In the uncertain economic times, people and institutions face a challenging future, where resources are stretched beyond their limits. Many are meeting this challenge with creativity and grit.
Small businesses are especially vulnerable during unstable times. But, as revenue streams dwindle, some scrappy businesses have strategically tapped into smart technologies to reduce costs and stay afloat.
Taking proactive steps now may allow you more options as markets settle. The following tactics can buy critical time, so your business is not caught in an irreversible financial predicament.
Utilize Online Software and Services
Savvy start-ups have used free and low-cost online solutions to manage their businesses long before it became a necessity. The success of lean business practices—and the resulting increased profit margins—demonstrate that online tools can give you a lead from the start. Thanks to these early adopters, many resources have been thoroughly tested and reviewed, allowing you to select software with confidence.
Online business management services vary in cost. Some offer free pricing models with the option to upgrade to premium programs that eliminate ads or access additional tools. Other services offer sliding costs depending on the number of users. Every organization is different, and you know best where your company could stand to reduce costs. Here are three options to look into when slimming operations:
With online payroll software, your company has an easy solution to reduce costs and provide a way for staff to access and update their payroll information. These services free up resources and streamline workflows, allowing employees to use their time more effectively. Additionally, an automated payroll service reduces the potential for human error.
Having a payroll software you can rely on during this time can make or break your business. With free payroll software, you can reduce payroll management costs. Some online payroll companies also partner with insurance companies to offer additional ways to streamline costs, such as pay-as-you-go pricing models for workman’s comp insurance.
Keeping inventory up to date is always important, but in the current environment, it’s especially vital to be able to account for all assets. Online inventory software can be updated or accessed remotely. It also makes for an easier shift, from a physical storefront to e-commerce. Many online inventory management services integrate with other business software, so you may be able to do more in less time, which reduces operational costs.
Team and Project Management
Many businesses now lean on online productivity software to eliminate the need for intensive staff monitoring. Scheduling, quality control, and project sharing can be set up on one platform, allowing staff to focus on core objectives instead of reporting progress up a chain. Productivity software also creates a clear picture of areas where teams are most efficient and those where streamlining is necessary.
If you are using a hosted business service account (e.g. G Suite, Windows365), you may have a project management application included in your service. Adapting this product for your needs can help you fully use the resources available.
Keep Your Office Lean
Your workspace is the next place you can look to reduce costs. Outdated machinery, incompatible systems, and equipment that requires regular servicing (including back-ups, and updates) all put a strain on operations budgets. Consider the following:
Copier/Printer/Scanner/Fax Machines → Document Sharing. If your company is still doing most business on paper, you’re adding to operational costs. Cloud applications allow teams to access, edit and share files on personal devices, reducing your company’s need to store physical documents.
Office Phone/Video Conference Equipment → Smartphone/Web Apps. Businesses are realizing that wired tech is an extraneous cost. Now that phone and web apps are widely available at little or no cost, employees can make phone and video calls from their smart devices. This move saves your company the cost of office workstations and phone service charges, while enabling employees to work remotely.
Pricing/Inventory Scanners/Credit Card Machines → Tablets. Tablets with multiple apps reduce your company’s need to purchase additional equipment and allow for heightened traceability across systems.
Office Server → Cloud Server. While some offices require the bandwidth and security of an onsite server system, most do not. The added expense of unnecessary server maintenance makes moving to the cloud a smart choice for small businesses. Working in the cloud allows for easier scalability and eliminates the need for physical server updates and dedicated IT staff.
Let Technology Increase Agility
One of the biggest revelations of these times is the importance of adaptability. Finding and utilizing the right technology can move your company forward.
An example of this adaptability is the move to remote work. There may have been hiccups as everyone adjusted, but it’s becoming clear that prior business models included unnecessary costs. Some companies notice that the price of rent, utilities and office equipment is simply not worth it and may shift to an entirely remote workforces. They might even find that staffing needs can be simplified by outsourcing administrative, human resources, and marketing needs.
There are many examples of industries that have found creative ways to use technology to meet their business needs. Providers that have typically conducted business onsite, such as attorneys, therapists, or personal trainers, have adapted to offer teleservices or conduct virtual meetings. Retailers and restaurants have found ways to use technology to arrange deliveries or carryout services. Training and educational services now record screencasts for virtual presentations and turn their lesson plans into online modules.
Companies have also found better ways to manage their accounts to allow for more flexibility. Businesses with fluctuating employee rosters have used Cerity’s PayGo workers’ comp insurance model to ensure that they are paying only for the actual number of staff on their payroll. This pay-as-you-go plan adjusts with each payroll cycle, allowing companies to lower premiums. Flexible services that accommodate change will protect you and your staff as you weather this difficult time.
Note: A version of this article published on the Cerity blog.