Holiday Rush: 6 Tips to Get Through the “Busiest Expense Day”

At our accounting firm, we actually embrace and conquer the “Busiest Expense Day” and help our clients to do exactly that, too. A big part of our success comes from automating and streamlining the expensing process to prevent loss and maintain order. But we also have a few more tricks up our sleeves, too.

Even though it falls on a Wednesday this year, December 19 is a date I like to mark on the calendar as “Black Friday” for our office. It can get crazy – employees who have been otherwise forgetful to file their expense reports suddenly remember and submit everything at once.

Maybe it’s the holiday rush that reminds them; or, maybe it’s the promise of reimbursement before vacations start. Either way, we plan ahead for the Busiest Day with a few simple tricks:

Tip #1: Make it fun and festive

Our office turns the Busiest Expense Day into a real festival, although our party is more about reconciliation than knocking back nog. Still, we usually bring in meals for everyone and host an unofficial “happy hour” near the office to decompress.

Tip #2: Holler a little. Go on

Since our department is the last link in the chain, and typically the most chaotic, I suggest accountants and approvers do something out of the ordinary: wear jeans, bring in decorations, take 10 seconds to collectively scream on the top of your lungs – anything that will make you smile, even if it is only for a moment.

Tip #3: Staff up

We look at December 19 as we do all other deadlines and ensure our employees are available and cross-trained. My motto is to expect the unexpected and have additional, trained staff prepared to lend a hand, just in case. We remind everyone to take a few deep breaths and make preparations for a longer day than usual.

Tip #4: Ready resources for approvers

In the days prior, we suggest that approvers have a refresher discussion and training check-in with employees about expense and procedures. I recommend visiting staff first thing in the morning to ensure everything they need to submit complete and accurate reports is in their hands. I also think it’s vital that employees are available, after they submit their reports, for follow-up questions or to provide materials they may have inadvertently omitted.

Tip #5: Account for accountants

There are a few things you can do in advance of the Busiest Expense Day to help this otherwise hectic day run smoothly for your CPAs. First, ask that your IT personnel be available on call if there are computer issues. Then, ask managers or owners to be around if something unusual arises, or approvers need guidance. I also suggest scheduling a few people to come in later in the day, to break up the work.

Tip #6: Strength for small business

With about 30 employees, our firm is relatively small. Our top managers are key components in coping with the Busiest Expense Day. Level-headedness, decisiveness and guidance are crucial at times of stress, even for the most seasoned and independent employee. Make this the one day you don’t allow for exceptions or debate! Remind your employees that they can and should ask for help if it is needed, but have extra resources on call if things aren’t going the way you expected.

As accountants and business consultants, our focus is on efficiency and timeliness. So on December 19, we provide on-site and remote assistance to our clients if they need an extra hand. After all, a little planning, preparation and levity helps us all get through the Busiest Expense Day of the Year.

 

Andrew Presti, pictured above on the left, is general manager of Presti & Naegele. He is also a member of the Concur Advisor Program.

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