When I turned in my expense report, I have to admit, I was nervous.

The company had a very clear limit to how much we could spend on entertaining clients. And this was San Francisco. It wasn’t cheap.

You see, I was instructed to take these four men out to dinner. They were representatives from one of our biggest customers, and visiting San Francisco for the first time…before a big Packers vs 49’ers game.

I took them out to a trendy area and thought I’d show them around various restaurants and bars.

I lost control of the evening very quickly. These four men had other plans, and before I knew it, they were ordering shots of Tequila and other concoctions faster than I could keep up – each man weighed about twice as much as me.

The night was long, filled with laughter, food, drink and just a good time.

The morning came too quickly, and painfully, for my liking.

What hurt worse was looking in my wallet at the receipts. They totaled about six times the company limit for entertaining. 


Before I tell you about submitting those receipts to my boss at the time, I like to reflect on this story because of the lesson I learned.


This company had rules about entertaining. There was an allowance for lunches, and another, slightly higher, for dinners.

That’s what they would reimburse. Bring them a receipt for me, that’s fine, they’re still just reimbursing up to the maximum limit.

Large corporations do a pretty good job of setting parameters of acceptable vs unacceptable behavior and conduct. The Marines certainly did.

But, when I was reviewing this concept with a client the other day, he realized he didn’t set any parameters with his team.

In fact, a contractor took four hours to drive to a local depot of home supplies, pick up a few things for the job, and get back to work, all while billing for his time.

We have since set up clear parameters about what he’s willing to reimburse for, what he’s not going to reimburse for. We put it all in writing, and had the contractor sign.

His stress level, and cost of expenses, have dropped considerably.

Part of what I do with companies is set up parameters around their operation to; increase revenue, and contain expenses.

I look in areas most never think of, and keep the limits simple and easy to follow. But they are effective.

Now back to walking into my boss’s office many years ago, with hundreds of dollars of receipts for a night out in San Francisco that clearly blew way past the limits I was to be reimbursed for.

I walked in, placed the form, with receipts, in front of him and waited as he reviewed the charges, an ever-so-slight smile on his face.

And then it happened.

He signed the expense form for the full amount.

Not wanting to break the spell or mess with the moment, I walked directly to accounting to get my check processed before he realized what he did.

It wasn’t until months later when I finally asked him why he signed it. He explained that I had entertained representatives from the number one account for the company. These were four of the key executives and had called to thank him for the hospitality (my hospitality).

The lesson for me was that parameters, or boundaries, are important. They are rules that guide our activity to maintain control (of expenses, behavior, communication, etc).

These rules aren’t absolute, but can be waived at appropriate times.

I’m glad I learned this rule through emotional expense and not financial.

Do you have parameters in your company? Do you know how applying them to sales, marketing and operations can radically boost your revenue, and contain your expenses?

I bet I can pinpoint a few during a complimentary consultation. Click here to schedule time today, before things (people, expenses, behavior) get out-of-hand.