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10 Ways to cut costs and boost your bottom line

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All businesses need to keep a close eye on their expenditure at all times, it could make or break a a firm regardless of size. FSB membership can mean you could be making bigger savings than you realised. So it’s an apt time to look for costs to cut, and the following top tips to save your business money should help you do just that. 

Be more energy efficient

Making a small energy efficiency saving today will cut costs off next month’s utility bill, while a complete overhaul of your energy efficiency measures could significantly cut costs for the long term.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates the average small firm could reduce its energy bill by 18-25 percent, while a 2015 FSB member survey on energy efficiency found the most popular measures were energy-saving lightbulbs (40 per cent), switch-off timers or sensors (24 per cent) and draught exclusion, including insulation and double-glazing (23 per cent).

But there are other measures. Reducing your office temperature settings by 1°C could cut your heating bill by as much as 10 per cent. Or if you’re a heavy paper user, try using digital PDFs or double sided printing instead: 25 people printing 40 fewer sheets of paper each week saves 52,000 sheets each year. You could even switch to delivering post by bicycle or electric vehicle with FSB Print and Mail’s new offering, Velopost, which delivers local mail to organisations in Bath, Bristol and Edinburgh, and can save up to 40 per cent on standard postage costs.

Finally, switching your supplier could cut your energy bills by an average of 23 per cent. FSB Energy, provided by Make It Cheaper, can compare prices from across the market and choose the deal that’s right for your business, so you can ensure you’re not wasting money unnecessarily.

Get clued up on taxes

As we all know, there are two things guaranteed in life: death and taxes. But while you can’t do much about the former, there’s plenty you can do to reduce the latter.

“From April 2016, dividends have been taxed, so businesses should speak to their accountant to get the maximum dividends out of the company as soon as possible,” suggests Clive Lewis, Head of Enterprise at The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). “After April, trading as a limited company may save tax and national insurance, but because of additional costs associated with being a limited company, it is unlikely to save money unless business profits are in the region of £40,000 a year.”

On 1 November 2015, George Osborne’s increase in insurance premium tax (IPT) also took effect, rising from 6 to 9.5 per cent. Substantial savings can still be made, however, by “spreading benefit provision across a range of products and services, not all of which will be subject to the change in IPT,” advises Brett Hill, Commercial Director at The Health Insurance Group.

Manage your cashflow

New businesses often make the mistake of thinking profit is more important than cashflow, says Mr Lewis. The first thing is to prepare a cashflow forecast, he says, taking into account known commitments such as payroll. “In addition, businesses should build in predictions of receipts and payments from future sales, purchases and expenses over the forecast period,” he says. “This will highlight when the business might run low on cash, and can form the basis of an action plan to remedy a situation before it happens.” Accounting software can do much of this automatically.

You also need a system for chasing money owing from customers. More than £67 billion is owed to UK businesses in unpaid invoices, says Michael Court, Director and co-founder of online collections website www.collectadebtpro. com and an FSB member. Legislation including the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, “allows a business to add on 8 per cent interest – above the current Bank of England base rate – from the date the invoice became overdue, as well as a fixed fee to cover the collection costs, either £40, £70 or £100 depending on the balance”, he advises.

One of the newer FSB member benefits can help here, by giving members a risk-free way of raising finance for their business. FSB Business Cash Advance allows members to get access to funds without having to secure them to assets – something that should help to tide businesses over while they extract money from customers.

Embrace digital and ecommerce

Small businesses could increase productivity by 10 per cent by doing more online, estimates consultancy McKinsey. This online activity could be as simple as replacing mailouts with email, or something more fundamental such as reducing retail space by trading online. Switching from landline telephones to VoIP services is also increasingly seen as a valuable way to integrate communications services while reducing costs.

Making more of online channels can also lead to increases in sales. A FSB report found that half of all small businesses are already offering goods and services online, with an additional 15 per cent planning to do so in the near future.

Reduce landfill waste

Landfill is the most expensive way to get rid of your company’s waste. The current standard charge is £82.60 per tonne, and it is ratcheted up every year. Up to 90 per cent of all waste could be recycled, according to The Food Waste Network, and recycling costs far less than landfill.

“Businesses can save money by becoming more efficient in their use of raw materials, food waste and recycling,” says Marissa Lippiatt, Head of Resource Efficient Scotland. “This could include a confidential waste audit, the details of which can then be presented back to the organisation to illustrate the ways in which everyone can collectively help reduce and prevent waste.”

According to WRAP, the waste prevention charity, the true cost of waste can be up to 4 per cent of turnover for UK businesses, which can save at least 1 per cent of turnover at little or no cost. Tips include composting rather than throwing away raw food and vegetables, and drinking tap water rather than bottled water or soft drinks. There may also be businesses out there that view your waste as their raw material, such as manufacturing off-cuts. These could even provide an additional revenue stream – or at least a free waste pick-up.

Recruit the right people

This can often rank low on a small business owner’s priorities. But the costs of hiring the wrong person can be as damaging as hiring a high performer is rewarding. “Being able to articulate what makes you different and special will enable you to attract potential candidates,” says Sophie Adelman, General Manager at recruitment platform Hired UK. “The little things matter: weekly breakfasts, work from home days, cycle-to-work schemes; such perks don’t need to be expensive.”

Referrals from existing employees can bring in high-quality candidates, and offering a small referral reward can be far cheaper than the equivalent process using recruitment agencies.

Review your vehicle policy

One of the most overlooked money-saving ploys for small firms is vehicle ownership, believes Chris Barnard, Technical Manager for UK-wide accountancy practice Crunch Accounting. “Many people assume buying a car through their company is the most cost effective way to get a vehicle for business use, but that’s not always the case,” he says.

“It’s often more tax-efficient to purchase the vehicle personally and claim HMRC’s approved mileage allowance rates when using it for business.”

HMRC’s current approved allowances are 45p per mile for cars/vans, 24p for motorcycles and 20p for bikes. “As long as you keep a mileage log, HMRC allows you to claim those rates for business travel,” says Mr Barnard. “Someone who drives for business a lot could save hundreds of pounds.”

FSB Vehicle Services can help members assess the various options here, and ensure they reach the right decision for their business.

Seek savings on fuel bills

Checking out how you pay for your fuel should also form part of your vehicle policy review. An FSB Fuel Card, for instance, can give preferential rates on both diesel and petrol, as well as providing a single consolidated, HMRC approved, VAT invoice.

Using telematics in vehicles to monitor driver behaviour can bring big savings, says Simon Monaghan, Regional Director for Leeds and North Yorkshire at Business Doctors. “Telematics technology identifies bad driving practice and techniques, in addition to monitoring hours of work,” he says. “Even a 5 per cent fuel saving for a fleet of 10 vehicles for a year makes a big difference to the bottom line.”

Outsource nonessential operations

Look at your operation to see if any part of it could be done cheaper for you off -site. Mr Monaghan gives the example of outsourcing storage of products to avoid warehousing costs. “An e-commerce company can even have their stock held and distributed by Amazon, so that someone working from a ‘hot desk’ or their attic can manage large sales without getting their hands dirty,” he says.

Outsourcing manufacturing can also avoid production overheads, says Mr Monaghan. “Imagine a small company that gets a massive order from a supermarket, meaning it would need a new factory,” he says. “In that case, the manufacturing could be partially or wholly outsourced to a larger manufacturer.”

In time, your business premises may become non-essential, especially foronline fi rms. In that case, working from home, or renting desks in a co-working space, could prove more cost-effectivethan leasing an entire building.

Use your member benefits

Now is the perfect time to take the time to ensure you are making the most of your membership. Visit www.fsb.org.uk/benefits to find out more ways to save.

TIM SMEDLEY is a freelance business journalist