We’re not suffering from a shortage in great entrepreneurs with great business ideas. However, we are suffering from a shortage in businesses that last long enough to be called a success!
Only 50% of businesses survive at least 5 years while only a third makes it to their 10th year anniversary.
Blaming the failure of many businesses on a single factor is impossible, but one cannot deny that insufficient funds and financial mishaps play a role.
In this guide, you’ll discover how to save your precious business funds. We shift the spotlight on how to slash your costs on 4 of the biggest business expenses while still achieving results:
Office space accounts for more than 50% of a business’ expenses. If you’re in a bustling city like New York, you could be looking at a yearly spend of $14,800 per employee (at 200 sq. meters/employee) – and we’re just talking about the rent. Businesses within the West End of London, on the other hand, need to be prepared to shell out £1324.72 per square meter!
Fortunately, you don’t have to suck up the steep per sq. meter prices of today’s modern working spaces. This section will show you 4 alternatives to the traditional office space – alternatives that are way more affordable and can accommodate your company whether you’re a startup with only 3 people or a company that hit a growth spurt.
“People working together in any environment.”
Such was the definition of coworking 2 decades ago. Today however, coworking is all about flexibility, networking opportunities, increased productivity, and of course, lower office space costs.
Freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote employees, and even startups with small teams come to these open offices to collaborate and work on projects away from home. You can think of coworking spaces as business-oriented cafés – minus the noise and distractions in coffee shops.
The Global Coworking Survey predicts that we’ll see over 10,000 coworking spaces around the world by the end of 2016. These workspaces are easy on the budget compared to renting a traditional office space, and they usually offer monthly membership plans.
The facilities and amenities offered by coworking spaces are similar to what you’ll find in an office at an upscale city such as:
Yes, they have everything a small team needs to operate – but without the bank-breaking costs.
Moreover, these open office spaces bring you closer to other independent professionals, entrepreneurs, and startups, giving you ample networking opportunities. It’s not at all uncommon for small talks in coworking spaces to lead to new startups, partnerships, and work opportunities.
Of course, coworking offices have limitations. For starters, you’ll share services with other businesses and professionals – which might be inaccessible when you need it the most. If you have a team of more than 4 people, working at a coworking facility may feel unsettling to the community-like environment.
If that rings true for you, check out the next alternative on the list.
If you find coworking spaces too limiting for your growing team or maybe you want to have your own office right off the bat, small business incubators are worth a serious look.
Like coworking offices, small business incubators offer affordable office space. However, the aim of business incubators goes beyond providing workspaces at rock-bottom rates.
Organizations behind business incubators want to help speed up the growth and success of startups and young businesses in the hopes of making a greater positive economic impact.
With the above in mind, business incubators offer services you won’t find in your average coworking office like:
And since incubators are run by the local government, universities, or reputable business development groups, startups that graduate from such a program are more likely to secure investment or start new ventures thanks to the added credibility through association.
If you’re in the UK, London has the highest concentration of startup incubators and accelerators, boasting 40 formal programs and growing. And it’s not all technology and digital as a growing number of incubators cater to other industries like food and drinks, social enterprise, health, and real-estate.
Hubble, a company that bridges the gap between office spaces and businesses, published the definitive list of business accelerators and incubators in London. Check it out and shop around.
Another cost-effective office option you should consider is an executive office suite.
Sure, it’s pricier at a cost-per-square-foot basis compared to coworking and establishing your business at an incubator or accelerator. But if you’re committed to having a standalone office, an executive suite provides a lot of value at reasonable prices.
For starters, an executive suite helps you create and project a professional image with the facilities and amenities it offers including:
Not to mention most executive suite providers have very flexible terms, allowing entrepreneurs to rent by the day or hour. An excellent solution if you’re going out of town or always on the go.
It’s easy to see how executive suites can save you money – but the advantages of renting a suite go beyond savings.
Growing your list valuable business contacts is always nice – and renting an executive suite helps you do just that. Realtors, entrepreneurs, accountants, insurance and legal professionals are the most common customers of executive suites.
While you won’t be sharing workspaces with these professionals like you would in a coworking space, you can still network, collaborate, and exchange services with each other.
Massive time-savings is another advantage you can’t ignore. Having your own office means dealing with all of the day-to-day maintenance, IT, cleaning, and administrative work. And we all know how much time those tasks can eat up.
With an executive office suite however, all the daily, non-business errands are included in your rental fee, freeing up valuable time and helping you stay productive while slashing your operational costs.
Want to explore executive suites near you? Check out Regus and their massive international network with 3000 locations across 120 countries. Intelligent Office also offers staffing solutions alongside office space services in the US and Canada.
Massive layoffs are everywhere!
Seeing thousands of people around the world lose their jobs is painful. But for the business owner looking for an affordable office space, such unfortunate events can prove to be a blessing.
Downsizing meant empty office spaces, and it’s not uncommon at all for businesses to sublease their newly vacated workspaces to generate revenue.
While subleasing an office doesn’t include the niceties offered by incubators, coworking spaces, and executive suites, doing so is still easier on the budget than leasing on your own.
Play it smart and you can slash 25% off the cost per square foot. In Soheil Saadat’s case, he saved even more! The CEO of California-based Scientific Software found the office of his dreams at a high-class industrial park.
But at $1.85 per square foot, the office was more than he could afford. Fortunately, a broker referred Saadat to a large business in the same park. The corporation was closing its office in California but had 2 years left on the lease. Saadat took the opportunity and was rewarded with a reduced rate of $1.15/square foot, which translates to 38% savings on office space!
But while Saadat’s story sounds nice, know that finding the right space to sublease is anything but easy.
Sure, you can check massive directories like Craigslist. But the signal-to-noise ratio in places like Craigslist is often very low. Not to mention many properties you’ll find doesn’t suit your needs, and sellers often take too long to respond.
Your best bet is to find a broker that has a good track record and specializes in small offices in the local market – just like what Saadat did. The broker knows the landscape: lease rates, business owners open to short-term leases, awesome workspaces in hard-to-find places, and more.
Happy employees equals better bottom line! Globoforce’s 2015 Employee Recognition Report, which involved 823 HR professionals, found that employee recognition programs (when done right) can positively impact engagement, increase satisfaction and happiness, improve workforce relationships, and boost retention.
Employers spend around $46 billion annually on employee recognition programs, according to the Incentive Marketing Association. That may lead you to think that recognizing employees is limited by the amount of money you’re willing to spend.
But that’s not the case!
To prove our point, here are 10 tried-and-tested low-cost employee recognition ideas that are sure to motivate your best team members to give their all at work.
Did one of your account managers go the extra mile to solve a client’s problem? Or maybe an account manager reached her 5th year with the company? Stories and milestones like these deserve recognition – and your company newsletter is a great platform for sharing these moments. You should also consider sharing employees in newsletters for current and potential customers, giving the top achievers and model employees greater recognition while people outside the company get a glimpse of the faces and personalities behind the business.
It’s hard to imagine how leaders and CEOs of large, multinational corporations can connect and congratulate employees for a “job well done.” But a startup or small biz owner like you can easily do that. If an employee maintained his cool before a difficult customer or pulled an all-nighter to fix a technical problem, take a few minutes off of your desk to personally deliver ice cream or a refreshing drink.
Red Velvet Events, an Austin-based event planning company, takes employee rewards to another level by involving the whole team. The company uses a small troll doll to celebrate a staff’s accomplishments. A team member passes the doll to a stand-out employee while describing the recipient’s recent work efforts. The recipient gets to add accessories to the doll and passes it to a fellow team member the following week. This fun and unique idea ensures that great people are regularly recognized in the company.
Customer service reps, salespeople, IT staff – everyone needs some me-time. They also dream of taking a vacation with the family, watching their favorite sports live, and staying at home for a day to read a good book. Give your top employees that much-needed break by offering flexible work scheduling. Such work arrangements have been proven by numerous case studies to improve employee health and productivity.
The Good Book is an idea Bobby August, co-founder of gift company Cloud 9 Living. It’s a book that contains all the good stuff done by employees. Staff members are encouraged to write in the book, describing and appreciating a coworker’s triumphs inside and outside the workspace. All of the entries in the Good Book are read every week at a company meeting, a great way for acknowledging achievements that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
This idea from organizational development specialist and corporate wellness coach David Haldorsen is low-cost and very effective when done right. Instead of buying a greeting card, create one yourself using large post-it notes or 3x5 cards. Write your “thank you” message along with descriptive praise notes on the card, and send it to the employee personally.
If your company is active on Twitter, Facebook, and other major social networks, considering posting praise for one of your employees on social media – complete with photos and a nicely written caption. And don’t forget to include hashtags – like #employeerecognition, #employeeengagement, and #thankyou – when recognizing great work on social media.
Say “thank you” to outstanding team members and hardworking staff. That’s a given. But this simple gesture of appreciation can easily turn sour when done wrong. Addressed the card to the wrong person? That’s just awkward! Offered a token gesture such as a stapler on a staff’s 5th year anniversary with the business? That’s a ‘good’ way to make your employee feel insignificant.
You don’t need to be a professional video editor to create awesome, captivating videos. A combination of free, easy-to-use tools like Canva and Animoto can get the job done. When celebrating an employee’s achievements, you might as well let your creativity out and put up a short video highlighting how one of the team members went beyond the call of duty.
A survey by grocery-delivery service Peapod, which involved 1,000 full-time office employees, found that free food and drinks keep employees happier. Not surprising as food can get pricey – whether you choose to pack your own lunch or eat out during breaks. So why not help your best employees save – and keep them jolly too – by treating them to lunch or giving out gift cards from local restaurants?
Having the best-in-class solutions won’t mean jack if you can’t find customers who’d pay for your products and services.
Businesses spend a lot on finding the right consumers. Dropbox, for example, used to spend over $200 to acquire a customer for a cloud storage service that clocks in at $100/year. Why? Because they know that once a customer uses their service, they’ll keep coming back for more.
You may not have $200 to spend for every customer, but you must market your products and services all the same. This section will show you 3 effective marketing tactics that will reduce your cost-per-acquisition and fill your pipeline with highly qualified leads.
Signing up and creating a page on any of the most popular social media networks today is free and easy. Anyone can do it!
A case in point:
Facebook revealed that over 40 million small businesses have a Facebook page – and the number keeps growing.
But to truly harness the power of social media, you need to go beyond just having a page to actively engaging your customers and prospects. Businesses and marketers that did were rewarded handsomely:
Now, you might be thinking: “Those benefits are exciting. But I don’t have time to stay on 5 different networks and keep track of every conversation!”
Sure, managing too many networks will suck your time, and spreading yourself too thinly will not deliver positive results. But who says you have to stay on different social networks!?
Follow Full Frontal ROI founder Nichole Kelly’s advice:
“Find which audience has the highest concentration of your audience. Develop a plan to engage them. Put your 100% social focus on the best channel for your audience – and do it exceptionally well.”
Later in this section, we’ll show you a daily routine for engaging and providing value to your social media audience – and it takes less than 30 minutes to carry out!
But remember: you need to find where your prospects are staying online before reaching out. And knowing the psychology and key demographics of the most popular social networks is a good first step in discovering the best platform for your audience and how to engage them.
Writer and content marketer Puranjay Singh did a great job of compiling research and studies about the behavior of social media users.
His post over at Blogging Wizard included key demographics for popular social networks, psychology of users, and how it affects your marketing efforts – with links to studies by Pew Research Center, Psychology Today, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan, and other respected sources.
We bring you some of the highlights of Puranjay’s post below:
After reading up on the key demographics of the biggest social networks and the psychology of its users, you’ll hopefully have a clearer idea where to establish your social media presence.
Now, your social media strategy can be as complicated and detailed as you want it.
But as a small business owner who needs to juggle different tasks and wear many hats, you want to adopt a simple routine that lets you engage with your audience and deliver informative content – without eating into precious time allotted for other important, business-building projects.
Olsy Sorokina, formerly from Hootsuite, published a simple 5-step plan to help small business owners establish their presence and build their following for only 18 minutes a day!
Sure, spending only 18 minutes to grow your following and market your products and services via social media sounds like an impossible task. And you may find that you need to go beyond the allotted time during your first few tries.
But that’s ok!
What’s important is that you give your social media activities a concrete structure so you don’t get distracted and waste time.
Olsy’s full post contains specific advice and tips for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks – and reading it is highly recommended. But to give you an overview of what the daily plan looks like, here are the 5 steps summarized:
Social media marketing is a long-term project, so don’t expect overnight success.
However, marketers and businesses that toiled and took social media marketing seriously are rewarded with massive benefits: lower cost per lead, better brand awareness, and greater trust from their target audience.
And you want that too, don’t you?
So stick to the tips we discussed in this section and you’ll be golden:
Back in the day, people were thrilled to receive emails. Today however, people feel stressed just by looking at the sheer number of unread mails.
So why should you bother with email marketing when inboxes are so full of noise and distractions – and grabbing your prospects’ attention is almost impossible?
The answer: because it’s highly effective when done right!
Here are some mind-blowing statistics to convince you:
It’s not surprising why marketers consistently rank email marketing as the single-most effective method for generating brand awareness, acquiring leads, converting, and retaining customers!
If the stats above whet your appetite, read our 5 tips to give your email marketing efforts a rock-solid start.
Tip #1 Know Your Email Marketing Laws And Stay Spam-Free: 85% of emails received by ISP are spam according to Return Path, a global data solutions provider. People hate spam and for good reason. Having to delete each and every unsolicited and irrelevant offer is nothing short of annoying!
Take the time to learn your country’s email marketing laws, making sure you’re not one of those annoying spammers while protecting your business from hefty penalties!
Fortunately, commercial email laws around the globe are identical to the US CAN-SPAM Act – and its most important guidelines include:
Other countries have additional regulations that you have to take into account depending where you are.
If you’re a marketer in the UK for example, your commercial emails must comply with the EC Directive 2003 which says “don’t send direct marketing emails without permission – unless there’s an established relationship.”
Businesses in Europe, on the other hand, must fulfill the European Union’s Directive on Privacy, which requires prior explicit consent before sending commercial emails along with a clear and easy opt-out process.
Tip #2 Keep Your Opt-In Process Smooth And Easy: Start by placing a highly visible opt-in box on your blog or website (preferably near the top), and add a link to the actual opt-in form.
Of course, you need more than a box and a link to your opt-in form to convince people to subscribe to your mailing list. So be sure to add a high-impact ‘call to action’ (CTA) that encourages and gives potential subscribers a good reason to sign-up.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re a brick-and-mortar business that sells the latest, fanciest basketball sneakers.
In your site’s opt-in box, don’t just say:
“Subscribe to our mailing list to receive monthly updates!”
It’s very vague. Updates about what exactly!? Not to mention people get updates all the time – and mostly about unimportant stuff. Receiving more updates isn’t something to write home about!
Now look at the next sample CTA:
“Join 579 sneaker-lovers and catch our promos and discounts on the hottest kicks!”
The second CTA beats the first one. It gives visitors a specific reason to sign up and something to be excited about – promos and discounts on the hottest kicks!
The next email marketing component to smooth out is the actual opt-in form.
Your website’s opt-in form can make or break your email marketing campaign. When done right, it can bring in a constant stream of subscribers and customers, driving up your email marketing ROI off the roof!
Here are some important guidelines for creating a simple and effective opt-in form:
Tip #3 Start Slow And Keep It Simple: How many emails should you send in a month? The answer depends on your audience and especially YOU.
With other marketing, management, and administrative responsibilities on your shoulders, how many content-packed, promotional emails can you create and send to your list?
If you answered just one per month, that’s fine! A study by Marketing Sherpa revealed that 86% of customers would like to receive promotional emails (sales notifications, promos, etc.) once a month.
Moreover, a once-a-month frequency won’t get in the way of other important duties. A slow start as it is, it’s enough to maintain connection with your readers, and gives you enough time to create relevant content for your promo email.
And that brings us to the next question: what should your email contain?
Here are 5 important components you should include:
Tip #4 Use A Free Email Marketing Provider (For Now): Aweber and GetResponse are two of the most popular email marketing providers out there.
Unfortunately, they don’t offer a free plan, which sucks if you want to keep your marketing costs as low as possible. So consider using an email marketing provider that lets you start building your list for free like MailChimp.
MailChimp may not have the best email tracking features and autoresponder. But their “Starting Up plan” may be sufficient for your current email marketing needs. The plan is free, lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers, and allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month.
The Starting Up plan also gives you access to easily customizable sign-up forms and comes with a drag-and-drop email designer, responsive templates, and reporting features to keep track of your results.
Tip #5 Continuously Educate Yourself On The Latest Best Practices: Just like any marketing endeavor worth pursuing, maximizing the ROI of your email marketing takes time and on-going education.
Don’t get left behind. Here are 3 in-depth email marketing guides to arm you with tried-and-tested strategies and best practices that ensure you get good returns for every mailing:
Think about it:
Your current and most loyal customers have paid good money for your product or service. They’re familiar with your offerings. And they know first-hand how your product works and, more importantly, how it solved one of their problems. Not to mention they might have friends and colleagues who could also what you offer.
I don’t know about you. But someone who bought and used your product, knows the problems it solves, and can potentially endorse it to a tight-knit circle of people is the ideal marketer for your business!
Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is one of the best, most cost-efficient ways to spread the word about your business and attract a steady flow highly qualified prospects:
So how do you turn your best customers to knowledgeable and experienced word-of-mouth marketers?
The answer: build an attractive customer referral program.
Tech startups, unicorn companies, payment processing giants, and other businesses experienced rapid, massive growth in user and revenue thanks to well-planned customer referral programs.
Dropbox’ legendary and double-sided rewards program (where the referrer and their friend got extra storage) permanently increased their sign-ups by 60%, giving the service’s growth rate a massive boost! As of June 2015, they have 400 million registered users.
PayPal also recognized the power of referrals and the better ROI it yields versus traditional marketing. Their Refer-A-Friend and Merchant Referral bonuses were the keys to achieving 7 to 10% daily growth, exploding their users to over 100 million.
Now, you may not have the funds or the tech-savvy of Dropbox and Paypal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build a referral program that your customers will love!
Jim Schubert, owner of one of the largest independent insurance agencies in Georgia, wrote a great guide on building an effective rewards program for small businesses.
And no, the guide isn’t just about theory or tips. He followed the very steps he outlined in the guide – and the result? 50% close ratio and 14 new insurance customers from the program just 2 months in!
If that sounds like a great result (and it is), then check out the steps summarized below:
You may have hired the best talents around. But just like any employee, your staff needs the right equipment and technology to put their best foot forward: from software solutions, workstations, fax machines, printers, to paper clips and everything in between. And each of these items cost money!
Read this section and learn how you can save on equipment and tech while maintaining your team’s productivity and freeing up valuable time so they can work on stuff that matters.
They say it’s lonely when you’re at the top. But that’s not the case when you’re in the cloud with more and more businesses adopting it. Just look at these trends and statistics courtesy of Forbes:
Cloud computing – or ‘the cloud’ for short – is an online platform that lets you access shared applications, storage, and other tools via a network of remote servers. And as you’ll see later, this setup has massive advantages over the usual onsite servers and PCs that require hardware and software installation.
The cloud allows users to work on data just like they would in a traditional PC. They can store, manage, and process information – but without the need to buy, install, update, and manage a wide array of complicated applications.
In simpler terms, you are renting a service rather than buying a product.
It’s not different from the utility services you use at home – electricity, cable TV, internet connection, etc. You pay for the service and the service providers take care of the technical side and all the maintenance so you don’t have to!
Such a setup offers countless benefits especially to small business owners. Let’s take a look at some of them:
If those big business advantages sound convincing to you, you’re probably wondering: “But what cloud services do I need for my company?”
The answer depends on the nature of your business and the industry you’re in. You may have to research which industry-specific cloud services are most suitable for you. However, a number of processes and tools are essential whatever industry you’re in – and fortunately, there’s a cloud-based solution for each of these.
Let’s take a look at some of them:
Buying office equipment – whether it’s a workstation, multifunctional printer, or scanner – is very straightforward. You determine the equipment your business needs, go to the local tech store to find and buy it, install the equipment in your office and that’s it!
Outfitting your workspace with the necessary technology is a smooth, hassle-free process – but only if you have enough spending power.
Need a brand new workstation for graphics design, website development, or financial back-office operations? An entry-level model can cost you more than £500.00. Models with faster computing capabilities can cost 3 times more.
Looking for a multifunctional printer that can handle your growing printer, copying, and scanning needs? A capable desktop multifunctional printer like the Konica Minolta Bizhub C3110 clocks in at £1451.49.
Planning to equip your on-the-field sales and marketing team with lightweight tablets with decent computing power? The Apple iPad Air costs £319.00 to £459.00, depending on the amount of storage and networking capabilities.
Purchasing a brand new computer, networking equipment and other office technology can strain your business’ finances. So what’s a cash-strapped, small business owner to do?
The answer: lease instead of buy!
Equipment Leasing Defined (Entrepreneur.com): “Obtaining the use of machinery, vehicles or other equipment on a rental basis. This avoids the need to invest capital in equipment. Ownership rests in the hands of the financial institution or leasing company, while the business has the actual use of it.”
Leasing office equipment and technology isn’t as clear cut as buying outright. The leasing company needs to check your company’s financial standing and you need to sign several documents before approving your application for a lease.
Furthermore, you’re more than likely to end up paying more in the long run. For example, leasing a copier priced at £1500 for a 3-year term can cost you over £2000 as you also have to pay interest to the leasing company.
However, these disadvantages didn’t stop over 80% of US companies from leasing some or all of their equipment. In the UK, the office equipment rental and leasing industry has grown to epic proportions – bringing in £807M in revenue with an annual growth of 4.6%.
Leasing offers business advantages that more than compensate for the not-so-straightforward process and interest rates. Here are 4 of the biggest benefits of leasing:
You may have a well-oiled IT team that’s always on tweaking processes for better efficiency and lower costs. But if you think you’ve eliminated every unnecessary IT expense in your monthly item list, you might be in for a surprise.
Think about it: when was the last time you thought about the amount of toners, ink cartridges, and paper you need for your regular printing and copying needs?
For many businesses, keeping track of printers, scanners, copiers, and fax machines – along with the supplies these office equipments need – isn’t high on the list of priorities. And without a central control for tracking expenses, printing costs can easily go out of control.
So what’s a good solution?
For a growing number of IT managers, the solution is a managed print service.
Managed print services (or MPS for short) are offered by external providers to streamline a business’ printing and document output. A rock-solid MPS has 4 components. These are:
Turning over their printing environments to MPS providers lead to optimized printing workflow that saves organizations money while relieving IT teams of support responsibilities, allowing the latter to spend more time on innovation and strategy.
For Fortune 1000 companies, signing up for a managed print service can mean saving up to 700 metric tons of paper and reducing their energy consumption by up to 40% annually.
Document intensive organizations – such as law offices, financial institutions, and health organizations can slash their printing costs by up to 41%, 33%, and 27% respectively according to the research firm InfoTrends.