Archives For Best Practices

Olá from Portugal!

We’re halfway through our first week in Lisbon, and oh, what a beautiful city it is!

Traveling abroad with an entire team is exciting, but it also requires a higher level of patience to work together as we’re all in a state of ebb and flow. To stay as productive and on task on the offshore as we are in the office, we follow these few simple guidelines.

Avoid Complex Solutions to Simple Problems

Expensify Morning Standup in Lisbon

Morning 10AM Standup in Lisbon

Aim for the simplest possible solution to the problem at hand. Think paper to-do lists, daily standup meetings, writing a priorities from scratch on a blank whiteboard and emailing out a photo, etc. Most productivity issues result not from inadequate tools, but from a lack of discipline.

In Portugal: We meet every morning at 10 AM in a central location near Baixa to go over larger-picture projects, questions, and other details that help us get the day started. Each person also sends a daily 10 AM email that lists our tasks for the day. Both practices improve accountability and focus within the team throughout the entire trip.

Tip: Start the day off with a team meeting to get everyone on the same page. Review goals and projects for the day, figure out a lunch location or other logistics, and identify then nip problems at the bud to prevent them from snowballing into something bigger later on.

Emphasize Project-Based Work

Portugal Working Team

Lots of cross-team collaboration going on here.

Nothing is more stressful than looking at a list of a thousand “must do” things that you’ll probably never get to. Not only that, but to-do lists only capture checklist tasks, not overarching, bigger vision goals. On the offshore, we focus our work around projects so that we have deliverables that can drastically improve our product by the end of the trip. Think fWOW projects, but on a larger, more ground-shaking (in the product sense) scale.

In Portugal: Because we’re Expensifying 24/7 on big trips like the Offshore, it’s the perfect time to get big things done, and especially in teams. Everyone in the company has a project to work on that can be ‘delivered’ at the end of the trip; in the past, projects have included a website and mobile redesign, SmartScan, and Expensify Trips, among others. This year, we’re focusing on real-time expense reports and travel.

Tip: Before the trip, create a list of the projects everyone is involved in and have periodic updates throughout the trip so that everyone will be on the same page. The check-ins lead to greater transparency in each project, so that the entire team can watch the project progress.

Stay Calm and Carry On

A major drain on productivity is needless drama in the workplace. Odds are, everybody around you is at least as busy as you (even if you don’t understand why), so resist the temptation to aggravate things further. You are not an island; just like others affect your productivity, you affect theirs. Take that responsibility seriously.

In Portugal: Being transparent about projects makes it easier to understand what other people are working on. As a result, we tend to be more mindful and considerate of each other’s time.

Tip: Schedule meetings in advance and set a clear agenda – this helps maximize efficiency in the meeting. Alternatively, travel from cafe to cafe and work with a group of people who would most likely be doing similar tasks or projects; that way, you’ll all be on the same page and won’t need to shift from one project mindset to another.

Have you ever worked remotely with an entire team, or participated in something similar to the offshore? Want to work with us? We’d love to hear your experiences! 

Think back to all the jobs you’ve ever had in your life. In those roles, when did you finally get handed some real, capital-R Responsibility on the job?

Individuals are generally hired at a company based on what they’ve done in the past and how that translates to potential at the new position. Even after a rigorous interview process that should have proven the candidate to be a very capable person, a new hire still has to prove themselves before getting some real responsibility. Why is that?

Trust Begets Trust

Riding a bike

Learn the ropes and before long, you’ll be able to do it on your own.

As a new hire, onboarding feels a bit like learning how to ride a bike. Before you’re allowed on the bike, you have to learn from various sources the best practices of how to ride a bike. After this storm of information passes, you finally hop on the bike…only to realize there are training wheels attached.

Don’t get frustrated; training wheels are important in learning the ropes. The better you understand the basics, the easier it’ll be to find ways to insert creativity into the process.

When the training wheels come off, it’s time to ride like a big kid. Unfortunately, this is where processes start to get murky. Managers might still feel a bit nervous about you even after weeks of training, so they keep a hand on the bike handles to help steady the transition. The problem is that when a hand goes on, it’s hard to let go. Managers are afraid that if they let you go off on your own, you might crash and hurt the company, yourself, or both in the process.

It’s a very cautious position to take, but it’s not always unwarranted; take a look at a number of social media blunders that have happened due to poor judgement or lack of knowledge. On the other hand, micromanagement and overprotection might prevent the new employee from ever learning how to ride the bike properly on his or her own.

How to Give (Well-Earned) Responsibility to Your Team

Cultivating trust between you and your supervisor takes time, but being active early on can expedite that process. Don’t just go through the motions; ask questions and show that you’re thinking about and seeing the larger picture. Trust also leads to more responsibility, which helps cultivate the feeling of value, and culture helps with feeling a sense of belonging. But what does this look like in practice?

During my interview, I had discussed the potential of inbound marketing and restructuring the blog as something I’d like to focus on if I were hired into the team. After getting an offer and signing the t’s before dotting the i’s, the blog was handed to me to carry out my vision. Shortly after, the first thing I did was systemize the writing and publishing process by creating an editorial calendar. My previous work and the work I did during the interview process was enough for the team to say, okay, we trust you with your ideas on how to improve the blog.

From Varun Varada, one of our newest Software Engineers:

Varun, Software Engineer

Varun Varada, Software Engineer

“The best way I can describe it is that there is a seed of responsibility that’s planted into Expensify’s culture. The freedom that has been given to me allows that seed to grow organically so that I end up having more responsibility the longer I’m here. Going with this metaphor, the freedom is the soil that’s helping me grow. For example, I’m currently working on a fWOW project that came out of necessity, but I’m passionate enough to fix it that I’ve taken it upon myself to do so. Once that project is done, I’m going to start on another one that I designed myself.”

The lack of trust in new employees is not unwarranted, but if you hired someone based on the responsibilities they were given at their last job, chances are, they’re probably not an idiot. Spend the time onboarding and training them, but don’t deny new employees the chance to take on bigger projects either.

How do and when do you dole out responsibility to new employees? As an employee, what do you think? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Raising money or starting your own business? Then you might want to continue reading!

David recently spoke at the Silicon Valley Innovation Summit (SVIS) about the cultish view of customer acquisition amongst startups and the myths of performance acquisition. Check out the video for tips and tricks on how to avoid the CaC trap:

The keynote touches upon a few key points:

  • Customer acquisition is almost synonymous with raising money, why?
  • Theory (V = R * $ *LTV/CAC) vs. Practice (V = R * $ * hope)
    • Curious? The video explains in detail where hope “fits in”
  • Making money should be a requisite for making money
  • The nouveau enterprise: introducing disrupter (we know, very overused word) economics

While the keynote itself is about 11 minutes long, stick around for the Q&A session afterwards, where David explains exactly how his view on CaC has fueled our strategy against our biggest competitor.

Got something to say? We’d love to hear your reaction and thoughts on the subject in the comments section below!

In previous Expensify blog posts you may have heard us refer to WOW Fridays. Every Friday at Expensify we allow our engineers the freedom to work on projects of their choosing, that aren’t necessarily part of our immediate product roadmap. We do this in order to allow them to exercise their creative freedom with the benefit that we end up with some really cool additions to the product. Well, the latest product of WOW Fridays is here: Report Comments! Major props to our engineer Florent for whipping this up.

Comment directly on expense reports

When you scroll to the bottom of an expense report in Expensify, you will now notice that the “Report History” section has been re-branded as “Report History & Comments”. In this section, anyone that can view the expense report can comment on it, without having to leave Expensify.

Report History and Comments

 

Email notifications

Whenever someone comments on a report, the people that are shared on the report will get an email notification along with the comment. This makes it easy and efficient for employees, approvers, and admins to communicate about expenses.

Report Comments Email

Hopefully, this helps make your expense reporting process suck even less. As always, let us know what you think!

ToDoList

You don’t need a functional tattoo to stay organized

With so many tools and apps that claim to increase organization or productivity, how do we find out which tools will actually help and not hinder our workflow? At Expensify, our approach is to keep it simple; forget the apps and stick to what’s tried and true. Here are a few core principles that help us stay productive; try them out and let us know what you think!

1) Avoid Complicated Tools.  

Nothing wastes time like “saving time” by adopting complex project management tools. Tools aren’t the problem: people are. Just create a shared to-do list that you re-prioritize continuously, and focus everybody on starting at the top and working their way down. Nobody will ever get to the bottom, but that’s just life.

What you need: Google Docs, whiteboard, IdeaPaint, something that can help you visualize, flexibly.

2) Prioritize, Don’t Schedule.  

Schedules assume stable priorities and accurate estimates, neither of which are ever true. Accordingly, the only way to reliably meet hard commitments is to wildly pad the schedule, which is wasteful and frustrating for everyone. Instead, just accept things will get done when they get done.

Helpful to your success: A company culture that minimizes commitments and focuses on raw productivity on ever-shifting priorities.

3) Trust You’ll Remember the Important Things

all you need to stay organized is a pen and paper

Say hi to your new best friend

Continuing from the last point, nothing is more stress inducing that an enormous list of incomplete tasks that will likely never be finished. Rather, start every day with a blank sheet of paper and write down the most important things you need to get done — only look back at previous days if you run out of ideas (which rarely happens).

What you need: pen and paper, or a marker if you’re feeling fancy.

4) The Productivity Myth

Companies everywhere have somehow bought into the idea that more hours means higher productivity when studies actually show the opposite. Instead, build time in your day, week, life to rest and relax. Decide how much of your life you want to devote to work, work that much, and then stop. Nothing makes your time off more enjoyable than confidence that you’ve done right by your entrepreneurial ambitions and truly earned the rest. This is also a fantastic way to set work/life expectations with your spouse, but even better for resisting the urge to work yourself to death.

What to do: Record how many hours you work a day in a spreadsheet, then add it up on a weekly basis to make sure you’re basically hitting your target.

Tried these out, or have productivity tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you!

I know I’m not alone when I say taxes can be confusing. So confusing that the annual changes to the laws and rates has given birth to a 7.7 BILLION dollar tax preparation industry. Whether you have someone do your taxes, or you do them yourself, here’s a couple tips for using Expensify in 2014.

1. The IRS mileage rate is lower this year.

The IRS lowered the mileage rate to 56 cents/mile. That’s .5 cents lower than 2013. (Last year it was 56.5 per mile) If you are using Expensify to track your mileage, make sure you log in to the Expensify website and change the rate. All new Expensify accounts created after the mileage rate change takes effect will already be updated with the new rate. More details at IRS.gov.

NOTE: We don’t automatically change the rate for existing users because many companies use a custom rate.

2. If you don’t like that rate, you can track your actual vehicle expenses and deduct that

You don’t HAVE to use the IRS mileage rate. If you think it actually costs you more to maintain your vehicle than 56 cents/mile then you can track your actual expenses and use that as your deduction. (This is where Expensify comes in handy) Be sure to record all gas, oil, repairs, tires, insurance, registration fees, licenses, and depreciation (or lease payments) attributable to the portion of the total miles driven that are business miles.

Other car expenses for parking fees and tolls attributable to business use are separately deductible, whether you use the standard mileage rate or actual expenses.

3. Record your receipts at the time of purchase, don’t wait until the end of the month to scan them all.

Hoarding a pile of receipts until the end of the month is so 2013. To get the full benefit of Expensify, take a picture of your receipts right when you get it and liberate yourself from the pocket full of receipts. You’re more likely to lose receipts if you have a bunch floating about your person all month. Just get a picture of it ASAP and be done with it. (Luckily you have a great App to do that.)

4. Linking your card to Expensify can save you if you lose a receipt

Let’s say you ignore #2 and decide to store your receipts in your coat pocket and end up losing one. No problem, as long as you’ve linked your card to Expensify, you’re still ok. Expensify creates IRS compliant eReceipts for all purchases under $75. You read that right – if your card or bank is linked to Expensify, we will import your transactions into Expensify and on top of that, automatically create a receipt for you! This is a lifesaver for those of you who habitually lose receipts.

EXP_GPlus

We’re extremely excited for 2014. Our revamped new site just went live last week and there’s plenty of new and exciting things planned for the future. We look forward to making your life easier in 2014 and in the years to come!

Last week David announced some changes to our pricing. This week we would like to introduce an option that many of you have been requesting for a long time that will actually help offset that change to our price. We are happy to announce that you can now Prepay for Expensify!

Prepay for Expensify and get TWO MONTHS for free!

This has typically only been requested by enterprise companies, but we wanted businesses of any size to be able to get the same benefit our largest customers receive. If you prepay for 10 months, we will match you for 2 additional months! It works out to a 17% savings! Essentially, we’re applying a very large credit to your account that you are able to purchase at a steep discount.

Here’s the math:

  • Last month your company had 102 submitters on the Corporate Plan. This works out to $1,100 paid last month. (Remember, because we love our users, your company gets 2 free submitters per month)
  • You are an incredible employee and an all around go-getter. You decide your company should save money and prepay.
  • $1,100 x 10 = $11,000. You pay $11,000 to prepay for 10 months.
  • $1,100 x 2 =  $2,200.  We add  a $2,200 credit to your account on top of the $11,000 you prepaid.  You just purchased a $13,200 credit for $11,000!

End Result: You just saved your company $2,200 or 17% on what you would have spent for the year! Alternatively put, instead of paying $11/month per submitter, you are paying $9.20/month per submitter! 

Bonus Result: You get a promotion for being a great employee. (Hooray! You deserve it!)

To get started, head on over to expensify.com/prepay and play with the Savings Slider Bar to see how much money your company will save.  Question: what are you going to do with all that money you budgeted for, but no longer need to pay?

Don’t forget, we launched Invoices and Bill Processing last month so check it out here. And as always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us at help@expensify.com. Happy Expensing!