With rapid expansion stressing every joint in the company's operation, the last thing anyone at Collectech Systems had time to worry about was paperwork. Bent on opening seven branch offices and topping $5 million in revenues a few years ago, the $11-million accounts-receivable management company in Calabasas, Calif., was dispatching salespeople to new territories in Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, and elsewhere once every six weeks. Of course, as the organization spread out, even trivial administrative tasks became logistical nightmares. Then an employee--serendipitously named Chris Murphy--invented an electronic expense-reimbursement form.
Murphy's form, which is just a spreadsheet wearing a little makeup, handles all the computations automatically. Word got out that Murphy's hard drive harbored a solution to the reimbursement rodeo. He e-mailed copies to comrades around the country, and it has since become standard operating procedure for field personnel.
By moving things electronically, Collectech has shaved two weeks off the reimbursement process. But it can't dispense with paper records. "We still need receipts," says controller Gary Palatas. "The IRS, should it ever decide to audit, as well as the CPAs who sign off on our financial statements, require us to back up every expense with a receipt." So accounting won't mail the check until hard copy and receipts arrive at the California headquarters. No problem, Murphy says. "I carry around an envelope, and as I incur expenses, I slip the receipts into that envelope and then mail it off with a printout of the e-mailed report."