Though the economy is showing signs of strengthening, I hope none of us forget the lessons of the past two years. As a small business owner (and a large corporation), you will always be subject to the whims of the consumer and government. So running a lean business is the best choice you can continually make.  Consider these ten tips:

  1. Reward employees with something other than money. Money doesn’t work to motivate most employees anyway. What do they value? Time off. And, studies show, if they have a few extra days off with pay (you save because you would have paid them anyway-and no bonus costs), they come back more productive, nearly making up for the time off.
  2. Go to the cloud. Don’t assume you need a particular software. Check for the open source version on the Web including Mint.com, OpenOffice.org, and PrimoPDF
  3. Check your business credit card rates and ask for a reduction. 50% of the time, if you’ve been timely with your payments, you will get the reduced rate.
  4. Use reward points, rebates and promotions for office supplies if you use a national retailer OR check with your local office supply store to see what they can do for you
  5. At least annually, do research to either re-negotiate rates or replace your existing health insurance provider, your workers compensation insurance, your liability insurance and more
  6. Though it seems basic, small things can add up: buy each employee their own personalized mug for coffee and get rid of styrofoam or paper
  7. Talk to a community bank to see what they can do regarding any loan rates you currently have at other banks. They tend to be safer, provide better service and invest in the local community more
  8. Watch for redundancies in your workforce. Take some time to find out what everyone is doing. It is my belief that most small businesses could operate efficiently with fewer, not more, employees because so much time is spent wasted, often by you, in useless activities and meetings
  9. If you DO need to hire, look for free ways to advertise that position like craigslist and Facebook. Avoid expense services like Monster, Careerbuilder and your local newspaper.
  10. Carefully monitor your marketing budget and educate yourself on affordable ways to advertise your business

Running a lean business pays handsomely – in good times and in bad.  Which of these areas will you address first?

by Steven Schlagel