How spend management helps MDM Props save +240K in VAT reclaims

MDM Props is a London-based art and events fabrication company. Specialising in the manufacturing of scenic construction and large-scale props and models, MDM Props has worked on successful commissions for artists, retail environments, theatre productions, and more.

HQ:
London
Industry:
Arts and events fabrication
Employees:
50+
Started using Payhawk:
August 2022
Challenges pre-Payhawk
Transparency for cash flow management
Manual process
Lengthy reconciliations
Features they love
Real-time spend visibility
VAT savings with superior receipt reconciliation
Custom fields for project spend

“Before Payhawk, missing receipts meant missing VAT reclaims. With quarterly VAT bills of up to £240K, that’s massive. Now with Payhawk, our cardholders upload receipts in seconds and save the business thousands.”

Uchenna, Finance Manager at MDM Props

Life before Payhawk

As a small to midsize business with global clients and multiple complex projects running simultaneously, keeping track of spend is vital for MDM Props.

“Before switching to Payhawk spend management solution? We mainly did everything manually, which involved a lot of saving and chasing paper receipts,” Uchenna, Finance manager at MDM Props, explained. “Then, we briefly used Pleo, but it wasn’t sophisticated enough for our needs.”

Uchenna explained that the pre-Payhawk world looked very different for the finance team and business overall. Their biggest challenges? Disconnected tools and lengthy bank card processes, both of which led to an overall lack of cash flow visibility.

“We used two different credit card systems, one from Barclays and one from AMEX. With the Barclays card, you would get a monthly statement, and you had to pay it in seven days. But sometimes, when we’d log into the system to retrieve the statement, it wasn’t even available,” Uchenna told us. “So, we didn’t know what we were paying, which was bad for cash flow. We had to download a pdf statement then physically get the receipts and attach them to the statement, and it would take days or even weeks to reconcile.”

Uchenna and her colleagues realised that the system wasn’t working, so they introduced AMEX, which was much better for tracking costs. But it still wasn’t perfect, as acceptability across the UK and the EU was lower than they needed.

“We knew the Barclays system wasn't working. But then, with AMEX, the acceptability wasn’t great. So, we had two separate cards, and neither were perfect. We wanted something that would show spend in real-time and connect to our accounting system.”

“We knew the Barclays system wasn't working. But then, with AMEX, the acceptability wasn’t great. So, we had two separate cards, and neither were perfect,” Uchenna said. “We wanted something that would show spend in real-time and connect to our accounting system, Sage. And we wanted something to remove manual work as the volume we spend on credit cards and the systems we were using made the admin never-ending.”


Getting vital real-time visibility

As an all-in-one spend management solution, including expense management software, corporate Visa cards, and accounts payable (AP), Payhawk keeps all of MDM Props’ company spend connected. As soon as a cardholder makes a payment, the spend shows in the software, so the finance team can keep track of who’s spending what, where, and why.

“With the old system, we had to wait two to three days for payments to show up. But with Payhawk, we get to see our spend in real-time,” Uchenna said. “We can categorise the spend by projects with custom fields too, so it’s super easy to see what’s being spent and why.”

“Getting real-time control of company spend is so important for cash flow. Today we might not spend anything, but tomorrow, we might need to spend 10K, for example. Before, we were in a situation where our cash flow data was lagging, and we had an incorrect picture of spend. Now with Payhawk, we have a true reflection of where the business is at.”

“Getting real-time control of company spend is important for cash flow — especially as it can be unpredictable. Today we might not spend anything, but tomorrow we might need to spend 10k, for example,” Uchenna continued. “We need to ensure our spending is low and income is high. Before, we were in a situation where our cash flow data was lagging, and we had an incorrect picture of spend. Now with Payhawk, we have a true reflection of where the business is at.”


Managing project spend like pros

The nature of the business means that MDM Props runs many large-scale projects concurrently, and it’s vital for them to know how much is being spent on each project to keep the business’ cash flow healthy.

Using Payhawk has helped the finance team at MDM Props to understand project spend and uncover ways to amend and improve the overall strategy and budget management. It’s also helped the cardholders within the creative teams to take control of their project spend and operate more efficiently.

“Each cardholder codes up the job themselves to see where their costs are going,”Uchenna explained. “This is important because it keeps all the information in one place and pulls all the project budget spend info together to see what we can improve. Also, we now have the time to proactively do project analysis because we’re no longer chasing receipts!”

Adoption and compliance have skyrocketed, too. The creative teams consistently use the mobile app as it’s so easy and means they can take a photo of their receipt and upload it in seconds, making spend visibility immediately available to the finance team. Plus, with Payhawk, because you can build your spend policy right into the tool in several ways, including spend caps, withdrawal limits, and approval workflows, it’s super easy for cardholders to stay compliant.

"Before choosing Payhawk, we trialled Pleo for a month, but it didn't work with our system. Our coding is quite intricate, and we needed to get all the information quickly and easily. We felt that the user experience and layout in Payhawk was better and easier for cardholders and creatives to use."

“Before choosing Payhawk, we trialled Pleo for a month, but it didn't work with our system. Our coding is quite intricate, and we needed to get all the information quickly and easily. We just felt that the user experience and layout in Payhawk was better and easier for cardholders and creatives to use,” Uchenna told us.


Saving 240K per quarter with correct payment reconciliations for VAT

In the UK, companies that provide goods or services can claim back VAT, providing they can prove that they made the payments on behalf of the business with receipts or invoices.

“Before Payhawk, our team was still collecting paper receipts, and if they couldn’t find them, then we couldn’t claim VAT. We spend a lot on materials for events and can get VAT bills of around £240K just for one quarter, so missing out on the reclaims was massive,” explained Uchenna. “Now, with Payhawk, our cardholders take a photo of the receipt, upload it to the app, and select a spend category in seconds. It’s no effort for them and can save the business thousands.”

“Before Payhawk, missing receipts meant missing out on VAT reclaims. With VAT bills of up to £240K a quarter, that’s massive. Now with Payhawk, our cardholders upload receipts in seconds and save the business thousands.”

The finance team at MDM Props really wanted to promote accountability within the wider business to avoid such situations arising again. They have found that they barely need to chase receipts anymore, thanks to the Payhawk solution, as it’s so easy to capture receipts. And when a colleague does need a chase? The platform automates the receipt chasing for them, saving valuable time and effort.

"We have large volumes of transactions, and before Payhawk, all of our payment reconciliation was manual. It took months to catch up as we had to enter the net amount, the VAT, and what project it was related to," Uchenna explained. "Now, with Payhawk, it's so much easier as the OCR captures all of the relevant receipt data, and we can code it correctly from the outset using the custom fields."


Prioritising security, control, and compliance

With multiple creative teams, colleagues, and even contractors, the project financials can get confusing quickly without proper oversight and control.

“I love that we can freeze cards if people don’t submit receipts on time; it really helps me encourage compliance and good finance hygiene around the business,” Uchenna explained. “And we do love a clean process.”

The finance team at MDM Props finds other spend control features essential too, not just for security but for support too. “The two-way pin verification is really great as it helps us confirm that the cardholders know someone has used their card.”

Here, Payhawk’s automatic security features will ask the cardholder to submit their pin for verification. If they don’t, the payment will be automatically declined and flagged to the finance team.

“Also, if someone goes over their limit, I can top up instantly to make sure they can get on with their work,” Uchenna told us. “Whereas, with our previous credit card supplier, we had to wait until the end of the month for the limit to update. So, if someone spent their money within two weeks and needed more, they just had to wait for two more weeks. Not very agile!”

Saving time and money with expense management automation

MDM Props have saved 32 hours of manual finance admin a week since moving to Payhawk. That’s four working days!

“We used to spend a week and a half chasing receipts which really dragged out the month end,” Uchenna said. “We’ve saved so much time that we now have the bandwidth to focus on cost control measures, tracking spend, and providing QC.”

The software the company previously used also created lengthy delays. The finance team had to download the spend data, create the macro, upload the info onto the macro, generate a new report, and then upload it to Sage.

Now, with Payhawk, the team can sync the spend data with Sage in just a couple of clicks, saving so much time. But time isn’t the only thing MDM Props has saved. Thanks to intelligent spend controls, receipt chasing, real-time visibility, and company cards, the team has managed to avoid many of the credit card charges they used to receive.

“We used to have to pay per transaction, too,” Uchenna explained. “But now we pay once per month, at an almost fixed price, so we always know where we’re at instead of it being variable.”

And that’s on top of the 240K per quarter.

In conclusion

Through Payhawk, MDM Props have saved time and stress to free their finance team to make smart, business-boosting decisions.

The innovative arts and fabrication company has also seen a fantastic ROI, avoiding VAT reclaim losses of up to £240k per quarter and avoiding credit card fees.

Project spend management has been a game-changer, too, and the finance team has been able to decentralise the project spend management without losing any spend control.

Want to learn more about nailing spend management like MDM props? Book a demo today.

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