Once a quarter I sit down with our CFO and review our budget, projections for the upcoming months, and ways to reduce or control overhead to ramp up profitability.
In the zeal to grow a small business managers and CEOs all too often focus on revenues and not profits. Increasing revenues is vital to a growing business. But cost increases that outpace gains in month-over-month revenue can deteriorate the profitability of a sustainable business if not kept in check.
As such, as you grow your business create a checklist of costs you annually, bi-annually, or quarterly check and audit so that you can cut costs where possible increasing the overall profitability of your business.
Here are seven categories that we look at every quarter to attack those costs:
1. Health Insurance
If you provide health insurance to your employees make sure to shop around for new coverage every so often. Traditionally if you were willing to change insurers you could reduce costs for similar plans. In fact, I have even heard stories that some insurers would reduce an employer's rates for simply threatening to shop for another policy.
Of note, this year with the new health care reforms around the corner it has been more difficult than ever to use this tactic as insurers are bracing for a somewhat unknown future and uncertain costs and revenue forecasts themselves. Nevertheless, our company is poised to save 15 percent or more this year on our healthcare expenses by changing carriers earlier this month.
2. Credit Card Processing Fees
Any business that accepts credit cards must ask for an annual reduction in fees or, at a minimum, speak with your representative from your processing company to find out how to achieve the cheapest rates.
At our company we have the ability to process credit card transactions through two separate credit card processing companies at all times. In part this is done for security in case one of the two ever experiences technical difficulties. But this also allows us to play one off another for rate reductions knowing that we can stop processing through that company at any time on a moment's notice.
Irrespective of the power of having two, it is also always advisable to speak with your processor and inquire how to receive the lowest rates. They are typically full of advice on this subject as to how to get the lowest rates (e.g., always use the CVG code).
If you own your own business and it, in turn, owns its work space (e.g., office building, condo, etc.) it is time to refinance. Mortgage rates are at all-time lows. Now is the time to lock in a super low rate and save money today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your mortgage's life.
4. Kill Recurring Payments
Every so often you must check your credit card statement to see whether you are being billed for any moot or discontinued recurring payments. Vigilant businesses will do this every month. But, at a minimum, all businesses must review their statements quarterly hunting for stale payments that should be discontinued.
For instance, we recently discovered a double payment to the same provider occurring on a monthly basis. That was quickly remedied for a savings of $79.99 per month. Sure, that's under $80 dollars. That's almost $1,000 per year and, just think, if you find one of those per month, that's a savings of $12,000 per year.
5. Go Paperless
Even the smallest of offices these days goes through at least a case of paper a month. A mid-sized office may go through 10 or more. And if you are a large office, well, let's just say Dwight Schrute may have you on his Rolodex. But why do we need all of that paper? With today's computer programs and electronic signature capabilities the world of what needs to be physically printed out has shrunk significantly. Add in more reliable computer systems with backup services such as MozyPro or Carbonite the need to print again has virtually vanished.
So go paperless. Not only will you save the cost of paper but also the ink used to print it.
How much are you spending on advertising? Do you pay for pay-per-click advertisements? Do you track your advertising expenditures to make sure your investments are paying off?
Recently we realized that we were paying thousands of dollars per month for a certain pay-per-click program that was not generating any sales leads. The people using that search engine must, in large part, be the Internet's modern day window shoppers. Clicking but not buying. As such, we shut down these ads to save a wasted expenditure.
But saving on advertising is not limited pay-per-click campaigns, you must evaluate all advertising expenditures to make sure they are worth the dollars invested. Sure, branding people will yell and scream at me that advertising has two functions: (1) immediate inbound sales leads and (2) long-term brand recognition. The latter must always be taken into account. But, in my opinion, long-term branding must always bow to short-term profitability.
So audit your advertising expenditures on a regular basis to cut costs where non-profitable advertising exists.
7. Shop for New Service Providers
Over time a business acquires numerous service providers. From the Internet service provider that keeps you connected to the janitorial company that keeps the office clean. Often, however, we become complacent with our existing service providers and fail to notice that our original teaser rate they used to acquire our business has been slowly but steadily raised over the years.
Don't let this happen. There is almost always another service provider that can perform these services for you no matter what they are. So keep a list of your service Providers and their rates. Make a habit of routinely--perhaps two or three times per year--shopping for better rates. And politely let the existing providers know this is your policy so they will be more averse to raising rates on a customer they know will find someone else.