10 Quick and Easy Tips to Help Small Business Owners Save Money
As we push forward with hope for a prosperous 2010, many people are skeptical of the economy bouncing back even in the third or fourth quarter of this year. In 2009, I have seen several businesses fold due to lack of capital, poor forecasting of cash flow, and excessive overhead obligations. Unfortunately, these companies lacked initiative of being proactive in saving dollars and trimming back the “pork”. On the flip side, I have seen other businesses increase sales, give out pay raises and build their empire’s workforce. These companies had the foresight of adjusting costs and overhead based on whether revenue was up or down. And my all time favorite, I know a handful of small businesses that have been purchased by large corporations, leaving them flush with money, stress free and retired. I’m sure you would agree that having a company that is growing and saleable is a pretty nice place to be during this economic climate.
While most small business owners know that this is a time to hunker down on expenses and stay on top of their finances, corporations are also looking for ways to cut back on costs. Whether you are a small business owner that is “holding their own” or a large corporation trying to keep their helm steady, we are all weathering the same economic storm. With that said, here are ten quick and easy things you can do to help save money.
Forget the paper invoice! Start sending all of your invoices electronically. This helps save your staff time and decreases your stationery and postage expenses. We implemented an electronic invoicing process in 2009 and just to give you an idea, we have saved approximately $6,000.00, which includes staff time, stationery and postage costs. Much to our surprise, most of our clients began to send in their payments prior to the invoice due date. Everyone likes a client that pays their bill on time, but we all love a client that pays their invoice early!
Why travel when technology is right at your finger tips? Conduct meetings via webcast or through third party meeting software instead. Web conferencing tools like Microsoft Office Live Meeting gives you the ability to make online presentations to customers while saving on travel costs. Take the time to calculate airline, hotel, gas consumption, parking fees and any other expense you would typically incur. Don’t forget that your time means money too. You’ll be surprised to see how much you can potentially save. We conduct virtual meetings as much as possible. For every virtual meeting we schedule, our savings range from $175.00 to $250.00 per person per appointment. Now that’s a nice chunk of savings!
Need to promote your company on a small advertising budget? Start an email campaign instead of a direct mail piece. Typically, online campaigns have a higher open and response rate than direct mail campaigns. Use an email marketing vehicle such as Constant Contact, My Emma, or iContact. By going this route, you may still incur the graphic design fees, but the printing costs are completely eliminated. If you are promoting an event, go a step further and push it out through various social networks. Desert Rose Design sponsored a blood drive for LifeSource last year. We pushed out the event details through email campaigns and our social networks. The event was so successful that we had double the turn-out of individuals to donate blood. All of this was done without using paper. (By the way, we are doing another on June 14th, so be sure to save the date!)
Turn It Off or Put It To Sleep
Are you the type of business that has computers running 24/7? Are the lights on from morning to night? Do you have LCDs and projectors in your conference room? By implementing simple energy saving habits, you can lower your monthly energy bills. Encourage your staff to enable low-power sleep modes and to turn off computers and monitors at night. Think about it, other than network servers, do you really need to have computers running all night? Plus it’s a security issue leaving those unoccupied computers on for unauthorized personnel to access. If you are in an office that receives a good amount of natural daylight, turn the lights off or use small lamps instead of lighting up the entire office. This is a very common practice in some companies, which helps conserve energy. Encourage your employees to turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms as well. Our designers and programmers work with the lights off on most sunny days. We also turn down the thermostat at the end of each day and over the weekends. Every little bit does help.
Digitize Your Stationery
Create a digital version of your letterhead for correspondence, estimates and proposals. Offer your brochure in a digital format that can be sent via email. Provide manuals, brochures and any other sell sheet in a downloadable format from your website. By digitizing your stationery and manuals, you’ll realize that people are perfectly fine with something that can be read on-screen. Plus, designers are able to produce something that is just as fabulous as your printed version and the turnaround time can be quick. Going digital will always help companies reduce their printing costs. By using a digital version of our letterhead and showcasing our portfolio online, we were able to reduce our printing costs by 60% last year. It’s really a no brainer.
Duplex Copying / Printing
Did you know that you could potentially save double the cost of paper by using duplex (two-sided) copying? You can also extend the life of your color ink cartridges by selecting black and white as the default setting on your printer. In an effort to shrink paper use, we have made a point of printing all of our internal documents in black and white saving us thousands of dollars a year. We also take the time to recycle our old proposals and any other internal document by flipping them over for use in our printers and fax machine. Rarely, do we ever find a faxed document on a fresh sheet of paper. Just be sure that the documents you plan to recycle for internal use do not contain sensitive information that others should not see.
Build Your Dream Team
A business is only as successful as its employees. Business owners should see the how crucially important it is to have people on staff that love their job and have the “big picture” in mind. If you are carrying a few monkeys on your back with people that think only about themselves, spread poison throughout the office or are constantly complaining… cut the umbilical cord and toss that sour apple before it rots the rest of the bunch. Your business is not a game and in order for it to grow, you need a staff that is team-oriented. Remember why you went into business for yourself? In its infancy, the only concern you had was to feed yourself and your family. When your company grows, you are not only worried about yourself; you now have the responsibility of feeding your staff and their families. With that said, it is extremely important that you have the right people on-board that can work together towards the same goal, so all can prosper. Let us not forget that there are plenty of amazing, talented people looking for work during this difficult time. Seize this opportunity in building your dream team.
Hire Interns or College Students
An internship or senior project program can be a win-win situation for your business. Internships provide you with young, bright, and an ambitious workforce for little or no pay. Many companies use interns as way to help increase profitability. Of course, there are times when you find an intern that falls into the “entitlement” category, which becomes more work than you bargained for. (If that’s that case, heed my advice in an earlier point – drop the dead weight!) Senior projects are also a great way of getting those internal tasks done without taxing your own staff. On the flip side, you will also become socially responsible in providing college students real life experiences where they can learn to be responsible citizens making valuable contributions to society. Contact a local college and inquire if they offer a similar program. You’ll be amazed of what colleges and universities provide to businesses.
In most cases, you may always need to pay rent for office space. However, there are ways to offset additional expenses that come from too much space. You may have leased an office that is intended to grow with your business, but that plan may be two years out. Subletting is a great and temporary solution to help offset expenses. With so many unemployed individuals you’ll find that quite a few are becoming independent consultants and may not necessarily be fond of working from home. These are the individuals that may be willing to pay a small monthly fee to have the “brick and mortar” presense they need for their business. Even the smallest amount per month can help offset your monthly overhead.
Use Member Rewards
Do you fly often? Does your business credit card offer cash back on purchases? Take advantage of member rewards as much as you can! If you have employees using a company card that gains points individually, you may want to the pool those points into the master account. You’ll find this will help and your employees will be less likely to reach for the check since they are not earning points personally. Also, pooling points can benefit the master account holder in using the points for travel, meeting venues and office related purchases. You can even maximize your reward points by “double-dipping” on programs for many of your business related purchases. For example, you can gain points from your credit card provider when making purchases from stores that provide their own member rewards program.
As the old cliché goes “a penny saved is a penny earned”. Although we’ve come a long way from Benjamin Franklin’s era of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, where a penny was worth a lot more than it is today. Nevertheless, these penny saving tips could add up to thousands over time if implemented and monitored properly.