Since the start of March, the impacts of COVID-19 have hit nearly every industry. It’s safe to say we’re slowly adjusting to our new ‘normal’ - but the ripple effects of this storm are only just beginning. Finance departments have jumped into the helm to guide businesses to be more conservative, remain positive, and plan for the future, whatever it may look like.
As the CFO of Roomex, the leading platform for managing workforce travel spend, I wanted to share some learnings that have come out of managing the changes that the pandemic brought to our company, and how finance departments can lead their companies through these challenging times.
We're all facing similar challenges.
The world is changing dramatically and in ways that are hard to predict. Finance departments are overwhelmed with both the volume of work they have and managing the stress of falling revenues. The general level of risk is also heightened during these times, with most CFO’s looking to create plans with fewer people, budget cuts, and economic uncertainty.
But, your business is looking to the finance team for clear guidance on what it can afford, what could be cut, and how to rebalance. The role of the CFO is to protect the company’s assets, manage risk, maintain effective internal controls. Remember to keep your focus on the company, industry trends and developments, and the economy’s current and likely future performance.
But, there are ways that you can lead your team to overcome these challenges, and emerge stronger.
Firstly, make sure you have a full understanding of the major functions across the business. Use this time to strengthen relationships, and truly understand their various strategies, challenges and priorities. You’ll be more likely to be able to provide teams with valuable answers that they need, while getting more detailed information from them, leading to more accuracy in your projections.
Secondly, develop strong financial partners and find efficient ways of working together. Partnerships allow for more specialisation and a more streamlined business. They also allow you to focus on the core activities of your business and mitigate risks.
Amid the pandemic, we developed two strategic partnerships that created growth and more opportunities for our business, while addressing some customer challenges. We partnered with EML to get our new expense management solution, RoomexPay to market to support key workers travelling during these times.
We also worked with Affiniture to increase credit payment periods and reduce pressure on our customers, because we understand businesses have fewer resources due to COVID-19.
Thirdly, relax and think long term. Yes, this pandemic has absolutely changed the way we do business, especially in travel. But if you stay calm and think clearly, you will be able to identify innovative, intelligent, and growth-oriented measures - which are in the best long term interests of the business.
Workforce travel will change dramatically due to the impacts of the pandemic.
Hotel availability has reduced, so if your team is used to staying in a particular chain, be flexible, and look at other options. Contactless payment transactions are on the rise, so it could be helpful arming your staff with prepaid cards like RoomexPay, that also offer mobile payments rather than cash. They offer little risk, as the amount of money accessible on each card is directed by the finance team. I think about it like this -travelling with cash is going the way of ordering goods using a fax machine! It also reduces pressure on your travelling workforce, that is even more cost-conscious today and would prefer to not pay out of pocket.
I also see travel moving to a centralised platform. Many companies manage travel through multiple leisure sites, excel sheets and notebooks. It’s hard to actually get a hold of what you're spending, on who, and why. I also foresee, as budgets tighten, compliance with travel policies will be even more essential.
Travel policies have always been very important, but now on top of the assistance they provide to adhering to budgets, all policies will require editing due to the complete change in travel procedure as an effect of the pandemic. Ensure your travel policies have been updated from a cost, risk, and duty of care perspective.
There are a few things the finance teams can do today to adjust to the 'new normal.'
Just as our governments and our businesses are adjusting to ‘a new normal’ - the people that make up our teams are too. The stress of the pandemic has hit everyone, both personally and professionally. First and foremost, your most valuable company asset is your people.
A big focus of mine has been putting in time and effort into creating a team culture. A happy and engaged team that supports and helps each other and is motivated to add value to the business is key in the current situation. Challenges and surprises abound at the moment, and a team that enjoys working together and having some fun will navigate these issues much more smoothly.
I also have gained more appreciation of work-life balance and the flexibility needed to achieve this. Try to get better awareness into what’s going on in staff members' lives, because it impacts their workday and their work performance. On the same note, working remotely is different than working in the office in many ways- and I’ve noticed a big, positive change in the efficiency of our processes.
It seems this trend of working remotely when possible will continue, so use this time to consider processes, automation opportunities, integrations, and team compositions.
Ask yourself, if you were designing the department from scratch today, what would you put in place? How could you be better set up for success when the upswing returns? Get used to working without paper, and saving documents into the cloud rather than locally, and communicating and collaborating regularly.
Use this drastic change to give yourself and your team a fresh start.
We’re living in a very different world today, and we all need time to process, react, regroup, and reset. Roomex, has been providing assistance to companies as they get back on the road on everything from sourcing, negotiating and managing safe, clean, flexible accommodation to helping them remotely roll out prepaid expense cards and expense management platform to travelling workforces.