Expense Management

6 Real-Life Small Business Expense Management Problems (That We’re Solving)

We interviewed hundreds of small businesses and found that many struggle with the same expense management problems. Don’t be like the others. Here’s how you can tackle six of these problems with one solution.

Do you ever imagine you could run your business without worrying about managing expenses? Without having to chase employees down to collect receipts? Without having to worry about wasting money on monthly fees? If you do, it turns out you’re not the only one. 

We interviewed dozens of small business owners in the United States from a cross-section of industries to find out exactly what expense management problems they face. They told us everything and didn’t hold back—the good, the bad, and the “I wish this wasn’t a thing but it is and it sucks…” 

From these interviews, we drilled down to the six most common expense management problems every small business owner faces and we showed them how ClearSpend could help. So, if you struggle with these problems (and who doesn’t), the good news is, there is a solution that can help. 

The most common expense management problems we found were:

  1. Fees, fees, and more fees: Every expense management solution seems to have fees associated with them. And those fees only seem to cover a certain number of users or seats. 
  2. Declined charges: When employees rely on their corporate cards to make important purchases, declined charges can slow everybody down and potentially affect a sale. 
  3. Maxing out budgets: With traditional corporate cards, you can tell someone what their max monthly budget is, but it’s often hard to control that. And by the time you get the statement, it’s too late and your budget’s been blown. 
  4. Employee fraud: If someone knows they’re going to be let go or quit, what’s to stop them from charging everything on their business accounts? By the time you get the card back (if you get it back), it could be too late. 
  5. Losing receipts: The bane of every business owner’s existence. You need receipts to account for expenses, but keeping track of them is hard…not to mention all the lost receipts. 
  6. Google Docs, Excel, and Post-Its. Oh My!: Business owners aren’t trained accountants or bookkeepers. You probably have to keep track of expenses on a strange and unruly combination of Google Docs, Excel spreadsheets, and post-its on your computer just to make sure you don’t forget anything. 

Now get ready to get nerdy as we do a deep dive into what small businesses had to say about these common expenses management problems.

1. Fees, fees, and more fees

“Some of the struggles are operation fees, third party costs…The biggest struggle that we run into is third-party apps are extremely costly, and then they don't provide the lack of provision. I don't need to pay a $10 monthly fee for X amount of people that it imports and so forth.” 

- Mae M, COO of a live theater production company

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. The story of the third-party apps that charge you per user or per month, basically eating away at all your profit margin.

Ya? Us too. That’s why we created ClearSpend’s spend control, card issuing, and expense management solutions with no fees. Managing your expenses shouldn’t cost you more money. There are no monthly fees, no transaction fees, no interest charges, and no card issuing fees.

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Just a better way to control your small business finances.

2. Declined charges

card declined flashing red
“As marketers, we’re dependent on Facebooks ads for our running our business, but we keep running into the same issue…I've tried every single credit card that we have, and every single time it will either decline the charge or it will let the charge go through and then flag it. And then we have to call. And then I have to sit on the phone and tell them that we authorize Facebook, and I tell them we talk to you every month. Literally.” 

- Leanne D, digital marketing agency owner

When you have several employees who rely on their corporate cards to get their job done daily, you don’t have time for payment cards to be declined. Because what happens next? You (yes, YOU because you’re the one listed as the admin) have to spend time on the phone with customer service trying to validate your existence and explain why Bob in Bushwick needs to spend $5,128.66 at Home Depot.

Or why Carole in marketing is setting up Google Ads at 4:52 pm on a Friday so the campaigns for the long weekend go through. This means you (yes, YOU, again) have to figure that out. Again. And you have to spend time managing everyone’s cards to make sure everyone can do their job and you don’t get to go home (or log off) for the long weekend.

With ClearSpend, you (and whoever else you set as an admin) can set approvals for different merchant categories. So no more problems at Home Depot for Bob or with Google Ads for Carole. You’re in control and you never have to speak to another human again…(about declined charges that is—we can’t eliminate all human interaction).

Speaking of spending limits…

3. Maxing out budgets

Raise your hand if you’ve ever given an employee a company card and said “This is for your travel expenses, please be reasonable.”

What if you never had to leave the “being reasonable” to the sales reps? What if instead, you could just automatically cap the ‘entertainment’ spending on their card at $250 per month? That way, once it’s gone, it’s gone and you can reset it for the following month. 

ClearSpend’s spend control tools let you set daily or monthly spending limits for each of the cards. That means you can not only cap how much someone spends in a day or month on their card, but you can also divvy it up by merchant category (like gas, shopping, or restaurants). Think of it like the envelope budgeting trick of yesteryear…but modernized.

"When I was a kid, I would use envelopes to budget. Like I have five envelopes. This envelope is for my bicycle. This envelope is for my GI Joe. This envelope is for going to the movies or buying video games. I would get my $20 allowance and I'd put $5 in the GI Joe fund, $5 here. Then, ‘Oh, you want to go to the movies as well? I only have $15, but I need $20. I have to take from the GI Joe fund…so that kind of reminds me of ClearSpend, it's entirely up to you in terms of how much control you would want to put on that card or not, just like the envelope budgeting but digital budgeting instead.” 

- Kyle M, Owner of an event production company

But the icing on the expense cake is there are no surprise bills at the end of the month since you already know you set limits on the cards, and you made sure only approved charges go through. Bonus: you don’t have to collect money for those whoopsy* charges.

*Whoopsy charges are charges employees claim they thought were expense-able but aren’t, and then you have to collect money from employees to repay them.

4. Employee fraud 

“If someone went out and bought a piano with a corporate card, they could do it and I would catch it, but it would be too late.”

- Jon H, Home healthcare business owner

The trouble with corporate credit and debit cards is having to collect them and cancel them every time an employee leaves the company or is terminated. Getting those cards back is important but can be a tedious process. Not to mention, can add up to hundreds or thousands in stolen funds. 

And having virtual cards means never having to worry about getting the physical cards back from employees, or if the numbers are lost or stolen, you can cancel them immediately.

“If the employee knows he'll be terminated and he still has access to the card for one or two days, that could be a problem. But I could just cancel the virtual card and they don't have to turn in a physical card, so that makes my job easier.”

- Lars N, Maintenance company owner

With ClearSpend, you can cancel both virtual and physical cards in real-time from the ClearSpend dashboard or mobile app.

 5. Losing receipts

“We're just constantly having to track down who and what and what studio and how much and…do you have the receipt? There has to be an app or something to be able to organize this disaster.”

- Julie N, Owner of several yoga and pilates studios

Good news, Julie. There is. And it’s called ClearSpend.

You don’t have to worry about employees losing their receipts or sending you copies of the receipts with their expense reports. They can attach their receipts directly from the ClearSpend app as soon as they’ve paid so they don’t forget. Plus, ClearSpend’s Go Cards can be loaded to Apple Pay or Google Play. This makes it easy for everyone because they don’t have to keep a wallet full of crinkled receipts that are probably faded, and it’s one less problem for you to solve as well.

Speaking of easy peasy…

6. Google Docs, Excel, and Post-Its. Oh my!

“If I can't get rid of the 50 Google Docs that I have to run, then you're not saving me manpower, and I'm not going to pay the fee. But if I can actually get rid of the docs, if I can cut down on manpower, if I can automate things that are reliable and searchable, that's a big thing.”  

- Mae M, COO of a live theater production company

Small business owners have to wear many hats, and sometimes those hats include accounting and finance. That means keeping track of expense reports in one spreadsheet, keeping a physical folder of invoices, and leaving yourself sticky notes to remind you to reconcile the books in time for corporate tax filing season.

It can become overwhelming, confusing, and messy, if we’re being honest. Like, you had a better organization system when you’d put your receipts in a shoebox, am I right?

Instead, ClearSpend automates the entries in your dashboard, saves all the receipts, and everything is searchable (so no need for that shoebox). Best of all, it saves you time and saves your sanity.

Hello, ClearSpend

When we built ClearSpend, we didn't just want to make some random thing that maybe people might use. Instead, we wanted to know what small businesses were struggling with in real life, which is why we interviewed so many small business owners and accountants.

ClearSpend is specifically designed to help tackle some of the most common expense management problems small businesses face today—and make managing your expenses one less headache in your already busy life (because there ain’t enough Excedrin for those migraines).

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