permanent performance driver training facility, located in Thermal, California near Palm Springs, offers one-of-a-kind experiences for both business groups and individuals that are taught by BMW professional driving instructors on a private course.
With up to 5.1 miles of expansive track layouts, the facility offers various driving programs and schools allowing participants to get behind the wheel of “the Ultimate Driving Machine” and learn key skills. Things like proper vision, basic car control, panic braking, handling, last-minute emergency lane changing, distracted driving, high-speed control and precision driving are all taught. Plus, it’s just plain old adrenaline-inducing fun.
The facility, which opened in 2015, offers various driving solutions for people of all ages and capabilities, and they also have special programs and meeting space for private and corporate groups. So, your entire department or company at large can get in on the action! There are multiple one- and two-day driving schools and experiences, private instruction, customizable events and the opportunity to experience the expansive, luxurious facility in either BMW or MINI vehicles.
Here are my top five reasons why this facility is a must-visit vacation destination, with the finer details courtesy of the BMW Performance Center West:
1. Private Instruction in the latest and greatest models
Instruction at the facility encompasses the full line of the newest BMW and MINI vehicles. In fact, there are reportedly over 100 new models available for activities at the BMW Performance Center West.
Also notable is the fact that all BMW driving experiences and schools are taught by professional BMW Driving Instructors, many of whom are professional race car drivers with dozens of wins. They even hold two world records: Longest Drift in eight hours (232.5 miles) and Longest Tandem Drift (39.25 miles).
These BMW Professional Driving instructors teach you how to handle your vehicle in challenging situations and conditions including accident avoidance, cornering, drifting, car control, braking and more. A skidpad allows drivers to feel oversteer and understeer, simulating hydroplaning or driving on black ice and providing the opportunity to learn how to handle those situations. The skidpad also provides advanced drivers with the thrilling experience of drifting. The tight performance track offers plenty of opportunity to learn how to control a vehicle at various speeds and cornering situations. Drivers can definitely satisfy their need for speed and excitement on one of the four tracks and experience driving scenarios they’ve only ever seen in the movies.
2. A variety of track experiences are available
In addition to BMW-dedicated tracks and a polished wet skidpad, some classes take advantage of the FIA certified race tracks of The Thermal Club. There are three tracks there with a combined length of 5.1 miles. The North Palm track is 1.2 miles long, the Desert Palm track is 1.8 miles long, and the South Palm track is also 1.8 miles long. Their newly-opened Off-Road Track allows drivers to experience extreme angles in the BMW X-series vehicles, splashing through water obstacles, driving over bumpy off-road trails and more. The vertical angles are literally steeper than any street in San Francisco and the visual sensation is amazing. Drivers often say, “I didn’t know a car could do that!”
3. A range of performance driving experiences are offered
Each BMW Performance Center West’s fun and action-packed driving programs delivers a robust experience that you’re sure not to forget. These include:
-- BMW Performance Center Drive: This option packs a real punch with two intense and exhilarating driving sessions capped off with a Hot Lap by a Certified BMW instructor.
-- M Track Drive: This is the perfect combination of machine and track with six hard-charging laps on one of the tracks of The Thermal Club pushing a BMW M3 or M4 to its limits. Featuring the facility’s most powerful and responsive vehicles, the M Track Drive will put you behind the wheel of an M car for six exhilarating laps on an FIA Certified racetrack. You’ll follow an instructor’s car for a warm-up lap and also learn the proper line for achieving the best time. Then, try to keep their car in your sights as speeds and g-forces increase, pushing your M car to its considerable limits.
-- The Ultimate BMW Mixer / The Track Meet: This is a unique driving and dining experience that elevates gift-giving, business networking and client entertaining to a whole new level. It’s a great way to get a taste of what the group events can offer. The mixer is a half-day experience that includes a delicious chef-prepared lunch, three exhilarating driving sessions in a fleet of brand-new BMWs and a Hot Lap around the track with a BMW pro at the wheel. The afternoon is capped off at a private reception with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at the BMW Performance Center. If you do have business needs, the facility has meeting spaces with multimedia capabilities, site-wide Wi-Fi and both indoor and outdoor dining with a delicious catering menu.
4. Both one- and two-day car control schools are available
Engage your senses and push through your comfort zone by learning vehicle handling, quick judgment and accident avoidance skills—all developed in a controlled environment with a BMW-certified instructor observing and coaching via radio. These include real-world driving conditions and scenarios—wet pavement, emergency braking and lane changes, distracted driving and more.
For the two-day options, participants will build on and reinforce the skills and techniques learned on day one. More seat time and real-time feedback takes driving abilities to the next level. Day two is when things really “click” and safe driving instincts kick in. This is also the day participants will experience an Instructor Hot Lap.
There are a wide range of driving school options at the BMW Performance Driving Center that are available to individuals and groups, alike. Below is a brief synopsis of each:
-- Car Control School: Take the wheel of a BMW and head out to the track, where professional instructors will hone your driving skills. Understanding stability control, knowing what to do when a vehicle starts to slide on the wet skid-pad and practicing proper vision through the lane-change course will allow you to anticipate situations on a real road. Available as a one-day, or for even more in-depth instruction, two-day course.
-- M School: Take the wheel of a high-performance BMW M vehicle and experience the power of M firsthand. Accelerate, corner and brake faster than you ever have before, then learn to maintain control in low traction conditions on the facility’s wet skidpad and keep 400 horsepower under control. End the day with a hot lap in an instructor-driven M vehicle. Available as a one-day, or for even more pulse-pounding excitement, a full two-day course.
-- One-Day M School: Learn the theory, physics and mechanics of performance driving. M School builds confidence and consistency while perfecting control, handling, acceleration and braking techniques.
-- Two-Day M School: Take everything you learned on day one and push “GO.” Slaloms, drifting, braking, cornering at optimum slip, full- and modified-time laps at speeds you’ve only dreamed of.
-- Advanced M School: Game on. M School graduates are an elite class of driver. They’ve proven that they’ve got what it takes to handle the ultimate challenge: BMW’s Advanced M School, held for two full days at road course tracks with pro Instructors, is the closest you can get to a racing experience.
-- MINI Motoring School: Take a John Cooper Works MINI Cooper and run it through an autocross course, lead/follow session and some stunt driving techniques, all under the watchful eye of a professional instructor. The mighty MINI will have you grinning from ear to ear all day long.
-- MINI Tricks and Stunts School - The first half of the day gets you intimately familiar with the MINI’s handling and capabilities, but the fun meter gets cranked to 11 in the afternoon. They’ll cover silky smooth reverse donuts on the skidpad, J-turns and reverse turns.
-- Teen School: There’s a lot for brand-new drivers to keep in mind and the BMW Teen School will allow them to experience how a vehicle feels at the limit in the safety of a closed environment. From wet skidpad exercises and panic braking to performing a double lane change, teens will leave with a solid foundation of vehicle control and a big smile. This option is available as either a one or two-day curriculum.
5. Amenities abound
Set against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views, the BMW Performance Center not only boasts a private course where only you can experience the Ultimate Driving Machine, but also a luxurious modern building, gourmet café, coffee bar and gift shop with exclusive merchandise that you cannot buy anywhere else.
Customized corporate retreats and group events held at the BMW Performance Center are a refreshing change from the cliché team-building sessions. All programs are designed to improve dynamics, build trust and facilitate group communication. They have meeting spaces with Multimedia capabilities, site-wide Wi-Fi and indoor and outdoor dining space.
In all, this is an unforgettable experience that also makes a great gift idea. With stay at home orders having been lifted, getting behind the wheel of a new BMW at the BMW Performance Center West is a “bucket list” excursion sure to leave you longing for more.