Expensify Playbook for US based VC Backed Startups
This playbook details best practices on how Seed to Series A startups with under 100 employees can use Expensify to prioritize top-line revenue growth while managing spend responsibly.
- See our Playbook for Bootstrapped Businesses if you haven’t taken any VC money yet.
- See our Playbook for Small Businesses if you are more concerned with maintaining profitability than growing top-line revenue. [Coming soon…]
- See our Playbook for Midsize Businesses if you are series B or beyond, or have more than 100 employees. [Coming soon…]
Who you are
As a VC-backed business focused on growth and efficiency, you are looking for a product that puts smart automation in your hands. You prioritize top-line revenue growth over cash conservation, understanding that you’ll need to spend in order to grow. As a result, you want to enable your employees by putting spending power in their hands responsibly so there are appropriate compliance controls in place that scale with the business growth. Not only that, you want to decrease the amount of time you spend at the end of each month reimbursing employees, reconciling spend, and closing your books.
Step-by-step instructions for setting up Expensify
This playbook is built based on best practices we’ve developed after processing expenses for tens of thousands of companies around the world. As such, use this playbook as your starting point, knowing that you can customize Expensify to suit your business needs. Every company is different, and we’re always one chat away with any questions you may have.
Step 1: Create your Expensify account
If you don’t already have one, go to Expensify.com and sign up for an account with your work email address. The account is free so don’t worry about the cost at this stage.
Step 2: Create a Control Policy
There are three policy types, but for your needs we recommend the Control Policy for the following reasons:
- You can cap spend on certain expense types, and set compliance controls so Expensify’s built-in Concierge Audit Tracking can detect violations on your behalf
- As a growing business with VC-funding, the Control plan will scale with you as your team grows and you start to introduce more sophisticated approval workflows
To create your Control Policy:
- Go to Settings > Policies
- Select Group and click the button that says New Policy
- Click Select under Control
The Control plan also gives you access to a dedicated Setup Specialist. You can find yours by looking at your policy’s #admins room at new.expensify.com, and chatting with them there. The Control plan is bundled with the Expensify Card is $9 per user per month when you commit annually, which is a 75% discount off our standard unbundled price point. The Control plan also gives you access to a dedicated Setup Specialist. You can find yours by looking at your policy’s #admins room in new.expensify.com, and chat with them there.
Step 3: Connect your accounting system
As a VC-backed company, your investors will want to see that your books are managed properly. That means making sure that:
- Every purchase is categorized into the correct account in your chart of accounts
- Every expense is accounted for and added to your accounting system
You do this by synchronizing Expensify and your accounting package as follows:
- Click Settings > Policies
- Navigate to the Connections tab
- Select your accounting system
- If you don’t see your accounting solution in the list of integrations we support, you can review an alternative solution in the Feature Deep Dives section below.
- Follow the prompts to connect your accounting package
- Detailed instructions on connecting your accounting package are linked on the Connections page
- Once connected, your categories will sync, and you’re ready to set Category Rules
“Expensify syncs seamlessly with QuickBooks, supports our web-based, paperless workflow, and offers internal controls, so it was the natural choice.” - Laura Redmond, CEO of Redmond Accounting
Step 4: Set up category rules
Category rules are how you provide employees hints and requirements to make sure purchases stay within reasonable ranges and are documented appropriately for approval. For your company size and stage, we recommend the following:
- Click Settings > Policies
- Navigate to the Categories tab where you’ll see all the categories you just imported from your accounting package
- To set a rule for a specific category, click “Edit Rules”
- The Edit Rules section will provide several expense category rules that tie to specific general ledger categories. While the individual rules might change slightly from business to business, and the exact category name will depend on your specific chart of accounts, we recommend these settings for VC backed startups:
- Set a $75 daily limit on meals and entertainment purchases
- Though we recommend Expensify Guaranteed eReceipts for most purchases, for large purchases or those in categories most often associated with fraud, we recommend scanned receipts for extra protection:
- For any purchase over $1000
- For all lodging purchases, regardless of size
- For any meal over $50/person
- For all office supplies
- For all software purchases
- For all airfare purchases - Require manual explanations for certain high risk categories:
- For airfare expenses a description of the expense mandatory for the employee to include the purpose of the travel
- Require a description for all rideshare and taxi expenses, ensuring employees are listing a purpose for the expense
Setting up these category rules allows you to concentrate on growth versus needing to micromanage your employees’ spending.
Step 5: Set up scheduled submit
For an efficiency-focused company, we recommend setting up Scheduled Submit on a Daily frequency:
- Click Settings > Policies
- From here, select your group Control policy
- Within your policy settings, select the Reports tab
- You’ll notice Scheduled Submit is located directly under Report Basics
- Choose Daily
Between Expensify’s SmartScan technology, direct corporate card feed import, automatic categorization, and DoubleCheck features, your employees shouldn’t need to do anything more than swipe their Expensify Card or scan their receipt.
Scheduled Submit will ensure all expenses are submitted automatically. Any expenses that do not fall within the rules you’ve set up for your policy will be escalated to you for manual review.
“Our employees just SmartScan a receipt as soon as they receive it, and regardless of what currency it’s in, we process the expense and issue reimbursement automatically.” - Amina Mobasher, Accountant at Ideo.org
Step 6: Connect your business bank account
If you’re located in the US, you can utilize Expensify’s payment processing and reimbursement features.
Note: Before you begin, you’ll need the following to validate your business bank account:
- Your bank account credentials
- A form of ID (a driver’s license or passport)
- Your business tax ID number, your business’ address and your website URL
Let’s walk through the process of linking your business bank account:
- Go to Settings > Account, and select the Payments tab
- Select Add Verified Bank Account
- From here, we’ll ask you to use your online banking credentials to connect to your bank
- Alternatively, you can go the more manual route by selecting “Connect Manually”
- Once that’s done, we’ll collect all of the necessary information on your business, such as your legal business name and address
- We’ll then collect your personal information, and a photo ID to confirm your identity
You only need to do this once. You are fully set up for not only reimbursing expense reports, but issuing Expensify Cards, collecting invoice payments online, as well as paying bills online.
Step 7: Invite employees
Next, you’ll want to invite your employees to the company policy you created. You can invite employees under Settings > Policies > Policy Name > People. From there, you can add employees one of three ways:
- Unique Policy Link - Each policy has a unique policy invite link, which is located at the top of the People tab in your policy settings. Simply share that link with anyone you’d like to add to your policy.
- Manually - Enter employee email addresses manually by clicking the green Invite button in the People tab of your policy
- Google SSO - Or, if you have a Google Workspace configured, you can synchronize your policy’s people list to match your Google Workspace employee list.
In the next section, we’ll go through how to configure approval routing but it’s important to remember that you’ll always have these 3 options to utilize, specifically the unique policy link and manual invites as your team continues to grow.
Step 8: Set up an approval workflow
Now, let’s set up some approval rules for your business as well as the ideal approval workflow that employee reports will follow after report submission:
- Go to Settings > Policies, and select the People tab.
- From there, select Submit & Approve - this will automatically add you as the approver, which ensures that any expenses that fall outside of the rules you set for your policy are brought to your attention.
- Note: If you are over 50 employees, please ask your Guide about the benefits of setting up an Advanced Approval workflow.
- Next, enable manual approval for expenses over $1000.
- Note: We do not recommend configuring random report auditing for companies of your stage and scale.
- Next, enable Workflow Enforcement.
- This ensures that employees are required to submit to you and not to someone else.
- Disable Prevent Self-Approval. This is a more powerful feature recommended for companies with advanced compliance requirements, but generally isn’t recommended for a company of your scale.
Thanks to our Concierge Receipt audit technology, once you set up an approval workflow, most expenses will be audited automatically and won’t require manual review. Your time is valuable, so you should focus it on reviewing only the expenses that fall outside of your policy’s rules.
Step 9: Set up your corporate card and assign cards to employees
Expensify is optimized to work with corporate cards from all banks – or even better, use our own perfectly integrated Expensify Card.
If you have an existing corporate card
Expensify supports direct card feeds from most financial institutions. Setting up a corporate card feed will pull in the transactions from the connected cards on a daily basis. To set this up, do the following:
- Go to Settings > Domains > Company Cards > Select your bank
- If you don’t see your financial institution in the list of banks we support, you can review an alternative solution in the Feature Deep Dives section below
- Next, enter your bank account login credentials.
- To successfully connect to your bank, we’ll need the master admin (primary) account login credentials.
- Next, assign the corporate cards to your employees by selecting the employee’s email address and the corresponding card number from the two drop-down menus under the Assign a Card section
- Set a transaction start date
- If you don’t have a backlog of transactions you’d like to account for, feel free to skip this step.
As mentioned above, we’ll be able to pull in transactions as they post (daily) and handle receipt matching for you and your employees. However, with the Expensify Card, we’re able to bring in transactions at the point of sale which provides you with real-time compliance. Next, let’s dive into how to set up the Expensify Card and the benefits of using the Expensify Card.
If you don’t have a corporate card, use the Expensify Card
Expensify provides a corporate card with the following features:
- 2% cashback on all card spend
- A stable, unbreakable connection (third-party bank feeds can run into connectivity issues)
The Expensify Card is recommended as the most efficient way to manage your company’s spending.
Here’s how to enable it:
- There are two ways you can apply for the Expensify Card
- Via your Inbox
- Via Domain Settings - Go to Settings > Domain > Company Cards > Enable Expensify Card
- Assign the cards to your employees
- Set SmartLimits:
- Employees - We recommend a low limit for most employees, roughly double the size of the maximum daily spend – such as $1000.
- Execs - We recommend a higher limit for executives, roughly 10x the limit of a non-executive employee (eg, $10,000).
Once the Expensify Cards have been assigned, each employee will be prompted to enter their mailing address so they can receive their physical card. In the meantime, a virtual card will be ready to use immediately.
If you have an accounting system we directly integrate with, check out how we take automation a step further with Auto-Reconciliation. We’ll create an Expensify Card clearing and liability account for you. Each time settlement occurs, we’ll take the total amount of your purchases and create a journal entry that credits the settlement account and debits the liability account - saving you hours of manual reconciliation work at the end of your statement period.
“Moving from our other bank and getting Expensify cards into the hands of employees was super easy. I also love how simple it is to adjust credit limits and the auto reconciliation with the daily settlement.” - Robin Gresham, Senior Accounting Systems Manager at SunCommon
Step 10: Set up Bill Pay and Invoicing
As a VC-backed startup, you might have vendors you work with that send you bills. And in most cases, you probably use some third party to pay those bills if you aren’t cutting checks the old fashioned way. Similarly, you probably have clients you invoice from time to time. As an all-in-one solution, we’re here to make bill payments and invoicing easy, and every policy and workspace comes with bill pay and invoicing - at no additional cost. Since you have your business bank account verified, you can either pay your bills via ACH. Alternatively, you can pay via credit card or by check.
Let’s first chat through how Bill Pay works
- Have your vendors submit bills to email@example.com.
- This email address comes with every account, so no need to activate it anywhere.
- Once the bill has been received, we’ll create the bill for your review directly in Expensify
- At the top of the bill/invoice, you’ll notice a Pay button. Once you click that, you’ll see options including ACH, credit/debit card, along with mailing a physical check.
Similarly, you can send bills directly from Expensify as well.
- From the Reports tab, select the down arrow next to New Report and select Bill
- Next, enter in the Supplier’s email address, the Merchant name, total amount and date
- At this point, you can also enter in an attachment to further validate the bill if necessary
- Click Submit, we’ll forward the newly created bill directly to your Supplier.
Reports, invoices and bills - they are largely the same in theory, just with different rules. As such, creating an invoice is just like creating an expense report and even a Bill.
- From the Reports tab, select the down arrow next to New Report and select Invoice.
- Add all of the expenses/transactions tied to the Invoice
- Enter the recipient’s email address, a memo if needed, and a due date for when it needs to get paid, and click Send
You’ll notice it’s a slightly different flow from creating a Bill. Here, you are adding the transactions tied to the Invoice, and establishing a due date for when it needs to get paid. If you need to apply any markups, you can do so from your policy settings under the Invoices tab.
Step 11: Add a billing card
Now that we’ve gone through all of the steps for setting up your account, let’s make it official so there are no interruptions in service as your employees begin using Expensify. We handle billing via a billing card, and to add one:
- Go to Account > Settings > Payments
- Select Add Payment Card
- Enter your name, card number, postal code, expiration and CVV
- Click Accept Terms
You’re all set!
Congrats, you are all set up! If you need any assistance with anything mentioned above, reach out to either your Setup Specialist or your Account Manager directly in new.expensify.com. Don’t have one yet? Create a Control Policy, and we’ll automatically assign a dedicated Setup Specialist to you.