By Max Clarke

Filing, sorting and paying out expenses costs Britain’s 1.2 million small businesses over 13 business days a year, significantly hindering their abilities to operate and grow; a survey of over 400 owners of small or medium sized enterprises has revealed.

Furthermore, when compared with other vital business activities, a large percentage of business owners admit that their company spends more time managing expenses than they do on generating new business, thinking about the future of the business or investigating new markets.

The survey reveals that — in addition to eating up valuable time for more important activities — the expense reporting process is also a cause of worry and concern for SMBs. Nearly four out of five express concern about how much money employees are spending on expenses. Also, with the MPs expenses scandal fresh in the memory, one in four voice concerns about staff expensing items they should not. In addition, a quarter think that employees could be spending too much, and a third are concerned that some of the expense claims made by employees maybe unnecessary, but they don’t have time to check.

Isabel Montesdeoca, Vice President at online expense management software provider Concur comments: “SMB owners find that they waste far too much time and energy managing the expenses process. And yet worries remain among SMBs that all those efforts still leave them lacking the proper controls and visibility. If the right technology is put in place, expenses can be straightforward and transparent, giving confidence to focus on more important parts of running a company.”

Although expenses can be easily streamlined for cost efficiency with an automated system, only four in ten businesses currently use one. Given the importance of cash flow to smaller businesses and the current climate for small business loans, the expense process is a clear stumbling block for many firms. Montesdeoca continues: “Not only is bad expense management a drain on resources, it’s also an area of company expenditure that can easily escalate out of control without a proper system in place.”

Automated expense management tools can make it easy for small businesses to submit and track expenses online or via mobile and convert paper receipts into digital records. Concur, a global leader in integrated travel and expense management, today launched the UK version of its SMB specific solution, Concur® Breeze which opens up this technology to even the smallest of companies — down to the one person organisation.