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Chelsea Connolly, Finance Director at Pleo

Future of Finance

Understanding your company’s appetite for control

Control doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. 

For some, the word itself carries a negative connotation and the practice can feel stifling. For others, control is an important and necessary concept for processes to work or to ensure safety and security. 

As with all things in life, control isn’t so black and white. When we think about control pertaining to company money, there tends to be a finance team versus the rest of the company image that is conjured up. But, in defence of all those lovely finance people, spend controls are hugely important to keep a company ticking over. 

The tricky part is hitting that sweet spot in the middle, and truly understanding what your company’s appetite for control is. 

Appetite for control? What does that even mean?  

The amount and types of controls you set at your company should fit your industry, company size, company growth stage, workforce and so on. 

Chelsea Connolly, Finance Director for Product, Tech & Ops at Pleo, explains, “I’ve worked in a number of different companies, and what works for a government organisation and corporation doesn’t always work for a start-up and scale-up. Keeping in mind that controls mean something different to everyone, and thinking about how you want to portray these controls in the business is super key depending on company appetite.” 

“Pleo is the first place where I’ve worked in Finance that is a very intrinsically trusting organisation. Perhaps this comes from its Scandinavian heritage. 

When I first started work, I worked for a government organisation in London and the expense policy was extremely rigid because you were responsible for the spending of taxpayers money. That definitely coloured my idea of what an expense policy should be. I had to adapt along the way once I realised that not every organisation works like that.”

It’s important to have controls that can be flexible and fit the appetite for your organisation.

Setting the right control matters even more for distributed teams 

Post-COVID, the working world has inevitably changed. 

With many companies offering more flexible working options or even going fully remote, the way businesses approach setting up and communicating their spend controls needs to adjust as well. 

“With more remote work and people being much more spread out than before the pandemic, businesses can now have new cultures, new behaviours and new attitudes to consider when setting up financial controls,” says Chelsea. 

A person’s appetite or attitude towards control can also be dependent on where they’ve worked before.

“Controls are very important for setting guiding principles for employees”, she continues, “Because if I am being completely honest, what I might spend versus somebody else will be very different because we have a different mindset. Based on past experiences, where we’ve worked and what department we are in.” 

“Having those controls in place and guidance on spending principles, it doesn’t allow ambiguity or wiggle room for people to infer what is acceptable – the controls set the company guidelines which are the most important thing. No matter where people are.” 

How spend management and control go hand-in-hand 

To learn more about understanding your company’s appetite for control, as well as what makes a good expense policy, how to start setting a solid spend strategy and more, sign up for The new way of finance series to access Chelsea’s full lesson. Plus, additional lessons from four more forward-thinking finance leaders.

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