How to run operations on a shoestring budget

Cutting corners is rarely the way to make long-term savings. Here are some tips for keeping money in the kitty without compromising your business.

by Lucy Cohen
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

1. Choose the right office space for your needs

Renting premises is likely to be one of your biggest expenses and getting it right is essential to your bottom line. When choosing a location for your office, it is important to put aside any visions of glamour. This may also mean being open-minded about the best area for your business to be based. 

A good way to approach it is to look at where your talent is going to come from. You can easily find out this information from some online research – recruitment agency websites will be a good starting point. 

2. Don’t scrimp on design costs, but do your own marketing

When it comes to branding, it’s best to bring in the experts to design logos and the website. However, social media and PR can be done on a very tight budget with a bit of creative thinking. It is all about capitalising on your area of expertise and being willing to share your advice with the online community. 

3. Don’t waste your staff’s abilities 

With tough economic conditions, one of the temptations is to try to trim down on administrative staff and load more of this work onto your skilled workers. However, this can be false economy as it means your key assets are spending their time filing and photocopying, which isn’t going to help make money. Look at your internal structure and make sure that you’re getting the best value from all your employees. If needs be, bring in some additional administrators to help others get on with their jobs. 

4. Choose your office technology wisely

Keeping a close eye on the purse strings doesn’t mean buying the cheapest thing on offer. In fact, a good motto is ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ – better quality gear lasts longer and ultimately saves money. It means you won’t find yourself endlessly replacing and repairing broken equipment. 

5. Haggle

Not negotiating with a supplier is like not taking your change from a cashier. Suppliers understand that times are tough so there is almost always some room for negotiation when it comes to getting a contract in place. Never simply renew a contract without reviewing the deal you are getting. Negotiate on everything from washroom services to phone contracts. As the founders, we prefer to negotiate the deals ourselves as we have a vested interest in the savings we can make, where others may not be so incentivised. 

6. Be realistic but ambitious in your forecasting

You can’t really justify any expenditure in your business without having a business plan in place. Make sure you have a short-term and long-term plan with achievable targets so you know exactly how much you need to invest to make it happen and when. This affects everything from choosing an office with the capacity to help you grow to selecting the number of software licences you’ll need over the course of the year. 

7. Always bear in mind the price of your own product

Always keep one eye on the price of your own services and consider any potential investment in terms of how it might impact this price. If forking out for a fancy office means you’ll have to increase your prices, it may not be beneficial in the long run. 

8. Be prepared to dig deep into your own pocket to grow internationally

If you think you could benefit from expanding your brand to other countries you may need to consider giving away a slice of it and establishing a joint venture with a partner you trust. When we established our satellite office in Salt Lake City we incurred the cost of trademarking in exchange for a percentage of profit invested, training them and giving them the support they needed to get up and running.

While a franchise model can sound more appealing and cost-effective in the short term, long term gains may not be so compelling as the franchisee might be lessmotivated to make the business a success.  

Lucy Cohen is co-founder of Mazuma, an outsourced accountancy service for small businesses

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