A few weeks ago, I stopped in a local office supply and copy store in my area. I had an unusual special request, so I explained what I wanted to the guy behind the counter. As I began to speak, he picked up a rough-looking little notepad and began to jot down what I was saying. When I was finished, he took a tiny piece of Scotch tape, tore off the note, and taped it to the front of the CD I gave to him.
I took a careful look at that rough notepad. It was about a quarter the size of a normal sheet of paper. In fact, that's exactly what it was - pieces of paper cut in half vertically and horizontally. The pad was about fifty "little sheets" thick with a staple through it near the top, making it easy to tear off sheets for various uses.
Here's the kicker, though. On the other side of these sheets was printing of various kinds. I asked about them and was told that these were cut-up error documents, things that would have to be tossed if not utilized in some other fashion.
"Good idea," I thought to myself. I asked them how much money it saved them. The guy behind the counter didn't know, but a manager overheard my question and said "We used to spend about $100 a year on notepads around here, but we haven't bought one in years."
I looked around the shop a bit and noticed something else interesting. They were actually selling these pads for a dime. Talk about turning your trash into treasure. Even if they just sold two of those pads a day, they'd have $60 more - just from their refuse.
Sure, it's a little thing - but little things can be the lifeblood of any business.
What are you throwing away that can be used in other ways? Perhaps your waste paper can be reused for taking notes or for other such purposes. Maybe you can reuse some packaging for storage containers. Why not set up a recycling bin for cans and bottles, then cash them in on occasion to put a little more change in the till?
Is there employee downtime that can be directed to some other purpose? You might be able to put a receptionist in charge of a Twitter account for your business, allowing that downtime to be directly converted into communications with customers. If a technician is burning time, why not get them started on a maintenance program on your own equipment?
It takes some creativity to come up with these ideas, so why not utilize more eyes and minds? Suggest to your employees that if they come up with a simple money-saver like this, they can pocket the money saved (or earned) for the first year of any such initiative. With lots of eyes and minds looking for such opportunities, you'll almost certainly find lots of little things to improve your business.
There are countless little opportunities floating through your business to save a little money here or earn a little bit more there without much effort at all. It's these details that can give you the room you need to breathe or to grow your business. Always keep your eyes open - and listen to your employees.