Payments and cash flow can be the difference between life and death for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), This also applies to expense and spend management, which have a massive impact on cash flow. To solve these issues, we are seeing new innovative technology and processes designed to bring efficiencies to the filing, recording and disbursements of expenses when it comes to mobile workforces emerging.
These technologies and what they mean for small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) were the topic of discussion in a new PYMNTS interview with Jeff Pomeroy, vice president of product at Bento for Business. The problem is all to real for SMBs, he said. “They have fewer financing resources than other businesses,” Pomeroy said. “One employee holding on to his back expense reports for months can end up having a tremendous impact on the company and a distortional large effect on other employees.”
Fresh data support those larger points about payments, cash flow and SMBs.
In the U.S., small businesses are growing. A new report from ScaleFactor found that most businesses with fewer than 500 employees are reporting revenue increases, while separate analysis from KeyBank revealed that about half of SMBs are saying they have the finances in place to fuel that growth.
Yet, unsurprisingly, there are challenges to expansion, particularly when it comes to hiring, cash flow management and balancing financial management with running the rest of the business. Technology, analysts said, will be essential to addressing these challenges. Forty-three percent of SMBs said cash flow is their largest business challenge today, KeyBank research revealed. That’s followed by 24 percent that pointed to operating costs, and 14 percent that cited financial control as their biggest concerns. Not only that, but 24 percent of U.K. small businesses said managing travel expenses and payments is a stressful process.
To overcome such hurdles, it can pay to bring more digital efficiencies and even payments freedom to SMB field technicians and mobile workers, Pomeroy told PYMNTS. “They need services that are easy to use,” he said. “And processes more efficient than, say, having to return to an office every day to either get money for expenses or settle up — which in turn wastes time. That might mean, for instance, having a card that those mobile workers can use for fueling up, or a card good for spare parts and other miscellaneous parts. Those cards can be remotely controlled by supervisors via spending limits — with the limits able to be quickly raised in case of some emergency, such as a flat tire.
“If workers use their own cards, they are worried about getting reimbursed,” Pomeroy said. “And that raises an employee satisfaction issue.” As far as those spending controls go, flexibility is an essential requirement. “Problems crop up all the time,” he said, talking about this company’s experience serving the trucking industry, where mechanical issues are part of the job. “You don’t want your employees to be stranded. If you cannot adjust controls on the fly, then you have a big problem.”
Of course, challenges abound when it comes to deployment of such expense and spend management systems. SMB service providers are used to conducting business face to face instead of via online or mobile channels. And those businesses tend to be extremely local, meaning they can sometimes lack the motivation to upgrade digitally (to say nothing of the money and man-hours required to do so). Besides that, the explosion of web and payment service providers in recent years can leave even the most discerning SMB service provider bewildered.
Among the biggest problems, according to Pomeroy, is winning executive buy-in for such technology and process upgrades. “The manager or owner of a small business needs to believe there is a benefit to changing,” he said, “that change will will produce a solid ROI. Things are slowly turning, with awareness of the benefits of new and digital and mobile-focused expense and spend management systems growing.”
Still, it’s a long road from here to there, but the new decade is likely to bring progress to part of the spend and expense management world.