How to Navigate the Financial Supply Chain

By James Thomas, CEO, and Ryan Courtade, VP of Revenue Operations, Itemize Corp.

We’ve all heard the phrase “time is money.” As a small business owner, you know your time is precious. That’s why you are most likely perpetually in “time management” mode; you start work relatively early, manage and update a checklist of ongoing projects, and stay on top of your email.

But, all too often, we’ve seen many businesses not managing an essential component of their business: the financial supply chain. And, there’s a  simple solution that can save you tons of time in managing your business. We’ll get to that soon.

But first, what is the financial supply chain? It’s a fancy name for the financial processes you’ve created around your business in order to run it. It means answering these questions:

  • Where are you spending money?
  • How are you getting paid?
  • How are you tracking all of this?

Knowing these answers and organizing them around your business activities will do wonders for your business by increasing productivity and overall profit levels. Navigating the financial supply chain is a basic skill you must have as a business owner.

If you do not, you will most likely:

  • Spend money where you don’t need to spend it
  • Get in trouble with various taxing authorities
  • Become unable to keep your business afloat

You’re in business to make money, right? What you need isn’t more trips to the bank. It’s also not some extravagant accounting software. What you need is an automated expense management technology system—a true financial supply chain tool. It will track your expenses, identify any questionable payments, and prepare any basic tax filings you may have.

That sounds great, you might be thinking, but how do I know which expense management technology software to choose? To help you out, we’ve outlined the top features needed to ensure your confidence about where your money is going every single day.

It’s accurate

Above all else, the solution needs to be accurate. What’s the point of having an expense management tool that does not give you the correct data? It is possible to get technology that is more than 98% accurate. Essentially, you will only manually process or enter data less than two percent of the time. Not all expense management technologies are this accurate, but if you do a little research, you are guaranteed to find one.

To that end, a tool that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence is your best bet. It reads information straight from documents, digital or not. And that is where the true value in efficiency lies with this whole process of managing expense and receipt data. If you relied on humans to enter this kind of data, it’s only a matter of time until someone makes a mistake and types, “$900” instead of “$90, for example. Everybody makes mistakes, but expense management technologies eliminate the human error factor.

It’s easy to use.

The last thing you want, as a business owner, is to “take on a new project” simply to help manage your business—and, in this case, the overall financial supply chain. You also don’t want to have to talk to some kind of salesperson just to use a new tool. Be wary of that; you shouldn’t be forced to talk to someone in order to sign up for a free trial or download a tool.

Look for an expense management system that lets you simply set up and go. You shouldn’t need this kind of system to understand the layout of vendor invoices or require vendors to onboard. We can assure you that business technology exists to where these things are not needed. Don’t make expense management another chore. It should be easy and work with you—not against you.

It’s tailored to your industry

Beware of any expense software that claims to be a “one-size-fits-all” solution. It may sound great, but does that really help your specific business? Why settle for technology that demands you to adapt to them? Again, implementing expense management software should be seamless and easy to use as a small business owner. Certain types exist in which the platform is built to support your needs—whether you are an architect or designer, builder or contractor, or even a real estate agent.

The bottom line is this:  you shouldn’t be expected to adapt to their technology, especially when you are already in the process of trying to adapt to the digital age and eliminating paper receipts.

This type of technology needs to, in part, deeply understand your specific uses and the pain points you are trying to solve. We’ll use architects as an example. Architects have contractors buying supplies for different projects, and they have to deal with billing receipts to specific customers. How great would it be to add notes to these receipts via metadata fields to identify a specific project or client? The days of writing “Jones’ project” on a receipt are gone; now the expense management app on the architect’s phone allows them to make notes—at the time they upload the receipt, also removing the possibility of forgetting what or who the receipt is for.

Another reason to look for custom-tailored expense management technology solutions is to ensure you are following regulatory requirements in your industry. These are not to be taken lightly. For example, someone working for a nonprofit has to track expenses differently compared to someone who works at JP Morgan. Different regulations in different industries require a certain level of care. Find an expense management solution that has your back there.

At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to worry about how our expenses are being tracked. Forget the fancy depreciation schedules. Forget the complex balance sheets with room for all kinds of things you don’t even possess or care about. You deserve something better—something that will free up time for you to do the things that truly matter to grow your business.

Stick with something simple, reliable, and easy. Stick with an automated expense management system. As the saying goes, it will help you take care of the pennies so the pounds can take care of themselves.

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