Trimming the fat of overhead expenses and inefficiencies is a top priority for any small business owner. And even if your business is profitable and busy, looking at ways to further improve inefficiencies and streamline operations through software, computerization, infrastructure, and payments automation is always a smart move. We keep an eye on the latest trends in payments, business, and healthcare for our merchants and here are some top cost-cutting and efficiency improvement measures we’ve uncovered in the healthcare and small business space. See what applies to you and how you can make 2017 your best year ever!
- Automate wherever possible.
The process of automating labor-intensive processes, like invoicing and collections is a critical way to get paid faster and more efficiently. This can be done by setting up clients or patients on auto pay, sending out invoices by text, email or phone via IVR or having their ‘card on file’ so they can quickly click to pay. These are all smart ways to move your business forward and reduce overhead. Furthermore, tools like QuickBooks can reduce your headcount and integrate into our Singular BillPAY full circle electronic billing presentment and payment solution to handle things like accounting, taxation, invoicing all from a single tool, freeing up your time and resources for growing the business.
- Move IT infrastructure to the cloud.
Whether you are a dentist with a simple brochure-like website or an e-commerce business with a multilingual, multi-currency transactional website, you need servers to host your website. The software you run for managing various aspects of your business needs hosting someplace. You also need to store all your business data securely in one place. Historically, this was all managed by buying and maintaining physical servers. The trouble is, all of this involves huge capital expenditure, to begin with. As your business grows and your computing needs expand, you will need to upgrade all your machinery at huge recurring costs.
With the advent of the cloud, that’s no longer a worry. You can now host your website on shared servers hosted by third-party vendors like GoDaddy or HostGator and pay as you go. If and when your needs grow, you just upgrade to a higher package with no fixed costs or depreciation involved. Your data can safely reside on cloud-based storage systems like DropBox or Google Drive.
Alternately, you could go for all-in-one cloud computing platforms like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services for one-stop solutions to your infrastructure needs. The best part? The security of your data is taken care of end-to-end by expert third party service providers, allowing you to focus on what you do best.
- Opt for free apps and tools.
Reduce your costs further by simply shopping around a little before purchasing expensive software. If you only look carefully, you’ll find a free version for nearly every software that your business needs.
Analytics does not really need a subscription to KISSmetrics when the free and fabulous Google Analytics is around. Do away with those land lines in your office and replace them with one of WhichVOIP’s nearly-free VOIP phone solutions. Save on business travel and video conference with faraway clients using free tools like Skype or FaceTime. Don’t have millions of email subscribers? Opt for the free version of email services like MailChimp.
- Invest in green technology.
The benefits to going green in our personal lives are clear. Recycling, reducing use and reusing things when we can have become a staple of our lives as the environment and the reduction of natural resources is a reality we cannot ignore. From offering a new lease on life to the environment to extending our lifespans to saving huge on medical expenses, there are reasons galore to adopt the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra in our daily lives.
However, going green is not just for your personal life. Businesses can save millions of dollars annually from investing in eco-friendly technologies. CFL and LED lights use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. A single CFL bulb can save you $30 to $80 in electricity bills over its lifetime. Multiply this with the total number bulbs you have in your office, and you’ll see how it makes sense to invest in this more expensive upfront, yet cheaper-in-the-long-run. technology.
Light sensitive switches or switches with automatic timers can turn off lights during the day when it’s bright outside, avoiding wastage of electricity and saving the effort needed to turn each of these off manually. Appliances and electronics with high Energy Star ratings reduce your electricity usage, as well as your carbon footprint. Even something as simple as using double-sided printing instead of single sided can save hundreds of trees and stationery costs annually.
- Reconsider your company’s structure.
As tough as it can be, and as ruthless as it sounds, working out how many people you need to employ comes down to a simple equation. Are you spending so much on staff that you cannot make your profit margin? Many businesses invest in talent impulsively, particularly as they grow. The issue is that talent costs money.
You need to analyze the way your team is set up and try to maximize the output of every member. This can be done through internal promotion and training, as well as by reducing superfluous management levels. Get your team lean and fighting fit and say goodbye to costly colleagues who don't communicate.
- Encourage a cost-conscious company culture.
Many small business owners find that their employees just don't seem to understand the effect of wasteful habits on the overall performance of the company. You need to set an example and explain that every employee is responsible for the success of the business. If they seem unsure, paint a picture by pointing out that money wasted could have gone to bonuses.
Once everybody on the team understands that they need to chip in, highlight practical changes that you can all make to reduce overspending and waste. Start small - switch to a paper-free office setup if you haven't already done so. Use a video conferencing program so that you don't have to ask your team to fly long distances to meet in person. And for everyone's benefit, keep meetings to core teams and as efficient as possible by having a meeting agenda and assigning someone to send out a follow-up email after the meeting to assign tasks and reiterate decisions.
- Re-think your physical office structure: Rent and labor are two of the highest overhead items for many small businesses. Let’s tackle rent.
If you rent an office and only use it, say, eight hours a day, five days a week, you are paying a lot of money for unused time. Here are five better options:
- Sublease: Rent out your extra office space and turn a liability on your books into an asset. Maybe even offer the space to a sub-contractor you work with that will double to improve your team’s work efficiency.
- Shut it down: As hard as it can be to grasp, with the advent of internet based email, file sharing and video conferencing in-person work spaces are not really needed. Look around your office – how often are your team members really interacting about a works topic vs how often are they just chatting? When you move people into their own home-based virtual offices you often get two big benefits. One, employees with this setup have been shown to be very loyal to the business because working from home is a convenient luxury that everyone wants. And secondly, the superfluous chit chat in the office is cut down as they must use skype or another chat application to communicate, call, email or hope on a virtual meeting – thus helping them maintain focus on the work at hand and not the office gossip.
- Use an executive suite: Executive suites are fully equipped offices that you can rent by the hour, week, or month. You only pay for the time you use. That alone is cheaper for many businesspeople. Some small businesses have cheap offices or work from home, and use executive suites when impressing that big client is necessary.
- Renegotiate: There is a glut of commercial space in many cities these days, and you can use that to your advantage. Ask your landlord for a new, better deal. If she says yes, great, and if she says no, then it’s time to move on!
- Find cheaper digs: There is a lot of commercial space around the country these days since so many businesses are sending workers home so use that to your advantage.
Getting savvy with your spending may seem challenging at first, and yes, some tough decisions will need to be made. But over time, small changes can add up to a huge impact on your businesses’ bottom line and that savings can then turn into incentives for your employees in the form of bonuses, trips, benefits and more!