Note: This article was filed by a paid contributor to Xerox Corporation.
Maintaining a positive cash flow can be a difficult feat for any business owner. The problem usually isn’t that you lack sources of revenue. Rather, it is more that, while you wait for clients to pay up, you have a ton of expenses that need to be paid. One way small businesses can stay ahead of cash-flow issues is to find ways to be more cost-conscious, thus reducing monthly expenses.
However, cutting costs can be a tricky balancing act to pull off. You want to cut just enough that you are still able to run an efficient operation and produce the same amount and quality of output as before. If you cut any deeper, you may experience some unintended consequences like loss of productivity, drop in employee morale, and inability to fulfill customer requests.
Here are nine ways you can be smart about cutting costs in your business, without compromising your the long-term success of your business.
1. Limit travel and go virtual.
It is expensive to travel, especially if a trip pops up at the last minute. With cloud-based telecommunication tools like Skype and GoToMeeting readily available, you may want to think about cutting back on unnecessary company travel and moving your team over to virtual meetings with clients and colleagues. If travel is necessary, consider negotiating with long-term clients to see if they would be willing to pay for part of the expenses.
Outsourcing projects and tasks allow you to spend money only on time needed to complete tasks, versus paying for a full-time employee. Time tracking software can help you track and determine how much time is required for each job and, more granularly, each task at your company. If you discover that full-time assistance is not needed, relegating tasks to workplace assistants, may be a good way to keep operations running smoothly without overspending.
3. Share with business partners.
If you work out of a co-work space or you are in a building with other small businesses, it might make sense to explore a cost-sharing situation. If you think about it, sharing bigger office equipment (like printers, faxes, etc.) wouldn’t be such a bad idea, especially if you can find an all-in-one printer solution with security features and on-demand printing that keeps your work secure from other users.
4. Review your inventory and equipment usage.
Ongoing business expenditures are the obvious place to look when trying to cut costs, but what about the hardware and inventory you have already invested in? You may have outdated office equipment that is costing you money because:
- It is inefficient.
- Going unused in favor of newer equipment.
- Constantly breaking down, forcing you to pay for unnecessary repairs.
Take time to review the current state of your equipment—as well as trends in your inventory—to see if there’s anything that can be done to eliminate waste and unnecessary costs.
5. Look for discounts.
If you do have outdated machinery that’s draining your budget, don’t hold onto it for fear of the resulting cost of replacing it. If the price tags bother you, then check with your vendor to see if they currently offer any rebates or discounts on what you need.
New equipment runs more efficiently and helps improve overall business productivity, so the investment is almost always worth it. Multifunction printers, in particular, are an especially wise investment as they merge all your print, scan, fax, and copy needs into one—while only giving you one piece of equipment to maintain.
6. Automate workflows.
A lot of time is wasted when we repeat the same tasks over and over. This is why cloud-based applications have been such a boon to business productivity. Any chance you have to automate through software, productivity apps, or even digital workflows for your print environment, the better. Xerox DocuShare is an example of how automation helps businesses eliminate the costs of producing, storing, and shipping paper documents.
7. Reduce paper waste.
When printers are not set up properly, or employees are left to their own devices, a lot of paper (and your budget) can go to waste. Considering that 42% of SMBs want to prioritize the reduction of print waste, targeting paper is a good place to start. Here are some ways to do this:
- Print double-sided.
- Restrict color printing.
- Go paperless (when possible).
- Print multiple images per page.
- Print only the quantity you need, when you need it.
- Enable print on demand.
Much of this can be accomplished simply by having a tool like Xerox ConnectKey that grants you more control over how, when, and who is printing.
8. Go green.
Going green tends to be synonymous with paper reduction and sustainability (in a print environment, at least), though there are a few other things you can do to ensure your business is running as clean as possible:
- Use WebCapture to track documents
- Use non-toxic toners and inks.
- Use paper certified to sustainable forestry standards.
- Recycle printer cartridges, paper, and even your equipment.
- Power down all equipment, lights, and other non-essentials after hours.
For more tips on how to go green, be sure to read through Xerox’s 10 quick tips.
There is always more you could be doing to improve and grow your business, but it is hard to do that when you are so focused on the rising costs surrounding you. Take some time to consider how these small cost reductions may help your business. You may be surprised at where you can make changes to your operation to create an overwhelmingly large impact in the short and long-term.
As part of a continuing effort to help small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) improve the flow of work, Xerox collaborated with independent market research firm Coleman Parkes to survey more than 1,000 companies about their challenges and opportunities. Check out the survey results here.
Ramon Ray, Marketing & Publisher of Smart Hustle Magazine and Small Business Evangelist, Infusionsoft. He frequently blogs about tech at SmallBizTechnology. Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com/. Visit his Small Business Solutions Blog Author Page to get in touch on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.
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