Accounting Tips

How to pick financial software that’ll grow with your business 

8 January 2024  |   10 minutes read

If your business is growing, there’s a good chance your financial admin is too.

With new people and new products comes greater spend management responsibilities. And when separate departments, teams, and employees are dipping into the pot, keeping up with your finances is no small task.

At this stage, businesses usually have two choices: hire more staff to handle the increasing workload, or choose scalable software that frees your teams from the administrative burden.

Growing your business doesn’t have to feel like a double-edged sword. This short guide will help you select financial software that lets you sustain your growth without adding to your workload.

We’ll explain how to:

Assess your needs

The first step towards finding financial software that works for your business is assessing your needs.

Accounting and spend management software is particularly good at handling data. Think automated bank feeds and reconciliation, receipt matching, and generating visually appealing reports, charts and forecasts. Before choosing software, you should consider the activities in your business that lend themselves to automation.

You could ask yourself the following questions:

  • What jobs are taking the most time, are the most frustrating, or involve a lot of hard work?
  • What jobs are manual -admin intensive? Does software exist that can take care of them instead?

Perhaps you’re spending too much time on expense claims, reconciling accounts, or sourcing receipts from team members. Maybe your approvals process is slow and lacks standardisation. Adopting software that takes care of these time-intensive tasks will free you up to think about other efficiencies and opportunities in your business.

Next, you’ll want to consider how your needs will change over the coming months and years.

To make software a worthwhile investment, you need a solution that’ is adaptable and scalable. That way, you won’t suffer the rigmarole of a complex software migration every time your business has a growth spurt.

Consider what your business will need in the next six months’,year, or five years:

  • Will your payroll responsibilities increase as you add new recruits to the team?
  • Will you need a more comprehensive view of spending as your team goes global?
  • Will you need to meet new regulatory requirements as your business grows?

Upcoming regulatory changes such as Making Tax Digital for Income Tax and Companies House software filing will require businesses to have appropriate software in place. Software that meets these requirements already exists – so by adopting it now, you won’t need to change your operations ahead of the deadlines.

The last thing to think about is who’ll be using the software. Perhaps it’s just you and a colleague for now. But if entire departments need to be proficient in your chosen solution, you’ll want to make sure it has great usability, customisable levels of access, and permissions that allow the right people to access the right stuff.

While you may have an idea of where your business is headed, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s coming up in the future. This makes it all the more important to have software with room for growth. Tailored solutions that allow you to integrate other tools and apps are your best bet for delivering all the functionality your scaling business needs.

Focus on time-saving features

The ideal software solution should reduce your employees’ administrative workload – not add to it.

Financial software can ease the burden on teams through automations, live dashboards, and in-platform workflows that make managing spending less time consuming. Without convoluted processes and inefficient systems getting in the way, your teams have more time for strategic and fulfilling work.

Features like live bank feeds and receipt capture tools mean your teams don’t need to type up the numbers themselves; software automatically extracts the transaction data and recommends matches in your accounting records. Soldo spend management software syncs up with Xero, so company spending is automatically carried into your accounting system. Instead of duplicating data entry, you can manage everything in one place.

Features like these save you the hassle of having to correct inaccuracies. Manual data entry puts companies at risk of human error. Accidentally mistyping a figure or failing to complete bank reconciliations correctly can lead to inaccurate reports and tax returns, which end up costing you more in the long run. Businesses that use Soldo spent 62% less time processing expense claims and 80% less time reviewing reports.

You should also look out for software that has customisable permissions and access levels. By delegating responsibilities by department – such as budget setting, monitoring, allocating funds, and approving spending – you can keep projects moving without blowing your budgets.

Approvals can be a lengthy process, but with software, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You can set up designated approvers who are automatically notified when a purchase is awaiting the green light. There’s no convoluted email chain to sift through, and approvers can access all the information they need about a purchase within your spend management software.

Legacy software often tied businesses to specific devices – financial data could only be accessed in a certain place, on a certain device. Modern cloud-based software maintains data security, while allowing businesses and their teams to manage the financials from anywhere.

You don’t need to worry about local storage, and you’re not tied to a single device. Your team can work from anywhere with an internet connection – so if you’re expanding into new locations or embracing remote working practices, you won’t be disrupted.

Importantly, expenses can be dealt with on the spot with a mobile app. Employees simply snap a picture of their expense receipt with their smartphone, and upload it via the app along with any relevant notes.

Get better as you grow with analytics

To grow sustainably, business owners need a clear view of what has and hasn’t worked so far.

The right software package for your scaling business will come complete with reporting, forecasting, and analytics functionality that helps you understand your past and plan for the future.

Using cash flow forecasts, you can identify the right time to pay your bills or make investments without disrupting operating cash flow. Or you can use expense reports to figure out which departments and teams spend the most, whether that spending is justified, and where to divert additional budget.

Forecasting and reporting can help you improve how you operate over time. For example, expense reports could highlight areas of wasted spend – like unused subscriptions or programme fees. You can also compare month- on- month reports to see how much you’re spending with specific suppliers – and may be able to negotiate better deals or secure a better deal with a competitor.

With all the information at your fingertips, you can make decisions backed up by data. For every forecast, report and analysis, you can reveal new details about your business finances and use these insights to fuel your continued growth.

Pull up a cash flow report to see whether you should pay a bill upfront, or delay it until your next invoice is paid. Decide whether now is the right time to invest in equipment, or whether cutting expenses should be your next focus.

Flexible financial software is the perfect partner for scaling businesses. Teams are freed from the constraints of outdated systems and convoluted processes – they can forward their projects and file their expenses in a few clicks. What’s more, you get a clear overview of the financials, and don’t need to tackle a complex software migration as your business grows.

Try Soldo today.

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Easy Christmas recipe: Soldo’s classic Italian salame di cioccolato

15 December 2023  |   4 minutes read
Soldo Christmas recipe
Soldo Christmas recipe

Salame di cioccolato is a no-bake Italian dessert with just seven simple ingredients. It’s a must-have for any Christmas table. Our very own Barbara Parmigiani, Italian Regional Marketing Manager, shares her family’s classic recipe.

A delicious legacy

Salame di cioccolato is a treasured Italian Christmas treat passed down through generations, blending chocolate, biscuits, butter, and occasionally a splash of brandy or marsala wine. Pure chocolatey goodness!

Ingredients

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate
  • 100g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g digestive biscuits (or similar)
  • 100g chopped hazelnuts
  • 50g icing sugar

Method

Melt the chocolate: Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, ensuring it doesn’t burn. Once done, remove your chocolate from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.

Prepare the base: In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture becomes pale and fluffy. Slowly add the melted chocolate and butter mix, stirring continuously.

Crush the biscuits: Crush the biscuits into small pieces. You can do this by placing them in a sealed plastic bag and gently tapping with a rolling pin (a welcome Christmas stress buster)!

Mix and fold: Fold the crushed biscuits and chopped hazelnuts into the chocolate mixture until just combined. Combine all ingredients until well mixed, resembling the look of a salami. You should still see bits of biscuit and chunks of chopped hazelnut.

Shape and chill: Lay out a large sheet of cling film, and carefully transfer the chocolate mixture onto it. Mold it into a sausage shape, wrapping it tightly with the cling film. Roll it several times to secure the shape, twisting the ends. Place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to set.

Final touch: Once set, remove the cling film and gently roll your salame di cioccolato in icing sugar.

Serve and enjoy: Slice your salame di cioccolato into rounds and serve it on a festive platter. It pairs beautifully with a cup of Italian coffee or a sweet dessert wine.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Buon Natale from all of us at Soldo!

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New integration: effortless bookkeeping with Soldo and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

14 December 2023  |   3 minutes read

We’re excited to announce that you can now integrate Soldo with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central to make your bookkeeping effortless.

“At Soldo, our goal is to simplify tasks for our customers. Recognising that many of our users rely on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, we’ve integrated the two platforms, accelerating the reconciliation process and enhancing financial reporting and analysis.” – Martina Paolicchi, Integrations Product Manager at Soldo

This integration is available on Soldo Pro, Premium and Enterprise plans today at no additional cost.

Why integrate Soldo with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?

Soldo’s direct connection to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central syncs your expense data for accurate accounting and easy reconciliation.

Save time and effort: Sync your Soldo expense data to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in a single click. This integration seamlessly transfers financial information without the risk of human error.

Speed up month-end: Close your books faster with the data you need for easy reconciliation. The Soldo mobile app captures receipts, lists, and notes at the point of purchase. Validate and effortlessly send this data to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Improve accuracy: Eliminate the risk of manual data entry errors for hassle-free, accurate reporting. Make more informed decisions based on precise, real-time financial data.

How can you connect Soldo and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central?

To connect Soldo to your Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central account, simply log in to Soldo and look for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in the search box of the Marketplace section.

Next, select Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and authorise the connection. Then, choose whether you want to export transactions to Microsoft Dynamics 365 as journal lines or purchase invoices. And you’re ready to go!

Connect today for seamless and accurate financial reporting with Soldo and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

For more information, speak to your Customer Success Manager or read though our FAQs.

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Last-minute corporate Christmas gifts? Amazon Business and Soldo can help.

29 November 2023  |  3 minutes read

UKI Christmas Campaign

Our customers process thousands of transactions with Amazon Business, making the most of an extensive network of retail suppliers to buy hardware, office supplies, and more.

And because we have an Amazon Business integration, Soldo retrieves and reconciles all those invoices automatically. It’s like Christmas coming early for busy finance teams at this time of year!

To make things even easier, we’ve put together a festive Amazon Business shopping list to streamline all that seasonal spending.

We’ve been making a list (and checking it twice)

Get a head start on your seasonal spending with our Christmas 2023 Amazon Business shopping list.

Whether you’re after client gifts, team treats, or a few office Christmas essentials, there’s a little something for everyone.

If you see something you like, simply make sure you’re logged in to your Amazon Business account and hit ‘Add to Basket’.

Simplify business spending this Christmas

No doubt you’re busy as you race towards the festive break, so we’ll get straight to the point. Here’s how you can stress less this festive season by connecting Soldo and Amazon Business.

  • Save money: when employees do their Amazon Business shopping with a Soldo company card. Set a custom limit, link it to a specific budget, and see every purchase as it happens.
  • Save time: because every Amazon Business invoice is automatically sent to your Soldo account. That’s right, no need to log in and retrieve them manually.
  • Save effort: you’d usually spend on matching invoices to transactions (trying to avoid those inevitable mistakes). Our integration matches for you and takes care of reconciliation.

From our finance team to yours, we wish you a merry shopping spree and a happy Year End.

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New integration: Automatically reconcile your Amazon Business expenses 

27 November 2023  |   4 minutes read

Today we’re excited to announce Soldo’s new collaboration with Amazon Business.

At Soldo, we saw that our customers were processing thousands of transactions with Amazon Business. So we set out to make it a process that’s even easier to manage.

The new Soldo and Amazon Business integration automates the retrieval and reconciliation of Amazon Business invoices to eliminate errors and save your valuable time.

This integration is available on Soldo Premium and Enterprise plans today at no additional cost.

Why integrate Soldo with Amazon Business?

  • Save time: Always have the information you need for reconciliation. No need to download invoices or chase up invoices every month.
  • Save money: Use a dedicated virtual Soldo card for your Amazon Business purchases. Set custom spending limits, track budgets, and get granular control of your Amazon spending.
  • Save the hassle: Automatically match your Amazon Business invoices with transactions in Soldo to simplify reconciliation and eliminate errors.

“At Soldo we’re always looking for ways to save time for our customers. When we reviewed all the transaction data on our platform, it was clear that Amazon Business is a top merchant for our customers and having a seamless integration will add a lot of value.”
Martina Paolicchi, Integrations Product Manager at Soldo

How does it work?

When Amazon Business generates an invoice for one of your purchases on the platform, the invoice will automatically be sent to your Soldo account. Soldo then matches the invoice to the transaction, and reconciliation is done for you. Month-end made easy!

Get started today

To unlock this time-saving integration, simply activate the Amazon Business integration in the Marketplace section of your Soldo account.

Amazon Business integration

For more information, you can speak to your Customer Success Manager or read though our FAQs.

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3 ways Soldo simplifies spend management

8 November 2023  |   4 minutes read

The world of finance is changing fast. CFOs and their teams have shifted from their traditional role as financial custodians to that of strategic business advisors. And with that shift comes a host of new challenges.

They must monitor and control all company spend, ensure employees have swift access
to the resources they need, and provide strategic support to their business leaders. Juggling these responsibilities can be extremely challenging, increasing friction across business workflows.

But with a spend management platform like Soldo in place, it’s much easier to balance different priorities. Here are the 3 integrated parts of our product that make this possible:

1. Company Cards

Company cards empower individuals or teams to make business payments wherever and whenever they need to. This includes travel and entertainment (T&E) costs, digital advertising, office supplies, and everything in between.

Soldo uses Mastercard® cards which are widely accepted and can be activated or topped up instantly. You can also assign them to an individual or multiple people depending on what’s required. Card activity can then easily
be tracked in real-time from day one.

This way, whenever an employee joins or leaves a project, it’s easy to add or remove them from the list of assignees, and assign a different person as needed.

2. Employee expenses App

With an agile employee expense app that’s linked to each company card, employees
can easily check their balance and track their activity – completely paper-free, so you don’t have to worry about losing anything.

When a purchase is made, the owner of the card gets a reminder to take a photo of the receipt, add notes, and upload it to the app.

This automatic reminder keeps the finance department from needing to chase employees for information. It also allows anyone to easily find card information and lock the card (for instance if it gets lost or stolen).

With a mobile app, finance teams and budget holders can easily monitor business expenses
in real-time on the go, while simultaneously eliminating the associated paperwork.

3. Management platform

With a spend management platform, you’re able to proactively establish budgets for projects, teams, and individuals to prevent overspending. The use of digital wallets helps organise funds in multiple currencies and ringfence money for specific individuals, teams, projects, or departments. You can also leverage auto-tagging to automatically characterise expenses into set types for enhanced visibility and control.

In addition to all the above, a spend management platform also offers real-time visibility of all company spend data. This empowers finance teams to quickly identify cost-saving opportunities, strengthen the accuracy of forecasting reports, and make active changes to budgets as and when needed.

Download the guide to discover:

Key insights from global finance leaders and practical use cases on how to use digital solutions, such as spend management platforms, to automate manual tasks, address specific challenges and facilitate your finance teams’ adaptation to the rapidly changing business landscape

Download the guide

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Introducing mileage reimbursement

23 October 2023  |   6 minutes read

In speaking to our customers, we know two things to be true:

  1. Business mileage is one of the most common types of expense claims finance teams are managing day-to-day.
  2. Claiming and reimbursing business mileage is a challenge for both finance teams and employees.

That’s why we’re excited to introduce Soldo’s new mileage reimbursement feature, designed to make mileage claims and reimbursement easy and accurate for everyone involved. With this new feature, our customers can simplify business spending even further, managing every type of expense in one platform.

What business mileage reimbursement challenges are we looking to solve?

Here are some of the main challenges that have influenced our approach to mileage at Soldo:

  • Employees who use their own personal vehicles, don’t get receipts for miles done for work, and must manually capture odometer readings etc. This makes reconciliation tricky, time-consuming, and frustrating.
  • It goes without saying that finance teams need to reimburse mileage claims accurately. However, being fair and correct isn’t always easy with so many different types of vehicles and manual approaches to calculating distance.
  • Many businesses use multiple disparate expense management processes and systems. This makes it impossible to centrally manage and stay on top of mileage – despite this being such a common business expense.

How does Soldo help with business mileage reimbursement?

Claim business mileage with ease

Using the Soldo Mobile App, employees can now add business trips and vehicle details in just a few taps. Soldo then automatically works out the reimbursement amount.

Here’s the best part: Soldo integrates seamlessly with Google Maps. Simply add your trip and vehicle details, then let Soldo calculate the distance for you. No more manual calculations.

Take control of mileage reimbursement rates

As an Admin, you can set default mileage reimbursement rates for various types of vehicles in Soldo – without being limited to a one-size-fits-all approach. Customise your rates by country, vehicle category, or even specific vehicle for advanced control and complete accuracy.

This level of customisation ensures that every mileage reimbursement is fair. An SUV isn’t the same as small-family hatchback, so why should they all be reimbursed at the same rate? With Soldo, you can configure the most common vehicle types and corresponding reimbursement rates.

Works with Soldo’s expense review

Now, you can review and approve mileage reimbursement claims just like any other expense in Soldo. Managing every type of expense in one platform means you save time by streamlining and automating your processes.

No more jumping around between different systems or approaches to manage different types of expenses. Do it all in Soldo.

“I’m excited about the launch of our mileage reimbursement feature. This is a common business expense that our customers have asked to manage in Soldo, and from today they can. We’ve made it easy for employees to submit mileage claims and for finance teams to make sure that reimbursement is accurate and fair.”Sarima Opara, Senior Product Manager, Soldo

Get started with mileage reimbursement today

The mileage reimbursement feature is available on our Premium and Enterprise plans. Get started today!

If you’re an Admin:

  • Log in to the Soldo Web App.
  • Add vehicles by clicking on ‘Configure’ in the left sidebar menu, then ‘Vehicles’.
  • Fill in the vehicle details and set a mileage reimbursement for each vehicle category, or for specific vehicles.

If you’re an Employee or an Approver:

  • Add your mileage in the ‘Users’ section of the Soldo Web App or Mobile App, just like you would for an out-of-pocket expense.
  • Fill in the details, use our Google Maps integration to help you add the correct distance, and select the relevant vehicle to get the right reimbursement rate.
  • Review and approve in minutes.

For more information, speak to your Account Manager or take a look at our FAQs.

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Three lessons for Social Care CFOs from Eden Future’s Andy Dean  

7 August 2023  |   9 minutes read

Andy Dean is the CFO of Eden Futures, a social care provider that supports 675 service users with autism, learning disabilities, and mental health challenges to live independently. He recently sat down with Soldo on our podcast ‘The CFO Playbook’.

We talked to Andy about the cost pressures that come with being publicly funded, the political aspect of being a CFO in Social Care, how to help carers do their best work, and more.

In this blog, we’ve summarised three key takeaways from our discussion with Andy that Social Care finance leaders won’t want to miss out on:

  1. Use data-driven storytelling to demonstrate value to local authorities and NHS trusts
  2. Keep abreast of politics and policy changes
  3. Use technology to help staff deliver the best care
  1. Use data-driven storytelling to demonstrate value to local authorities and NHS trusts

Eden Futures is 100% publicly funded by a combination of local authorities and the NHS. This means that they feel the pinch when there are changes to government policy.

“The years of austerity definitely increased the pressure on costs and pricing,” Andy explains. There’s pressure being applied on NHS trusts and local authorities to strictly monitor costs and secure “bang for their buck”.

For Andy, this pressure can be managed through effective storytelling. A local authority might initially baulk at a figure on a spreadsheet, but providing the context behind these numbers makes a big difference.

“It’s vital that we can quantify and demonstrate how we help local authorities and the NHS cut costs,” he says. “We always explain that our success story is that a service user needs less support from us.” For example, someone who once needed 24-hour care now only needs support for 4 hours a day.

Using data to demonstrate this reduction in the hours of support required is what keeps cash-strapped local authorities and NHS Trusts coming back to Eden Futures. In addition to improving their quality of life, service users being able to live independently also lowers costs.

2. Keep abreast of politics and policy changes

Social Care, as a publicly funded good, is impacted by politics and policy changes. This means that keeping abreast of what’s going in Westminster is part of Andy’s remit.

Eden Futures, he explains, wants to hit the ground running in the event of a change of government. It’s easy, given Social Care’s many intricate challenges, to focus on what’s in front of you. But Andy cautions that finance leaders should already be thinking about the likely outcome of next year’s General Election.

“At the moment we are looking at what the Labour Party’s policies are in this area since we’re realistically looking at a change in government next year. It’s vital that we’re aware of what’s happening and that likely events are factored into our plans and our risk models.”

What are the main parties saying about Social Care, and what impact can it have on you and your service users? “CFOs in Social Care should cultivate a keen interest in society and politics,” Andy says. Not as a hobby per se, but as an essential component of the job.

3. Use technology to help staff deliver the best care

When Andy made the jump from KPMG to the Social Care sector, it was a decision guided by ambition. “I wanted to make CFO,” he says candidly. But a decade later, he found the work of a Social Care CFO to be far more mission driven.

“Care is such a powerful topic. Everyone you speak to can relate to it and relate to having someone in Social Care. That’s what I love about it, my work as an accountant touches so many peoples’ lives.”

Andy isn’t only driven by making a difference for service-users, he’s passionate about supporting care workers too.

“From a finance team perspective, our aim is always: let’s get paid workers paid correctly and on time. We want to make their lives as easy as we can, so they can focus on the most important part of their jobs: delivering care.”

One way to do this is the intelligent use of technology. Many routine tasks – like expense management – can be automated. The impact is two-fold: less admin for Social Care finance teams and faster reimbursements for care workers. With a solution like Soldo that combines easy expense management with prepaid cards, social care providers can even do away with out-of-pocket spending altogether.

Key lessons: data-driven storytelling, politics, technology

Make sure to listen to our full discussion with Andy Dean, <on Spotify> or wherever you get your podcasts. Until then, remember Andy’s key lessons from 10 years as a Social Care CFO:

  • Data-driven storytelling: Local authorities and the NHS are under pressure to cut costs, which means social care providers are too. Use data to tell your story and demonstrate value.
  • Politics: As a publicly funded good, social care providers are impacted by government and policy changes. Take a keen interest in politics, so you can plan ahead and mitigate risks.
  • Technology: People are the heart of the Social Care sector. Leverage technology to make care staff’s working lives easier, so they can focus on delivering the best care for service-users.CTA: Caring is a tough job. Are you making it easy for staff to deliver the best care possible? One simple way to support your team is with an expense management tool like Soldo.

    We work with over 100 Social Care providers like you. Find out how we can help.

    Find out more >

We work with over 100 Social Care providers like you. Find out how we can help.  

Caring is a tough job. Are you making it easy for staff to deliver the best care possible? One simple way to support your team is with an expense management tool like Soldo. 

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Robin Dunbar: Five things companies can learn from evolutionary psychology

4 August 2023  |   8 minutes read

Humans, despite all our fancy tech and modern comforts, are primates. We’re complex and blessed with big brains – but we remain animals nonetheless. And according to Robin Dunbar, a leading evolutionary psychologist from the University of Oxford, it’s essential to consider our primal nature when running or building teams.

His research challenges the familiar idea of ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business’. The reality is that’s work is both: It’s personal and it’s business. “The workplace is a social world,” he explains on Soldo’s podcast The CFO Playbook. “And it engages with the wider world by selling products and services.”

In this blog, we summarise five insights from our podcast interview with Professor Robin Dunbar. If you’re interested in hearing more, you can listen to the show here

Robin Dunbar’s five insights for business:

The view of the accountants

“The last fifty years have been dominated by the view of the accountants. Anything we can count up, profit and loss or dividends for shareholders, that’s what matters.

“What we’re suggesting, however, is that it may not be the most important thing. The numbers are a beneficial by-product if you get the dynamics of the organisation itself right.

“The organisation is a village.”

Non-negotiable constraints

“The underlying social constraints that apply to all monkeys and apes, also apply to us. Just on a bigger scale since we have bigger brains. This manifests in two big ways.

“One is the constraints on the size of the social network we can maintain. Essentially, the number of friends you can have. This is limited across primates by the size of their brains – and in humans, equally so.

“The limit in humans is about 150 people, give or take. So if you get your numbers right in an organisation, it will work better.

“The second part is about how we bond and build trust. The endorphin system of the brain seems to be the main neuro-hormone that underpins long-term bonding. The way we build trust and friendship outside of work applies just as much in work.

“This tends to be activities like eating together, storytelling, singing and dancing. We have a social toolkit, in other words. These are precisely the sorts of measures that are ignored in the boardroom because it’s hard to quantify. But it’s very, very real.

“If you take the time to invest in these sorts of social measures – for instance, making arrangements for communal eating – the productivity will go up for free.”

Optimal efficiency

“Your social world looks like ripples on a pond when you throw a stone in. Imagine you’re the stone, and the ripples running out from you increase in width – meaning more people are included – but the wave height gets lower and lower.

“This implies that the quality of the relationships declines as you go further out. Research tells us that these ‘waves’ come in fairly defined numbers. As I’ve said, the boundary for people that you can have meaningful relationships with is 150.

“What this means for organisations, is that you have to think carefully about numbers on a task-by-task basis. When putting together a group, ask yourself what’s the function and how well the people have to gel for the process to flow efficiently.

“A team that’s designing a specific bit of kit, needs to work together very efficiently without having to constantly stop and explain details. You want a small group and a group that’s on the same page.

“If you want a group to throw ideas around – blue sky thinking – what you need is a diversity of background and experiences. If everyone is on the same page, they’ll come up with the same ideas.”

The homophily effect

“Our abilities to manage relationships are limited. We have a strong preference for people who are similar to us. It’s what’s known as the homophily effect and it’s the single best predictor for whether you’ll be friends with someone or not.

“The homophily effect is an opportunity for organisations to set up a culture, as it were. I’m not talking about putting a mission statement in your foyer – it’s deeper than that. People should have a sense of the organisation’s history and the purpose it serves in the world and the community.

“These become the myth of the organisation. And they become like the totem pole on the village green that everyone can look to and say ‘yeah, we believe in this and this is why we belong together.”

The yearning for community

“Modern life is a lot more insular, and this is driven by the capacity to entertain and socialise at home more easily. You can buy exotic foods and cheap alcohol at the supermarket. Streaming services offer a library of films and TV.

“We don’t need to go out in our community when we’re bored. That’s broken the sense of community. So the question is how do reconstitute the sense of community in modern life? The obvious answer is work. We spend so much of our time there.

“Companies have been spending huge quantities of money on sticking plaster solutions for their peoples’ mental health challenges. But the real solution is obvious and costs a tenth of what you’re investing in consultancies and medical professionals.

“What you need to do, essentially, is find someone good at organising parties. Organising the kinds of social events that people enjoy doing. Those solutions exist, and they’re often very cheap.

“Two activities spring to mind: one is singing. An hour of communal singing turns strangers into friends. And eating together. Having a good quality cafeteria or dining area, where food is subsidised or cheap, will attract people.

“You’ve got to actively work on facilitating social engagement.”

You can listen to the full interview with Professor Robin Dunbar here. Enjoy the show? Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode!

Now’s the time to rethink expense management

Almost two-thirds (62%) of employees say reimbursement should be replaced with a system of company cards. Get your copy of The Cost of Business Crisis to find out more.

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How to start benchmarking: A simple guide

28 July 2023  |   8 minutes read

In our first piece in this mini-series, we laid out why benchmarking is critical to your success in today’s uncertain economic environment and outlined its main components.

Exceeding historical company performance and surpassing your competitors will make your business more sustainable and maximise its chances of receiving follow-on investment at favourable terms.

Now that you are equipped with the basics of benchmarking let’s look at how to start your benchmarking journey with some practical tips to finetune your company’s performance.

In this blog, we will look at:

Decide what to measure

The digital economy means we live in an age of drowning in data. There are a plethora of data points available to measure, but it’s critical to ensure you are analysing the most appropriate ones.

Data points picked should take into account your sector, business model and stage of growth, as well as financial and non-financial information.

For example, if you are a SAAS business, this should include revenues and output from your CRM. Ideally, use a tool that can blend these to further insights.

You’ll also want to consider qualitative data points based on what customers think of your and your competitor’s products and services. This will require judgment as qualitative data comparison can be hard. That said, the development of AI tools such as Chat GPT means measuring the sentiment of qualitative data may be possible.

Define your competitors

To benchmark your data against competitors, you should identify similar companies by a range of measures, including industry, company size, geographical location, and a combination of all three if the market you serve is large and mature.

To make comparisons to competitors meaningful, you should identify a relatively small number of around three to five companies. Creating a more extensive list will be less useful. And may be hard to manage due to the time and effort to access related data points.

Aim to include the market leader, a plucky upstart and an established, recognisable brand that may have fallen behind due to not moving with the times by failing to innovate.

Where to find competitor info

Competitor information can be found from various sources. Some of which will be free. While others may require expensive subscription licences.

The Companies House website is free to use and includes annual account filings for every UK company. However, filings for smaller companies will be less meaningful as they are only required to submit filleted accounts that consist of condensed balance sheets.

Alternatively, commercial databases such as DueDil and Dun & Bradstreet can allow you to search companies across various fields. Such as by turnover, location and industry. Industry searches are conducted based on Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes and categories assigned by providers.

If you are a fast-growing company, Beahurst is an invaluable data resource that tracks 45,000 high-growth UK companies across various areas, including detailed financials and the number of employees. You can also segment results by growth, such as percentage change in EBITDA.

How often should you collect data?

Benchmarking should take place on a monthly and annual basis.

While you will likely only be able to access competitor information annually, you can benchmark your latest monthly financial figures against your historical ones to see how you are performing on a close to real-time basis. However, remember that seasonality can skew sales data.

To access the latest competitor financial data on Companies House. Set up alerts to immediately notify you when annual accounts are filed.

Tools to analyse data

Several tools are available to help you analyse and compare data for benchmarking.

These include Futrli, an app that pulls in your financial data from cloud accounting software. This lets you set up views to benchmark against internal performance and competitors.

Be The Business, a not-for-profit organisation that helps businesses improve productivity has a free tool to benchmark your company. Users are required to fill in a short questionnaire that identifies firms most similar for comparison purposes.

For social media benchmarking, try Brandwatch, a tool that shows you how you are faring against competitors for campaign engagement. The platform can also help to optimise performance by identifying content your audience will most likely engage with.

Implement changes

Once you’ve analysed the output of benchmarking reports, communicate changes internally to optimise business performance.

As accountants and finance team members increasingly grasp data analytics, they can inform of changes across the whole business rather than just their departments.

Going forward, you can then assess the effectiveness of changes by continuing to benchmark. If your benchmarking is improving, show it off. Particularly  if you are raising a new round of finance.

Now’s the time to rethink expense management

Almost two-thirds (62%) of employees say reimbursement should be replaced with a system of company cards. Get your copy of The Cost of Business Crisis to find out more.

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