6 simple ways to cut business costs

August 11, 2017

Running a small business is no easy feat. Without the economies of scale from which large corporations can benefit, small businesses can sometimes end up spending more on a whole host of things, including business travel, employee turnover, insurance and professional services. Here, we share with you 6 quick tips for keeping your operations lean and cutting business costs.

1. Share office space

Property is expensive and rental costs can take up a significant portion of your expenditure. If you’re a small business owner with a lean team, consider ditching your office space and working from a co-working space such as The Hub and The Working Capitol in Singapore, or Paperclip in Hong Kong. These arrangements often include office equipment, Internet access and meeting spaces. Prices typically vary depending on whether you choose a hotdesk, a dedicated desk or an office room, so you get to choose an arrangement that fits your needs. Beyond saving on rental and utility costs, you also earn yourself a community of entrepreneurs from whom you can exchange insights when your business is stuck in a rut.

Source: Paperclip

However, there might be crucial reasons why your business needs to operate from its own office space, such as the need to maintain confidentiality of certain information. If your square area is bigger than what you need, consider renting out excess office space to non-competing businesses! This is a practical way to minimise costs while maximising access to office facilities. Be sure to have in place a Co-working Space Application Form and Terms of Use to align both parties’ expectations in terms of what facilities the user can access, the monthly charge for rent, and the date for rent payment.

2. Tap on the power of pooling

Given that large companies often save costs because of economies of scale, why not try to reap the same benefit as a small business? Reach out to other businesses in your industry that purchase from the same suppliers as you do. Based on your combined purchasing power, decide on the amount of savings you want – say, a 25 percent cut. Then, reach out to suppliers and let them know that you are collectively going to buy from the one vendor that offers the best price. To make it a sweeter deal for the supplier, you could work out an arrangement where you work exclusively with them for a sustained period of time. Purchasing in bigger quantities ups your bargaining power, and suppliers will be more inclined to give you discounts!

3. Use efficient time strategies

In the business world, time is money. Top time-wasters that threaten your employees’ productivity include social media sites, socialising with co-workers, personal business, excessive or prolonged breaks, and unnecessary or inefficient meetings. By having your employees work in a more focused and efficient manner, you can get more bang for your buck. Here are some quick tips for helping everyone stay focused during working hours:

  • Use website blockers. While employees can simply turn to their smartphones, it is apparently more inconvenient and obvious to surf the Internet from a mobile phone.
  • Implement an Internet policy that is clear and consistent on what is allowed and what is not.
  • Use tracking software to create more structure and accountability and more effectively monitor your employee time use.
  • Challenge employees in terms of their initiative, decision-making and creative skills since bored employees are more likely to be distracted.
  • Be more visible by spending more time on the office floor. The mere presence of management is a deterrent to time wasting.
  • Give rewards to the most productive workers or the most efficient team.
  • Streamline meetings.

Source: OPEN Forum

Related reading: Our CEO’s favourite productivity tools

4. Have virtual meetings & use collaboration tools

Instead of travelling to meet clients or partners, having virtual meetings can help you minimise travel expenses and reduce the need for office space.

Source: Slack

Technologies such as Google Drive, Basecamp and Slack help to centralise documents and enables you to collaborate online, as an alternative to physical meetings with paper documents. If you really require a real-time discussion, simply meet via conference call. This provides you increased flexibility. If one participant is only needed for a few minutes, invite him into the meeting only when necessary rather than have him spend hours at a physical meeting. You also save on costs associated with travel and free up time to focus on other important tasks.

5. Market online

Given that print advertising is expensive, take a look at cheaper alternatives. Instead of relying on traditional marketing, build your online following and increase social media use. This will allow your business to build a brand on the Internet, which is increasingly the primary resource that potential customers go to when making purchasing decisions.

  1. Grow your social networks. Social networks allow you to do many things for free, including alerting followers about promotions, offering customer support and instant feedback, and connecting with brand influencers and other brands in your space.
  2. Think in terms of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). By using simple free ways to boost your chances of landing within top search engine results, you can acquire new customers looking for terms related to your product.
  3. Give benefits for referrals. While acquiring new customers is an obvious priority, keeping the ones you have and giving them incentive to grow your network for you saves money.
  4. Share valuable content. According to this HubSpot study, 82% of marketers who blog daily and 57% of marketers who blog monthly acquired a customer because of the blog.

Source: Forbes

Related reading: 7 Online Marketing Tips For Your Small Business

6. Use tech to save costs

When you’ve trimmed the fat by cutting unnecessary expenses and keeping costs under check, sometimes the only way to further cut costs is to harness technology. Technology cuts business costs by allowing us to cheaply and easily outsource tasks we don’t have time or talent to take on, especially where hiring employees to do some of this work would be costly and impractical. For HR and payroll software, there is Gpayroll, Talenox and HReasily to manage your HR needs more affordably and efficiently. As for accounting, Xero helps you manage invoicing and bookkeeping affordably for your small business.

  • Automate wherever possible. With the boom in SaaS tools there’s a way to automate at least the routine parts of nearly every business function.
  • Move IT infrastructure to the cloud. If and when your needs grow, you just upgrade to a higher package with no fixed costs or depreciation involved. Your data can safely reside on cloud-based storage systems like Dropbox or Google Drive.
  • Opt for free apps and tools. If you only look a little carefully, you’ll find a free version for nearly every software that your business uses daily.
  • Invest in green technology. Even something as simple as using double sided printing instead of single sided, can save hundreds of trees and stationery costs annually.

Source: Entrepreneur

When it comes to managing your legal needs, Dragon Law is a tech tool that checks all the boxes. You might find that it is too costly to hire an in-house lawyer or a law firm to draft your legal documents. Rather than neglect the legal needs of your business, why not join the more than 3000 businesses that rely on Dragon Law daily and opt for an online tool that helps you cut costs?

As a Dragon Law subscriber, you can:

  • Gain access to a vast document library that you can customise for your needs with our simple-to-navigate Q&A interface.
  • Eliminate unnecessary face-to-face meetings or repeated back-and-forth over email with our e-sign function – simply invite the other party to sign the legal document via our platform.
  • Avoid printing lengthy legal documents as you get to store all your legal documents in the cloud, where it is easily accessible even when you’re on the go.

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4 tips for saving time on small business administration

July 16, 2017

As a small business owner, you probably feel that you’re always running out of time. After clearing your emails, meeting with your team, handling your accounts and filing your paperwork, there doesn’t seem to be much time left for thinking about growing your business. While small business administration might be a hassle if you’re not the most organised person around, developing strategies for tackling your administrative matters more quickly and efficiently – thereby saving you time and money – can help you take your business to the next level.

Here, we offer you four tips for how to go about it:

1. Think twice before calling for a meeting

Whenever you’re thinking about sharing information or making decisions, your default response may be to schedule a meeting with the relevant stakeholders. While it may almost be instinct to do so, the next time that thought forms in your mind, take a step back and think about whether a meeting would the best course of action to achieve your goal. Meetings are time-consuming and peppering meetings throughout the day may break your focus from more important tasks that are best done with larger blocks of time.

In order to determine whether that meeting you’re thinking of scheduling is necessary, run yourself through the following questions:

  1. Have I thought through this situation? Gain clarity about what you’re doing on a project by evaluating the scope of the project, its current status and project milestones, and laying out a plan of action. Do your own strategic thinking before even thinking about calling for a meeting.
  2. Do I need outside input to make progress? If you know what needs to be done and simply need to do the work, update your to-do list and take action. If you find that you do need outside input to feel comfortable before taking action, continue on.
  3. Does moving forward require a real-time conversation? If you don’t require a two-way conversation, e-mail may be a better option. This is especially so if you are seeking feedback on written plans or documents, and it is better to give people time to process their thoughts before responding.
  4. Does this necessitate a face-to-face meeting? If you don’t necessarily need to see a person, scheduling a phone chat or video conference may save you travelling time.

Source: Harvard Business Review

It is only if your answer is ‘yes’ to all the above questions that it may be wise for you to schedule a meeting.

If you do have to call for a meeting, make sure that it is as efficient and focused as possible. Here are some ground rules for organising productive meetings:

  1. Keep the meeting small – not more than 7 people. This prevents social loafing and ensures each individual member in the meeting is more engaged.
  2. Ban devices. There are many reasons devices should be banned – multitasking is unproductive and devices distract other people. Only allow devices when you may need people to take notes or retrieve reference material.
  3. Keep the meeting short – no longer than an hour. There are several advantages to shorter meetings – people stay more focused and are more productive when under time pressure.
  4. Organise stand-up meetings. Studies have found that stand-up meetings tend to be shorter than sit-down meetings, yet produce the same solutions.
  5. Make sure everyone participates. This ensures that everyone has the opportunity to value-add to the conversation and that the meeting is a relevant enough to be put on their schedule.

Adapted from Harvard Business Review

By being deliberate about when you call for meetings, and conducting meetings productively when you do, you’ll be able to free up time in your day for more pressing tasks.

2. Draft invoices and payment terms that encourage timely payment

Any small business owner would know that one of the most time-consuming processes is invoicing. While the objective of the invoicing process is to obtain payment for the services or products you have offered, you’re not getting paid for the time it takes to compile what to charge, create the invoice, send the invoice, and remind the customer that his payment is overdue.

Drafting invoices and payment terms that will encourage your customers to pay up on time can save you time in the invoicing process.

Want more tips for how to draft payment terms that will encourage timely payment and optimise cash flow? Check out our free eBook:

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3. Go paperless to save time on printing and organising hard copy documents

Managing hard copy documents can unknowingly take up a lot of your time and energy. In a paper-based office culture, there are many hidden costs and time-suckers associated with printing services, delivery, mailing, storage, processing, disposing and recycling. Beyond time saved, moving towards a paperless model has the following benefits: easier access to your documents, saved space, stronger security and being more eco-friendly.

If you’re thinking about going paperless, here are four tips for how to go about it:

  1. Plan for disposing of documents. Scanning documents and turning physical files into digital files can be a tedious process, so develop a proper system for it. Your process should include document collection, offsite storage and disposal.
  2. Give employees the “why”. Explain to your team the rationale for the transition so that everyone would be on board and motivated to learn the new system of managing documents electronically.
  3. Implement strict protocol. Some implementation tips include encouraging the use of smartphone apps that capture the content of paper files and turn them into digital files and doing away with the requirement that printed documents must be physically signed.
  4. Make paper inconvenient. To prevent your employees from lapsing into old paper habits, make it difficult to use paper by removing fax machines and printers from the office. The habit of a paperless operation will become second nature.

Adapted from Inc

In order to ensure that the documents stored electronically are accessible by the employees who need them, store your documents in the cloud. Common options are Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, although there are a whole host of other options you can consider.

Source: NFIB

Going paperless and moving document storage onto a cloud is a great way to save you the time and tedium of small business administration.

4. Automate processes to avoid repetitive tasks

We’ve all heard the drill: technological developments are set to take away our jobs because robots can do our jobs more quickly and efficiently than we can. However, the reality is not all doom and gloom. Automating tasks that you do repetitively can actually save you time in small business administration. Simple steps such as integrating data platforms (instead of entering data from a web portal manually into a desktop applciation before you use it) or putting meetings on your calendar (instead of going back and forth with clients and colleagues to arrange appointments) can be a game changer in terms of saving you time on small business administration.

In order to determine whether a process is ideal for automation, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does it involve a lot of a data entry? If you’re managing a lot of numbers by hand in PDFs or printed documents, look for ways to leverage Optical Character Recognition (OCR), where documents are scanned and text converted into a digital, editable format.
  2. Is the task repeatable and repetitive? Automating mundane tasks such as monthly bill payments will save you time.
  3. Does the task have no room for error? Humans a prone to mistakes, while automation reduces errors such as incorrectly formatted, missing, or duplicate entries.

Adapted from Forbes

Related reading: Technology tools that will help your small business do more with less

If you’re looking for a way to draft legal documents more efficiently, Dragon Law’s web app does just that. As a Dragon Law subscriber, you get access to our document library where you can select documents to customise to your specific needs using our easy-to-navigate Q&A interface. Storing your legal documents in folders in the cloud and inviting parties to e-sign your documents also saves time and money on printing costs, thereby helping efforts to go paperless and allowing you to easily access your legal documents when you need them.

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What tips do you have for saving time on small business administration?

Let us know in the comments below!

Selling Goods & Services

June 25, 2017

A legal agreement for the sale of goods helps to make your customers aware of their rights and obligations from the moment you start doing business with them. If you are selling goods, you will need a Sale of Goods Agreement. It typically covers a description of what is to be bought, the price, delivery or collection conditions, returns, and how the agreement comes to an end.

Use a Supply of Services Agreement when one business provides services to another. This agreement describes the scope of services provided as well as the service levels, timescales, the fees to be paid, and how to change or terminate the agreement.

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Purchase Orders & Invoicing

A Purchase Order is a document between a supplier and a buyer that confirms a purchase. It details the items the buyer agrees to purchase at a certain price. It also outlines the delivery date and terms of payment for the buyer. Purchase Orders make the purchasing process more efficient and allow for better inventory and payment tracking.

An Invoice is a document issued by a seller to a buyer. It identifies the seller and the buyer, the items sold, the quantities, the prices, any discounts, and delivery and payment terms. An Invoice also serves as a demand for payment and hence helps a healthy cash flow.

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