Forming Habits with Expense Reporting

Whether you work at a startup, a large corporation, or something in between, the end of the month always means one thing: it’s time to get those expense reports in!

People often consider expense reporting to be a pain in the elbow, and that’s why we’ve made it our mission to make expense reports suck less. Using Expensify can help significantly reduce the overall time it takes to finish a report. Even better, pair it with an incremental behavioral change and you might actually look forward to submitting your expense report every month (we can dream right?).

Putting Off Something That Sucks – Hey, It’s Natural!

Sit back and think for a hot second: how do you file your expense reports?

According to Leo Babauta from ZenHabits, we spend much of our lives avoiding or putting off our problems. People hate doing expense reports because it’s always been a long and tedious process that involves finding crumpled pieces of paper, manually entering a load of expenses and then triple-checking everything to make sure it’s all correct. As a result, you think of expense reporting as a problem that you want to put off for as long as you can.

At Expensify, we want to make those monthly, hours-long expense reporting rituals a thing of the past. We want to change the way you think about and do expense reports. How?

Try It Out: A Small Change in Behavior

Instead of throwing your receipt in your bag or pocket, use our mobile app and take a picture of the receipt when you get it. In doing so, you are accomplishing four things:

  1. You reduce the amount of clutter in your bag or pocket. A photo of your receipt = paper receipt in trash.
  2. You also minimize the risk of losing the receipt down to zero.
  3. You decrease the amount of time it takes to file expense reports by handling your expenses at the time of purchase instead of filing a pile of them at the end of the month.
  4. Your uploaded receipt can be sorted with categories and tags, which helps you organize expenses automatically.

Once you take that photo, our SmartScan technology will transcribe the receipt for you so you don’t have to enter the information manually. More importantly, by taking a picture of your receipt as soon as you get it, you’re creating a behavioral change that will fundamentally alter the way you do expense reports. This tiny change might seem inconsequential, but the power of habit is an incredibly powerful, subconscious phenomenon that can change the way you do expense reports forever. Repeat this action often enough, and you’ll be able to cultivate a strong expense reporting habit.

Take a Photo, Thank Yourself Later

With this small habitual change, a cursory glance over your expense report at the end of the month is all you’ll need to do before submitting it to a manager. No more high volume, last-minute scanning, organizing, or detailing. How amazing does that sound?

Don’t take our word for it. See what users have to say about how Expensify is changing the way they do expense reports:

 

Change the way you think about expense reporting! Let us know your story in the comments below or try us today.

As we continue towards our major realtime expense reporting push, we are continuing to streamline the Expensify product. This started with simplifying our pricing structure and now involves changing the way report submission and approval works for those people using Expensify outside of an expense policy. When users submit reports outside of an expense policy, the reports are now moved to the “closed” state and shared with the person the report was submitted to. The recipient of the report still has the ability to approve the report by moving the report to a policy.

What This Means for Submitters

When you submit an expense report, the report’s status will change from “open” to “closed”.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.40.59 PM

This report will be shared with the person you submitted the report to. As usual, they will get an email letting them know you have submitted this report to them. The Report History will reflect that the report was closed and that it was submitted to your desired recipient.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.42.57 PM

What This Means for Approvers

Approvers who are not members of an expense policy will continue to have the ability to view the reports that are submitted to them within Expensify. If you are a member of an expense policy, you will be able to move the expense report into that policy and approve it.

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If you don’t yet have an expense policy and you would like to approve the report, you will be able to create a new policy directly from the approve dialogue.

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Individuals using our product for free have always been Expensify’s base and we will always support them. However, as we have grown and developed as a company, it has been necessary to continuously rethink what features apply to our individual user and company users exclusively, how they interact, and the simplest way to present them. To this extent, we’d love your feedback! Please give us a shout at help@expensify.com and we’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have about this update.

Drag, Drop and Wow!

cead22 —  July 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

WOW Fridays, internally referred to as “fWOWdays”, are an experiment we just started at Expensify, and the main idea behind it is to allow engineers to devote 20% of their time working on cool projects that improve our customers lives and WOW them at the same time.

You may have heard of other companies doing something similar, but none of them really do it the way we do expense reports, that is, in a way that doesn’t suck. By focusing the 20% time on “Don’t-break-things-Fridays”, and shielding developers from support and other non-critical issues, they can stay in the zone and collaborate with other undistracted developers to build cool things.

This is a brief story of one of the first and probably smallest results of this experiment.

Drag and drop receipts to upload them

Drag to Upload

Drag and Drop Receipts Everywhere

Dragging and dropping receipts on the receipts page is the easier and faster way to import receipts from your computer into your Expensify account. We just enabled this functionality on the whole website, and made it smart enough to attach the imported receipts to expenses and reports automatically when you’re editing them.

Drag and drop receipt on report to attach it

Drag and drop receipts on report to attach it

As a consequence of this, an idea that had been in our designer’s wish list for months resurfaced, I call it “drag to report”. In that sentence, report is a verb, and put in words the idea is that as you drag expenses, a list of reports appears so that you can drop them into one of the reports to add said expenses to it.

The WOW factor

We’re constantly trying to make simple things simpler while saving our users valuable time. In this case it’s only a few seconds, but you’ll see how little savings tend to add up noticeably.

Drag to report expenses

Add 130 seconds (avg. number of expenses on a report * time it takes to SmartScan a receipt from your phone = 13 expenses * 10 seconds/expense = 130 seconds) and you end up with an expense report that don’t suck created and submitted in under 3 minutes.

Happy expensing!

This is my guest post written for LinkedIn Pulse, enjoy!

boss-hoggEverybody loves to rave about the bossless workplace, but it’s far more easily said than done. I’ve already written about the perils of the “flat management mutiny” — which comes as you emerge a leadership structure out of flat chaos — but it’s even harder going the other direction: dismantling an over-managed “top-heavy” structure and getting back to its roots. Here are some tips to pull it off in your organization:

  1. Identify your managers. This is easy: your managers are the people you put into management positions. You should already know this.
  2. Identify your leaders. This is actually quite hard. The difference between a manager and a leader might seem subtle, but couldn’t be greater: employees are assigned their manager, but they choose their leader. Figuring out who an employee actually looks up to is tricky because if it isn’t their manager, the mere acknowledgement of that fact forever changes the relationship between them and their manager — for the worse. Accordingly, the best way to do this is through very careful observation and casual conversation: body language is a key signal, so a pay attention.
  3. Identify the gap between your management and leadership structure. As immortalized by Alfred Sloan, “Good management rests on a reconciliation of centralization and decentralization.” Management is centralized, while leadership is decentralized. A great organization has the narrowest possible gap between the two: the organic, informal power structure that emerges naturally through working relationships should coincide as close as possible to the formal, top-down assignment of authority and responsibility. Or more succinctly: people should respect their managers, and if they don’t, bad things happen.
  4. Fire the bosses. A “boss” is someone who has been granted formal authority, but hasn’t earned the respect of their subordinates. Bosses aren’t leaders because employees wouldn’t choose to follow them if given an alternative: their authority comes from above, not below. Once you’ve identified the bosses, immediately begin laying the groundwork to fire them. First, however, you need to groom someone to step into their place. Toward that end…
  5. Promote your leaders. A “leader” is someone who has outsized influence beyond their formal role. It’s the person who their peers wish were in control, but isn’t because you haven’t noticed them yet. Notice them, engage them, and figure out how to encourage them to take on the authority that they deserve but haven’t made a point to ask for (which is why you didn’t know). It’s likely they haven’t asked because they are good team players (and thus don’t want to undermine their “boss”), and don’t crave authority — in fact, they’ll likely resist it. Leaders don’t ask to lead, they just do: they don’t seek out power, which is what makes them ideally suited to have it. Figure out how to craft a role that grants them broad authority over those tasks they are comfortable and willing to do (and that their peers will support), but that doesn’t force them to take on other responsibilities they might not be comfortable or willing to handle. Flexibility here is the key.
  6. Be decisive. Nobody benefits by you putting off the inevitable. The longer you wait, the greater chance your leader will take one of the job offers they are unquestionably receiving, leaving you with no way to replace the boss. Not only that, the longer you wait, the more likely the boss will take one of the job offers they are likely also getting, which undermines the authority of the leader you want to promote — it disempowers the promotion by making it seem reactionary, even if you had already planned to do it. The moment you make your decision, buck up and do it.
  7. Be honest. This isn’t about subterfuge — it’s about dealing with reality as it is, rather than how you’d like it to be. Nobody wants to be just a boss: they want to be a leader. They want the respect of the team, and if they haven’t earned it, they likely want and need your help to either get it, or change their role. If it gets to the point where you need to make a firing decision, always remember that it’s your fault, not theirs: you picked them, you put them in a role they weren’t suited for, and it’s your responsibility to make that right. That might mean another chance, career training, or a generous severance package. But at the very least, it deserves an honest explanation of the way you see it, such that they can learn from the experience. They might walk away thinking your an idiot. (In fact, they probably will.) But better that than them forever thinking of you as a liar.

It’s not fun, but firing is a major part of hiring. It’s better for you, better for your employees, and — in all honesty — better for them. Everybody I’ve ever fired has subsequently found a position that was better suited to them, and so long as you’re only hiring great people to start with, they will find that job very, very quickly.

David Barrett is Founder and CEO of Expensify (“Expense reports that don’t suck!”) and a frequent contributor on CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Fox Business News. Expensify is always hiring awesome people, and would love to hear from you.

One year ago, Expensify raised prices — the first time, ever — in order to get profitable.  That worked (thanks everyone!), but today is very different.  Today we are changing pricing in order to lay a foundation for a simpler and better product, even though the net effect of this change on our total revenue will be neutral.  This new pricing scheme is in effect today, and will first affect the 7/1 billing cycle.

Most customers will only be marginally affected — and many will see their price go down.  Those who do see their price go up are being given 12 months to get comfortable.  But everybody will see immediate benefits, and those benefits will compound over time as our new “realtime expense management” vision comes to fruition.

So that’s the long and short of it, and the new price is fully described here.  But if you care to know how we came up with it, read on:

Why do “realtime expense reports” necessitate this change?

Anybody who hangs out at Expensify HQ for long will tell you we’re hard at work reinventing the core experience of expense management into something we call “realtime expense reports”.  More details will be going public soon, but a key part of this experience is that the whole notion of “submitting a report” — historically the singlemost important function in the expense management process — is relegated to the dustbin of history.  Employees don’t like to do it, accountants don’t like waiting for employees to do it: nobody likes to freakin’ do it.  So coming very soon, you won’t need to.

There’s one slight catch: the main thing we charge for today is… submitting a report.  The very thing we’re about to deprecate.  So we need to change pricing somehow.  Given this unavoidable change, we’ve opted to wrap in a few other changes we’ve wanted to make for a long time in order to get it all out of the way at once to minimize disruption.  Those changes are:

1) Switch from $6/11 per “submitter” to $5/9 per “active user”

Before: From the beginning (at least, the beginning of when we charged at all) Expensify has charged “per submitter” — meaning, charging based on the number of people who submit expense reports in a given month.  But actually, that’s not even strictly true: we charged based on the number of distinct people that were approved in a given month.  It was a confusing concept to explain, and even them most people immediately forgot and just assumed we charged for every active user.

Now: So we’re going to switch and just do what people assume we do: charge for anybody who uses Expensify to process expense reports.  Personal use is just as free as before, but now anybody who creates, edits, submits, approves, reimburses, or exports a report is included in the policy’s “active seat” count — not just submitters.  Clearly, this new, expanded notion of activity means most organizations will have more active seats — and barring some other change, the cost of Expensify would go up.  To avoid that, we’re offsetting this seat increase with what we estimate to be a matching price decrease: we’re reducing price ~18% to the nice round numbers of $5 and $9 per seat for Team and Corporate policies, respectively.

Example: Your company has 100 people, 50 of who submit expense reports every month, and 10 who approve them.

Before: 50 submitters x $6/submitter = $300

Now: 50 submitters + 10 approvers = 60 active seats x $5/seat = $300

2) Include unlimited SmartScan with every policy

Before: SmartScan is an absolutely amazing convenience, and for that we’ve always charged $0.20 per SmartScan (though every account got 10 for free every month).  And in practice, most users didn’t actually need more than 10 so it worked out well.  However, over time people became more and more comfortable scanning receipts, meaning the 10 free didn’t go as far as it did — and the $0.20 cost became a distraction.

Now: By popular demand, we’re very happy to finally do what we’ve been asked countless times for years: unlimited SmartScan at a fixed price.  Everybody still gets 10 free SmartScans every month to use for their personal expenses, but now every SmartScan on a report linked to a paid policy is no extra charge.  Previously, this “hidden cost” added about 17% to a typical company’s bill, so making it unlimited is equivalent to an average 17% discount — on top of the 18% discount described above.  SmartScan it up, you deserve it!

Protip: Have no interest in expense reports but want to SmartScan a ton of receipts?  Just get yourself a Team policy for $5/mo, and SmartScan to your heart’s content.  That’s right: unlimited personal SmartScan for only $5/mo.  Finally!

Example: You SmartScan 50 receipts a month.

Before: The first 10 are free, and you pay $0.20 x 40 = $8/mo

Now: You pay $5/mo for a single active user (you) on the Team plan.

3) Include Invoicing and Bill Processing with every policy

Before: A year ago we launched our Invoicing and Bill Processing feature, which allows you to send invoices (and collect online payment) or receive bills (to a yourname@bills.expensify.com address), with a $15/mo “all you can eat” plan.  This quickly became our fastest growing feature.  However, it was always a pain to charge in a special way — we always wanted to somehow just bundle it with our main feature.

Now: So we did.  Now you can send invoices or claim your @bills.expensify.com address using any Team/Corporate policy, and you’re billed for it just like for a report.

Example: You invoice 1-2 clients a month (the common case), and they approve and pay online via credit card.

Before: You paid a flat $15/mo.

Now: On the Team plan you pay $5 for yourself, and $5 for each recipient, for a total of $10-15/mo.

4) Switch from “account” plans to “policy” plans

Before: This is a subtle change, but previously you upgraded your own account — and every policy you owned gained the benefit of your upgraded account status.  This worked well for a while, but had confusing edge cases: for example, previously it was impossible to own both a Team and Corporate policy in the same account.  Granted, not many individual companies are configured this way, but as an increasing number of accounting firms signed up with a variety of customers (some on Team, some on Corporate), it’s become a real problem.

Now: Accordingly, now you don’t upgrade your individual account — you just create (or upgrade) a Team or Corporate policy.  Incidentally, this also means there’s no such thing as a “Pro” plan anymore: all accounts are the same, and any functionality differences are based on whether the functionality is attached to the Team or Corporate policy.  Then at the end of the month we’ll figure out all the active users across all the policies you own, and bill you accordingly.  (Incidentally, we don’t “double dip” — a single user active on two policies is only paid for once, so feel free to create as many policies as you need to match your organization.)

Example: You own two policies, a Team and a Corporate.  Alice submits to you on a Team policy, and Bob submits to you on a Corporate policy.  Cathy submits two reports, one on Team, and one on Corporate.  You approve all four reports.  The active seats you are billed for are:

Alice: $5 (Team)

Bob: $9 (Corporate)

Cathy: $9 (Team and Corporate, but Corporate pricing wins)

You: $9 (same as Cathy, because you’re active on both)

Total: $32

5) Super streamline the Team plan

Before: Our Team plan was always intended to be the simplest thing we could imagine, for the smallest of companies.  However, over time we just kept adding features — which sounds great in theory, but had the effect of just over-complicating the product.  The result was people who didn’t really need certain features would enable them unnecessarily, creating a poor experience for all involved.

Now: Accordingly, we’ve removed a lot of functionality from the Team plan to keep it simple.  Anybody using QuickBooks Online or Xero — Team is for you, and it’s more streamlined and less expensive than ever.  Everyone else, please take a look at our Corporate policy, which has everything under the sun for only $9/user/mo.  (And if you have over 1000 employees, write sales@expensify.com so we can discuss our Enterprise options.)

6) Team customers have been auto-upgraded to Corporate

Simplifying the Team policy sounds all well and good by itself, but I need to be very upfront about a major consequence: everyone currently on Team has been automatically upgraded to Corporate.  This was a weighty decision that I’m sure is going to be very controversial.  But in the end, we determined it was impossible for us to know which customers were truly using functionality that is now only available on the Corporate policy, or who only needs the functionality now in Team.  So to avoid any chance of breaking customers’ well-oiled workflows without warning, we’ve opted to upgrade all Team customers to Corporate (and encourage everybody to downgrade back to Team if they’re able) — thereby ensuring nobody will see functionality they depend on suddenly disappearing.  But wait!  Before writing in to complain about a bait-and-switch, please read the next bullet…

7) Discounts are immediate, but increases will be phased in over 12 months

Between the 18% reduction in the cost per seat, and the 17% discount by making SmartScan free, as best we can tell this should more than offset any increase in the number of seats caused by the new activity definition — so most customers should be unaffected by this change (or even see a price decrease).  And those who are entitled to a discount will see it immediately, starting on the 7/1 bill.

But to soften the “sticker shock” to those Team customers who choose to stay on Corporate (or any customer who sees a price increase for any reason), we’re going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever seen done before, and that is: calculate a unique discount per customer that completely offsets any price increase, and then phase that discount out over the course of 12 months.

In essence, we’re going to calculate all 7/1 bills with two pricing plans: the old and the new.  And for each customer, we’re calculating a unique discount that will completely offset the new price to match the old price, ensuring everybody will be billed on 7/1 for the exact same price as they would have been had we made no pricing changes at all.  Then, over the next 12 months, we will gradually reduce that discount such that in a year, everybody will be on the new, standard price.

The goal is to ensure everyone will have had plenty of time to downgrade back to Team (if they’re able), get comfortable with the new price (which is still an incredible deal), or — if necessary — migrate to an alternative solution (though I hope this won’t be the case).

Example: You are a company with 50 submitters and 10 approvers.  You were previously on Team, but have been auto-upgraded to Corporate — and you choose not to downgrade back to Team.  The cost of Expensify with the old and new pricing plan would be:

Old: 50 submitters x $6 / Team submitter + 17% for SmartScan + $15 for invoicing = $366

New: (50 submitters + 10 approvers) x $9 / Corporate submitter = $540

To avoid any pricing disruption, this example company would be given a 32% discount, which will be gradually reduced over 12 months.  This means that were every month to have exactly the same number of active users, you would pay:

2014/6/1 – $366 (old price)

2014/7/1 – $540 – 32% = $366 (discounted to be same as old price)

2014/8/1 – $540 – 30% = $380 (discount is gradually reduced every month)

2014/9/1 – $540 – 27% = $395

2015/6/1 – $540 – 3% = $525

2015/7/1 – $540 – 0% = $540 (standard price in 12 months)

Conclusion

And of course there are a ton of small details that I’m leaving out, but these are the big pieces.  It’s a big change with a million moving pieces, and it’s all just a precursor to some even bigger changes on the way.  Thanks for your patience and please excuse the dust.  As always, we’re lucky to have the most awesome userbase a startup could ever hope for, and once again I appreciate you taking this change in stride.  However, if you do have concerns, please write us at help@expensify.com and we’ll get them taken care of.

Thanks for everything, and I hope you’re as excited about the future of expense reports as we are.  If not yet, you will be!

-david, Founder and CEO of Expensify

When we launched the ScanAnywhere API in early 2012 the API and really, Expensify itself was focused on scanning receipts. Soon after, we added mileage tracking capabilities to Expensify and now about 40% of our report submitters are submitting mileage expenses. At the request of many of our partners, we’ve updated the API to allow apps to pass mileage expenses into Expensify.Previously, the API only allowed importing an expense and receipt image into a user’s account. Now, with the mileage update, other apps are able to designate an expense as a mileage (or kilometer) expense and choose whether to allow Expensify to calculate the reimbursement amount based on the user’s pre-defined mileage rate or at a rate specified by the partner’s app. We are also adding the ability to pass along a map image to accompany the distance traveled. (Coming in a week or so)

We’re also excited to announce our newest integration partner and the first company to make use of the new API upgrade: Magneto Calendar! Magneto is a cloud-based system that syncs and fixes your various calendars. Better yet, it calculates and adds drive times between your various meetings, adjusting for traffic. Magneto calculates the distance between your meetings and uses the ScanAnywhere API to pass that mileage into your Expensify account. Now, Magneto users will have all their business travel automatically entered into their Expensify accounts for reimbursement or tax purposes. 

 

Magneto___Mileage_reports

Send your mileage expenses from Magneto to Expensify!

Just one more way you can automate the busy work out of your life. And if you know anything about us here at Expensify its that we love automation. We’re excited to welcome Magneto into the Expensify ScanAnywhere Alliance and we look forward to seeing all the great ways our partners will utilize this new API functionality in the future.

This week we’re releasing version 4.3.0 of our mobile app on iPhone and Android. In addition to the many small bug fixes and other improvements, this release includes the ability to use Wingman on your phone. With Wingman, you can give someone full access to your account full access to your account without having to share your password. Expensify will continue to keep a paper trail of each user’s actual actions. So when your Wingman performs an action on a report, we record that it was them, not you.

Signing up for Wingman

It’s extremely easy to add a Wingman. Just log into the web app (at expensify.com), navigate to your settings, and invite someone to be your Wingman.

Wingman Settings

Here is a screenshot of Carlos account ( I used Wingman to get it ;) )

Above you see that Giorgio, Garrett, and I have Wingman access to Carlos’ account and that Carlos can log into two tests accounts and Giorgio’s account.

Using Wingman

To use the feature on the web, I just click on the user menu ( avatar in the top right ) and I can see the list of accounts that I can access.

Using Wingman

On my mobile app, I can go to settings to connect to Carlos’ account.

Access to Wingman on Mobile

Tapping on this row shows the list of users that I have Wingman access with.

Wingman accounts

Now I just select the user’s account I want to access.

I am Carlos!

Back on the home screen, I see that the header and tabs are a different color and there is a small wingman icon on the settings.

HomeScreen

I can even forward receipts into accounts that you have access to:

Wingman Email

Go give it a whirl!  And remember, always practice safe Wingmanning.