Investment Tips for Businesses with Limited Budgets
Every day, business owners are faced with challenging decisions about where to spend their money. Hiring additional employees, upgrading equipment or implementing new processes could all be considered potentially beneficial areas for increased investment. But in an effort to not drastically impact your overhead, here are four low-cost investments that have the ability to start saving you money quickly, and continue to pay off in the long-run.
One of the best ways to save money is to manage it well. The first thing I do with the businesses I work with is assess the type of accounting technology they are utilizing. After finding out if a business has what they need and need what they have (sometimes money can be saved by eliminating outdated services), it is important to find out if they are using their accounting technology correctly. Some professionals end up doing double entry when it is unnecessary, and some are simply not recording the right data at all. Knowing how to enter accurate financial data in the right place at the right time is a must-have skill for businesses managing their own books.
If a business is cutting corners with their accounting, it usually ends up costing money down the road, especially when tax season approaches. Not only does it take time to clean up the mess, it can keep you from being able to identify strategic opportunities that are capable of making or saving you money.
Whether it's job specific training for one department or general training for your entire company, learning new skills or refreshing old ones can help increase efficiency. Outlook email training, for example, is great for getting everyone on the same page with email settings and folder organization. It's also a great opportunity to review procedures you have in place for use of company email.
Training can also be used as a team building event to increase employee morale. I've seen businesses host CPR training events and provide food afterwards, just as something productive and fun for employees to participate in. Although it might not immediately correlate to job improvement, it is an affordable way to foster teamwork and provide an educational experience that encourages employee communication.
Online Business Listings
Whether or not your business has a website or markets products and services online, chances are information can be found about you on the web. When it comes to the internet, if you are not supplying information about yourself, someone else less knowledgeable might be doing it on your behalf. So it is always better to provide business critical information yourself when and where you can. After all, having your phone number listed incorrectly somewhere online could be costing you new potential business.
The best way to locate and correct your business information online is to simply do a search for your business name. Many sites that list business information offer the ability to "claim" your business so you can update information quickly. So be sure to have an email address or business phone ready to verify you are the business owner. In addition to searching your name, be sure to search your current phone number and any previous phone numbers you may have had. This can also lead you to outdated business listings that clients and customers could be seeing online.
To take this often free, yet time consuming task a step further, try searching for your business or industry the way a consumer would. Ex: You are a piano tuner in Sacramento, so do a search for "Sacramento piano tuners". If your competitors all show up on a list or directory of piano tuners that service the Sacramento area, yet you do not, find out why and attempt to get yourself listed alongside them. Getting basic information listed can be as simple as supplying it to the website or business directory.
Cost: Searching for, updating and correcting business listings is usually costs nothing but time. There are some handy services out there though, that can speed up the process and make managing your listings a bit easier. Two popular ones currently providing this service are Yext ($450 per year) and Neustar's Localeze Service ($25 per month).
When it comes to hardware, software or other technology that your employees use, it’s rarely beneficial to take the cheap route. If dual monitors are the norm for a job that you rely on for productivity, invest in a computer that is capable of handling the work being performed by the employee. Consider how much you put into having your employee working for you already, and then ask yourself if you would rather they be struggling with slow technology or getting more work done. If you have the ability to choose, I recommend going with the better, often initially more expensive, option when it comes to technology. Otherwise you not only slow down your employee, you might also end up having to upgrade down the road anyhow.
In addition to providing employees with the tools they need, be sure to keep an open mind to suggestions they provide about new time saving products. An employee that works in logistics, for example, might know about a new time saving app that would allow people to schedule shipments faster. Research the ideas brought to you by employees and keep an open mind. Who knows, the idea might end up saving you tons of time and money.
Depending on your business model, you may be able to find many affordable ways to increase efficiency, be more productive or save money. Although it’s often hard to break the cycle of routine, trying a new idea or approach to problem solving is sometimes the only way to see if they will work. Regardless of whether you succeed or fail with a new idea, it is usually the businesses that do not change at all that become obsolete.