How Workforce Tools Keep Productions On Track

The show, of course, must go on. But when production freelancers have to shell out-of-pocket for business expenses, delayed reimbursements can cause longer-term rifts. In the latest Spend Management Tracker, Torrey Tayenaka, CEO of digital production company Sparkhouse, explains how efficient reimbursement and reconciliation services help keep cameras rolling, while retaining the freelance talent the company relies on.

As the old show-business saying goes, “The show must go on.”

The entertainment industry isn’t the only field in which this adage holds true, though. Production companies that create advertising or marketing campaigns for corporate clients are also expected to complete their projects in a timely manner, no matter what circumstances arise.

Whether a commercial to elevate a new product’s profile or the launch of a marketing campaign, production studios are constantly tasked with meeting clients’ expectations — without delays or unexpected purchases hindering the process. These companies are now using workforce spend management tools like corporate cards and reconciliation services to ensure both deadlines and client expectations are met.

In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Torrey Tayenaka  founder and CEO of video production and marketing company Sparkhouse, based in Irvine, California  discussed his company’s workforce spend management strategy, the process of keeping productions on schedule and how Sparkhouse retains freelance talent through more efficient reimbursements.

Spend Tools To Meet Tight Deadlines

Tayenaka first launched Sparkhouse when he was still in high school, originally calling it “OC Creative Media.” It was rebranded as “Sparkhouse” in 2009, and currently boasts a client roster that includes Nissan, Forever 21, Experian and Capital One, among other firms. Six full-time employees hold corporate cards, and the company frequently hires freelancers for a wide range of tasks like hair and makeup, voice-over work or editing services.

Sparkhouse uses a combination of corporate spending cards and reconciliation services from QuickBooks for production-related transactions, Tayenaka explained. Corporate spending cards can help its producers to make quick purchases for projects, which typically take at least two months to complete, rather than submitting requests for approval.

“Deadlines are a huge issue in video production,” he said. “If we had one person making purchases, it would slow us down and make for a clunky process.”

Sparkhouse’s corporate cards are used for a variety of expenses, including catering for crews and hiring remote talent through online portals. They also include earmarked controls that allow producers to tag and reconcile purchases made for a particular project. The company’s projects vary widely in terms of time and budget by month and client, meaning this data can determine which yield the most value, in addition to how much Sparkhouse spent on supplies, food or materials.

“The big thing is checking the profitability of a project,” Tayenaka said. “We look at profitability on a monthly basis and try to pinpoint which projects are the causes of profitability, or [which] are the causes of a lack of profitability.”

Reduced Reliance On Bookkeepers

In addition to earmarking production-related costs, the workforce spend management solutions Sparkhouse utilizes help the company save on bookkeeping expenses. Tayenaka previously kept an envelope filled with physical paper receipts, and a bookkeeper would then have to sort through them and compare against the company’s QuickBooks system to reconcile them.

Since purchases are now automatically recorded in Sparkhouse’s accounting system, the company can pay a professional bookkeeper as needed instead of adding a staffer to its payroll.

“On the bookkeeping side, tagging these purchases with an image of the receipt allows us to not hire a full-time bookkeeper,” Tayenaka explained. “We can hire an hourly bookkeeper to come in once a month and quickly put these expenses into our accounting system [instead].”

Building Stronger Freelancer Ties

Sparkhouse employs a roster of freelance workers for its projects, including editors, lighting specialists, and other on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent. Those who experience unexpected out-of-pocket expenses can snap photos of their receipts using their mobile devices and submit them to Sparkhouse for approval, Tayenaka said. Payments are issued by check every 15 days once reimbursements are processed and approved by QuickBooks.

The service has, so far, served Sparkhouse well, he added. It alleviates the need for freelancers to hold onto physical receipts or share credit card statements to have their reimbursements processed. Having such a process, designed to help contract workers get faster access to funds, is important for a company like Sparkhouse because frustration over the time it takes to be reimbursed often strains relationships and alienates talent.

“Based on our experience, we keep good freelancers working for us by keeping them happy,” he said. “We do our best to make sure they get paid quickly and correctly.”

Tayenaka’s observation is echoed by the most recent Gig Economy Index, which found that 84.5 percent of surveyed gig workers would take on more gig work if paid faster.

“If [he or she] can get paid faster and reimbursed faster, that freelancer’s life is going to be a bit more normalized,” he said.

For production companies hoping to ensure that deadlines are met in a timely manner, upgraded workforce spend management solutions and reimbursement processes can go a long way toward keeping things on schedule and on budget. In other words, it appears to take both the right talent and the right tools for a show or production to go on.