While a slowly improving economy has many small business owners feeling optimistic about the future, many have come to understand that an era of efficiency is here to stay. Whether you're planning to launch a small business or are struggling to keep your existing one in the black, you'll benefit from making a commitment to responsible spending and return on investment. In order to take the reins and effectively steer your business to financial success, it's time to adopt a comprehensive approach to cutting business costs while maintaining productivity.

Here are five places you can look to trim expenses:

1. Office

The office is a likely place to start when reducing overhead. Just about any business can reduce space requirements by embracing modern technology and eliminating paper storage and bulky, out-of-date electronics. Strive to find a space that best meets your needs, and consider negotiating with your current landlord by offering long-term tenant stability in exchange for a more reasonable rate.

Businesses that under-utilize their space can make significant cost reductions by finding a partner to share the space with. And businesses that only need an office for internal meetings or hosting clients can find plenty of space rental options on as-needed basis. Some additional tips:

  • Initiate a "green" office policy in order to cut costs associated with everything from paper waste to power consumption.
  • Look for used or rental office furnishings. Items such as desks, file cabinets, and bookcases can often be found for free through an online community such as Freecycle.
  • Consolidate your phone and computer networks by switching to VoIP. This reduces communication costs while tapping into a host of innovative small business solutions.

2. Technology

For every high-profile and costly business technology vendor, there's typically a cost-effective alternative capable of getting the job done. Pursue a cloud computing provider that specializes in small business applications. Switching your network to the cloud can reduce your need for office space, save on software expenses, and modernize your capabilities in areas ranging from telecommunications to email marketing.

In the cloud, businesses gain the flexibility of having access to files, software, logistics, and communications from anywhere at any time. Cloud computing boosts collaboration and improves client interaction, providing a scalable system that expands with your needs. Furthermore, cloud solutions inherently live on the cutting edge, helping you effectively cut expenses associated with continually having to upgrade your software and systems. Some other tactics:

  • Opt for used or refurbished computers, laptops, mobile devices, and printers to get the high-end electronics you require at a more affordable price.
  • Seek highly rated alternatives to overpriced premium software products, receiving nearly identical performance at a fraction of the cost.
  • Cut IT support, antivirus, and data security expenses by hosting your network on an ultra-secure cloud server.

3. Staff

In the modern business culture, it's more plausible than ever to control payroll expenses without sacrificing capabilities. Cloud-sourcing, or contracting providers on an as-needed basis online, helps companies manage resources more efficiently while accessing the skills of high-quality, dedicated specialists in areas including copywriting, IT support, and graphic design.

Hiring remote staff as a strategy reduces the need for office space, eliminates commuting and travel costs, and supplies access to a broader talent pool. Affordable collaboration software such as Basecamp makes remote project management simple, while VoIP provides solutions for mobile communications, in addition to Presence technology to coordinate schedules and monitor workforce productivity and CRM (customer relationship management) for intuitive client relations. More ideas:

  • Barter/trade with businesses that offer complimentary products and services.
  • Offer internship opportunities that are mutually beneficial to reduce payroll for clerical staff.
  • Harbor a culture of innovation, embracing technology that promotes productivity and time management.

4. Marketing

By embracing modern marketing methods, a small business can reduce the advertising budget while increasing its exponential reach. SEO is an affordable, effective, and sustainable path to generating business traffic by climbing the search rankings and gaining visibility on local and mobile search, while social media marketing is a dynamic strategy for growing a brand and attracting and retaining more customers. Best of all, when done effectively, results continue to compound over time.

A progressive strategy to ensure a return on your investment for your advertising dollars is through performance marketing, which provides a structure that compensates lead-generating affiliates based on conversions.

  • Employ a software system such as HootSuite to effectively and efficiently manage your social media campaign.
  • Utilize your entire staff for administrating social media efforts and contributing insightful industry commentary.
  • Measure your approach to create a campaign that grows in unison with your business.

5. Spending

In order to run a lean organization, it is necessary to scrutinize all spending decisions with an emphasis on ROI. Cost-effective accounting software can assist a small business with everything from budgeting and payroll, to asset management and inventory. While a premium product can cost more than $1,000, there are highly rated small business options, such as Bookkeeper, that start around $39.95.

In addition to understanding where your money flows, take a big-picture approach in accurately calculate the value returned. By demonstrating a commitment to tracking and analyzing business expenditures, and showing a willingness to invest in areas that provide real value, you can effectively forge a pervasive culture of accountability and resourcefulness.

  • Use an accounting application that supplies real-time reports on your businesses finances to ensure sober purchasing decisions.
  • Encourage and reward innovation for employees that discover ways to cut costs and demonstrate ROI.
  • Make negotiating a practice and a strength to ensure optimal value in your business dealings.

Final Thoughts

No matter how rosy or grim the financial picture is for your small business, an approach to maximizing efficiency makes good sense. By putting an emphasis on careful asset allocation, committing to responsible spending, and demanding ROI you can cut costs while building a business better equipped to compete in the modern market place.

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