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20 Areas to Save Money In Your Business
By Tabitha Wellman, CEO Innova Business Momentum, http://www.innovabusiness.com
All business owners should constantly look for ways to control costs as a means of helping their business profit. While focusing on lead generation and growing sales is extremely important for a business, business owners must also be equally diligent in controlling costs.
why this Because every dollar saved in expenses – goes directly to bottom line profits. Many business owners have found that by implementing strict cost controls, they have improved the same profits that would otherwise have come from a substantial increase in sales.
The following is a checklist that highlights several areas of your business that are good places to find quick savings:
- Always shop around – to get the best price for products or services. You will be surprised at the variety of prices between providers. Implement strategy in your business
- Review expenses as part of your weekly or fortnightly finance meetings with your book-keeper or financial controller. Reviewing expenses once a year is not enough!
- Use a cost consultant wherever possible. They don’t always have to cost you – you can usually find cost consultants who don’t charge for the service unless your business can find savings. A good example of this is telecommunications. At Innova Business we recommend our clients contact Tony Addiscott at Guide Communications (phone 08 9447 9281), who offer a telecommunications review service that costs you nothing (if you mention that you were referred by Innova Business)! However, you can save thousands of dollars on your telecom bills every year by implementing his recommendations!
- Implement an energy saving program in your business. Here’s where to start: * Turn off lights when and where they’re not needed. * Turn off the air conditioning system at the end of the day. * Consider whether your business could benefit from using more electricity during less expensive “off” peak periods. * Make sure the cold room doors are tightly closed. * Install timers on plant and equipment to ensure that power is used during off-peak periods where possible. * Turn off office equipment when not in use. * Operate refrigeration equipment at proper temperature. * Post ‘Energy Saving Program’ signs around your building – “Turn off lights and air conditioning when you don’t need it. Save electricity”. With the focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the news at the moment, you’ll also appear to be a good corporate citizen! * Review switchboard configuration to ensure it is configured to be the most efficient user of electricity.
- Check all accounts for errors – electricity, telephone, credit card statements, loans are all notorious for overcharging. In fact there are some software providers that guarantee savings from banks making mistakes in your loan calculations.
- Fixed Line and Mobile Phone Accounts – The telecom industry changes on a weekly basis. As a result new savings and new schemes are regularly coming in the market. In addition to always checking your telephone bills to ensure they are accurate, you should also establish policies for mobile phone use in your business. For example, do your sales people use mobile phones to dial out while in the office? * Regularly review which telecommunications provider you are using and whether rationalizing different mobile providers can reduce telephone costs. * Also look at how your switchboard is configured to ensure your dial-out costs are minimized. * Your largest telecommunications expense will undoubtedly come from mobile phone usage. So you need to have policies in place regarding mobile phone purchases, phone usage, appropriate call plans for different positions in your business (eg sales positions may have a higher call cap rate than administrative positions) and staffing. Reimbursement for using their own phones.
- Stationery is the biggest area of your business that has the potential to “run away” costs. * Centralize your stationery ordering by making one person responsible for all stationery ordering. This way they can order in bulk and ensure they are getting the best deal. * Use online ordering and delivery services. Many businesses think they are saving on a $10 delivery fee, but have you ever tried not to make an impulse purchase at a stationery store? You’re also sending someone who costs you $20 an hour, taking into account driving time and mileage, costing you $10. Pay the delivery fee! * Keep a stationery cupboard where all stationery (including letterheads, envelopes, comp slips etc.) is kept. Put a re-order list on the door so that whenever someone wants something or you run out of stock, it is listed to re-order.
- Toner cartridges. There are many businesses listed in the yellow pages that now offer toner recharge services that can save your business hundreds of dollars a year.
- Implement a travel policy that defines key areas such as class of travel (eg business for international flights and economy for domestic flights), car rental versus taxi fare, type of hotel.
- You may want to consider using a single travel agency for all your bookings.
- For accommodation bookings, there are now many sites that offer very low rates for last minute bookings. Try http://www.wotif.com.au for some big savings on all your hotel bookings. This site allows you to book accommodation up to three weeks in advance and you can get up to 75% off on a wide range of accommodation. I have personally used this site for many years for Australia-wide and international travel and have never been disappointed yet. In fact, I am always happy with the deals I manage to secure.
- Reimbursement of employees while on business travel – There are two ways you can go about this. Either provide a daily allowance covering all expenses including meals, drinks, incidentals, taxi fares etc. Or alternatively, you may need to provide guidelines and then ask employees to submit their receipts for reimbursement.
- Travel Insurance – If you are a regular traveller, it may be worth looking into the cost of an annual travel insurance policy that covers all employees. Discuss this with your insurance broker.
- Implement a Mileage Policy – I often come across employees who use their vehicle for work and see it as a second income! Here are two options:
- reimburse vehicle use based on mileage rates suggested by the ATO; Or
- Offer a monthly allowance.
For administrative staff who use vehicles occasionally, I offer to pay for all their petrol every month on receipt. This is usually much cheaper than paying for mileage rates. And that means you have more control over costs because it’s often easier to determine how much it costs to fill up weekly at the petrol station. So I usually ask employees how much it costs to fill up their car with gas each week, then offer to pay that amount.
- Bank Fees and Charges – To find out who the top performers on the ASX200 are you only need to look at what banks charge your money, customers, fees and charges.
- The first comment here is that you need to shop around to find the most effective use of bank fees. Unfortunately you can’t get away from them, but there are some good deals available from time to time.
- Secondly, you should always check bank fees and charges as mistakes do happen. Make sure you keep a record of the interest rates and margins quoted by your bank and check their calculations on your statement to ensure you have been charged correctly. There are many software providers that offer a 100% money back guarantee in case your bank makes a mistake on your end. Check it out because it could save you a lot of money!
- Entertainment Expenses – You must have very clear guidelines for reimbursement of any entertainment expenses incurred by employees. There are many ways to “entertain” a client, it doesn’t have to be in a first class establishment at lunchtime – if it is, you need to look at your sales process. Having worked in the IT industry for many years, taking clients out for meals regularly was the norm. As a by-product of not having a large expense account, I had to get creative. So I decided to take people out for coffee! Firstly it was cheaper, secondly it was also quick and thirdly, it was a more casual way of building relationships with those who don’t have much time – which is most people!.
- Advertising expenses are the biggest expense area of any business. In addition to making sure your ad works for you – meaning you’ll make money from it – make sure all your receipts are correct. Not long ago there was a scam in which “bogus” invoices were sent to businesses requesting payment for advertisements in magazines, journals and directories. These people often target large businesses, then send follow-up invoices and demand notices to get paid for advertising that was never spent. Report any such activity to DOCEP and the police. But it also brings up an interesting point – if you don’t know what the payment relates to, ask for more information and, if necessary, ask to provide the contract you signed. Never be afraid to check something you don’t remember.
- Rent is a fixed cost that is extremely difficult to change once locked in. So you must be sure that you have no other option but to rent a place! There are ways to reduce your space requirements so that you don’t pay a centimeter more than you need. First, is there an opportunity to sub-lease the space you are not using. Secondly, if you’re tight for space, you can check out a very popular European concept called hot-desking. You may not need a desk for each person, giving your workplace flexibility. This is a culture change that needs to be carefully managed. Also, to reduce your partitioning costs, consider open plan areas. When receiving your rental accounts, double-check the lease or rental agreement to make sure it’s correct.
- Insurance – Insurance is a necessary evil that can save you a lot of worry. The easiest way to handle insurance is to engage a reputable insurance broker who can regularly review your insurance costs and suggest the best way forward. Always test the market as insurance policies expire and are updated and there are often cheaper options available. Whatever you do, don’t buy insurance entirely as a way to save money!
- Corporate Credit Cards – Many businesses have made significant savings on corporate travel and accommodation costs through the use of corporate credit cards.
- Financial Systems – Purchase Orders: There is nothing more frustrating than finding out an employee has ordered something without your knowledge and having to check it against the budget to make sure the funds are available. The best way to control costs is to introduce a financial system to each employee that outlines:
* Your policy of not issuing invoices without quoting a purchase order. * How to obtain quotations for all goods and services. * How to raise a Purchase Order (PO) that is first checked against the budget, then ordered and allocated for payment. * How to check the supplier invoice against the PO to ensure that the quoted price is the invoiced price. * Confirming receipt of product or service and obtaining sign off from person raising purchase order.
- Up-to-date records and paper trail – You need to have the right systems and paper trail in place to support all of your financial goals. Having up-to-date records and knowing where to find documents quickly will save you money in the long run. Not only will you be able to quickly pick up any billing errors, but you’ll also have control over cash flow and thus eliminate payment defaults or additional interest costs that directly impact your bottom line.
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