Establishing Strategic Goals in Travel Management for Small Business
Here is the unsettling truth: corporate travel expenses are rising by the day and small businesses stand the highest to lose. For travel managers, this means cutting down unnecessary spending as much as possible with strict adherence to cost-cutting objectives provided in the travel policy. Travel accounts for significant corporate expenditure, with an estimated $1.3 trillion going into business travel annually.
In this post, we highlight three strategic goals small business travel managers should set course for.
Underlining the Need for Travel Management for Small Business
No business is too small for travel management. “Ideally, [travel management] should be as early as possible”, said Rick Wakida, a global travel manager for Informatica.
At minimum, corporate travel management should keep traveling employees comfortable, safe, and mindful of their spending habits during business trips. To better meet these demands, travel managers maintain long standing relationships with travel vendors for easier, cost-effective transport and accommodation options.
But perhaps the most clear-cut importance of travel management lies in cost-optimization. Travel management keeps each traveling employee accountable for their spending during business trips and actively reinforces your business’s travel policy behind the scenes.
Thanks to travel management platforms such as TravelBank, self-accountability is further enhanced through self-booking and expense reporting – without the tedious involvement of an outsourced travel management agency.
The Travel Policy and the Duties of the Travel Manager
The travel manager is the custodian of the company’s financial interests wherever business travel is concerned. Not only do they fulfill cross-departmental duties regarding travel with human resources, finance, and procurement departments, they also find and exploit potential savings opportunities.
The travel manager oversees all aspects of business travel and ensures compliance with the travel policy. Some of the key duties they discharge include:
- Duty of care (ensuring that employees travel safely to and from the destination)
- Negotiating deals and maintaining good terms with travel suppliers
- Managing booking travel for small business (both transport and accommodation)
- Enforcing travel guidelines
To faithfully discharge their duties, travel managers develop, review, and enforce travel policy guidelines for traveling employees. A travel policy may contain such information as guidelines regarding booking and reimbursement claims, eligible travel expenses, and any other rules that must be followed when employees travel on behalf of the company.
The Top 3 Strategic Goals for Small Business Travel Managers
Larger corporate firms often seek extended support from travel management companies. Averaging at 29 trips per year, larger companies with 201 – 500 employees often opt to leave their massive corporate travel programs in the hands of travel management companies and travel agents.
Small businesses, too, have similar options at their disposal. However, their objectives may slightly vary from their outsourced partner’s. To maintain better control of the travel program, in-house travel managers must keep their eyes on these three key goals:
1. Building Solid Relationships with Strategic Supply Chain Partners
Good supplier relationships signal a successful, mutually beneficial travel program for the long haul. Often, travel managers bring with them valuable contacts, hotels, and service vendors to the business. These partners are key players in the travel supply chain network, providing a host of goods and services that facilitate business travel.
As with any buyer-supplier relationship, travel vendors tend to invest in catering to the needs of their loyal and predictable corporate clients. This can often be seen in their treatment of long-term corporate clients, e.g., through generous discounts and complementary services.
In return, travel managers should communicate changes to the travel policy in good time, to allow supply chain partners ample time to review and adjust their services to the satisfaction of your new terms.
Minor gestures such as feedback on the quality of service from employee experiences further helps cement the relationship with the vendor.
Tip: Partnerships and contracts with travel supply vendors are subject to periodic review. At any given time, the procurement department may opt to renegotiate or cancel contracts if there is reason to believe that the terms no longer align with the objectives of the travel program.
2. Developing Cost-Effective Strategies for Travel Management for Small Businesses
Given that only about 26% of business trips are a day long, travel managers must develop strategies that bar the misuse of company funds during business travel.
- Start by assessing travel needs – Travel managers should evaluate the frequency and purpose of travel, destinations, and the number of employees traveling annually as the foundation for travel-related decisions.
- Selecting travel partners – The right travel partners should have the capacity to deliver on your needs; e.g. sufficient healthy, and safe accommodation spaces for traveling employees throughout the year.
- Embracing technology – Travel managers can embrace technology to navigate seamlessly through the nuances of travel management. Manually tracking expenses can be time-consuming. Travel management platforms aid in cost control, minimizing policy violations, and minimizing financial risks.
Tech-enabled platforms bring convenience in an otherwise cluttered space. Features such as online booking, expense tracking, and analytics providing real-time insights can help fine-tune expense management for small business travel managers.
3. Risk Management
A volatile business environment can put smaller businesses with limited resources at a higher risk. For travel managers, identifying and mitigating travel risks is a necessary step towards securing the long-term success of the travel program.
Travel managers may need to analyze the entire scope of the business, identify and assess potential risks that may stem from internal or external factors. This may include:
- Impending changes to the business
- Possible travel supply chain disruptions
- Employee safety and duty of care
At this point, travel managers should make contingency plans for any potential risks on the horizon and roll out standard operating procedures for ongoing risks like duty of care.
TravelBank: Your Strategic Travel Management Partner
When it comes to managing business travel expenses, there’s a handful of ways businesses go about it depending on their size, needs, and number of traveling employees, among other factors. Some companies approach the issue with the help of a travel booking agency. Others outsource the entire workload to an external travel management company (TMC). The problem with these two approaches is that they don’t always make economic sense for small businesses with limited travel resources.
There’s a better way. An all-in-one integrated travel and expense management platform like TravelBank cuts off the middleman, granting your company full control over its travel program. TravelBank’s fully integrated solution works on multiple devices, offering a host of features from online booking with exclusive deals, expense reports, to T&E analytics. TravelBank provides better control over travel management for small business, and scales with your company as it grows.
With business costs set to soar higher with the rising inflation, efficient travel management has never been more crucial than now. Setting business-specific goals for the upcoming year creates the foundation for more efficient business travel, and corporate travel management platforms can help push down the costs of travel for resource-sensitive small businesses.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the duties of a travel manager in a small business?
The travel manager oversees all aspects of travel management for small business. This includes negotiating contracts with travel vendors, monitoring travel expenses, implementing travel policies, coordinating travel arrangements, and providing support to employees in transit, among other things.
How can small businesses effectively manage travel risks?
Small businesses can effectively manage travel risks by conducting thorough risk assessment to uncover gaps that might bring unprecedented consequences to the organization. Illness, theft, and accident risks, for instance, can be mitigated with insurance coverage. Duty of care risks can be mitigated with standard operating procedures that increase the business’ ability to help travelers on the road.
How can small businesses choose the right travel vendors?
Small businesses can choose the right travel vendors by conducting thorough research on the available options. Key things to look for include rates for services and customer reviews. It may help to seek recommendations from other owners or associates to see how they handle travel management for their small business.
How do you manage business travel for a small business?
Travel management for small businesses can feel like a daunting task with limited resources and budgets. To effectively manage business travel, embrace technology and automate repetitive tasks. With travel and expense management platforms like TravelBank, business owners reserve the control over their budgets and make it plain easy for employees to track and submit their own expense reports.