A New Expense-Tracking Tool for Small Biz

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Ask a small business owner what he or she really cannot get a handle on, and chances are it’s tracking company expenses. It’s a tedious, cumbersome, often paper-heavy process that both business owners and employees equate to a root canal.

But a new tech tool that enables small businesses to track expenses with a single click — even from a point of destination thousands of miles away — may make entrepreneurs’ lives a little bit easier. Maybe a lot easier.

Historically, businesses view expense reports as a necessary evil — and certainly not as a profit center. But a March 2010 Aberdeen Group study turns that theory upside down. Aberdeen’s The State of Travel and Entertainment Expense Management reports that good expense reporting practices can save big money for businesses of any size (specifically, $24 million annually for “average-sized” companies).

Maybe that’s why 53% of the 175 businesses surveyed by Aberdeen say they place a “premium” on getting their expense reports done fast, and done right.

Now there’s a new tool that claims it can help small businesses accomplish that task. It’s called Expensify, and it's developed by a San Francisco company with the same name.

In a word, Expensify is all about simplicity. The software, also available as an iPod, Blackberry and Droid application, is able to skim a credit or debit card, snap online images of receipts, log expenses on a secure server and upload them for easy e-mail or printing. Expenses are approved online and electronic reimbursements can be set up with direct deposit.

Structurally, Expensify aims to make expenses easily organized. Specifically, the company’s Web site says expenses can be “analyzed and grouped by employee, date, expense category or viewed as daily, monthly or yearly totals with aggregate totals grouped by expense category to provide a detailed view of who spent what and where.” On the receiving end, small business owners receive a much simpler and clearer picture of where they might cut some corners to save a few bucks.

Pervasiveness may be a plus, too. Expensify, which has only been in business since 2008, says that it supports 94% of all U.S. credit cards and 82% of U.S. smartphones. It also offers integration with popular online accounting tools like Google Apps, Quickbooks and SalesForce.

The company also says it places a priority on security, using the same security standards that many banks and cash-transfer firms like PayPal use.

In addition, the company has a unique billing system — it doesn’t charge employees who use the application to document expenses online, but it does charge the firms where they’re employed. Each “submitter” costs the company $5 per month, with the first two submitters free. So if you’re a small business owner with four employees submitting expense reports to you on a monthly basis, you’re only out $10 — not a bad deal.

The analytical firm International Data Corporation estimates that 75% of the U.S. workforce will be mobile by 2011, meaning more and more on-the-go small business employees will be using mobile apps to log and track business expenses.

If Expensify can deliver on its promise of “expense reports that don’t suck” (that’s the company’s tagline), then small businesses may begin looking at expense reports less as a headache, and more as a savings tool that could help them get in the black.

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