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Who's the Boss?

Keep your company's travelers in line with a clear-cut business travel policy.

This story appears in the September 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Managing your company's travelers is almost like managingkids--both need clear boundaries. If you're finding itincreasingly difficult to rein in expenses (typically thethird-highest controllable cost at most companies), it's timeto set those boundaries with a travel policy. Here's how to getstarted:

  • Review recent expense reports and talk with your mostfrequent travelers about their travel patterns, preferred hotels,airlines and companies. If you engage your travelers inthe policy's formulation, buy-in will be much easier.
  • Based on their input and your need to control costs,write a travel policy that establishes boundaries such as maximumallowable hotel rates, rental-car size or use of low-fare carriers.You can set per-diems for food, beverage and entertainmentexpenses; determine a fair per-mile rate for use ofpersonal cars; choose whether to allow for extraneous expenses likein-room movies; and determine specifics, like whether receipts arerequired for all expenses or just those over $25. Yourpolicy should also spell out rules about securing managementapproval prior to booking the trip.
  • Choose a single travel agency, and require travelers touse it exclusively to book all business trips. Depending on yourcompany's travel patterns, you can choose to use a traditionaltravel agency or one of the new online business-travel bookingservices from , or Travelocity. A single agency helpsyou to ensure policy compliance, track unused tickets, collect datafor negotiations with suppliers and easily locate travelers in anemergency.
  • Tired of sorting through a stack of receipts fromemployees seeking reimbursement for business-trip expenses? Createa standardized form that itemizes expenses for each trip, and tellemployees they must use it to get reimbursed. You can also investin expense- software programs. These programs arenumerous, and one size does not fit all, so check out several.Start by typing "travel expense software" intoGoogle.

Chris McGinnis is author of The Unofficial BusinessTravelers' Pocket Guide.

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