How This Woodland Is Telling You That You Need Travel Expense Management Software

Woodland in autumn. A peaceful afternoon. Sun finds its way through the canopy onto the floor. One glance tells you everything there is to know.

Except that it doesn’t. All you’re getting from a single glance at our picture is an impression. Sure, you can tell it’s a picture of trees, but how many are there? What species? How old? How many to the hectare? Are they healthy?

See? With every question I ask about this simple picture, you realise you know a little bit less than you thought. In the end, you’re down to the first three words in this post. It’s woodland in autumn.

And so it is with travel expenses. You know they exist because you keep authorising business travel. You may even know what you spent last year, or for the year to date. But is your business getting good value for that spend?

Interrogate the data

The only way to answer that with anything like confidence is to interrogate the data and tease out the information that’s lurking in there. That sounds like a complex exercise, and no doubt it is – if you’re starting from scratch with a pile of receipts and expense claims with the travel data rolled up inside everything else.

And that’s why the dashboard system of oversight built into so much modern software is so valuable. The clever developers behind the software powering your favourite app have set it up to do the hard work for you, and to tell you instantly where there are peaks and troughs in whatever system it is that’s being monitored. If it’s staff absence, you may find that there are lots of people who don’t make it on Monday morning for example.

And if it’s travel, you may find that three employees who went on the sales trip to the major client travelled together but have all claimed mileage as if they went alone. Sadly, it happens. Even if it doesn’t in your business, you may find better ways of accomplishing the task, like getting it done without spending quite so much on travel. For example, is the cheaper flight from a different airport actually cheaper in real terms, once you’ve factored in the mileage for getting to the airport and the overnight hotel stay because of awkward flight times? And how much time does your business waste on travel in the first place? What’s the hourly cost of employing whoever is going on the business trip in the overpriced scenario I’ve just outlined? Could their time be better spent? In short, is there a better way? Travel and expense management software will help you to find out.

Claim and pay more accurately

Good travel and expense management software sets down the rules, and makes it easier and faster for employees to claim in an accurate and timely manner, which makes approving expenses simpler and faster too, leaving you more time to get on with generating revenue – and isn’t that what you’re in business for?

By adopting the use of travel and expense management software you’re making the best use of available tools, empowering you to be more effective by interrogating data automatically, turning up gems of information from the impenetrable mass before you.

As my father was always prone to say: “You can’t see the wood for the trees.” I guess what he meant was that there was so much detail it was impossible to get a clear view of what really mattered in the scene.

Have another look at our picture. Thinking about what I’ve said, doesn’t it look a little different now? And are you going to find – and use – some travel and expense management software?

Guide to Business Travel Etiquette – United Kingdom

About the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is located in Western Europe, northwest of France between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. It is not very large, about the size of Oregon and is home to over 60 million people.

The UK is made up of four distinct regions – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, making it very culturally and ethnically diverse. It may seem that everyone in the UK could be called English, but many people in the UK, especially those in Wales and Scotland may be offended by this. The term “English” refers to natives of England and “British” to citizens of Great Britain.

Language

The majority of people in the UK speak English, but many areas have strong local accents and even dialects which may be difficult to understand. In Wales, Welsh is the language of choice – a Celtic language similar to Gaelic. Welsh is also spoken in some areas of Scotland.

Business Dress

Business dress in the UK is very conservative – dark colors, such as black, navy blue and charcoal are very popular as are heavier fabrics such as wool.

Tips for Men

o Avoid dress shirts with pockets and if they do have pockets, they should be kept empty. The only exception to this is a handkerchief.

o Ties with stripes should not be worn as the pattern may “belong” to a club, military regiment or school of which you are not a member.

o Wear shoes that lace, not those that slip on such as loafers.

Tips for Women

Business dress for women in the UK is not as limited as men’s but a conservative appearance is still important.

Business Hours

Most offices in the UK are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. However, most employees work longer hours as they prefer to complete their work at the office instead of bringing it home.

Government offices are open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and are closed for lunch from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

The best time of day to make an appointment is in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Breakfast and lunch meetings tend to be rare – outside of major cities.

Holidays

The UK has only eight national holidays a year, the lowest number in Europe. Most families with children will take annual vacations in July or August and the majority of businesses are closed between Christmas and New Years.

Conversations and Behavior

Many people in the UK are private and reserved – finding it difficult to engage in small talk with strangers. Beginning a meeting with a handshake is customary and a formal greeting is viewed as a sign of respect.

The English have very good manners and they view Americans as too casual, especially in speech. Be sure to speak clearly, in complete sentences and keep your speech at an even tone. Avoid animated conversations and a lot of hand gestures.

5 Tips for Combining Business and Leisure Travel, Destination Mideast

As summer approaches, I always ask myself how can I run two businesses and still get away. Travel research shows that we Americans are most likely to forfeit vacation days. The best solution I see is combining business with pleasure on every trip abroad.

Having signed up for a conference in Dubai, I was intrigued by the modern-day Mideast while wanting to know more about its ancient cultures. After some investigation, I found a flight to Dubai via Jordan with a few days stopover.

Leaving nothing to chance, I arranged an airport pick-up and booked a 5 star hotel well located in a chic part of Amman with multiple restaurant options nearby and within the hotel. Having studied Arabic, I was pleased to get to practice it even though the Egyptian courses I studied differed substantially from the Jordanian dialect.

As a crossroads, Jordan has a remarkable history from the ancient Nabataeans to Alexander the Great, the Romans, Byzantine and Arab cultures. Beyond its historical monuments, Jordan has a very vibrant present day culture. Shortly after my arrival, I saw this first hand as a local wedding party made its way through the hotel lobby to celebrate with dancing and music.

The following day I headed out on a day tour of the capital exploring Amman’s Roman ruins. I stood transfixed high over the city listening to the muezzin’s call to prayer. With only a brief stay, I made the most of the time taking a driver as local guide for about 12 hours each day. Fortunately, distances were fairly close with the next day’s exploration focused on the Roman ruins in Jerash. Its popular history starts at the time of Alexander the Great but fell to the Romans under Pompey in the first century AD. With the mild October climate, my guide and I then ate al fresco surrounded by vineyards. There was not a tour bus in sight!

The next day’s journey down to Byzantine Madaba ended at the renown Dead Sea. Famous for its spa treatments, I just had time to gaze at the sea before retracing my steps to Amman.

Saving the best to last meant a full day in the rose city of Petra built by the Nabataeans. Featured in Indiana Jones’s and other films and in a mystery novel by best-selling British writer Agatha Christie, it is a World Heritage Site that rivals the Pyramids. Beyond the large Treasury, there are a series of small buildings and conveniently located outdoor cafes and handicrafts for sale. Of course, the tourist route back to the entrance had to be on camel back providing great photo opps.

After an enchanting week, it was time to make my way to Dubai for a conference and brief sightseeing afterwards. Dubai is famous for the unexpected, like air conditioned bus stops, the Palm development and ultra-luxurious hotels. For me, as an “Intermittent Intermediate Skier”, I was fascinated by the indoor ski resort located in a local shopping mall. With limited expectations of a real workout, I knew this would make a great story and the perfect venue for a holiday card photo. After a feast of Southern Fried Chicken in the Mall of the Emirates Food Court, I covered my summer clothes with a colorful ski outfit and was up the escalator ski and poles in hand. After a few runs, it was off for hot chocolate at the adjacent St. Moritz CafĂ© and the perfect end to my Mideast odyssey.

As a woman traveling solo in the Mideast, I followed two practices I find work for me globally:

1. I arrange for an airport pick-up before leaving home. In certain countries, taxis may not be safe whether for men or women. Having navigated a low-grade civil war in sub-Sahara Africa, I learned to ask my hotel what they recommended, especially when traveling alone. In major capitals when arriving in day time, I often opt for public transportation, especially trains/subways or catching a cab.

2. I choose a 5 star hotel that has multiple restaurants options ideally both inside the hotel and nearby. Alternatively, when it was affordable as I found in Cairo, I took a driver who waited for me or in Lisbon caught a taxi round trip to try out top restaurants. In any new location, I always ask a lot of questions, especially to get local women’s opinions, before strolling alone after dark.

While in the Mideast, I did also have 2 additional rules of thumb:

1. Although I would be both sightseeing and attending a business conference in very hot desert weather, I wore long-sleeved shirts with slacks.

2. When I was the only woman alone in local restaurants, I always chose a seat/table right next to other pairs, groups of women, couples or families.

5 tips I have learned trying to combine business with pleasure:

1. To save on airfare, be sure to check out connecting flights allowing for extended layovers.

2. Where possible, take care of business first, especially if complex flights can cause lengthy delays.

3. Arrive over the weekend and make a trial run to locate your meetings’ fastest routes. Even with a GPS, it is easy to run into problems. In one city abroad, I found massive construction in the area surrounding my first meeting. Even walking, it was almost impossible to get through, and street addresses were obscured by the construction scaffolding. In another foreign city, I discovered when I arrived at an appointment that the outside door was locked, and I had trouble reaching anyone inside via my mobile phone.

4. Fly in or carry on a suit or an appropriate business look in case your luggage does not arrive on time.

5. Set multiple alarms on a travel clock, on your mobile phone and with the hotel operator. Even in top hotels, I have had a missed wake-up call or room service error before a flight for a quick day trip. (If you cannot function without coffee or breakfast, have a backup plan, as needed, if room service fails to appear.)

The key is to plan ahead where possible and have some time to survey your destination. Otherwise, a video conference in lieu of a face-to-face meeting may be a better value.