Cut Small Business Costs

Make ends meet without sacrificing profit

cut costTricialee Riley cut her teeth in the business world managing retail operations for MAC Cosmetics during the years when the company grew from a small house brand to a beauty giant. While with MAC, she opened several stores, managed locations, and learned the importance of staying under budget. Today, Riley, 35, applies those skills and more to her beauty business. Based in New York City, The Polish Bar of Brooklyn offers two full-service beauty salons.

The savvy entrepreneur delightfully admits to taking her budget consciousness to new heights amid the recession with successful results. One method she says is challenging customers and businesses to do more with less. “I’m constantly trying to get a better deal on everything,” she says. “I’m trying to give the customers better value and pricing. I’m balancing their checkbooks and my own.” Here are Riley’s top four tips for making her company’s cash go further:

Prioritize payroll. Scrutinize staffing and cut where you can to save.  Depending upon salon traffic, Riley may have employees work four-and-a-half hour shifts instead of eight hour shifts. She trains nail technicians to open, operate, and close the store so they can cover the front desk as needed and participate in teen work programs, where the city pays interns to work for business owners.

Turn the lights off. Boosting the energy efficiency of your business can allow more revenue to drop to your bottom line. At Polish Bar, employees are trained to turn lights on 10 minutes before the store opens and to turn them off within 10 minutes after closing. Wax rooms go dark during slow periods as well. “We’ve saved 20% a month just by training staff,” Riley says.

Lose the middle. Do diligent research to source materials from lower cost vendors. It takes some time, but can add up to major savings. Riley purchases pedicure supplies from a private label bath and body products company instead of a nail distributor to lower costs. “I now have to purchase three months on hand versus 30 days on hand,” she says of the trade-off. “We have to think about things down to the penny and get comfortable with spending more up front to save down the road.”

Market online. Trading in print advertising campaigns for outreach via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail saves on paper and printing, and builds stronger client relationships, says Riley. “I’m getting hits from people who love us and not random clients,” she says. “It’s a good savings.”

Leverage technology. Invest in sophisticated inventory management and client relationship management software to collect data to inform business decisions. For example, Riley uses a software program that tracks clients, appointments, sales, and cash in an effort to measure productivity. The system tells her which services are most popular, clients’ communication preferences, customer tardiness patterns, and a range of other indicators that help her better schedule, price, and promote. She says, “It’s a huge investment for a small business, but I wouldn’t be willing to run the business without it.”

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