Develop Clear Policies On Expenses
This is the place to start, not the avenue you take after the abuses begin. You can determine these policies yourself, but it makes sense to include a few key staff, especially if you have not been making your own travel arrangements.
Pre-trip planning must follow a checklist, such as booking approved means of transportation and appropriate hotels. Set an overall budget, but be responsive to costs that go up or down depending where the travel takes place. If your or your staff travel to just a few destinations frequently, set a budget for each city. This should include hotel costs, transportation within the city and food and approved business entertainment.
Lay out everything concerning the expenses the business will cover, starting from when your employee walks out the door to the waiting cab or personal car on the day a trip begins. Everyone should be on the same plan to avoid surprises when vouchers are presented.
The best course is to limit or deny exceptions to these rules. Be somewhat open to hearing reasons from your staff for deviations, but use them as talking points for modifying the policy for future trips not for reimbursing expenses you did not anticipate.
Prefer The Day Trip – Or No Trip
If yours is an industry that operates in a fairly compact area, consider limiting most if not all business travel to day trips. Even if you spring for airfare, eliminating the overnight stay and the downtime of a number of days out of town will save you money. Also invest some time and training for you and your staff on virtual ways to meet with far-away clients or other branches of your business via Skype, conference calls, emails, document sharing and other technologies that are constantly evolving. Your staff may prefer to stay home so know that productivity may rise at the same time expense is saved.
Find And Work With A Business Travel Agency
If you can find a dynamic, customer oriented travel agent, by all means do this for your business travel needs. Take the time early in the relationship to set parameters with the agency as to what you expect it to do for your company besides simply booking rooms and flights. Share the pertinent parts of your employee expense policy for business trips and require that the agency follow the guidelines. This can be a great way to ensure your company is signed up for all reward programs and that the rewards are used for business travel. It can also be a the means to many other discounts and waivers of extra fees for things like emergency flights.
Grow Your Own Travel Agent
Sometimes you would prefer a staff person coordinate these activities and expenses. If so, be sure to include that person in the group that determines the policies and regularly set up reviews with that person to ensure all staff are following protocols. Do not consider this a minor or “filler” job if you are intent upon saving money. Give the employee assigned this job the time and the tools to do it correctly.
No matter how much some of your executives might want their own support staff to handle these details, resist. Keep this function centralized and evenhanded and you will save money and present a fair and equitable front to your employees. Review the travel planning done for each individual or department frequently and personally, at least as to expenses incurred.
Find Hotels That Work With You And Your Employees
Whether you use an agent or a dedicated staff person to book rooms, insist they develop good relationships with moderately priced hotels or chains that truly cater to business travel. Reliable internet access, an in-room desk that you can spread out on and a meeting area must trump amenities like hot tubs and pools, although a filling and healthy breakfast included with the night’s stay does save on your meal reimbursement. Do not stint on cleanliness or safety, and stress to your staff that you can assure that rooms are pleasant and comfortable even if the hotels have a star or two fewer. After all, you aren’t paying them to spend their time in the bar!