Adam Steele is the Founder of Internet marketing agency The Magistrate, Loganix and others. He is always looking for a new hustle, and eager to help others with their SEO quandaries -- especially local SEO.
To reach the next level, or even just to survive another month, I've had to make tough choices over the life of my business. As you might expect, almost all of them involved our budget.
Here are some of the plunges I took in pursuit of controlling costs, how they worked out for us, and some things you should consider if you want to try these cost-controlling measures for yourself.
Say Goodbye to Office Space
Not exactly starting on the light side, am I? Yes, this is a huge decision. But it's not as much of a niche choice as it used to be. All kinds of businesses, from app development to field service, have been moving their operations to mobile.
Even if you aren't considering it, your competitors might be. You need to be concerned with what kind of edge that offers them. There are few expenses larger than the rent, after all.
This wasn't a hard transition for us, because it wasn't a transition at all. I embraced mobility from the beginning, and it's worked well. Begin testing mobile management programs until you find one that gives you the utility you need. We've worked with Trello for team management, Slack for team communication, and Google Places for meetings and document coordination. You should check out all of the options to find the right one for you.
Focus on Free
This one's getting easier all the time. From management to scheduling, to accounting and ordering, modern business runs on software. You can choose the ones that come with licensing fees, but if you want to save money, you should always give free and open-source options the consideration they deserve.
Using free options and aggressively teaching myself how to use them, was one of the ways I first stayed afloat back when I was still trying different businesses and looking for solid ground. I've focused on hiring adaptable people because people who are willing to teach themselves the less-recognized tools are going to save me a lot of licensing fees in the long run.
Don't ever assume that the most expensive software and subscriptions offer the most value to your business. You can save a lot of money if you're willing to invest time into in education.
When you find out you need a new skill as your business is growing, you're probably tempted to adopt an expert as fast as possible. New team members can break a budget, which is why it's so important to only choose new hires when it's absolutely necessary. Maybe it isn't necessary as often as you think?
One of my big focuses this year was expanding the skill set of my current team to compensate for not adding as many new hires. So far, this experiment has been an outstanding success. Just spreading out certain skills over the team has saved us thousands of dollars.
When attempting this yourself, be careful about burning out your employees with too many responsibilities. Give them resources and enough open time to learn effectively.
Never Forget the Feel of Elbow Grease
I'm only following in my father's footsteps as a small business owner. This last piece of advice is something he taught me, and it's never left me.
When I choose a new team member, a new tool or any new expense, it's always because it costs me more not to make that investment. If I can't justify an expense that way, it's my responsibility to put in the work myself.
Sure, I'll fudge the numbers on those measurements sometimes. But being committed to hard work and self-education is one of the ways I've mostly avoided real budget emergencies. My father's influence, and seeing my preventable emergencies take down some of my close friends in the industry, has made it easier for me to maintain the discipline I need to stay competitive.
Perhaps the most important way to prepare for every challenge is to never stop reading. Inhale everything you can from experts in your industry, whether it's on blogs, social media or live at conventions. Set aside some time (I set an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening) to absorb the news in your industry.