At a time like this, money is tight for pretty much every business. Cutting costs can be a quick and easy way to improve the profitability of your business. Introducing cost-control measures can bring immediate savings and ensure you remain profitable in the long term.
But it’s important that cost-control measures are carefully managed. Eliminating errant expenses is clearly beneficial, but indiscriminate cost-cutting could lead to a drop in quality, or poor morale if employees fear being made redundant or are not given the tools they need to do their job efficiently.
This risk is heavily reduced by identifying where you can safely trim costs, setting clear cost-reduction targets, and researching any cost-saving initiatives before making changes to your business.
Planning for effective cost-control
The first step towards reducing costs is identifying your major cost areas. These are likely to include:
- Sales and marketing
- Facilities maintenance.
Start by assessing your profit and loss statement for the last six months and rank all your expenses from highest to lowest, working your way down the list and identifying areas where you can reduce costs. It’s a good idea to first focus on identifying cost-saving measures in areas where you’ll see the biggest return. For example, it’s smart to work toward saving 5% on a $200,000 expense rather than a slightly higher percentage on a lower-cost expense.
Trial new ideas
You might find it’s difficult to anticipate savings without actually implementing new systems and processes. Remember that any changes you make don’t need to be permanent. If you aren’t sure if a cost-saving measure is suitable for your business, consider trying it for a few months then assessing the results. This way, you’ll soon get an idea of the real cost savings without having to commit long-term to new processes or changes.
Any new services, processes or systems should be benchmarked and frequently revisited to ensure they are still suitable for your business. Consider asking staff for feedback around any changes to make sure there are no hidden problems that could be costing you more than the cost-saving value.
If you are in doubt about any potential changes, ask a Business or HR advisor. Our team at Allan Hall are more than happy to assist you through this.
You might be surprised to find that significant savings can be made without having to worry about your quality and affecting performance. Here are the most popular ways to trim costs without making radical changes.
- Eliminate unnecessary costs – start with waste reduction, heating costs, and utility charges.
- Reduce inefficiency by identifying manual tasks that could be sped up with technology or completed less frequently.
- Avoid frequent, small orders that cost more than larger orders and take additional time to complete.
- Find alternatives to high-priced suppliers and/or services or negotiate better payment terms or discounts on purchased goods or service offerings.
- Revise your credit policies to encourage prompt payment.
- Brainstorm quick cost savings with your employees – they might have some useful suggestions you may have overlooked.
Once you have identified your major cost areas, you may want to investigate potential ways to save money by changing existing processes.
Some of the most common opportunities are listed below, but before adopting any changes you should be aware of any potential damage to your core business activities.
- Cut payroll costs by outsourcing non-essential activities.
- Redesign your existing processes to eliminate duplication, and cut time wastage.
- Make use of current technology, or latest industry thinking.
- Agree to long-term contracts, or guarantee a minimum purchase or service agreement to secure better terms.
- Trim back or revise your current product or service offering and remove poor-performing products or services.
- Form strategic alliances with other businesses.
- Consider subletting office space, or relocating to a more cost-efficient location.
There may also be other costs such as long-term, fixed-rate business loans or fixed-price contracts that you may be able to reduce when these are up for renewal or tender.
Pitfalls to avoid
Reducing costs can have a negative effect, so you’ll need to be sure that changes will not compromise your operational performance.
Some common pitfalls include:
- Over-dependence on one supplier/client could put you at risk if your supplier/service fails.
- Reducing your marketing budget could affect your marketing strategy.
- Tighter control of business finances could leave you without a safety margin if cash flow becomes tight.
- Cutting short-term costs such as training, research, and development, or advertising can lead to long-term weaknesses.
While unavoidable for many in the current environment, reducing employee-related costs needs to be handled carefully, ensuring workplace laws are followed and with the future of your business in mind.
While changing an employee’s terms and conditions may be necessary, it is a good idea to get expert advice before implementing any decisions to ensure you are following current legislation and making the best employment decision for the future of your business.
It is crucial to maintain clear communication with employees. Introducing cost saving through improved practices and procedures will require a degree of employee ‘buy-in’ so it’s important your employees are aware of why you are making changes. Employees may need additional training and support over these periods.
For a comprehensive list of employee cost reduction options from our HR specialists at Allan Hall HR, please click here.
- Schedule a staff meeting to review your costs and brainstorm possible saving measures.
- Commit to an ongoing cost-control and monitoring process (or delegate to key staff to manage the process).
- Ask our Business and HR advisors to assist you with cost-saving initiatives or to help brainstorm ideas.