Buckstoppers: The Key To Healthy Bottom Lines

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This magazine's basic editorial job is to help make and keep small business bottom lines healthy. One of the things we like best about our work is that we can often make it a two-way partnership.

In this issue of INC., for example, you'll find the word "buckstopper" on one of the cards bound into the magazine. In the sense it's used on the card, "buckstopper" means an idea for cutting costs, so bucks will stay in the business -- and come through to the bottom line. But a person who uses or suggests such an idea could also be called a buckstopper. If enough of our readers send us good information on those cards, we'll make "Buckstoppers" a new permanent section of our Ideas You Can Use department. And we'll send each contributor whose buckstopper is used a small token of thanks.

Two of our readers gave us the idea of asking you for buckstoppers. The first was Boyd Hill, of Boise, Idaho. We wrote about Boyd Hill in our June issue, telling what high interest rates had done to his Western Warehouse and Supply Corp., and how he was fighting to save it.

Boyd called last week to tell us that he showed at least as big a profit in the last three months as he had lost in the same three months last year. He told us he had done it by cutting his payroll and tightening his credi standards for customers after writing off some bad debts. "I'm not out of the woods yet, by any means," he said, "but I'm feeling like a human being again." You may remember that at the end of our story, Boyd vowed never to go into bankruptcy if there was any way to avoid it. We're betting he'll make it.

There's a lot of Boyd Hill's kind of heroism -- the quiet kind, that gets tough jobs done with a minimum of show or self-pity -- out there in the small business community. That's why we've made a fresh vow to try harder to help out, to serve as a "central buckstopper exchange."

The other reader who prompted us to try the buckstopper card was Charles Faraone of Fresh Meadows, N.Y. He runs a greeting card business called (at least on its letterhead) Once Upon a Planet. You'll be reading about Charles, his wife, and their business in a future issue of INC. He quit teaching school five years ago to start his company; this year the firm will gross about $2 million.

Charles wrote us with a list of half a dozen ways he'd learned to cut mailing and other costs. He'd learned these things the hard way -- by spending too much first, then figuring out how to get the costs down. He urged us to start a department with such ideas, to keep others from having to do it the hard way.

We figure a small firm might save a minimum of $100 a year with a dozen good buckstoppers. Actually, we've heard of one or two that could result in much bigger savings, but we're talking about things just about anyone in a small business could do. Even at $100 per company, that would add up to $25 million to $50 million added to the bottom line of all our readers put together.

Just to keep things clear, future dictionaries will have to add another definition for "buckstopper" to the ones we've mentioned above. The other meaning would be, "One who stops government and its leaders from passing the buck on creating a favorable economic and policy climate for small business and entrepreneurship." That's the way we use the word in our department, The Buck Stops Here.

Small business needs both kinds of buckstopping. Each can pay off handsomely.

Last updated: Nov 1, 1981




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