Most small, non-seasonal businesses will experience a decline in activity during the months of July and August. This should free up at least five hours per week that can be dedicated to those tasks that seem to sit perpetually on the “to do” list. Many of these tasks can have a material impact on your company’s bottom line. So instead of surfing the internet on that quiet Thursday summer afternoon, take time to do the following:
1. Review all of your subscription-based and recurring expenses.
Many subscription services use automated renewal billing. We sign up for a service and once a month or once a year a renewal charge appears on the credit card or as an ACH transaction that deducts the charge from our checking accounts. Simple things like domain names bought “for that new business idea,” trial versions of software and membership fees can quickly add up. Cutting just three or four unused services may save over $1,000 per year.
2. Negotiate down one fixed expense.
This is a good idea for several reasons. Mainly you’ll save money. Many large vendors are willing to provide a discount in order to keep your business. Even if they aren’t, use this as an opportunity to practice different techniques for negotiating. Use both positive and negative arguments. Step outside of your comfort zone and be more aggressive than you normally would. Practicing these techniques on a potential customer is riskier than doing so with a vendor who can usually be replaced. If you aren’t able to secure a reduction in cost, try asking for additional services or “store credit” instead.
3. Meet with your banker.
Do you have any relationship with your banker? If not, start building one. Invite them for coffee or lunch even if you don’t have a specific financial need in mind. When properly utilized, it could be one of your most valuable relationships. Think about how many businesses a small-business banker interacts with per year. Getting five or ten referrals from your banker is a completely realistic goal. Remember that relationship managers have some authority when it comes to making decisions on fee reimbursements and account upgrades.
4. Evaluate your administrative tasks for outsourcing.
Many small-business owners waste an incredibly high percentage of their time. They perform rote tasks that are more appropriate for an administrative assistant. Part of this is due to a perceived lack of financial resources: “I can’t afford to hire someone right now.” In reality, you can’t afford not to. If you spend time doing something other than selling, it better be valuable. If what you're doing won’t lead to new business, maintain existing business or cut costs, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. There are multiple reputable resources that can connect you with virtual assistants that perform mundane tasks at a cheap price.
A version of this article was originally published on May 20, 2011.