If you run a small business, you already know there’s more than one way to put your budget at ease.
You can increase earnings, but it’s sometimes much easier to cut costs.
This list of often-overlooked opportunities allows even the nimblest of businesses to squeeze some extra from the bottom line. Try one (or all) and see real savings right away.
1. Go Virtual
Despite projections about global business travel growing to $1.6 trillion by 2020, small businesses struggle to justify spending on flight, hotel, and meal per diem.
The reality is, Skype and other professional web conferencing tools eliminate these costs without hindering the business process. Determining whether an “in person” meeting has an appropriate ROI is key.
More business can (and should) be done virtually when it makes money sense – especially since as many as 50% of meetings account for wasted time.
2. Nix Long Lunch Breaks
Having issues with tardy employees who linger a bit too long over the noon meal? Consider ways you encourage in-office eating.
There’s no need for them to fight traffic or deal with poor restaurant service when all they need is waiting in the break room.
Consider low-cost, healthy catering a few times a month (or even once a week), where employees can pitch in for the bill.
Keeping workers on campus for even an additional 15 productive minutes a week can add up, and the morale-boosting benefits of eating with co-workers are valuable beyond measure.
3. Ditch the Paper
With more business services moving entirely to the cloud, it’s not necessary (or desirable) to print out communications, presentations, or office memos.
Gartner reports paper usage increases 25% year over year during the growth of a business – and that comes at a cost.
But what if you could digitize most everything you create?
Not only will this cut the cost of paper, toner, and printer rentals/maintenance, but other hard costs (staples, paperclips, file folders, highlighters, etc.) will dramatically drop when paper is phased out.
4. Embrace Telecommuting
The old fear that employees working from home won’t be as productive has been widely debunked.
This is still one of the largest opportunities for businesses to cut costs.
Not only will you save on the overhead of providing office space, bathroom supplies, and breakroom goodies for these workers, you may also be able to negotiate a lower salary for those who appreciate the flexibility of working from home.
Employees may be more than happy to trade money saved on the morning commute for a slightly less hourly (and taxable) wage.
5. Rent When It Makes Sense
Many new small business owners make the mistake of thinking they must buy all their business assets outright.
If you plan on experiencing rapid growth in the next five years, it may be best to have a more flexible (and affordable) plan in renting office space and equipment.
Since renting also comes with the reassurance of a maintenance plan, you’ll also save serious cash if anything goes wrong.
6. Contract Out
A solid employee base is a part of what makes a corporate culture last generations.
But that doesn’t mean independent contractors don’t belong in your business. In fact, this flexible service provides highly-specialized support to your existing teams, without the need to commit to long-term employment contracts or expensive benefits packages.
New studies show even the smallest companies benefit from gig workers.
There’s no reason to hold back from tapping into this skilled segment of the workforce.
7. Choose Your Credit Wisely
Not all business credit cards are equal, and there are bigger and better offers popping up all the time.
Savvy business owners should check their business credit score regularly, and ensure they’re paying fair rates for credit utilization, being prepared to refinance, as needed.
It’s also a prime time to check out new travel rewards cards or other accounts that give something valuable back to your business.
Pick the card that appreciates your spending goals and pays you back on everyday expenses.
8. Ask Employees What They Want
Management can be funny about keeping their “pet projects” – even to the point of spending money on stuff that doesn’t matter.
Annual employee events or costly team-building traditions may not be necessary in a time of budget-tightening, and workers may not even miss them.
Take time each year to get feedback from your team on the types of rewards they value most; their answers may be far more affordable than what you’re currently offering.
9. Lock it Up
Even with your best intentions to hire only the best and the brightest, people steal, and loss prevention is a valid use of your time and energy.
We wish it weren’t so. If your employees don’t bother with the supply closet, off-site contractors or service professionals might.
It’s best to keep the temptation to take home Post-It notes and staples at zero by storing your supplies out of reach of anyone but janitorial and office management teams.
10. Comparison Shop Online
While it’s popular to have a contract with suppliers and lock-in pricing a year or more in advance, it benefits the smaller business to be free to shop for the lowest price at any time.
Train your purchasing team well, and give them permission to browse the big supply sites – as well as retailers like Amazon.com – to get the rock bottom price on your most-used items.
11. Account for Time
Employees don’t like to be told how to use their computer time, and most companies use firewalls to protect against viruses or harmful malware.
Beyond that, it’s wise to let your workers use their own discretion on how long is too long to spend browsing the web.
Tools that track time spent on each site (without revealing personal tracking info) are valuable in giving feedback and offering insight into the time sucks that most workers aren’t even aware of.
Managers can use these personalized reports to then discuss how productivity will be improved through wiser and more accountable browsing habits.
12. Structure Breaks
Keep employees from sneaking in 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there throughout the day by scheduling in frequent, sanctioned breaks.
This keeps everyone feeling like part of a productive team, while also allowing for healthy downtime.
Whether you pay for the breaks is up to you; simply communicating that you expect them to take a brisk walk around the office or grab a coffee can help.
Lead by example and watch the productivity between breaks increase.
13. Audit Tools and Subscriptions Regularly
Software tools, magazine subscriptions, organizational dues, and monthly service charges will eat away at an already-strained small business budget.
Get a handle on runaway (and unnecessary) costs by auditing these expenses at least quarterly.
What might’ve been a must-have tool may be outdated by end of year.
Be ready to axe any fee or charge that doesn’t fit your goals or feels like an obligation with diminishing returns.
14. Share Numbers with Your Team
Employees make hundreds of decisions in their daily work lives that cost or save the company money.
These are often done without the oversight of a manager, and added up over time, can be the difference between a bust or boon.
Share the company financial goals regularly with your workers, emphasizing their role in creating stability and growth, and tying it back to how it affects them personally.
Remind them of the benefits that exist when the business is doing well, whether that be in the form of a bonus or more job security in the coming year.
Many businesses are already pursuing some of these tactics, but not consistently.
Remember, best practices take practice – they’re never a one-and-done option for continued success.
When’s the last time you looked at your day-to-day spending and saving habits and how they can be improved from the members of your front-line?
Start today to get a handle on a better financial statement at the end of this fiscal year.