If you’re struggling to keep up with the costs of running a small business, consider where you’re spending unnecessarily and how you could reduce expenses. Over time, even small changes in habits can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
Here we provide 10 ways to run a business for less.
Use free business software
Businesses today have a choice. They can spend vast sums purchasing traditional software or, for just about any general business application you can think of, they can get their software for free off the internet. Free business software is available for a surprisingly wide range of purposes, from accounting and payroll management to photo-editing, drafting documents and creating slideshow presentations.
Good sites to check for free business software include:
Also, the South African Business Toolkit offers invaluable free software, training and other resources to emerging small businesses in South Africa.
Cut communication costs
Dramatically reduce your expenditure on landlines and airtime by using free communication platforms such as Viber, Whatsapp, Skype and Google+ Hangouts. There’s no longer good justification for clocking up huge, fixed-line phone bills or exorbitant cell phone charges.
A traditional Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, which uses a desktop or cordless telephone, is also an option. A wide range of providers, such as Switch Telecom, offer this type of service. You can also use WHICHVOIP to compare VoIP services.
Businesses can take a number of steps to save electricity, ranging from buying the most energy-efficient equipment that’s available and using power-saving light bulbs to using motion sensors and timers to turn on lighting only when people are present.
In addition, small changes you make as an individual add up over time and can make a difference to your electricity bills. Turn off equipment when not in use and consider configuring your computer to go into sleep mode after a short period of inactivity (say 20 minutes), whether you’re using Windows or a Mac.
Also completely power down your computer at the end of the day instead of leaving it in sleep mode, which still uses some electricity.
On-premise, paper-based archiving is outdated. Cloud-based archiving is cheaper and easier to manage, enabling businesses to store and access their records from just about any device, anywhere and at any time.
Cloud-based data storage is available through Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive and numerous other cloud service providers. Storage capacity differs between providers, as does the cost of the service (most use a “pay as you go” model) – so it’s a good idea to compare different cloud storage services .
Many cloud service providers offer a significant amount of free storage to get you started.
Reduce employment costs
It’s true that a company’s people are its most important assets. However, having full-time employees on your payroll can be enormously costly. To manage costs, it’s preferable to keep your full-time staff to a minimum and outsource work wherever possible. Depending on the work that’s required, you can also consider using the services of interns. They may be happy for the opportunity to gain useful experience.
An article on Money Crashers provides some more valuable tips on ways to reduce labour costs in your business.
Cut your meeting costs
It can be costly to rent an office space with boardrooms or other areas for hosting meetings – and even parking costs add up over time. Instead host meetings virtually, using Viber, Skype or another video-chat platform. Alternatively, consider hosting meetings in a less costly environment, such as a restaurant annex or hotel lounge, where you need to pay only for a cup of coffee to use the space.
Telecommuting isn’t a solution for all businesses, but it can be a huge money-saver when it’s feasible. Doing business virtually can reduce or eliminate office rental and operating costs.
For individuals, it also saves the time and money that would otherwise be spent on daily commuting. Even telecommuting just for a two or three days a week can save on costs.
Negotiate with vendors
If you regularly use the same vendors for particular products and services, try to negotiate a better deal with them. You might find that they’re willing to give you a better price rather than taking the risk of losing your business.
Also, always ask for business discounts when you make bigger, once-off purchases. Even small discounts add up.
Join or start a purchasing cooperative
You may be able to save on the costs of supplies and other goods by joining or starting a purchasing cooperative . This involves collaborating with other small business owners to purchase bigger volumes at lower prices. Even with just two or three companies involved, the discounts involved in buying items in bulk can be significant.
Use a serviced office
Last but not least, save on traditional office rental and setup costs by using a serviced office.
With a serviced office, you avoid many of the costs typically associated with finding, leasing and setting up an office space. You can simply move in and start work straight away. For example, you can choose to:
- make use of business infrastructure that’s already set up
- move into an office that’s already furnished
- benefit from a range of business services that are offered onsite
- make use of professionally appointed meeting rooms without having to factor this into your fixed monthly cost for office space.
Also, you can lease a serviced office for as short a period as three months. This means you won’t be locked into paying for space you don’t need if your business circumstances change.