You’ve clamped down on company meals. You’ve turned down your thermostat so low that workers are wearing jackets. Heaven forbid, you’ve even sold the office coffee maker.
Income, as you know, is only one part of the equation. The half of the budget that you have the most control over is your expenses, and you’re not about to let them eat up your company’s hard-earned revenue.
If that sounds like you, take heart: You might think you’ve cut everything you can, but you’d be wrong. Believe it or not, there are still plenty of places you can find savings that don’t require staff cuts or utility shut-offs. I’ve had to look at every single option to save money for my small business, and it’s helped us perform a lot better financially. To cut your costs further:
1. Team up with a group purchasing organization.
Corporate conglomerates spend so much that they can negotiate bulk rates that other companies can’t. But when you partner with a group purchasing organization (GPO), your business buys as part of a group. That means you get the same deep discounts without having to buy more. It’s why 96 to 98 percent of hospitals use GPOs. Luckily, though, GPOs aren’t limited to the healthcare industry. Today, nearly every business in every sector has access to GPOs.
Anthony Clervi, CEO of UNA, says when you join a GPO, you get product discounts of 20 percent or more. “You don’t need to hire category experts to save big on supplies,” Clervi says. “GPOs can deliver bargains across product categories every company uses.” As examples, Clervi points to UNA’s different discounts on rental cars, shipping, hotels and even up to an 80 percent discount on office supplies. As you can see, GPOs can cover different sectors to save you time from looking all over the place.
2. Take advantage of free mentoring services.
Every business leader needs a mentor, but mentoring services get expensive faster than startups go bust. Executive coaching costs an average of $500 per hour, with some firms charging as much as $3,500 per hour. Even on the small-business side, consulting services run about $125 per hour.
Fortunately, there’s an alternative to pricey coaches: Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE, a free business resource that provides startup owners with mentoring and education. With more than 10,000 volunteers across 300 chapters, SCORE partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration to link entrepreneurs with knowledgeable experts.
3. Barter everything you can.
Bartering is making a comeback in the business world. “The only limitation to barter industry growth is lack of awareness of the benefits in the business community,” Ron Whitney, president and CEO of the International Reciprocal Trade Association, told the Guardian. “However, barter awareness is definitely on the upswing.”
If you’re new to business bartering, start by joining an exchange. Tradebank, which recently acquired the U.S. branch of Bartercard, offers more than 100,000 products and services to American companies. Some states even have their own exchanges, such as North Carolina’s Barter Business Exchange.
Then, identify revenue opportunities that would otherwise be missed, such as unsold nights in a hotel room or furniture estranged from a set. List your goods on the exchange, and reach out to others with goods or service you need. Would a similarly cash-strapped entrepreneur trade his coffee cart for a desk? Asking is the only way to find out.
No matter what your co-founder says, there’s always more money to be squeezed out of the expense column. The internet provides unbridled access to markets all over the world, and technology is making services affordable (or free) that once cost hundreds of dollars per year. Whether it’s teaming up with a free mentor or joining a GPO, there’s always a lower price to be paid or free help to be had; you just have to find it.