New technologies can save you money in ways you may not have thought possible.
Everyone knows there are two ways to beef up the bottom line. You can make more money—and let’s assume you are trying to do that every day—or you can cut expenses.
Small business owners may think they’re already running a lean machine. They watch expenses every day. But there are always place to trim, always some other way to hold expenses down. In fact, here are eight items that you can easily toss out the window without compromising on quality.
1. Credit card machine.
Still paying monthly fees on your credit card machine? Heave it out the door. For many businesses, online payment services like PayPal or TransFirst will get the job done just as well, and for those with the need to process physical cards, a mobile credit card processing unit is more flexible and far less costly. If, for security or other reasons, you still require a machine, talk with your vendor to see what else you can automate to trim your costs.
2. Telephone service.
In an era when many people no longer even have a home phone, some businesses still are amassing major charges for calls. That’s avoidable. Diana Hua of online jeweler The Silver Maple got a free Google Voice number and set up the calls to be forwarded to a free app on her iPad (Talkatone), which is connected to an Internet service that she pays for anyway. "The great thing about this is that I can receive text messages from customers and see my call history/voicemail/text messages all online. Members of my team can also check messages online, respond to messages—make calls directly from their computer—and write notes about messages they’ve replied to. If I’m ever away from my office, I can have the calls forwarded to my cell phone so I don’t ever have to miss a call." Bonus: No more phone bill.
Employers consider it a "perk" to supply gourmet coffee in the break room. It used to be Starbucks, now it’s those nifty little Keurig cups. At Internet marketing and design firm Elite Strategies in Delray Beach, Florida, Patrick Coombe still wants his employees java-happy, but he’s ditched retail grind in favor of a bulk delivery service, saving what he calls "a tremendous amount of money each month on this bill."
4. Office space.
Why do we have all these fancy gadgets, after all? So we can stay home, or work from a coffee shop or anyplace else for that matter. Maybe as a business owner you won’t get rid of cubicles completely, but you might rent less floor space if people work from home, an easy proposition in today’s connected world for many industries.
5. Everything, anything.
One way to save money: Just stop paying for stuff. At clothing boutique Goodbuy Girls in Nashville, co-owner Kimberly Davison has traded free boots for carpentry work on the floors and shelving. Anyone can barter: Find what you need, see what you have to share. "If you can, trade, trade! What are your skills? What skills do you need? Don't be ashamed to ask for help," says Davison.
6. Fax line.
No brainer. You can fax directly from your computer if needed, but mostly, you can just scan documents and email them—for those not already in digital format. And many VOiP systems offer fax services.
7. Custom web design.
This one sounds like a steep hill to climb, but you can do it. The most popular option here is WordPress, a consumer-grade management platform that lets you manage your own web presence with minimal fuss. Easy to get started, expandable over time. It even has ready-made themes. Fill in the blanks, there’s your web page. Or try Tumblr.
8. Expensive software.
Microsoft Office is not inevitable. You can stop paying for the ubiquitous software and switch to the free product Open Office. It does everything Microsoft does and it’s (did we mention?) free. Google Drive/Docs is an option, too.