What’s overhead? Not just the roof. For a small business overhead is usually the debt hanging over the small business owner’s head. Actually, overhead is the ongoing general cost of running your small business, and can include items like the cost of carrying inventory, office supplies, payments on equipment, and the cost of service providers like accountants and lawyers.
In the last few articles I’ve discussed ways small business owners can increase their cash flow into the business, by converting accounts receivables into cash. In this article, I outline four ways to decrease your company’s overhead. These simple solutions can help your business preserve cash, and stay solvent.
Decreasing Small Business Overhead
1. Barter with Others
Trading products or services with other businesses is one way to reduce your overhead. I often use this approach in with my small businesses. I may trade my writing services or web-design work for graphic design services or legal advice from another company. Bartering works well so long as both parties have goods or services of equal value to trade. If you’re not sure how to go about bartering, check in with your local Chamber of Commerce, which may already have a barter network in place.
2. Reduce Inventory
The cost of carrying inventory makes up a large percentage of the overhead for many small businesses. While it’s essential to provide your clients with what they want, there are ways to do that while trimming your inventory. First, review your inventory to identify which items are hot-sellers and which have been sitting on the shelf gathering dust. Next, locate the items that generate the best profit for your business. Finally, trim the low-profit and slow-selling items from your inventory. You can even turn this action into a benefit that can be conveyed to your customers. Turn an inventory reduction into a “specialization.” For instance, one gift store business reduced inventory by carrying only products made by indigenous people around the world. The resulting reduction in overhead has allowed the business to expand their marketing efforts, and the increase in cash flow is the overall result.
3. Renegotiate the Cost of Regular Business Services
Most small business owners are too busy to price-shop, but you’ll find that you can negotiate lower costs for regular services your business buys by doing just a little price shopping. Call around and get three to for quotes for regular business services, including insurance, long distance phone service, equipment maintenance, and delivery services. Once you find the best rate, go back to your current supplier and suggest they meet the price. If they refuse to do so, consider setting up an account with another, less expensive service.
4. Join a Buying Co-op
Buying in bulk is always less expensive. Many small business owners are now forming buying co-ops to purchase office supplies and equipment in bulk. For instance, many office supply stores offer discounts for buying paper, ink, or toner in bulk. If you don’t already have a buying co-op in your area, call up a few of your fellow small business owners and create one from scratch. You can also call your local Chamber of Commerce to see if a buying co-op exists in your area.
Reducing small business overhead is really a matter of paying attention to the details. Often, the savings you get from renegotiating your insurance policy or buying in bulk may not seem like much, but if you add up all the small savings you’ll find that your average annual savings can be significant. These days, when cash is vital to business survival, pinching pennies where you can is often the difference between a thriving enterprise and a bankrupt business.