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Expenses Across America: An Epic Road Trip

  • August 17, 2017
  • |
  • Sunny Manivannan

  •  |
  • Expenses

 

expense cross americaAh, the road trip. Mythologized in literature, film, photography, and music. Symbolic of liberation, exploration, adventure, spontaneity, and . . . expense management?

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Starting this Monday at 7AM, my Coupa Expenses colleagues and I will hit the road, leaving from San Francisco to visit a dozen of our customers across the southwestern United States. This road trip is a two-week, three-thousand-mile (!) journey that will take us across six states and through Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and points between, coming back to San Francisco at the end.

 

I am so excited that we are doing this. Here’s why:

 

1. Showing up is a great way to ensure customer success.

‘Ensure Customer Success’ is our first core value at Coupa. There is no better way to make this happen than by showing up in person. Video conferences, telephone calls, and emails will never replace the simple act of sitting across from someone and talking to them, understanding their concerns, and showing them new ways to do things that may save them time or money. Enterprise software, when done right, is a ‘show me’ industry, not a ‘tell me’ industry, and the best way to ‘show’ is to be in the same room. This alone is reason enough to plan a customer visit road trip.

 

2. We will hear direct feedback from our customers – #nofilter indeed.

I took the plunge recently and joined Instagram. Looking through many beautiful photos the first day, I realized that almost every photo on Instagram is filtered, to be more pleasing to the human eye. Great for photos, not so great when you’re building a results-focused, customer-centric business. Sadly, much of the feedback that we receive at work is also filtered, which is a missed opportunity to learn, to grow, and to get a few steps closer to true excellence. On this road trip, I am confident that we will get feedback with #nofilter. Our customers are seasoned, savvy, and thoughtful; I am always impressed with their ability and willingness to cut to the chase and tell us what we’re doing well, and where we should strive to do better. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

 

3. We will escape the Silicon Valley bubble.

Silicon Valley is our home, and we are grateful to be located here, but it can start to feel like every company in the world is a fast-growing technology startup, with young, tech-savvy employees. That is simply not representative of our global customer base. We need to go where our customers are, and immerse ourselves in their world. As builders, we’re always on a quest for inspiration, and some of our best ideas have come from informal collaborative sessions with our customers. To build an insanely great product, we need to always be on the hunt for new ideas that will shape the future, and I am confident that we will find many on this trip.

 

We’re meeting with a company that produces nutritional products, an urban fire and rescue organization, a vacation club company, a credit union, a large construction company, a bank, and a technology company. We’ll get an in-depth look at how this diverse set of companies uses our solution in a wide variety of settings. We are eager to untether ourselves from the comfortable certainty of our office, to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, to have our assumptions challenged, and perhaps we’ll have some ‘aha’ moments along the way.

 

4. We can “drink our own champagne.”

As a frequent business traveler, I am grateful that Coupa Expenses exists. The number of times I’ve been able to expense on-the-go, just since the start of this year, is now in the hundreds. I’ve used every innovative feature: Voice-enabled expensing; SmarterTrip; e-receipt parsing for Ubers, Lyfts, and directly booked flights, and hotel bill auto-itemization. Coupa Expenses is this business traveler’s dream solution. Given that this is a business trip, we will certainly incur a wide variety of expenses, and I look forward to having our solution handy.

 

5. We get to spend some quality time with our customers.

Sometimes, conversations between a vendor and buyer can feel transactional. We’re all busy and just trying to get something done. I get it. Those are must-have conversations, but that’s different from spending ‘quality time’ with a customer.

 

‘Quality time’ means going beyond small talk, beyond your day-to-day activities and interactions. It’s during this time that we get to really understand our customers, and vice-versa, which strengthens our partnership. Just like we are on a quest for new ideas to add value for our customers, our customers are on a quest as well, to do better in so many areas, to improve their status quo. Quality time helps us empathize with our customers, which helps us build even better products for them in the future.

 

6. Unstructured time to think and to reflect

To be creative, you have to have unstructured time to let your mind wander and your batteries recharge. A road trip lends itself to that. Some of the best ideas I’ve had in my career have come to me during my morning or evening commute. This will be the first time I get to drive for long, uninterrupted stretches with other people who also love expense management. A large part of this trip will be the team in our SUV, talking about the visit we just had.

 

We will try some delicious local food, and we hope to visit some local sights with our mascot #EdgarTheEagle. Yes, we bought a stuffed animal to serve as our mascot for this trip. He will get his two weeks of fame starting on Monday, where he will be featured prominently on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

 

As for food, we have been soliciting food recommendations in various cities over the course of this week, and the only consensus is that America has a diverse array of incredible “must-try” food.

 

We’ll be posting pictures and comments about our adventures on Facebook and Twitter over the next two weeks – you can find us with the hashtags #ExpensesAcrossAmerica and #EdgarTheEagle. I also encourage you to subscribe to the Coupa blog today to read longer-form posts about our reflections and what we learned from meeting with our customers, and what they inspire us to build to make Coupa Expenses every business traveler’s dream solution.

 

Onward!

 

Sunny Manivannan is the General Manager for Coupa Expenses. He is passionate about helping people get more done in less time with less work. When he is not working, he likes to play tennis and poker.