The difficult environment for small businesses means that keeping costs low is as important as ever. New concepts like virtual offices, virtual phone services and cloud-based software applications can help keep your business lean. See the following article from Small Biz Bee for more on this.
Out with the old and in with the new. The philosophy we often apply to spring-cleaning works just as well for starting or maintaining a successful small business.
More often than not, small businesses come to a point when its time to leave behind old business practices to stay on par with budget. And chances are, your small business needs to get creative at finding ways to cut back monthly operation costs.
So reconsider practices you thought you needed, and take a closer look at what is necessary for the business’ success. Make room for new best practices that can reduce costs, without reducing your ability to work successfully or service your customers properly.
Out: Leasing office space
In: Virtual offices
There is something thrilling about having an actual office to go to; nothing says “legitimate” like an office. But if you’re trying to conserve cash, pass on leasing office space in favor of some thrifty alternatives.
Have everyone work virtually from home. There’s no cost for the space, and you can use online services to store and share documents, creating a de facto network for the organization. You’ll also save on many of the things you don’t think of at first, such as office furniture and decorating expenses.
If you feel you need an office that’s separate from your home, see if you can sublet space from another company in your area. With all the downsizing that’s occurred recently, especially in service-oriented businesses, many companies could be paying for empty space.
You can also look into common office space – the type where several organizations share certain resources, such as a common lobby, conference rooms and admin support – while occupying different offices.
Out: Business phone systems
In: Smart phones and virtual phone services
Smart phones are rapidly replacing land lines among consumers. In fact, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 25 percent of U.S. households are cell phone-only homes. And now the technology exists to move business phones in the same direction.
Virtual phone services for small business allow businesses to overlay an entire business phone system on top of any working phone number – including a mobile number.
When you sign up for a virtual phone service you are assigned a phone number (which will become your “business” number). Usually you can choose between a toll-free or local phone number. The service provides business-oriented features such as a virtual receptionist to greet callers and direct them to the right people, the ability to assign extensions to different people in the company (even if those people don’t work in the same building), enhanced voicemail, smart call forwarding and more.
Each of the extensions can be linked to your employees’ own mobile and/or home phones, saving on the cost of phone equipment. Anyone on the system can initiate a conference call, and in some cases bring in as many people as they want. All of this functionality comes for a monthly fee that’s often less than the price of one land line – and with no added cost for equipment or technicians to run it.
Out: New computers
In: Used or refurbished PCs and laptops
OK so this one’s more “out with the new and in with the old,” but it’s an idea that can save your small business money up-front. While everyone loves a bright, shiny new PC, most small business owners really don’t need all that processing power. Take a look at what you want the computer to do. If you’re planning to use it with basic office applications such as word processors and spreadsheets, send and receive email, and surf the Internet, a used or refurbished PC will likely work just fine.
You can purchase used or refurbished computers online at a significant discount. Many of these computers are units that have come off-lease from large corporations, so you know they should have the core capabilities and speed you need.
If you need to share files or resources with one or more co-workers, you can build simple file and print sharing networks with used wireless routers or low-cost devices available at local retailers. Or you can use an online file storage service that allows you to access files from any computer, anywhere you can get an Internet connection.
Out: One-task wonders
In: Multi-purpose tools
Look around your office or through the applications on your computer. How many things do you own that have only one function? Can that function be performed by something else?
A fax machine is a good example of a piece of office equipment that is only capable of performing one task. All it does is send and receive faxes. Yet there it sits, costing you money for a dedicated phone line, paper, toner, even the power to keep it running and ready to receive an incoming fax.
You can eliminate almost all of those additional costs by moving to an Internet fax service that allows you to send and receive faxes on your PC or smart phone. Not only will this keep a little more green in your wallet, it also adds convenience since you can send and receive faxes anywhere you can get an Internet connection.
When it comes down to the software you are using to run your small business, consider a pay-as-you or Web-based service model – also known as the “cloud.” With this model you pay a small monthly fee rather than buying the software up-front, and you still gain access to feature-laden applications that are normally found only in expensive packages.
For example, for roughly $10 per month you can access services that help you design, manage, send and track promotional emails to your customer and prospect lists. With these services you can build high-value email campaigns that look like they were created by high-priced professionals, but were actually created by you.
Cutting costs doesn’t have to mean compromising on quality or usefulness. In fact, the ideas above will actually help you work faster, better and more efficiently.
Take a look around your office and see how a little “out with the old, in with the new” thinking can help you work smarter – and keep more cash in your coffers.
About the Author: Steve Adams is the vice president of marketing for Protus, a provider of communications tools for small-to-medium-businesses and enterprise organizations, including the MyFax internet fax service; my1voice, a virtual phone service; and Campaigner, an e-mail marketing service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been republished from Small Biz Bee. You can also view this article at Small Biz Bee, a site sharing small business ideas from business owners and entrepreneurs.