You can’t turn on the news without hearing it. Unemployment up, spending down, cats and dogs living together…mass hysteria. But seriously, things are definitely tougher out there for all kinds of business, not just the small ones. The advantage that I see that small businesses have, much like those tricky prehistoric mammals, is the ability to quickly adapt to the climate. Big business, like those overgrown lizards of prehistory, adapt slowly if at all. (I was going to insert some jabs at a few of them here, but the list is too long to choose from.) The point of all of this is to share some of the ways that I have seen small businesses SAVE MONEY.
1. Cut out Ma Bell completely. There are many options out there that can save you some serious money AND give you more options. Skype is a great VOIP service that’s free to call from PC to PC (great if you have distributed employees or close partners) and just 2.95/month for 10,000 minutes to US and Canada (it’s 30 bucks for a year of inbound calls with a subscription, though). You can buy a pretty sweet handset for about a hundred bucks that makes it so you don’t even need a computer to use it. Gizmo5, and even Google Talk are other ways that you can stay connected (although not as slick as Skype). Not only can you call in and out with these services, you can also do Conference calls, call forwarding, and voicemail.
2. Free Financial Help. Online financial services sites like Mint, GeoZeo, and Buxfer can help manage cash flow, notify you when balances are low and do budgeting and reporting for you. The beauty of these services is that they’ll go get your transactions from your bank and attempt to classify them for you automatically. It doesn’t always get them right, but it is very easy to correct and saves a ton of data entry. You can even set them to send you an email or a text message with a summary of your status.
3. Forget About Microsoft Office. Don’t get me wrong. I love Excel and Outlook as much as the next guy, but the prices that you pay (between $200 and $600, depending on the version) to get it are outrageous. Check out Google Docs, Google Calendar and Gmail. They allow you to easily collaborate with others, you don’t have to install anything on your computer, and best of all, they’re free. These tools probably aren’t a fit for everyone (browser crashing while you work is a pain), but you can get an awful lot of mileage out of them.
Obviously I’m a big on using technology to increase efficiency, cut down on overhead and hopefully help the bottom line. What are you doing to save money in these tumultuous times?