Ask your team of financial experts for money-saving advice and review your expenses and technology practices to build the business.
The best get-rich-quick schemes drop the last of those three words. If you want to add to your bottom line, don’t go for windfalls — see where you can nip and tuck your budget here and there.
It’s not too late to wipe the slate and figure out how you can trim overhead costs that eat away at your monthly profits. So as a present to yourself and your bank account, we offer a list of nine ways you can save money without hurting your core business.
1. Talk to your accountant. If that person doesn’t know where you’re leaking money, get a new accountant. (And if you don’t have an accountant at all — or at the very least, a tax preparer — get one. You’re the owner and the manager, not the accountant. The peace of mind that comes with knowing the books are straight and you’re right with the IRS is worth the expense.)
2. Review your insurance policies. Especially if you haven’t looked at them in a while. If your agent is independent, not tied to a particular insurance company, that person could be a great source for ideas about trimming your premium costs. One caution: Be very candid and clear about your real needs. There’s no point in crippling your business if disaster strikes just because you thought you could live with that extra-high deductible — and it turns out you really can’t.
3. Call your lawyer. We think of attorneys as inevitably high-priced, but they don’t have to be. Discuss alternative fee arrangements. What can she or he do to help you economize reasonably without giving you cut-rate service? More than you might think. You could even consider bartering — your attorney gets the home septic tank pumped and you get X hours of legal consultation. (Keep good records, though.)
4. Shop around, shop around. This tip is two for the price of one. For your business line of credit or equipment loans. A new bank might give you a break for your line of business. But look carefully at the terms you’re offered, and talk to other business owners already banking there about the level of service they’re getting. Incidentally, if you don’t bank at a credit union, see if there’s one in your area. The terms and the service are often better at these locally owned, cooperatively run businesses.
For your credit cards. The advice here differs depending on whether you carry a balance or pay in full every month, but either way a little comparison can go a long way. Do you pay in full every month? Focus on the annual fee and choose a card where it’s low or nonexistent. Or do you tend to carry over a balance on your card from one month to the next? Then watch the interest rates and hunt for the lowest you can find. And as for rewards programs — make sure they’re rewards you’ll actually use: Always read the fine print.
5. Time your banking. This can work in two directions, depending on your specific action. You want your deposits to go in as early in the day as possible: If your account pays interest you’ll get just a little bit more. More banks now enable you to make deposits by smartphone through a special app. Just take a picture of the check with your phone and in a few keystrokes the deposit is credited to you. From the envelope to your account in minutes. How convenient is that?
On the other hand, if you’ve got a bank loan on your office property or a piece of equipment, time the payment toward the end of the billing cycle. That’s because, unlike credit cards, bank loan interest doesn’t accrue day by day during the month. So you can have longer use of the funds or can even earn a little interest on them. Be sure to pay on time, though — late fees or penalties would wipe out any savings.
6. Quit the paper chase. Paper — filling it out, filing it, storing it — might not be the biggest part of your business, but can you make it an even smaller amount? Digital storage on hard drives gets cheaper all the time. The same goes for SSD, solid-state drives, which are smaller and less prone to failure. And online storage, should you decide to go that route, is easier and cheaper all the time. There’s Google Drive, Dropbox, and services from Amazon, Microsoft and others with free or low-cost storage in the cloud — on an internet server — rather than taking up space in your office. But be sure you are confident that the option you choose is as secure as possible.
Consider equipping your service drivers with iPads or other tablets. Those can do what paper does (fill out a work order, say) — but faster. And they can create invoices instantly. (If you take credit cards, you can then get paid almost instantly.)
7. Pay attention to your advertising. Always try to evaluate effectiveness against cost when it comes to paying for publicity.
Take a look at the work you’ve handled over the last three months — where did it come from? A lot of small service businesses ask how customers learned about them. You could even put a question like that on the invoice.
While you’re at it, which social media do you use, and how well do they deliver customers to your door or website? Scope out your competitors, too — where are they advertising? Can you determine whether it’s helping them or not? Can you use a similar strategy if it is? Some publicity is always necessary, but the best way to seek it is always changing. Keep studying your preferred strategy to make sure it’s still working.
8. Hold the phone. Whether landline or mobile, telephone service is another potential source for savings. If you’re paying your employees’ cellphone bills because they’re using them for work in the field, see if you can get a group discount for using the same provider. The effectiveness of this tactic depends on what coverage is like in your particular area, but it’s always worth checking.
9. Join the clubs. Whether it’s through a national, regional or local trade association, you may qualify for discounts on a wide range of necessary costs — cellphone service, insurance or other employee benefit programs.
Your local chamber of commerce can similarly benefit you with discount deals on services of all kinds. They also offer opportunities for cross-promotion. Yes, any of these groups has an annual fee, so you’ll need to take that into consideration. It still could cost you less to join than the value you get in discounts — or the goodwill and referrals that might come your way.
GET TO WORK
So that’s just one list of nine ways to save. Some might not work for you, but others probably will — and bit by bit, those small savings can add up to real money.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Gunn is a business writer in Racine, Wisconsin. Direct inquiries to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.