Are we in a recession or not? Some say we are since the US gross domestic product has fallen for two sequential quarters, a widely accepted rule of thumb for determining a recession. But the National Bureau of Economic Research, the committee that dates recessions, hasn’t made an official decision yet. It only formally declares recessions months after we’re in one, so the jury will be out for a while.

Official recession or not, it doesn’t matter. Owners of successful small businesses don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do. They’re hustling to build a resilient operation that thrives in good times and bad.

Still, many businesses – especially small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – are feeling the sting of a cooling economy and other economic pressures. According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs, nearly 90% of more than 1,500 small business owners surveyed say current economic trends, including soaring inflation, ongoing supply chain issues, and workforce challenges, are hurting their operations.

When not enough money’s coming in, it can be all too easy to make reactive spending decisions without the financial facts – especially when there are a million other business demands to tend to. Small business owners need to have a firm grip on their cash flow and cannot afford to make the wrong decisions, no matter how the economy is going. Because many SMEs are operating on tight margins, one setback, like a month of poor sales or a price hike on supplies, can put a lot of strain on the business.

To prepare for challenges that may arise in the coming months, it’s imperative to stay on top of your numbers and know exactly where things stand. More than your sales revenues and profit margins – which possibly will take a hit during a recession – focus on your outgoing cash flow and make every spending decision count. Financial resources are easier to manage in a slowing economy.

An employee spend management system that provides 20/20 visibility into your total employee spend can help you with this task, allowing you to see the complete financial picture and areas where you can save with minimal effort.

Finding the right solution can be challenging for SMEs. Many employee spend and expense management tools are built for larger companies and can cost thousands of dollars. But there is one solution created specifically for smaller businesses. It’s called Neo1. It is simple to use, free to subscribe to, and has everything you need to monitor and manage your business’s cash flow.

Let’s dive deeper into how this all-in-one budget, travel, purchasing, and expense system can help you rein in spend and prepare for uncertain financial times ahead.

View total employee spend in one place

Many expense management systems on the market excel at tracking travel-related expenditures but miss the mark when it comes to subscription fees, professional services, and unexpected, one-off business purchases – such as tools, office supplies, uniforms, and other odds and ends needed to run your operations. These purchases, known as tail-end spend, are typically made across a broad range of vendors and, therefore, can be difficult to trace.

Neo1 has solved this problem by corralling tail-end spend data in one place with its integrations with American Express Global Business Travel for travel-related purchases and Amazon Business for all other tail-end purchases.

With complete expense data gathered and stored in a single platform, you can quickly access your cash flow situation, zero in on where money is being drained, and identify where spending can be cut – like the $60 monthly subscription service no one uses.

Having all expenditures funneled into a single place also means expense data isn’t lost. Suddenly, accounting errors drop because information isn’t hidden in an email or inadvertently altered in a shared spreadsheet.

Eliminate overspending with a budget

During an economic downturn, you’ll want to avoid wastefulness and make sure every dollar is spent in the right place. You can easily estimate how much a business trip or larger investment will set you back before an online travel booking or transaction has been made by using Neo1’s budget module to set parameters around purchasing decisions.

The process is simple – whether you want a budget for all expense types or big-ticket items only. Employees just need to fill out a few fields detailing the reason for the purchase and anticipated costs. This simple action can get employees to think more deliberately about how they spend company money and motivate them to look for ways to save.

And since signoff by an approver is required, that person also has the opportunity to consciously decide if, say, a business trip to Chicago for a client meeting is a good use of company funds this month or not.

Neo1 also has best practice policies pre-built into the system that trigger a review of exceptionally high expenses and spend parameters around travel to further keep expenditures in check.

Set boundaries with an approval process

Even if you forgo the budgeting feature, Neo1 can still help set limits around employee spend with a straightforward approval process. Employees can access Amazon Business directly from Neo1 and search the millions of items available on the site to buy whatever they need for work. But before a transaction can go through, an approver must review the order details – including why the item is needed and the total price – and authorize the purchase.

Not only can this process help eliminate surprises on a credit card bill, but it also can give those with more knowledge of the financial state of the business (e.g., the owner or a manager) the chance to reevaluate what’s an essential purchase – particularly when the firm is strapped for cash.

Get critical insights for planning

When payment from a top customer has been delayed and you need to figure out where you can save, Neo1’s reporting dashboard can give you the answers you need fast. With its visual charts and reports, you can view monthly spend summaries for a quick assessment, identify who is spending the most by individual or team, and pinpoint which types of purchases are stretching the budget. Having this data readily available – hard evidence –can help make touchy financial discussions with personnel go more smoothly.

Because Neo1 easily connects with leading financial systems and card payment providers, expense data is updated in near real time, allowing you to confidently ascertain what your financial position is at that very moment. And that’s vital information to have when figuring out if you’ll need to move money around to make payroll that Friday.

Learn more about the ways Neo1 can help you get a handle on your cash flow.

Or get started using Neo1 right away by registering your business for free.