Simplify Travel Expense Reporting With A Travel Binder

[Simplify Travel Expense Reporting: Guest Blog Submitted by Julie Hill, Executive Assistant, Spectrum Health]

Have you ever had a moment of inspiration that has changed how you work on a daily basis?  What did you do with that idea?  Did you share it with someone, keep it to yourself, or completely forget about it?  Or, did you act upon that moment and make your inspiration a reality?

I work for executives who travel quite a bit.  Several years ago, I transitioned into a department where I was supporting a large group of staff.  Because of the nature of their work, there were many times staff from other departments would travel to conferences on our budget in order to learn concepts that could be implemented in their own department.  Approximately a month into my new role, I walked into the office to find a stack of receipts on my desk.  It was obvious someone wanted to be reimbursed for their expenses, but there was no indication as to whom these receipts belonged to, which expenses they actually wanted to be reimbursed for, or even which conference they attended.  I asked my immediate staff to see if they could help me solve this mystery, but to no avail.  I was in an unfortunate position where I had to hold onto the receipts and wait for someone to complain to me about not getting their money.  Eventually, a staff member from one of those outside departments did approach me, which then gave me the opportunity to explain why I could not process the receipts.  Fortunately, she was very understanding, but that would not always be the case.

I had a thought rolling around in my head that somehow this process must be improved.  There has got to be a better way to keep track of conference information and receipts.  I was driving home after work, and suddenly the image of the finished product popped in my head.  That certainly wasn’t the best timing, but I also didn’t want to lose that idea.  I grabbed my cell phone, used the memo feature, and dictated my idea.  I thought that perhaps I could access the dictation the next day at work and make my vision a reality.

Out of that idea came what is now referred to as “the travel binder.”  It is a side-locking report cover which includes five tabbed pages and a pocket sleeve.  It starts with a title page indicating the name of the conference, the dates the staff person will be traveling, the conference location and the staff person’s name.  Inside the binder are the tabbed pages, each with its own label – Conference Information, Registration/Confirmation, Hotel, Flight/Transportation, and Receipts.  After the receipts tab, there is a clear pocket where the staff person can store their receipts.  When the staff person returns, the entire travel binder is returned to the assistant for reimbursement processing.  The materials inside can be disposed, but the binder and tabs can be used again.

This one little idea has turned into a huge time-saver and organizational tool.  Executives around our hospital system have requested for their administrative support to be taught how to put one together.  Recently, when my executive left to take a job in another state, the first thing he asked me was to connect with his new assistant on how to create the binder!

American author, Napolean Hill, wrote “First comes thought, then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality.  The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”  What big ideas are still in your imagination?

What ideas are you letting fall by the wayside that could change the way you do business? Will you use this concept to simplify travel expense reporting for your trips and your team/executives travel going forward? We’d love to hear how you might use this idea or what you have implemented in the comments below.

Author:  Julie Hill

Julie Hill, Spectrum HealthJulie Hill is an executive assistant at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Spectrum Health is a non-profit health system based in West Michigan comprised of nine hospitals, 130 ambulatory and service sites, and a health insurance plan.  Spectrum Health is the largest employer in West Michigan.   She is currently president of the Professional Administrative Support Staff (PASS) group which consists of over 400 members of various support staff positions.  Julie will be completing her bachelor’s degree in business administration in the spring of 2014.

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