How spend management supports sales teams: An interview with Jaakko Iso-Järvenpää.
Airbase VP of Sales & Customer Success, Jaakko Iso-Järvenpää, was previously at Dropbox, and has led sales and customer success teams across both Europe and the U.S. He also helped scale up B2B teams at American Express and Google.
Jaakko is passionate about building people-first teams and helping both individuals to grow in their careers, and customers to digitize their businesses.
Q: How has joining a spend management company changed how you approach your role as a sales leader?
A: Prior to joining Airbase I worked at Dropbox, where we had at least three or four different software systems that essentially did the same thing. I remember, as a department head approving invoices and reimbursements, that I often had no clue what I was approving — true story.
Today, I feel like it’s a completely different situation: it’s the consolidation story. I feel like I have one place I can go to find everything I need. I know precisely which vendors my team is using or buying software from. I know when my team is traveling because my Airbase mobile app informs me. Me and my team don’t need to do the once-a-quarter, three-hour-long expense filing exercises anymore.
As a high-growth company, we buy a lot of software as we continue to scale. In the past, it’s been hard to know what we actually bought it for. As a sales leader, I would often be trying to figure out: Why do we buy it? Are we using it? Who bought it?
When I think back to the amount of time I spent searching for answers to these questions in past companies I’ve worked for, it’s really quite astonishing. With Airbase, I can find all of that information immediately. I know who approved the bill, and I can go to that person directly. It makes my life, and the life of my colleagues, a lot easier.
Q: You’ve got a lot of team members spread across lots of time zones. How do you handle approving all of their expenses in a timely way?
A: Airbase makes it very simple. The mobile notifications on the Airbase app are fantastic. I look after the majority of the approvals on my mobile phone, unless there’s a more significant purchase, for example, a certain software costing tens of thousands of dollars. Then I might pause, ping the person over Slack, and see if I can get a bit more context beyond the notes in the approval request. Since joining Airbase, I can approve expense requests via the mobile app in a matter of minutes, and overall, it’s never taken me more than a day or two to turn around approvals on things that come through, whether it’s a vendor invoice or somebody’s travel expenses. The critical thing is that we can handle our expenses and spend approvals on an ongoing basis, in real time.
Q: Your sales team travels to conferences and industry events. How has the Airbase reimbursements feature affected your expense reporting?
A: In many ways. If team members need to use their personal card on something, it makes it easier for them to get their money back. Airbase helps managers approve expenses and reimbursements on time and help people stay liquid.
It’s such a contrast to my previous experiences, where team members would return from conferences with wrinkled, illegible receipts that had been in their wallet for two weeks. They then had to scan those receipts or take pictures of them to get their expenses reimbursed. The whole process was a mess!
At Airbase, the number of lost receipts is pretty much zero because it’s all done in real time. My team members simply scan the receipt on the app and I can approve it instantly.
From a manager’s perspective, being able to bulk approve reimbursements is huge. It’s a simple feature, but if I see that there are 20 expenses, I don’t have to scrutinize every single receipt. I trust my team and our approval workflows — we hire smart people. Plus, we all know that the record is there for any future audits, so good expense hygiene is assured, and it makes my work more manageable as well.
Q: How do potential customers react when they first discover Airbase?
A: The term “mindset shift” comes to mind. The potential customers we speak to are either from a small company that hasn’t even thought about the extent of problems they will face by not consolidating all their spend management into one platform, or a larger company that already has point solutions for expenses, cards, and invoices. So it’s a bit of a mindset change for the buyer to go from what they’re doing to using one consolidated platform.
I think a lot of the work we do is vision-locking how your company changes by using Airbase. We try to communicate that using dozens of tools to manage your spend workflows is a fragmented practice. The picture we paint is that Airbase is a workflow tool, consolidation is king, it’s a cheaper alternative to anything else, and can even pay for itself with the generous cash back offered. Still, our customers report that using Airbase over a period of time deepens their appreciation and understanding of the ways, and how much, it improves their operation.
We often speak to fast-growing companies who are hiring like crazy, and have no structure in place for approval workflows. Having Airbase in place and discovering the three different areas of spend management — bill payments, physical and virtual cards, and reimbursements — allows them to grow. It’s an unblocker for growth. Overall, our ability to support companies from founding to IPO and beyond is a very strong value promise and helps our customers avoid any switching costs — they can grow with Airbase. What we sell resonates.
The time saved closing their monthly and quarterly books — by several days and weeks — and having approval flows in one place instead of separate tools allows them to have better control over the spend.
We also emphasize that it’s not just the finance team who benefits, but everyone else across the organization too. For me, the customer is all the users of the Airbase platform. The fact that we have such an easy-to-use platform makes it a fantastic tool for the whole organization, from the junior salesperson to the head of finance.
Q: What do you see as the most significant selling point of Airbase that you take from your own experience as a leader when you talk to potential customers?
A: I believe there are two. Firstly, consolidation. This is the #1 thing that comes up in our closed deals — this is the main reason why customers buy. When you’re scaling as an early-stage company, you often don’t have these things in place yet, and you will need them in the next 6 to 12 months. Being able to save money, save time, save people’s effort, and manage spend is vital for any company — that’s a key value-add from Airbase which we can guarantee for our customers.
Secondly, unblocking growth. If I look at why many of our customers are choosing us, it’s because their technology is not keeping up, and they need something like Airbase. Simple to use, saves time, removes pain points in their process, and gives visibility and control over all non-payroll spend.
Airbase offers a one platform solution to manage all non-payroll spend. It provides oversight and control over spending with real-time reporting and automatic syncing directly to your general ledger. Control all payments – physical cards, virtual cards, ACH, and checks – from one place. Close faster. Empower employees. Control spend.
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