6 Places Your Business Is Leaking Money
BY Tom Searcy
Small, hasty decisions can leave you stuck with ongoing costs. Use this checklist to tighten up your budget.
Little expense leaks spring up all the time. Many are the result of seemingly minor choices made in the day-to-day frenzy, but they can add up to a lot of lost cash.
Even if you think you have all your expenses under control, it can't hurt to do a quick check for some of the top cash drips. Here's a list of a few expenses every business owner or CEO should look into.
If you have subscriptions to YouSendIt, DropBox, GotoMeeting or other online services, you are probably getting charged a monthly fee. But are you being charged for the right number of users, the right scale of service? You may have signed up during a trial period or at a point when your needs were different. Take a look at your charges, and size them appropriately.
Maybe you still need a traditional landline telephone service. And, heck, while you are at it, possibly you need a horse and carriage for your short commute and leeches for when you are sick.
Kidding aside, there are so many free (and near-free) digital telecom solutions available that paying for a big phone system and all the supporting telecom add-ons is hard to justify. Telecom technology changes so rapidly that you should be looking at this expense quarterly. You don't want to be changing systems constantly, but you may be able to negotiate better packages.
Regular reviews should also include all the smartphones and data packages your people have: Are you getting the best deal available?
The number of default "overnight it" decisions that get made in a small office is crazy. It becomes the standard for all shipping, when other levels of service would be completely acceptable at a fraction of the charges.
This is a particular sore spot. Lots of banks charge you for check writing, wire transfers, transaction processing, and so on. When you first negotiated these fees with your bank, your business was a certain size and did business in a particular way. Has your business changed? If so, look at your fee structures and make certain you are getting the best deal for the business you are in today.
When we relaunched our website a few weeks ago--a grueling process, by the way--we looked at lots of options. It turns out there are more choices out there than types of jarred spaghetti sauce.
We made a quick check of our new contract against the invoices from a former services provider, and we found a lot of one-time and one-off charges that added up to almost as much as the monthly hosting fee. It was all legit--but it was ridiculous.
If your people travel or incur expenses on business, then you deal with reimbursements. Let's start with the assumption you hire good and honest people. Even so, you still need the organizational rigor of a clear expense policy that declares what you will reimburse and what you won't. (Personal cell-phone bills? Hotel gym fees? Airport lounges?)
Then, stick to it.
I don't believe in the grumpy-old-man school of cost containment. No one wants to be that guy in Bermuda shorts and dark socks wandering around the house randomly yelling that the "darn kids should shut off the lights when they leave a room!"
But I am a fan of a regular quarterly review of the leaky financial faucets. Make certain you've got the basics in line, then set it and forget it until the next quarter.