For most businesses, the current economic climate has demanded change. But those changes don’t have to be as drastic as redundancies, closing offices or selling the business. By using everything from common sense to new technology, business owners can weather the economic storm and position themselves to capitalise in the years ahead.
Operating your own business—any business—isn’t cheap. That doesn’t mean now is the time to cut corners and in so doing sacrifice the quality of your products, services or reputation. What it does mean is there are sensible inexpensive ways to cut costs that will benefit your operations in the short and long term.
The paperless office concept has been echoed for decades. Yet while business owners talk about it, many don’t back up those words with action. Take a little action, however, and not only will costs decrease but efficiencies will increase.
There are other common-sense cost savers that can be incorporated with little or no effort. For instance, turn off monitors and printers each night and shut off office lights when they’re not in use. Also, open the office windows to cut air-conditioning costs.
Software can also play a major role in trimming business expenses. Invoices, pay slips, contracts, receipts and other documentation can all be emailed directly from within accounting software applications such as QuickBooks. There’s no need to print any of the conventional paperwork as it can be converted to PDF files and emailed directly to customers, suppliers, business partners and accountants. Terminal servers can result in even greater costs savings and improved efficiencies by enabling multi-user, off-site access to company files even without the individual having the respective programmes on their desktop. This is extremely valuable for businesses with outside sales reps, contractors and others who aren’t able to frequent the office.
Backing up company and personal data, online, increases business efficiency in two ways: it eliminates the cost of document storage and serves as an ideal disaster recovery option. By backing up everything from vital company data such as sales receipts, customer records and tax returns to spreadsheets, PDF documents and photo files can be stored securely in a fraction of the time of conventional methods. Online backup is also a saviour should a hard drive crash, an office be damaged or destroyed, or a laptop be stolen. Comforting when you consider years of hard work could go up in smoke without it.
Small business in itself is hard work and business owners want to see their work ethic duplicated by their employees. When times are good, the motivation may not always be there to work hard. When the economy slows and revenues drop, however, business owners can’t afford to waste resources. Now is a good time to time to review the job descriptions of existing staff to ensure there is a commitment to increasing revenue.
If maintaining a large staff isn’t feasible, or if there is a need for additional skills should business pick up, contractors are a sensible option. For starters, contractors offer a wealth of expertise and can be hired for fixed terms or on a re-occurring basis. Many contractors are able to work from home thus freeing up office space and reducing business expenses.
Outsourcing too, often makes economic sense. Call centres, marketing, human resources and several other office functions are good candidates for outsourcing. Sure, those functions are more difficult to manage when outsourced but the cost savings can be significant. Similarly, renting a serviced office is smart for businesses which have a large portion of their staff working out of the office. Serviced offices can be little more than a room with a receptionist or virtual personal assistant who handles administrative functions. The cost is much less than maintaining, and paying for, a regular office, particularly for small business owners who often feel they need to run the entire business by themselves. And what’s more, customers will never know the difference.
— Gavin Dixon is the CEO of Reckon Limited’s (www.reckon.com.au) Business Division. Reckon is the supplier of QuickBooks accounting software.