Reducing Business Costs in 8 Proven Steps

My new cost reduction ebook

I have just published an eBook on Reducing Business Costs which may be of interest to those who are keen to get their costs under control this year. It is a quick read and contains some key steps for success in cost reduction and cost management. Follow the link here to get a FREE copy.

https://costreductionmethod.com

If you would like a Kindle or ePUB version as well as the PDF then please message me and I will send it over. Feel free to re-share this post using the links below if you think that there may be others in your wider network who will benefit from the book.

Reducing Business Costs in 8 Proven Steps

The Kindle version can also be downloaded from Amazon here:

Reducing Business Costs in 8 Proven Steps

Why is efficiency, cost cutting and revenue generating more of a focus in tough times?

I was recently asked “Why is efficiency, cost cutting and revenue generating more of a focus in tough times? Shouldn’t this be good business practice ALL the time?”

This is my answer:
In difficult times, depending on your sector, growing the top line organically can seem like very hard work, even impossible. This means that management teams tend to see cost reduction as the only viable way in which to deliver an improved bottom line.

In past dips in the economic cycle, the availability of capital has been (relatively) good. This has enabled some businesses to ‘buy’ top line growth through acquisitions, dominant mergers etc. In today’s environment this is much tougher to achieve leading again to the focus on cost reduction.

To answer the question directly, yes, of course “efficiency, cost cutting and revenue generating” are all areas which should be addressed by management in good times and bad. However, for the reasons stated above, efficiency, cost reduction and process improvement are all receiving much more attention at the moment.

In the work I do on cost reduction I am receiving a lot of interest and enquiries at the moment. What seems to be happening is that management teams have delivered the ‘easy’ cost reductions themselves but still need to find more. This leads them to seek external, specialist help to squeeze the extra savings out.

Thankfully this is possible to do. Using my own Cost Reduction Method, I have regularly delivered additional savings of over 15% on cost areas which have already been ‘reduced’.

 

Losing experienced people

Do you believe that making experienced staff redundant would help your organisation achieve cost reduction goals? There are many arguments for and against this stance and it can be a tough decision when a company is faced with cutting their cost base significantly.

On the face of it, the last to go in an economic downturn situation should be the highly skilled, experienced resources as they will (should) be:

  • of great, demonstrable value to the organisation
  • and would cost an immense amount to replace when things get better

However, if the company has downsized, unlikely to grow to the same level again and clearly has a staff cost which is too high for its size then action must be taken or the business will eventually die.

I see many companies who suffer through not taking decisive action on staff costs when they should do. It is better to have retained some highly experienced manpower than for the business to fail and no jobs.

The best case scenario is of course that the business turns around and you are soon back to recruiting with ‘Interview in Progress’ signs appearing regularly at your office!

 

Paperless problems with credit card receipts

As part of my paperless drive I scan and destroy all my credit card and till receipts. Today I had an item to return to my local DIY store so searched and found (thank you Alfred) the receipt PDF, printed it out on A4 paper and went back for a refund.

The retailer, B&Q, have very distinctive orange backed receipts and it was very obvious that mine was not an original (see photo). I was told by the store staff that unless I had the original copy no refund could be given. I argued that my scan and reprint was legally valid but to no avail.

Eventually, after much debate, and because it was a low value (£7) item, as a “gesture of goodwill” they gave me a credit against more purchases.

I wonder how many people who are trying to turn their life ‘paperless’ have had similar problems. Was I right that a scanned and reprinted copy is legally valid?

Some have said that scanning receipts seems like too much effort but with a combination of a ScanSnap scanner and Hazel I have got a good workflow up and running.

Each week I empty my wallet out and run everything through the scanner on a ‘credit card receipt’ profile. This scans only one side, OCR’s and files as a PDF in a specific folder. Hazel picks it up, reads the date, renames the file and moves it to an archive.

This works very well and I can search the receipts out using Spotlight or Alfred, usually easily finding the one I need out of thousands.

I hope that retailers start to recognise that over time they will need to rely on electronically stored records and get used to customers making returns with non-original copies of their receipts.

Dropbox – still my most used software

I originally became a fan of Dropbox back in 2010. For those who are not users of this clever software, its a cloud based file storage service which syncs across all your devices, Mac, PC, iOS and more.

One feature that really interested me in the early days was that you were able to share specific folders to other Dropbox users, wherever they happen to be. In this way, it became like a network ‘shared drive’ that’s always available and not dependent on all the users being on the same LAN.

After many years of development, Dropbox continues to get better and better. Its apps on iOS and Android are excellent, giving access to all your files from virtually anywhere. They also have a business solution designed to remove the need for servers and other storage devices in SME organisations.

The basic Dropbox service is free although this gets you a rather small 2gb of storage space. I use the ‘Plus’ version which is £79/year but users receive 1TB of space. There are many Business plans with higher storage and team functionality.

Follow the link below to learn more.

www.dropbox.com

SME’s and Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The use of Customer Relationship Management systems by SMEs varies widely. Often this is dependent on the industry or sector they are in but perhaps these days, all businesses should consider what they need in terms of tracking and maintaining their customer relationships.

Those who have a very small customer base often say that CRM is not needed as they have a close watch on all the interactions. However, particularly in the age of electronic communications, it is essential to have all the dialogue together and easily accessible. That’s where CRM comes in.

A huge range of software tools are available, usually fitting into easily defined categories and have clear target markets. For example, Salesforce.com is a high spec system covering sales, service and marketing for medium and large companies. It is a complete cloud platform on which other applications can be developed. This is typically used by companies with a high number of customer or prospect records.

At the other end of the scale are such as Zoho CRM, a much leaner cloud based system which is ideally suited to SMEs. The learning curve is low, deployment quick and can be accessed from virtually anywhere.

One key area for SMEs to consider is email integration. If the objective is that every email to and from a customer or prospect is logged or referenced in the CRM tool then this must be a critical area of functionality. Check to ensure that the system integrates with your preferred email platform.

In fact the way in which CRM links to other systems in the business is critical if we are to prevent multiple instances of the customer relationship appearing across the organisation. Anyone considering a CRM implementation should spend some time looking at this area and process mapping how the proposed solution will integrate with existing processes.

This is a vast topic with many good resources available online to gain a far better understanding of CRM before committing to a particular solution. My main point would be to ensure that you understand where it all fits into your business process.

Move from a PC to Mac

Several ago I decided to move from PC to an Apple iMac as my main desktop computer. So with many months of use now behind me, what are my thoughts on this operating system and hardware setup which is loved by so many?

The mechanics of a move from PC to Mac is very easy. As a Dropbox pro user it was a straightforward job to download the application and wait for the files to sync across the wifi network. I used a portable hard drive to transfer large file groups such as video and music.

Loading the standard office and graphics applications proved hassle free, opting for MS Office and some Adobe tools. I added some of the must-have apps such as Evernote, Chrome and Photoshop.

Microsoft Office applications were originally not as good on the Mac as PC. Excel in particular proved to be very frustrating in the early days with some functions needing to be relearned as MS seems to have changed shortcuts just for the sake for it. However, with the latest versions of Office, the gap has been closed and there is very little difference between the two. I would probably find it very strange now going back to the PC versions!

The biggest difference anyone making the PC/Mac change has to cope with are the little ‘quirks’ that are pure Mac. For example, the lack of a Delete key on the short keyboard and the need to still close the application after the windows have been closed.

Probably the best thing about the Mac is the way that, together with an iPhone and iPad, the Apple ‘ecosystem’ brings everything together in a way that is impossible with the PC. It really takes your personal computing to a new level.

After several years of the Mac, I would never go back. However, anyone changing does need to invest some time in learning the Apple way of doing things in order to get the best from the system. Ultimately it is a far better system than Windows, in my opinion.

Kashflow online accounting software

For a long time I had been looking for a better financial accounting package. The Sage range of products are cumbersome to use for a non-accountant and used to have to be installed on a single PC. Multi-company and multi-user versions of Sage are expensive. What I needed was a simple cloud based system which could be accessed from anywhere and by other users who have the necessary permissions.

After an extensive search I settled on ‘Kashflow‘. It is an extremely easy to use, cost effective and built for small businesses who do their own accounts.

As a cloud based solution, the software can run on any platform with a browser and be accessed by anyone with permission. There is a separate accountants portal which enables you to give permission for your advisers to access the data when completing annual accounts.

Kashflow are a UK based organisation and seem to have an excellent community of users who push for new functionality and updates. Weekly backup files are sent via email which, while hopefully not really necessary, provide an element of reassurance for those who are not comfortable with no data on their local computer.

After several financial years of Kashflow I would never go back to Sage. I find it pitched just right for small business owners who would rather run their business than struggle to learn accounting software.

See their site www.kashflow.com for more details and give it a try.

Project management training

I am now offering two packages of project management training through Lawson Consulting. Firstly, the course ‘Project Management for Business Managers’ is a one day training event focussed on developing project management skills in those who run projects as just part of their day to day role.

Secondly, I can create bespoke project management training for companies who have managers with a variety of existing project management experience. This option includes discovery sessions with current managers and tailoring of content to match their requirements.

See my Project Management Training page for more details.

Software Developer Opportunity

If you are a successful software developer looking for a new opportunity I may have just the thing for you.

I am looking to recruit a developer who is skilled in Angular and Node.JS. You will probably also have a background in web development via languages such as PHP.

Many thanks for any contacts you can give me from your network who fit the above profile. Please make contact with me via the contact form.