By Tabitha Wellman, CEO Innova Business Momentum,

All Business Owners should be continually looking for ways to control costs as a means of helping their business profitability. While focusing on lead generation and growing sales is extremely important for a business, business owners should also be just as diligent in the control of costs.

Why is this? Because every dollar saved as a cost – goes directly to bottom line profitability. Many Business Owners have found that by embarking on a strict cost controls, they have achieved the same profitability improvement that would otherwise have had to come from a substantial increase in sales.

Following is a checklist highlighting several areas in your business, that are good places to look for immediate savings:

  1. Always shop around – to get the best price for products or services. You would be amazed in the variety of pricing between providers. Implement a policy in your business
  2. Review costs as part of your weekly or fortnightly finance meeting with your book-keeper or financial controller. Reviewing costs once a year is not enough!
  3. Use cost consultants where possible. They don’t always have to cost you money – usually you can find cost consultants who do not charge a fee for the service unless they can find savings in your business. A good example of this is telecommunications. At Innova Business we recommend our clients contact Tony Addiscott at Guide Communications (phone 08 9447 9281), who offers a telecommunication review service that costs you nothing (if you mention you were referred by Innova Business)! However you may be able to savings thousands of dollars off your telecommunications bills each year by implementing his recommendations!
  4. Implement an Energy Saving Program in your business. Here’s where to start: * Turn off the lights out of hours and when they’re not required. * Turn off the air-conditioning system at the end of the day. * Consider whether your business could benefit from using more electricity in the less expensive “off” peak periods. * Make sure cool room doors are firmly shut. * Put timers on plant and equipment to ensure that electricity is being consumed in off peak periods where possible. * Turn off office equipment when not being used. * Operate refrigeration equipment at the correct temperatures. * Install ‘Energy Saving Program’ signs around your buildings – “Turn off the lights and air-conditioning when you don’t need them. Conserve electricity”. With the focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the news at the moment, you will also look a good corporate citizen! * Review switchboard configuration to ensure that it is configured so as to be the most efficient user of electricity.
  5. Check all accounts for errors – electricity, telephones, credit card statements, loans are all infamous for overcharging. In fact there are some software providers out there that guarantee savings in mistakes by banks in your loan calculations.
  6. Fixed line and Mobile Phone Accounts – the telecommunications industry changes on a weekly basis. As a result there are new savings and new plans coming onto the market regularly. Aside from always checking your telephone bills to ensure that they are accurate, you should also establish policies in your business for mobile phone usage. For example, are your sales people using mobile phones to dial out when in the office? * Regularly review what telecommunications provider you are using and whether rationalisation of the different mobile providers could lead to a reduction in telephone costs. * Also look at how your switchboard is configured to ensure that your dial-out costs are minimised. * Your biggest telecommunications expense though will undoubtedly come from mobile phone usage. Therefore it’s essential that you have policies in place on the purchase of mobile phones, the usage of the phones, appropriate call plans for different positions within your business (e.g. sales positions may have a higher call cap rate than administrative positions) and how employees are reimbursed for using their own phones.
  7. Stationery is one of the biggest areas in your business with the potential to “run away” in costs. * Centralise your stationery ordering by having one person responsible for all stationery ordering. That way they can order in bulk and ensure that they are getting the best deal. * Use an online ordering and delivery service. Many businesses think they are saving on the $10 delivery fee, but have you ever tried to not purchase an impulse item at the stationery store? You are also sending someone who costs you say $20 an hour, with driving time and mileage considerations, to do something that cost you $10. Pay the delivery charge! * Have a stationery cupboard where all stationery (including letterheads, envelopes, with comps slips, etc) are located. Put a re-order list on the door so whenever someone requires something or you run out of goods, it is listed for re-ordering.
  8. Toner Cartridges. There are many businesses listed in the yellow pages that now that offer a toner recharge service that can save your business hundreds of dollars over a year.
  9. Implement a travel policy that determines key areas such as the class of travel (e.g. business for international flights and economy for internal flights), car hire versus taxi charges, the type of hotel.
    • You may also want to consider using a single travel agency for all your bookings.
    • For accommodation bookings, there are many sites now that offer greatly reduced rates for last minute bookings. Try for some great savings on all your hotel bookings. This site allows you to book accommodation up to three weeks prior and you can secure up to 75% off a wide range of accommodation. I have personally used this site for many years for both Australia-wide and international travel and I’ve never been disappointed yet. In fact, I’m always delighted at the deals that I’ve managed to secure.
  10. Employee Reimbursements While on Business Travel – There are two ways you can go here. Either provide a daily allowance that covers all expenses including meals, drinks, incidentals, taxi fares, etc. Or alternatively, you may want to provide guidelines and then ask the employee to submit their receipts for reimbursement.
  11. Travel Insurance – If you are regular travellers, it may be worthwhile looking at the costs of an annual travel insurance policy covering all employees. Discuss this with your insurance broker.
  12. Implement a mileage policy – I often come across employees that use their vehicle at work and view it as a second income! There are two options here:
    • Reimburse vehicle usage based on the ATO suggested mileage rates; or
    • Offer a monthly allowance.

    For administrative staff who have quite intermittent vehicle use, I offer to pay for all their petrol each month on the production of receipts. This is usually a lot cheaper than having to pay for a mileage rate. And it means that you have more control over the expense as it’s usually quite easy to determine how much a weekly fill-up at the petrol station costs. So I usually ask employees how much it costs to fill up their car with petrol each week, then offer to cover it to that amount.

  13. Bank Fees and Charges – You only need to see who the top performers are on the ASX200 to know that banks make their money charging you, the consumer, fees and charges.
    • The first comment here is that you need to shop around to find the most effective use of bank fees. Unfortunately you can’t get away from them, but there are some good deals from time to time available.
    • Secondly, you must always check bank fees and charges as mistakes do occur. Ensure that you keep a record of the interest rates and margins quoted by your bank and check their calculations on your statements to ensure that you have been correctly charged. There are several software providers that offer a 100% money back guarantee that your bank will have made a mistake in your favour. Check them out as this could save you a lot of money!
  14. Entertainment Expenses – You need to have very clear guidelines for the reimbursement of any entertainment expenditure incurred by employees. There are many ways of “entertaining” clients, it doesn’t have to be at a first class establishment over lunch – if it is, then you need to look at your sales process. Having worked in the IT industry for many years, it was standard to take clients out for lunch on a regular basis. As a by-product of not having a large expense account, I had to be creative. So I decided to take people out for coffee! Firstly it was cheaper, secondly it was also faster and thirdly, it was a much more informal way to build a relationship with someone who doesn’t have a lot of time up their sleeve – which is most people by the way!.
  15. Advertising costs are one of the biggest expense areas in any business. Aside from ensuring that your advertising works for you – by that I mean that you make money from it – ensure that all your invoices are correct. There was a scam around a while back where “bogus” invoices were sent to business requesting payment for advertising in magazines, journals and directories. These people often target the larger businesses, then send follow up invoices and demand notices to get payment for advertising that was never incurred. Report any such activity to DOCEP and to the police. But this also brings up an interesting point – if you don’t know what the payment relates to, ask for more information and if necessary, ask them to provide the contract that you signed. Never be afraid to check up on something that you don’t recall seeing.
  16. Rents are a fixed expense that once locked in are extremely difficult to alter. So you need to be certain that there is no other option available to you, but to rent that space! There are ways though to minimise your space requirements so that you’re not paying for a centimetre more than you require. Firstly, is there the opportunity to sub-lease space that you’re not using. Secondly, if you’re getting tight for space, you may want to look at a very popular European concept called hot-desking. You may find that by providing flexibility in your workplace, you may not require a desk for every person. This is a culture change though which needs to the carefully managed. Also, to reduce your partitioning costs, consider open plan areas. When receiving your rent accounts, check it again the lease or rental agreement to ensure that its correct.
  17. Insurance – Whilst insurance is a necessary evil that can save you a lot of worry. The easiest way to deal with insurances is to engage a reputable insurance broker who can regularly review your insurance costs and recommend the best way forward. Always test the market as insurance policies become outdated and updated and often there are cheaper alternatives available. Whatever you do, do not insurances altogether as a way to save money!
  18. Corporate Credit Cards – many businesses have achieved substantial savings in the cost of corporate travel and accommodation by the utilisation of Corporate Credit Cards.
  19. Financial Systems – Purchase Orders: There is nothing more frustrating than discovering that an employee has gone off and ordered something without your knowledge and without it being checked against the budget to ensure that there are funds available. The best way to control costs is to introduce a financial system that every employee is inducted in that outlines:
      * Your policy of not paying invoices unless a purchase order is quoted. * How to obtain quotations for all goods and services. * How to raise a Purchase Order (PO) that is firstly checked against budgets, then ordered and allocated for payment. * How to check the Supplier’s Invoice against the PO to ensure that the price quoted is the price invoiced. * Ensuring that the product or service was received and having sign off from the person who raised the purchase order.
  20. Up-to-Date Records & Paper Trial – It is essential that you have proper systems and a paper trial to support all your financial objectives. Having up-to-date records and knowing where to locate paperwork quickly will save you a fortune in the long run. Not only will you be able to quickly pick up any mistakes in billing, but you will have a handle on cash flow and therefore eliminate payment defaults or additional interest costs that directly impact on your bottom line.


By Harriet

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