Before you can begin to control expenses en route to lowering them, you must know where your money is going. Numerous financial management programs are available to help you keep track of your expenses, but they won’t help unless you or your business manager enters the proper information.
When faced with a huge differential between expenses and revenue, businesses may be forced into restructuring to create significant, long-term savings. Rather than take on such a major task, businesses initially may look at small cost-saving methods, such as reducing travel expenses, conserving office supplies, and taking additional steps to cut costs.
Improving efficiency has long-lasting benefits beyond reducing costs because it can also help the company run more productively and deliver better service to customers.
Although business expenses can be reduced in a number of ways, eliminating inefficient processes and wasteful spending should be a top priority. Without improving existing operations, the savings experienced from a superficial cost reduction, or even a major restructuring of the company, may be short-lived.
Equip your workforce with the tools and information they need to help control expenses and pursue revenue-generating activities to grow the company.
Common cost cutters like reducing personnel and inventory can cost you more than they save: If you cut personnel, your customer service suffers. If you reduce inventory, you run the risk of creating dissatisfied customers.
So, what can you do to effectively control spending and take control of financial planning at your business?
Streamline Efficiency and Reduce Financial Strain with Paperless Payment Processing
Eliminate the time and cost associated with writing checks by using a business credit card or Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments. Emailing invoices and accepting credit card or ACH payments can eliminate the paper and postage costs of mailing bills. Electronic billing also saves time and effort, reduces labor expenses and accelerates cash flow.
“Don’t credit cards carry a fee?” you may ask. They do, but they also offer the security of guaranteed funds, unlike checks.
Reduce Bottlenecks by Consolidating Key Vendors
One of your company’s top expenses may be your supply and service vendors. Moving your company’s business to a single supplier or service vendor could present discounts on services, offering even greater efficiency. Using the same company for print and mailing house services, for instance, can reduce expenses, particularly if you renegotiate prices frequently.
Get vendors to compete for your business and let them know you’re soliciting bids from others. This will help ensure you get the best prices.
Consolidating supply and service vendors and standardizing contracting processes can help companies eliminate redundancy and overcharging. Some communities feature local buying organizations that gather all the local businesses in the area and use their collective buying power on behalf of all the members.
Make an annual or semi-annual review of all your key vendors a standard facet of your company’s ongoing financial planning. Also, make sure to flag all automatic renewal contracts to pop up for review and rebidding 60 to 90 days before their expiration date.
Make Fiscal Discipline the Keystone of Your Financial Plan
As the owner of a successful business, you may feel entitled to drive a fancy car, travel first class on your company’s dime, and have a huge expensive office with overstuffed chairs, but you may be sending the wrong message to your employees. Making smart and frugal choices will let your team know that excessive spending is not okay, while inducing them to help keep expenses in check.
Also, encourage employees to submit cost-cutting ideas regularly and reward them with recognition. Business writer Tom Egelhoff cites Walmart as an example. Having someone greet shoppers at the entrance was an employee suggestion. Employee involvement in the company is one of Walmart’s great strengths.
Control Your Company’s Fixed and Variable Expenses
Your accountant may have talked to you about fixed vs. variable expenses. Fixed expenses or costs are those that do not fluctuate with changes in production level or sales volume, such as rent, taxes, insurance, dues and subscriptions, equipment leases, payments on loans, depreciation, etc.
Variable expenses, or inventoriable costs, change with production volume and company activity. Examples include raw materials, packaging, and labor directly involved in a company’s manufacturing process.
Seemingly rigid fixed expenses may be reduced through negotiation. For example, altering the length of a lease, buyout costs at the end of the lease, and other terms and conditions can reduce expenses.
Insurance costs may be reduced by adhering to safety directives and practices and changing the type of coverage.
Variable expenses can change radically from month to month, rising and falling with sales. Large payments that seemed doable when the order was placed may suddenly create a drain on resources.
Egelhoff suggests listing all of your variable expenses over the past three years, calculating the highest amount paid and the lowest amount paid for each period and keeping it handy. When the bill for a variable expense comes across your desk, compare it to the high and low for the corresponding time period. If the amount is out of line, do more investigating.
Define Your Business Expenses and Investments During the Financial Planning Process
In an attempt to reduce expenses, many business owners turn first to cutting or eliminating marketing or advertising costs, which provides immediate relief. Egelhoff, however, says advertising or marketing that produces paying customers and brings in more than it costs is not an expense, it’s an investment.
Business cards, letterhead and envelopes belong under advertising expenses rather than office expenses. Those items still cost money, but contribute to an increase in sales. Office expenses such as staples and paper clips rarely increase the bottom line, Egelhoff says.
With proper planning a commitment – plus help from your accountant – you should be able to reduce your business expenses and keep them in check.
Talk to Your Banker for Holistic Financial Advice
Your financial advisor can show you techniques to help manage cash flow and streamline the payments process. They’re able to offer guidance on controlling expenses, share methods for freeing up cash to grow your company, and provide strategies on how to help offset some of the rising costs that come with any growing business.
Your banker is also a good source for industry trends and best practices learned from other clients.
The Crews Family of Banks has financial planning professionals with years of experience in helping companies create a financial plan that addresses each business’s unique needs. We’d love to help your business grow–contact us today!
About the Author
Senior Vice President, Senior Lender
With over three decades of banking experience, Kevin is familiar with all aspects of commercial lending, specializing in owner-occupied and investor real estate lending. Prior to joining the Crews Family of Banks in 2015, he served as Senior Vice President or Vice President and three other Sarasota area financial institutions, concentrating on commercial banking and wealth management.
Kevin, who earned a bachelor's degree in accounting at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, was with was with Crews Banking Corporation less than a year when he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Lender. He provides his clients, ranging from small business owners to real estate investors, with expert consultation, tailoring a financing program suited to needs.
Kevin also shares his knowledge and expertise with the community. He chairs the Economic Development, Government Issues and Transportation Committee of the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce, and he is affiliated with the Venice and Englewood Area Board of Realtors. In addition, he serves on the United Way of South Sarasota County’s Allocation Committee and is also involved with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce as a mentor of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.