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Using technology to cut costs

Gavin Dixon shows how businesses can tap into technology to cut their costs.

Every organisation from the nation’s largest multi-national corporation to your one-man neighbourhood plumber is touting its website, so much so that many of us don’t even take a second look.

But lost in the cyber jungle is a world of opportunity that many small and medium-sized businesses are failing to exploit. With little effort, these opportunities can simplify operations and streamline business practices, particularly when revenues are flat or falling and owners are forced to tighten their belts.

The internet is the most significant development to impact business in recent years, yet most see it only as a collection of websites pushing products and services. However, everyone from your suppliers and customers to banks and investment planners is on it. The question is: how can you use the internet to better your business?

Successful business owners maximise revenues and minimise costs while keeping a keen eye on the future to expedite both. If the opportunity to create revenue is limited, or you perceive it to be, the focus of the business should be shifted to bringing greater efficiencies to the workplace. That is, don’t spend where a positive return on investment appears unlikely.

Most business owners are conservative by nature, which essentially curbs their enthusiasm to spend and promotes their desire to save. Although varying greatly by industry, salaries are often the largest expenses facing businesses, so are potentially the easiest ones to trim.

Though with Australia’s continued skilled labour shortage, coupled with Reserve Bank expectations of close to a four percent rise in inflation and accompanying proportionate wage increases, these costs don’t figure to drop in the foreseeable future. To improve efficiencies, business owners need to be flexible with costs as the sure way to lose money is to be trapped with fixed costs and declining revenue.

A collaborative approach, utilising contractors and flexible full time staff, is an excellent way to lower fixed costs without eliminating employees.

Australia’s economy is no longer dominated by goods producers but instead by service industries, and the trend is likely to accelerate in the future as the Philippines, Mexicos and Vietnams of the world expand their manufacturing capabilities.

As production is outsourced, why not utilise technology to meet your needs in a similar fashion? The internet provides the resources for business owners to do just that.

Geography is no longer a barrier to efficiency. If you’re looking for services, you can just hop on the internet to locate a provider who fits your budget regardless of whether they’re in Blacktown or Brisbane.

Or consider a business owner’s interaction with his or her accountant.

In the past, face-to-face meetings were required. Today, most accountants interact with their clients remotely and by eliminating the manual steps of transportation, consultations and reviewing the paperwork, business owners will enjoy better value for their accounting fees.

Increasingly sophisticated mobile technology can make it much easier to engage contractors as part of your service delivery model. Pervasive, cost-effective internet broadband makes working from home, or teleworking, an increasingly viable option for many and an attractive alternative for employers.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, roughly 2.3 million individuals (or 24 percent) work some hours from home and of those, around 725,000 labour mainly or only from home. This not only improves the lifestyles of workers, but it also reduces the often-significant tangible employer costs of training, recruitment and office space.

Staff members looking to avoid lengthy commutes or noisy offices can realise greater productivity working from home by taking advantage of technology to interact with customers and on-site co-workers just as effectively as they would in an office.

In-house, innovative solutions such as payroll software save considerable amounts of time, paperwork and risk versus the manual process while free recruitment websites enable human resource managers to customise job descriptions, requirements and screening processes to wider audiences.

Automatic invoice generation, meanwhile, creates invoices and e-mails them directly to the customer, expediting processing and payment. You could also consider improving your cash flow by e-mailing your invoices to a debt factor company and your customers at the same time.

All take a fraction of the time when compared to traditional methods and each comes with substantial cost savings. The oft quoted ‘time is money’ has never been more pertinent and taking advantage of technology is a business owners simple solution to saving it.

Gavin Dixon is the CEO of Reckon Limited’s Business Division www.reckon.com.au Reckon is the supplier of QuickBooks accounting software.

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