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Turning the tables: Why control is a good thing when it comes to spend management

Control and forward-thinking. They’re an unlikely pair, yet they can work hand-in-hand. When we typically think of control in the workplace, it often feels stifling, leaving no room for autonomy, creativity or initiative. And there’s no doubt that an overly controlling working environment will inevitably only lead to high staff turnover and frustrating bureaucratic processes. 

But control, when done right, can bring healthy structure, trust and transparency into your work culture, especially when it comes to spend management. Not only does it keep everyone on the same page, but it’ll keep your company’s finances in check, too. 

How the forward-thinking leader approaches financial control 

So, what does control actually mean?

Control (noun): The power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events.

At first glance, admittedly, control doesn’t sound like it allows for a progressive or people-first environment. But having complete control over your expense management is crucial, and it doesn’t have to be wrapped in red tape.

Instead, forward-thinking leaders can implement control and regulations into their expense management through clear, individual spending limits and spending policies, for example, that keep everyone aligned. 

After all, control isn’t the bad guy, it’s just a job that needs to be done.

Why is spend control a win-win for everyone?

With clear-cut expense reporting and processes that work for everyone, finance teams can rest easy at night knowing exactly where company money is going. On top of this, your team aren’t expected to pay out-of-pocket or left guessing about what they can and can’t buy in order to do their best work. 

A spending policy that keeps everyone on the same page

With control should come transparency. At times, it can be unclear what your team is able to spend on, especially across departments and entities. And an expense policy isn’t a one-size-fits-all for every single company out there. Budgets differ for projects, flights, accommodation, and so on. So it’s important your spending policy clearly outlines this. 

With a bespoke expense policy built for your team, your people are free to get what they need for work without having to jump through hoops seeking approval or justifying certain purchases. An effective expense policy will cover most ground ahead of time by detailing a set of useful rules and tips on what money can be spent on. Not only keeping everyone on the same page but also avoiding any overspending mishaps. 

Spending oversight like never before

It’s now more important than ever to know exactly where company money is going, what it has been spent on, and how much. Control doesn’t just come in the form of setting guidelines, it can be implemented in various ways, such as by setting individual spending limits before even handing out company cards to the team. With transparent business expenditure comes a whole new level of spending visibility. This gives you room to look at spending habits that could be altered and an opportunity to reassess budgets. 

It’s something our customers vouch for, too, as Steve Parks, Convivio’s CEO, said: "It’s more just a feeling that spending is under control because you can see the stream of what’s going on. There’s real visibility. You can know that there’s a process and that our bookkeeper has everything under control. There’s real visibility – and not a sense that receipts are building up in a shoebox somewhere."

Your team feel trusted to do their best work

Control shouldn’t come with a power imbalance. By having clear spending expectations and rules, your team are always kept in the loop and will inevitably feel trusted to buy what they need for work. Not to mention reducing the likelihood of them having to pay out-of-pocket. 

And it’s been proven time and time again that happy teams make for good business. It’s not blood, sweat or tears that make a successful business. It’s trust.

And science backs this up. Research by Harvard Business Review found that workers at companies where trust is high report 106% greater energy in the office, 50% more productivity and a reduction of 74% in stress levels compared to businesses with low trust.

Setting clear guidelines with spending limits empowers your team to make confident spending decisions. Better still, you won’t feel like a parent hanging over peoples’ shoulders approving or saying no to each purchase. 

Better workflows between the finance team and the rest of the business

Teamwork makes the dream work, and so do improved cross-functional workflows. When finance is in control of all spending across each and every department, teams work in harmony and more efficiently. With pre-set budgets and the opportunity to keep reassessing where money is best being set on, chances are, you’ll get the job done better. 

Finance teams and CFOs alike are often overlooked when it comes to setting business strategy and direction. More often than not, those that look after company money are seen as a collective of ‘bean counters’, primarily concerned with spreadsheets and numbers. But, finance leaders are fast becoming essential partners to the CEO, providing data and insights that form the basis of future business strategy.

As we continue to define and navigate what it really means to be forward-thinking at work, it’s time to assess the narrative around staying in control, especially when it comes to business spending too.  Forward-thinking finance leaders recognise that control doesn’t have to be something restrictive; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

Control is a necessary part of the job and is a way for companies to achieve readiness, agility and peace of mind. Sounds like the perfect pairing to us.  

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