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4 tips to help entrepreneurs maximise their travel budget

If you're a small business owner and neither you nor your employees travel frequently, you might brush off the idea of compiling a comprehensive travel and expense management plan as unfeasible, unrealistic and a waste of time. However, there is a direct correlation between travel spend and business growth.

While keeping track of your travel budget and managing travel expenses can indeed be a daunting and time-consuming process, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, by applying a few fundamentals, business owners can save valuable time and guarantee much better control over travel costs.

Ryan Potgieter, General Manager Flight Centre Business Travel, shares a few crucial tips to help entrepreneurs craft an effective T&E Management plan, and get the most out of their travel spend.

1. Get a clear view of how much you spend on travel

You can’t hope for savings if you don’t understand the scope of your total travel spend, from significant expenses to smaller items that can add up to substantial amounts, such as extra baggage fees and airport parking.

By doing this, business owners will be better positioned to analyse actual costs and see if budgets are accurate and adequate. The analysis will help to identify who is spending what, why, where and how, which will reveal company travel trends and savings opportunities.

By factoring in spend from meetings, incentives, conferences and events, a company might be able to negotiate better deals.

2. Partner with experts to get the most value

Determine whether you are getting the maximum value for your spend.

If you are always flying the same airline to similar destinations and staying at the same reliable hotel, it might be time to start negotiating better rates with preferred suppliers. This is something an experienced Travel Management Company (TMC) such as Flight Centre Business Travel can manage for you.

By teaming up with a travel professional, businesses will benefit from established relationships with suppliers and their global buying power, and benefit from reduced rates and exclusive privileges, such as not having to pay a hefty deposit when renting a vehicle.

3. Get a firm handle on expenses

Travel expenses cause a great deal of discontent if guidelines are not in place to protect your company from travellers who are inclined to claim for every cost incurred as a result of a business trip.

A business should clearly state which T&E items the employer covers and stipulate what travel and entertainment expenses are for the employee’s account. Include guidelines about expense claims, required supporting documentation and the deadlines for those claims. And stipulate the consequences for employees who do not comply.

For employees who add leisure days to a work trip, a detailed expense policy makes it difficult for them to tag personal expenses to the business trip.

4. Assess your technology needs

Automation is the keyword concerning T&E management activities. How have you kept up with the latest developments in travel technologies?

If you are still a fan of the tried and trusted paper-trail, it’s important to remember that with the manual entering and itemising of expenses, mistakes can creep in. Unfortunately, these errors can end up being costly.

The good news is that businesses don’t need a tech guru to streamline their T&E spend and deploy the right technology. Advances in technology have enabled companies to take great strides forward regarding expense management. Systems automatically populate charges from suppliers, credit card companies and receipts, for example, and lower the risk of missed or incorrectly entered expenses and fraud.

Centralised expense management not only provides convenience and better reporting but can also help simplify future booking processes, such as pre-trip approvals, profile management and traveller tracking.

Flight Centre Business Travel can provide valuable insight as to when is the right time to turn to a travel expert and how to keep travel spend in check. Call Flight Centre Business Travel on 0877 40 51 60 or visit www.fcbt.co.za for the travel expertise you need to grow your business. For more tips on how to better manage your travel expenses, download your guide here.

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