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What Batman Can Teach You About Unhealthy Spend Culture

What Batman Can Teach You About Unhealthy Spend Culture

What lessons about how we treat company finances from a cultural level can we learn from how Bruce Wayne turns into Batman?

In the middle of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s even darker, grittier take on the anti-hero, an accountant from Wayne Enterprises answers the question every operations, finance, and business person was likely asking during the trilogy:

How is Bruce Wayne getting away with spending company finances this way?

 

Reese, the accountant in question, uses his knowledge to attempt to expose the Batman, but is ultimately thwarted from doing so with some emotional interception by Wayne himself. But the question is,

 

Why did it take so long for an accountant to notice these numbers?

 

Wayne Enterprises is a major conglomerate, publicly traded, with massive shareholder and government oversight. Then how does the estimated cost of Batman’s vehicles (estimated to be worth $80,000,000) not get flagged as an issue on the balance sheet?

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Most of us root for the Batman, but imagine being in a workplace that is willing to burn through over $80 million in assets without launching an investigation. Would you be happy to work in a place where spending was rampant and unchecked, or would you find it stressful and inefficient? What happens to most companies that are run this way?

This is where spend culture comes in. Wayne Enterprises has an unchecked spend culture stemming from its top leadership. Some examples of this happening in the real world (but without the benefit of vigilante justice) include:

SoundCloud

The music service made news in Q3 2017 for massive layoffs and quickly closing runway. According to employees, SoundCloud continued hiring just to eliminate the roles shortly after.  Unfortunately, the company not having transparency, real time, and responsible spending practices across all departments and offices caused rampant cost overruns they weren’t prepared for. With Wayne Enterprises not realizing that they were missing $80 million in assets, the lack of transparency is something that ties these companies spend cultures together.

Beepi

Beepi closed in 2017 after raising $148.95 Million. It had a great market-product fit, but sources within the company say it was poorly run, and was burning through $7 million per month. An ex-employee shared that the founders were spending company funds on spouses phone plans, extravagant furniture for employees, and car expenses. Similar to Wayne Enterprises, senior leadership was spending funds on unnecessary expenses not related to the companies growth or employee stability.

Mode Media

Mode Media was one of the biggest company implosions in 2016 after having raised over $200 million. The media company had a mixture of a changing marketplace where automated media buys were becoming the norm, and, according to employee consensus, mismanaged funds. In 2015, an audit was initiated by an investor to review leadership expenses, including houses in LA and the Hamptons. Their spend culture required intervention from a source of make-or-break funding as it was highly visible that there was unnecessary spend happening with senior leadership.

Spend culture is just like the everyday culture companies experience, but specifically how everyone from leadership to frontline team members handle the financial aspect of the business. A healthy spend culture allows for transparency, visibility, and enablement of team members to make financial decisions that benefit the company, easily and responsibly. Procurify helps your team gain access to company funds for purchases fast, while easily following best practices and process, and with department-level transparency.

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