Ollie meets Bill again, the years just roll away, and the conversation turns to bills…

Lizzie wasn’t sure when it had started. Perhaps it had been when the ‘Sold’ sign went up outside the empty house over the road. Perhaps it had been when the removal men had arrived, and started carrying furniture and boxes inside.

Or perhaps it had been when she’d thrust a bottle of wine into husband Ollie’s hand and suggested that he pop over the road and welcome their new neighbour. Her advice had been to do it in a ‘welcome to the street’ sort of way, rather than a ‘I’ve come have a nosy look at your furniture’ kind of way.

In any event, the completely unpredictable had happened, and the new neighbour, who Lizzie now knew was called Bill, had turned out to be a long-lost friend of her husband’s from his University days.  Which explained she now had two grown men draped over her sofa, and a greasy but empty pizza box on the table in front of them. Each had a bottle of beer in his hand. Ollie was listening as Bill compared financial management to eating pizza.

“Suspend disbelief,” he was saying. “Imagine the unlikely event in which you have to feed your family at a get-together with this one pizza. There’s enough calories and stuff  for several people, even though we’ve eaten it all ourselves at one sitting.

“We haven’t been in any way careful with it in a dietary sense. We should have been, but it’s too late now. We’ve eaten it. Now imagine it was a pot of money; all your company had in the world. If you knew you weren’t able to be able to earn any more, you’d be more careful with it in a financial sense, and you wouldn’t spend it all at once.

“It comes down to how you slice it the pizza. If it has to feed a lot of people, you calculate how many people, and you cut the slices smaller. Maybe you cut the crusts off and make those your portion. Maybe. Guests don’t actually need to eat those.

“But here’s the important part. You have to be sure you can make the pizza feed a lot of people, just as much as you have to make the money cover a lot of bills. You must make sure you’ve kept track of all the people or all the bills, all the time. Bad enough if Auntie Winnie and Uncle Bob turn up when there are only a few bits of crust in the box; the ones you didn’t want. You could probably work round that scenario – but if it turns out that you’ve lost track of a couple of bills, and all the money’s spent, what then? How do you explain to a supplier that you’ve run out of money and you can’t pay them when you should? The reputational damage is unimaginable.”

Ollie was nodding vigorously. “The trouble so often is,” he said, “that people in business commit to spending without being certain of their cashflow. The lack of financial control gets companies into trouble.”

“Precisely,” said Bill. “Knowing about all of your bills – all of them, all the time – is the key starting point for any business to understand its financial health. Even the small ones are important, like personal expenses. Online expense management software is the way to go to make that happen. Too few people are alive to that.”

Now it was Ollie’s turn to say ‘precisely’, and to follow it up with: “Online expense management is the way to go. We’ve been doing it at work with ExpenseOnDemand for a number of years, and it works for us. Have another beer?”

Bill held up his hand and supressed a burp. “No, really, I ought to get back; lots of unpacking to do.”

Ollie wouldn’t hear of it. “Make a start on it in the morning, when you’re fresh. You can stay here tonight, and I’ll help with the unpacking tomorrow; it’s the weekend, after all.”

Bill leaned back on the sofa and smiled. He was going to like living here near his old pal. But he hadn’t seen Lizzie roll her eyes as she went to get out the spare duvet and make up the guest bedroom…