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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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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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Mastercard’s ‘Get Britain Growing’ campaign: Soldo’s perspective  

12 July 2023  |   6 minutes read

When Mastercard asked Soldo to take part in its ‘Get Britain Growing’ campaign, our thinking immediately jumped to productivity. Indeed, the term has been a popular topic in Westminster and policy circles for a few years now. And for understandable reasons.

As Rishi Sunak said in his 2022 Mais Lecture, “the most important thing was to rejuvenate our [The UK’s] productivity”. It’s been widely noted that the UK is in a productivity funk. During the 20th century, UK productivity growth steadily grew at 2.2% yearly.

Since the mid-00s, however, this figure has idled stubbornly below 1%. The reason isn’t that British workers are lazy. Instead, British businesses are plagued by an array of productivity killers.

And since Soldo helps businesses to manage their spending, we’re familiar with one of the big productivity killers: Expenses.

You can download the Mastercard ‘Get Britain Growing’ report here >

A prime example of a UK productivity killer

You can have an army of the most diligent, productive and committed workers. But they won’t achieve much if they are forced to apply their rigour to non-productive work. People are a resource – and they should be used wisely.

Let’s consider the specific example of expenses and expense management. If we’re being absolutely honest, can anyone defend the way this facet of business spend management has traditionally been done?

Businesses usually rely on traditional credit or debit cards from banks, petty cash or employees using their own money to make business purchases. Once a purchase is made, companies use Excel to manually conduct their expense management and monthly reporting.

And that’s only the first step: All these transactions must then be manually reconciled with your accounting software. It’s slow, offers low visibility of company money and the long waits for reimbursement damages employee morale and puts a burden on their personal finances.

Two-thirds faster expenses

A business spend management platform – like Soldo – offers a fix for the productivity losses of traditional expenses. Businesses can issue as many cards as needed and employees log expenses through a mobile app.

All transactions are near-instantly reconciled and categorised in the company’s accounting software. According to The Total Economic Impact™ of Soldo, a study done by Forrester Consulting, found that our platform reduced the time a finance manager spends on an expense claim by 62%.

This won’t singlehandedly reinvigorate the UK’s productivity. But it’s a powerful step in the right direction. UK businesses must now assess every single process. What can be sped up? And what can be automated?

The will to work is there. Now the mission now should be to strip away the myriad productivity killers holding us back. There’s too much admin and too much manual work. And with technology, we can solve the UK’s productivity puzzle. Once and for all.

You can download Soldo’s Total Economic Impact (TEI) report here. See how much time and money you can save with Soldo. 

Get Britain Growing

‘Get Britain growing’ is a campaign calling on policymakers to harness digital payments technologies and innovation to create sustainable growth across the UK. The campaign comprises three papers, and Soldo features in the second paper.

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Social Care providers waste almost six figures on a broken expense model. Here’s how to fix it. 

7 July 2023  |   8 minutes read

The debate around how to fix Social Care continues to drag on. And, unfortunately, the political dawdling on the issue is unlikely to end soon. Just this year, the UK government announced that funding promised for the care workforce will be halved.

The issue has, effectively, been pushed to the next parliament. And no matter what shape that next parliament takes, the state of public finances means a genuine transformation will most likely elude us yet again.

As the Institute for Government notes, current spending plans beyond 2024/25 “are very tight, with the government pencilling in annual spending increases of approximately 1%”. And those increases will likely go to the NHS, schools and overseas aid. These needs will (most probably) be satisfied before Social Care.

For the moment, the focus must turn to what can be done right now. And Social Care providers should focus heavily on cost efficiencies. Let’s look at one prime example of inefficiency that you could eliminate pretty much overnight.

Check out Soldo’s webinar ‘Moving forward, fast: How care finance teams can use tech to slash admin in Social Care’ (in association with Care Talk). Watch here >

In this blog, we will examine:

How to save money in Social Care

Social Care has always faced a uniquely tricky dilemma when it comes to cost efficiencies. Where finance teams in other industries can perhaps be more creative in cost-saving, Social Care providers can’t cut corners.

Service users are vulnerable, and quality is paramount. On the other hand, leaders are squeezing finance teams to cut costs. In the most recent CFO Signals report from Deloitte, more than half of the surveyed CFOs said CEOs want them to focus foremost on cost reduction.

For Social Care, it’s pressure from two directions. So where to go for savings? You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘you can’t get something for nothing.’. But as the economist Robert Jameson explains, that’s not strictly true (at least in business):

“…most processes — including the production processes used in making nearly every manufactured good we own — involve a considerable amount of waste. If we wasted fewer materials or made more effective use of people’s time, then we’d be producing things more ‘efficiently’ and we could, effectively, get something for nothing.”

Finance teams in care should start here. Where is time (and consequently money) being wasted in Social Care? One area is your expense process.

An example of inefficiency in Social Care

The unique thing about expenses as a driver of inefficiency is that we can quantify it. Soldo recently asked Forrester Consulting to measure the Total Economic Impact of an expense management platform on our current users.

An expense management platform puts expense approval, policy and reconciliation all in one place. Employees use prepaid cards to pay for work expenses – which can be plastic, virtual or temporary – and snap a photo of the receipt.

The employee submits that expense to the platform for approval. Once the finance team approves the expense, it’s seamlessly reconciled in the accounts. Repetition adds up – and by automating expense tasks like reconciliation or allocation of money, the time-saving is huge.

Forrester’s research found that our expense management platform saved time equivalent to nearly £100,000. Flip that figure on its head, and we see that companies are letting that money go to waste by persisting with a broken expenses model.

Expenses in Social Care: the £100,000 question

There are many structural challenges with Social Care. That won’t be news to you. Staff shortages, surging demand and funding shortages. These things need fixing at a national level.

But social care providers aren’t helpless. There are proactive things you can fix right now. Like fixing a broken expenses model that is complex, admin-heavy and costs you almost six figures in lost time.

A good place to start is with an expense management platform. One Soldo user, a finance manager at a social care provider, explained how dramatic the difference was before using an expense management tool and after:

“We can monitor spend a lot easier now. We can run reports, we can see who’s used their cards, how and where they’re being used, whereas we didn’t have any visibility with our previous provider.”

There are easy wins for care providers, too. And while it won’t fix the many structural issues the sector faces, becoming more efficient will give you momentum. This will give benefits right now. And when things finally improve for Social Care – and they will – you’ll be primed to take full advantage.

Expense management for social care

Get a clear view of spending in real-time and control all costs in one platform. From purchasing PPE to paying for staff training and building maintenance, Soldo lets you do it all, effortlessly.

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Why benchmarking matters – and how you can do it

6 July 2023  |   7 minutes read

The continued unpredictable economic outlook means that benchmarking should be a priority in 2023 and beyond.

Investors now look how you are faring across various measures. This includes your historical performance, comparable companies, and the broader economy.

Additionally, there is now more competition than ever in the UK market. Almost a million a million new companies formed in 2022. That’s an increase of 4.3% from 2021. This activity is being driven by digital tools, making it easier than ever to start and grow a business.

Benchmarking will help improve your performance, gain you a strategic advantage in the market and ultimately make you more sustainable to survive and thrive over the longer term.

While it can be time-consuming to set up benchmarking processes and analyse data, doing so has the potential to save nearly 7% of revenue.

This article will examine:

What is benchmarking?

Benchmarking is a multifaceted data-driven way to measure the success of your business. The underlying approach requires you to compare your recent output against something else.

It should cover a range of factors, including financial performance and non-financial measures, such as customer satisfaction and quality measures.

Reviewing your performance in the context of benchmarking will give you a better understanding of your strengths and areas for improvement.

Why is benchmarking important?

Success can be subjective. But using a data-driven benchmarking approach ensures your company collectively works towards a common set of quantifiable goals. This ensures everyone is working towards the same targets.

Employees can be motivated to hit benchmark targets by a company-wide bonus being paid out if they are exceeded. For example, this may include benchmarking annual revenue growth by 20% if you are in a fast-growing sector.

Benchmarking can also identify gaps in your performance that require improvement if you are falling below the standard. If you are a SAAS-based business, you’ll likely want to benchmark customer satisfaction levels. Deteriorating or poor performance can have a knock-on effect on acquiring new customers and missing out on future revenues from existing ones.

Types of benchmarking

Competitor benchmarking

Comparing your results and KPIs against your competitors will allow you to assess your performance against the wider industry.

You can define your competitors in several ways, including by sector and company size. If you are a local business that predominantly generates sales in person, you may also want to consider geographical reach.

Once you can compare data points against your competitors, you can assess which elements of your business to adjust to remain competitive and capture as large a share of the market as possible.

Competitor benchmarking can be challenging as it can be hard to find reliable data. While all companies must file publicly available accounts at Companies House, only large companies have to file full versions.

Data from competitors’ social media activity can be helpful for non-financial metrics but will likely require specialist tools.

Internal benchmarking

Internal benchmarking requires you to assess your previous results against your current performance.

This lets you see if the business is improving or whether specific areas, such as sales or profitability, require improvement.

The widespread availability of real-time financial data, powered by cloud accounting software and spend management tools like Soldo, means that internal financial data is more accessible than ever. So you can benchmark and optimise performance as frequently as you like.

Strategic benchmarking

Strategic benchmarking is when you compare yourself against businesses outside your sector to companies delivering a world-class performance.

Adapting your processes to be like these superstars will elevate you to a standard beyond what is expected in your sector.

Using strategic benchmarking, the cereal manufacturer Kelloggs have generated cost savings representing 6%-7% of their annual run rate.

What gets measured gets managed

As Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking, said, “What gets measured gets managed.” This illustrates the importance of using benchmarking to reach and exceed company goals.

However, given data is now so prevalent, it’s equally important to ensure you are benchmarking and measuring the most relevant data points.

In the companion piece to this post, we’ll explore some practical ways to get started in your benchmarking journey.

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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If admin is social care’s foe, innovation is its efficient friend 

22 June 2023  |   8 minutes read

Wherever you look in Social Care, it’s not hard to spot inefficiency. The sector has quite a few quirks like, for instance, a patchwork approach to training and development for carers.

As the CEO of Care England, Professor Martin Green, noted in a recent column for Care Talk, Social Care lacks “a clear skills and competency framework backed by portable qualifications so that when people invest in training and development, it is recognised across the entire sector rather than just one employer”.

It’s worth considering Professor Green’s point more broadly. What he is pointing at is inefficiency in Social Care not only affects training and development. It’s an operational problem, too.

Martin Green will feature on Soldo’s webinar ‘Moving forward, fast: How care finance teams can use tech to slash admin in Social Care’ (in association with Care Talk). Sign up here > 

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the following four topics:

Inefficiency and innovation in Social Care

Admin in Social Care is out of control. So how to fix this problem? Well, Social Care already has an answer. Just look at the number of user-facing innovations already in use. Like AVERio, for example, provides fall detection software that monitors the health and wellbeing of vulnerable service users.

Instead of the wearable sensors commonly used in fall detection devices, it uses radar technology. Making it less invasive for service users. It’s a wonderful example of how technology is changing the way we deliver social care.

While these user-facing innovations are exciting, you shouldn’t overlook potential innovation closer to home. Technology improves efficiency in day-to-day operations, too.

Expense management for Care

Some of the areas that are perhaps most affected by admin are expenses, spend management and reimbursement. By cutting the admin in these areas (and the time spent on them), you’ll boost employee morale.

You’ll also improve service user satisfaction. When your carers have more time, free from expenses or worrying about paying out of pocket, their happiness will improve. And happier carers will provide better care.

At present, these processes are manual in social care. Employees spend their own money which, given the cost-of-living crisis, is already tricky. Next, they have to submit claims for reimbursement through a mix of paper receipts and manual reconciliation. Finally, the money is repaid.

But this takes hours (sometimes days) for finance teams to do. And time is money, as the saying goes. An alternative approach is to use company cards in tandem with an expense management platform.

The concept of company cards may be familiar to you. But this familiar concept takes on a whole new dimension when used with an expense management platform. The platform element sounds techy – but, in simple terms, it’s just a place to centrally manage spending and expenses.

You issue employees with prepaid cards – these can be plastic, virtual or temporary – and they use the card to buy a product or a service. The user snaps a photo of the receipt and submits it to the platform for approval.

For the finance team, approval happens within the software. As soon the receipt is uploaded, it can be put in the bin. No more chasing or storing stacks of paper. Once approval happens, the transaction is automatically reconciled if the platform is linked with your accounting software.

Employee expense cards

That’s just a simple overview. A leading platform like Soldo’s, for example, can do much more. Like monitoring and reporting out-of-policy spending, setting spend limits and creating ring-fenced pots of money for specific business units (to name just a few!).

All of these features save you time and, thanks to a Total Economic Impact™ study conducted by Forrester for Soldo, we can put a monetary figure on this efficiency saving. Forrester found that our expense management platform cut the time spent on submitting expense claims in half.

These time savings amounted to more than £62,000 over three years.

Ending inefficiency and admin in Social Care

Some of the inefficiency in Social Care may take years to fix. And, honestly, lies beyond your control. Other drivers of inefficiency though, are very much yours to fix. As we’ve pointed out with expenses and reimbursement.

More generally, you need to ruthlessly slash admin in Social Care. Doing so allows employees – both finance and non-finance – to focus on core tasks. That’s more time and more care. And for a sector under pressure, every minute counts.

Expense management for social care

Get a clear view of spending in real-time and control all costs in one platform. From purchasing PPE to paying for staff training and building maintenance, Soldo lets you do it all, effortlessly.

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The secret to improved productivity, lower costs, and happier staff in Social Care

16 June 2023  |   10 minutes read

Improved productivity, lower costs, and happier staff. As far as business ambitions go, it’s fair to say that these are pretty good ones. So how can social care providers go about achieving them?

The answer lies in digital transformation. Digital transformation in Social Care is a wide and varied topic. We know you’re busy, so we’ll limit our discussion here to why digital transformation is the answer to these important questions:

Before you read on, we’ve teamed up with Care Talk on a free webinar series that explores digital transformation in Social Care and other key issues. Find out more here.

How can Social Care providers improve productivity?

With demand for care rising every year and 165,000 sector-wide job vacancies proving hard to fill, it’s no wonder social care staff are pressed for time.

Consider, for example, the hours your finance team spend on reviewing budgets and monthly reporting. It’s not ‘hard work’ per se – but it is time-consuming, especially when these processes are largely manual. Reconciling paper receipts with monthly bank statements or expense claim forms, for example. And painstakingly scanning reports for manual input errors.

Put simply, there are some things that computers can do faster than people, and more accurately. Which is great, because that frees those people up to do the higher impact, more strategic work that’s far better left in human hands.

Soldo is a digital tool that finance teams use make the processes involved in managing company spend and employee expenses quicker and easier. To test the theory, we recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study.

The study found that an organisation using Soldo reviewed budgets aligned with company spend in half the time. And the time spent on reviewing and approving reports was reduced by 80%.

How can Social Care providers lower costs?

Spending in social care is complicated. Take general patient costs such as hairdressing or podiatry as an example.

It’s likely that you pay for this upfront and then invoice it back to service users or next of kin. Other costs are covered by petty cash – stationary perhaps or a last-minute trip to the supermarket. How about recruitment ad spend? You might put that on the business credit card.

That’s a lot of money flowing out of the organisation every day through several different channels. Only some of it needs to flow back in, but all of it needs to be accounted for.

So, how can social care providers keep track of all that spending? How can you get a bird’s eye view to see where money is flowing out too fast, the channels it shouldn’t be flowing through at all, and situations where money should have flowed back in but hasn’t?

The answer is digital transformation

By now, you probably won’t be surprised that the answer is digital transformation.

Don’t let the stigma surrounding digital transformation trick you into thinking that analogue solutions like petty cash is the only solution that everyone is capable of using. Even the least tech-savvy staff member has almost certainly used a debit card in their everyday life. So why not switch to company cards?

Here’s how they help:

  • They’re prepaid, meaning you control how much money is available
  • You can set limits so that overspending is all but impossible
  • You decide where they’re used: allow purchases at some shops but not others
  • Use them for online purchases when the same item is more expensive in-store
  • See every transaction as it happens with a dashboard similar to online banking

Company cards help social care providers lower costs by putting them in control of who can spend, where, how much, and on what. Soldo’s company cards are linked to an online platform that gives you that bird’s eye view of every transaction as it happens.

So you can see where you’re spending too much, or spending twice on the same thing. You can identify patterns, see when you’re about to go over budget and spot opportunities to cut costs.

How can Social Care providers boost staff morale?

Let’s flip our discussion of productivity on its head for a minute. The business benefits of productivity are obvious – who wouldn’t want their staff to do more in a day? But there are very real personal benefits too.

An employee freed from tedious, repetitive tasks has the time and headspace to focus on more fulfilling and engaging work. Work they can apply their uniquely human skills, experience and worldview to – while a computer takes care of the rest.

Let’s also circle back to digitising the way staff spend money in the context of their daily work. Carers, for example, will often pay out of pocket and then claim back their expenses. Our research found that 60% of employees feel anxious about doing this – and 72% say it hurts their personal finances.

By that logic, switching to company cards for employee expenses would make 60% of employees feel less anxious, and give 72% one less financial burden to worry about.

And there’s a third element: the improved collaboration and relationship between social care finance teams and other social care staff. There’s no friction over missing receipts or delayed expense reimbursements. Finance teams aren’t buried under paperwork and staff aren’t held back by a lack of access to money.

Digital transformation in Social Care doesn’t have to be scary

Maybe you’re not tech savvy in the same way that a computer scientist or website developer is tech savvy. But you have enough know-how to use your smartphone, send an email and login to your online banking.

Demand is up, costs are rising and the sector is in the midst of a recruitment crisis. Digital transformation could be just the change you need to meet demand, lower costs and put your staff in the right headspace to face a crisis head on. Embrace change. The results might just surprise you.

Expense management for social care

Get a clear view of spending in real-time and control all costs in one platform. From purchasing PPE to paying for staff training and building maintenance, Soldo lets you do it all, effortlessly.

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The four big expense challenges for social care providers (and how to overcome them) 

5 June 2023  |   7 minutes read

The Social Care sector faces a laundry list of challenges. You’re navigating a staffing crisis, funding shortages, and ballooning demand. These are difficult times.

But challenges also present an opportunity. Crisis forces us to rethink how we operate. Right now, operational inefficiency is holding social care firms back. Reassessing your processes is a crucial first step in fixing the UK’s social care crisis.

A key pillar in providing more efficient care is expense management. Expenses and reimbursement are sometimes overlooked. But Soldo’s research has shown that they have a very real impact on productivity for social care providers.

The four expense challenges for Social Care

We commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study for Soldo. As part of their work, Forrester interviewed Soldo users (including a finance manager at a health and social care provider). The interviews uncovered four general expense challenges.

Time-consuming and complicated expense management

The expense process, as we know it, is a big time drain. For most social care providers, verifying expense claims and reimbursement is done via manual comparison.

Finance teams waste hours comparing expense claims to paper bank statements,  checking compliance, and chasing missing receipts.

Care staff spend their own money on necessary work items (a big ask during a cost of living crisis). Reimbursement is manual and slow, with forms to be filled in and receipts to be accounted for.

Inefficient and manual monthly reporting

Any finance person will recognise this challenge immediately. Monthly reporting is tedious and time-consuming. And it’s remained unchanged for a long time.

Month-end involves creating, reviewing, and approving a monthly report in Excel. And then, you compare it to planned budgets and company spending. This process can swallow whole days of work per month.

Delays in distributing funds and cards

Budgets and plans can only do so much. Frequently, our best-laid plans can’t account for unexpected or urgent spending. That’s okay. It happens in any business.

The issue isn’t unplanned spending per se. It’s that adapting to unplanned spending is clumsy and slow. Topping up traditional bank cards can take two or three working days. That’s an anxious wait when employees need funds.

Withdrawing, counting, and distributing cash to employees is also time-consuming. Not to mention being prone to errors and theft.

Lack of visibility and control over spend

Social care providers often don’t have any means of monitoring transactions in real-time. Traditionally, finance teams wait days (if not weeks) for access to bank statements. This slows down transaction reviews and spending analysis.

Doing everything in hindsight means resolving suspicious transactions takes too long. Or worse, it happens too late. By the time you get to the suspicious expense, the damage is done.

End inefficiency and get your time back

With the structural challenges facing the Social Care sector, the last thing you need are preventable problems. Expense management  – and the four challenges that come with it –  is a prime example.

It doesn’t need to be like this for finance teams. Soldo’s TEI study illustrates the significant impact an expense management platform has on efficiency.

The study showed that Soldo’s platform:

●      Reduced the time a finance manager spent on a claim by 62%.

●      Cut the time spent reviewing and approving a report by 80%.

●      Lowered time spent reviewing budgets aligned with company spending by 50%.

And that’s just for finance teams. Non-finance employees saved over 50% of the time spent submitting expense claims; a reduction of 48 minutes per claim on average. Overall, employee time savings on expense management amounted to over £62,000.

A modern way to manage expenses

The way we spend money in our day-to-day lives has moved on a remarkable amount. And yet, company spending and expense management in Social Care has remained stubbornly old-fashioned.

What social care providers need is a modern, efficient way of making purchases and managing expenses. Employees – both carers and operational teams – can be given easy access to company money when they need it.

Whether that’s an impromptu purchase by a carer for a service user, or an online recruiting campaign for new care staff. Finance teams must have control, of course, but resources need to be deployed quickly.

It’s not a choice between control and efficiency. You can have both. Card limits can be adjusted to match the needs of each employee And once the spend is incurred, you verify expenses instantly. It’s all done in the expense management platform.

Automate and end admin

So much of the policy focus on UK Social Care fixates on ‘more’. More capacity, more carers, more service users. That isn’t wrong, but it’s not the whole story.

To do more, social care providers need to, counterintuitively, do less. Less admin, less manual processing, less waiting. Inefficiency is weighing you and your employees down at a crucial juncture.

Social care providers must strike a balance between providing adequate care and moving fast. It’s not easy – but expense management is an excellent place to start.

Soldo connects company cards to an expense management platform. This lets you distribute company money while staying in control of spending. ​An expense management platform isn’t a magic fix for the big challenges facing UK social care providers. But it’s certainly part of any long-term solution.

Expense management for social care

Get a clear view of spending in real-time and control all costs in one platform. From purchasing PPE to paying for staff training and building maintenance, Soldo lets you do it all, effortlessly.

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