By Doug Cunnington

Lean and strong sounds like an ad for a health club, but if you’re struggling with the budget for your business, that’s your mantra. Taking stock of costs can have you running lean in no time. Here are some questions to help you contemplate your currency costs.

Is location important?

Can you operate out of your home? If not, do you need to be in a storefront, or can you locate into an office off the beaten path? Sometimes a building one block off the main street can be significantly less expensive.

Some businesses thrive only a main street. A used car lot brings in customers who see shiny cars and catchy signage. Customers seek out therapists for quiet, serene, and private offices. Do you rely on foot traffic for your business, or can you relocate?

What about your staff?

Do you need face time with staff, or can they telecommute to lower your rent? Use virtual employees and a distributed office. Marketing blogs? Hire a writer. Scrubbing a cold list? Hire a telemarketer. Accounting? Administrative assistant? Available on sites such as Upwork as virtual employees. Logo services, artwork, website design are available using virtual employees on sites such as Fivver and 99designs.

In your snack or lunch room, rather than machines that profit someone else, why not shop at a club store and set out shelves of snacks, stock the refrigerator with soft drinks and bottled water, and use the honor system with a price list?

If you have a service or accounting doing payroll, according to an American Express Open forum article, it probably costs you a fee every time payroll runs. Consider paying biweekly rather than weekly. Biweekly payroll gives you longer to generate payroll and reduces accounting costs.

What type of equipment do you use and how often?

If you only make copies for your own use or that of your staff, perhaps an “all-in-one” printer/fax/copier is less expensive than separate machines. Do your staff need printers on each desk, or one larger, centrally located wireless printer?

And on the same subject, do you need to have forms and handouts pre-printed at a printer, or can you print to order yourself? Which is more cost effective? Avoid spending your personal money on these items, rather get business credit.  This allows your business to grow without hindering your personal finances.

Are you taking full advantage of technology?

Small businesses can move to the cloud by using web-based office programs and file sharing, often at a cost savings. Employees can remotely access files from any location such as customer sites, their home offices, or on a business trip.

Does everything need to be printed?

Invoices and employee communications can be sent by secure email, and information can be centrally stored and accessed as needed. You may reduce printing costs and storage time by going paperless. The American Bar Association in an article about saving money by going paperless offers advice to lawyers, but the same advice fits for many small businesses.

Are you marketing savvy?

Think twice before cutting your marketing budget. According to the website Bankrate, it might be a mistake to reduce your advertising investment. A smarter choice might be to invest in more targeting, personalized marketing. Try the approach outlined by the website, Creative Guerrilla Marketing, which describes guerrilla marketing as “unconventional marketing strategy, high energy and imagination.”

Strategies can include making the most of social media via a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and a website blog. Keep your material fresh, and if you can’t write, hire it out.  Ask happy customers for testimonials, which pepper your website with praise for you and your products or services. Video customers and select the best for inclusion. Capture key phrases to list on a bragging board page. Print out this page to send to potential customers.

Use joint ventures for advertising. If you sell IT backup and disaster recovery, pool resources with an insurance person who sells business insurance and share mailing lists. Ask for a referral. Use your own charm. Carry your business cards and don’t be afraid to introduce your business when the opportunity arises. Building personal connections and being genuinely friendly is key to building up your clientele network.  You are often your own best advertisement.