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“You must gain control over your money, or the lack of it will forever control you.” – Dave Ramsey
If you aren’t eternally vigilant about your expenses, they will creep up. It’s a silent and deadly law that makes Process Improvement a necessarily ongoing endeavour. But sometimes events come up that blow-up expenses and leave a clean slate behind. We’re in one of those events now.
Entertainment and travel are good to do. They feel good, build your business in the long term, and the staff love them. But they’re expensive, and the trips creep up. Soon one necessary trip a year has become five trips a year.
This pandemic has brought layers of difficulty. However, a bright spot is that it is forcing us to quit – cold turkey – some of the novelty expenses that we’ve baked into our budgets.
Morale matters, now more than ever. Across Alberta, we’re sorely missing the staff functions, get-together nights, and catered lunches we once took for granted.
Some entertainment spending, like staff events for your front-line team, is important. We should still spend those dollars, hard as it may be, because you need your team to be energized and motivated. If your office hasn’t opened yet, you can try creative ideas like sending out electronic gift cards for delivery services and eating together over video. Or, have the team meet on a patio where it’s safer to interact.
On the other hand, now is not the time to tap the expense account. Dinners out, hockey games, and other management perks should not be a priority for a long time, and it will be our choice whether or not to indulge once life returns to normalcy.
Travel: Numbers Don’t Lie
The average business spends about 1% of their revenue on travel. While that fluctuates a lot across industries, even half a percentage point matters in an era with razor-thin net profits.
More interesting is that, while business travellers make up 12% of airline passengers, they rack up 75% of airline profits. Business travellers are more likely to pay full price, take the last-minute fare, and splurge for the exit row. It’s the boss’s money, after all.
Airfare is just the start. Throw in car rentals, meals, hotels, shipping, cell phone bills, tips, and the myriad of other costs that come with it. Not to mention the costs few people take into account: the productivity lost, directly and indirectly, from a manager being out of the office and then playing catch up once he or she gets back.
Travel often pays off in training, acquiring customers, or growing your brand. But it won’t hurt to take a year off and inject that money into cash-starved operating budgets. And once we can travel again, we can evaluate the habits we built into our businesses and decide how much, if any, we want to go back to spending.
The Bottom Line
The elephant in the blog is that we know too much travel wastes money. Some travel is vital, and we’re feeling the sting of losing it right now. But let’s talk about the “extra trip” or two that aren’t really necessary.
A lot of waste happens at the top. When you’re the boss, it’s easy to let the trips add up because they offer something we can rarely get in our office: pure focus on the bigger picture, and the promise of a big leap forward.
2020 has been an intervention. For many companies, it’s a (short-term) cost savings wrapped in a much larger problem. We know that a global pandemic is not the present we wanted to receive, but it’s what we’ve been given. As managers, let’s decide to use this as an opportunity to master the art of Lean living.