Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Merchant Payment Terminals - What to Look Out For

As a retailer it is difficult to run a cash only business, everyone expects to be able to pay by credit or debit card. When considering the move into accepting card payments there is a minefield of information to look out for, luckily for you I have created a small checklist to ensure you get the best price. I will also outline what a typical price you can expect to pay is, if you pay higher then shop around and change supplier.

But before we get into what to look out for we should first point out some reasons a card terminal will be good for business, and why it isn't always neccessarily just making life easier for customers.

Benefits to Card Terminals:

- Customer Satisfaction - Your customers will be happy about being able to pay in card, no more quick runs across the road to pick up cash from the ATM. A customer that can use card payment will always be more popular than a cash only business, as cheques have been phased out of existence we can also expect to see a bigger reduction in cash usage.

- Less Banking runs - Banking can be expensive, ordering your float each week and doing the daily bank run can become a chore, you will be able to reduce this frequency by moving to card acceptance. Depending on the average selling price in your shop you will find most transactions over £10 will be done by card, leaving you with only the small change float required.

- Less fraud - Millions of pounds of fraudulant money is in circulation, passing from customer to shopkeeper unwittingly for years. Most commonly this is in the form of £1 coins. If you ever try to bank these there is no compensation, you can't expect to ever see that money returned. With the invention of Chip and Pin you won't have that concern, with any fraud being covered by your insurance.

- Increase revenue - People spend more when using card, they more likely to make multiple purchases and having impulse buy products at the till is a good way to encourage this. A lot of small businesses begin by having a sign that charges for card use under a certain value, this also encourages impulse buys, but also will likely offset the cost of card usage on small profit margin products.

- Improve Trust - A card machine presents a level of trust, a person is more likely to know you are not some dodgy organisation that operates outside the system. Having a card terminal proves you have a bank account and a decent credit history.

Considerations when choosing Payment Terminal

Debit Card Charge - This is always a flat fee regardless of the value of the transaction. Offered in pence you can expect to pay between 10p and 20p per transaction. If you mainly do this type of transaction which is likely for a business moving from cash only to card payments I would suggest you negotiate this down to around 11p.

Credit Card Charge - This varies widely with a decent rate being around 1%, although in recession you can expect to take more of this type of card than you would during growth in the economy. I would say that to negotiate a lower debit charge you can allow this to go up to around 1.3%.

Corporate Card Charge - If you deal with business customers then it is imperative you get the rate for this. Businesses often mistake this for being the same as credit cards, but you will find this rate is likely to be pre set much higher. Ensure that you ask and negotiate although if you don't sell to business customers then it will not be a problem.

Monthly Fee - There will be a monthly fee attached to the rental of the equipment, this can vary from £10 to £40 and will depend on the type you need. I would always expect to pay below £20, and ensure that prices quoted are including VAT, an oft forgotten item when discussing prices. You need to understand the actual cost to yourself.

PCI Compliance - This is a term they try to confuse you with. Read here and understand what it means.

Minimum Usage Fee - This is one of the hidden costs you may not consider but if you work on the assumption of how many card payments you would need to cover this each month it is a good basis to start. If they want to apply a £20 minimum usage fee then at 14p per transaction this would mean 142 transactions each month. If you envisage lower number of transactions then it would be worth accepting a higher individual charge but lower monthly usage fee. For instance if you average 50 transactions 20p with mimum usage of £7 is better than 11p with minimum usage of £15, the former costing you £10 and the latter costing you £15.

Contract Length - Do not get tied into a contract that is likely to expire and cost you for reinstating this, ensure there are no hidden costs when this contract expires.

Service and Reliability - It may seem a risk worth taking to go with a lesser known brand, however you may find support not available when you need it. It could also mean that equipment isn't replaced quickly and you are left with the problems of angry customers. Ask what their support facilities are, and also their replacement guarantee.

Equipment right for you - You can run your payment terminal through the phone line or the internet connection, if your business needs to operate quick then the internet connection is best, however this can present problems depending on the speed and reliability of your internet connection. Phone lines are stable and reliable.

Mobile Card Readers

You may be tempted to try one of these mobile phone attachment options as there is little set up costs with only transaction fees payable. Before you do ensure that you have researched the product and are happy with the limitations. Many do not offer full coverage of different cards, have temperamental technology issues, poor customer service and present an image to the customer they may not be happy with. Plugging their pin number into your mobile phone is not a great way to make a customer feel safe, so although it may work out cheaper, cheap is both applicable to price and image.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Moving to A 7 Day Week - Small Business

A big consideration for business today is to utilise their resources to the full capacity, this not only includes staff but also physical assets; Buildings, Equipment and Stock. Having a traditional 9am till 5pm five days a week means your assets are being utilised for only 24% of the time you are paying for them. It also demonstrates that you are probably not reaching as many customers as you could, those who wish to use your services outside traditional office hours. In retail the idea of working around the clock is old hat, most towns now have a 24 hour shopping centre, staffed by part timers of varying degrees, with shift managers there to ensure everything is done correctly.

How would a small company compete, given that the initial likely return will be a lot less than a large organisation. The transition to longer working hours has to have some tangible benefit for you to move in that direction, there are a number of different ideas to consider, some will be pull techniques (increasing your customers) and some are push techniques (moving workload to those other periods).

Pull Techniques

Move Demand - Advertise the convenience of operating at these increased hours. Show customers how they can benefit from using your services, moving the existing customer base to new hours. This will facilitate the reduction of staff at peak times to pay for the staff to be available at the new increased hours. The graphs below demonstrates this point

.Attract New Business - Attracting new business that was previously unable or unwilling to use your service due to the operating hours is another good option. This would mean that they would need to know your new operating times, so consider a launch event, an advertising campaign or even a direct mailshot to previous enquirers.

Incentivise New Business - If you find new business slow on the uptake stack the cards in your favour, take a drop in your margin to help boost the demand. A perfect example of this is the Orange Wednesday campaign that is one of the most successful initiatives to get movie goers to the cinema on a Wednesday, a traditionally slow day.

Push Techniques

Move Non Essential Work- Paperwork, accounts, office admin, performance reviews, meetings and all other non customer generated workload can be moved to these additional operating times, making it easier for you to not feel like you are simply losing money by operating longer. Reducing the workload at peak times will also mean you could make workforce savings.

Add New Services - If you wish to expand then diversification is never a bad idea, taking on new projects, products or services will help to boost your income and it will also attract cross sales from new customers. Ensuring the offering is easily bolted on to your existing operation is essential.

Train Workforce - Utilise the first few months to train staff, working on their development during these quieter periods, either learning new skills or furthering existing ones. This helps both improve morale and encourage longevity as employees feel more loyalty to your business.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Collaboration - Why Today's Business need to work Together

Collaboration has been around since medieval businesses models first hit our villages. In today's world partnerships, collaborations, Networks, Friends or the myriad of other terms are used to describe when people help each other. These terms are often dressed up as fancy and elaborate schemes that promise to give you hundreds of pounds of business.

The idea is simple, I have a business selling something your customers may want, but you don't provide, therefore that customer is referred to use my services and in turn I would recommend your services to my customers who may be in need. Clear and easy to understand at it's base level. This collaborative approach to working, is immeasurably easier to do if you have a physical location, becoming a big fish in a small pond is easy to do, being a big fish in a national, international or global pond is far more challenging. The main difference is that to break into the scene, the higher up you go, becomes exponentially more difficult.

An illustration as to why this is both neccessary and frustrating; If Amazon was run by one person, and you called them on the phone and arranged a lunch to discuss your business. Agreeing at the end of the lunch they would help to promote your small seaside town gift shop and in turn you would recommend your customers use their online services two things would occur. Firstly you would not even register on their books in terms of referrals, it would be so miniscule to them in turns of sales that they wouldn't waste time in meeting you for lunch. Secondly your business would fall over within minutes, you would sell out of all your products and you would probably have a website downtime lasting weeks. This is because their power is far superior to your own, their influence and reach is millions every day, which shows why there is a Network for each different level.

Whilst this advice is based mainly towards a business with physical location you may still find some of the advice transferable to your online or non domiciled business.  This advice also assumes you are already utilising your own Network, which consists of friends, family and previous colleagues.

The five stage attack to Networks:

- Social Media groups - these are the bedrock of any supportive campaigns for marketing. To not be part of the local community, and be prepared there will be more than you originally thought, is business suicide. You must get involved, keep up to date and ensure that at every opportunity people are talking about your service or products.

- Local Traders Association - There will be a local association, set up mainly to represent the traders interests when discussing items with local authorities and to do some collaborative marketing. If there isn't one then set it up, this is a vital part of any town. You may be put off by meeting the competition but remember competition is not always bad for business, it can in fact improve your foot flow and subsequently your sales.

- National Traders Association - There are organisations like the BNI which run collaborative Networks across the UK to help business market collaboratively and generate direct sales for other members. With over £1billion worth of business handed off through these groups it is well worth considering.

- Professional Body Membership - To become a global player you must be recognised as the pinnacle of your area of expertise. There are officially sanctioned organisations for all niche markets, to become a member may involve many checks and you may not already qualify, but once in you can be assured that it will not only boost your business trust level, it will also improve your Networks.

- Working Partners - Once you are at a very good level you may find business approach you to do partnership schemes, to bundles packages together of products from different businesses, to cross brand promote and also to incorporate your services into an offering they retail. This would all be a good way to expand sales, but be wary of doing your homework, a good partner will boost business but a bad partner will tarnish your own brand.

The Benefits

- Increased sales - Direct sales handed off from other people in your Network.

- Increased sales - Indirect sales from increased brand awareness

- Improved reputation - A mark of trust to be in company of other traders who have loyal customers.

- Improved business process - Identification of any areas of improvement by having someone in your Network can be helpful. They may come across something that benefits you greatly, a new type of equipment or new way of operating, and they consider telling you because there is an open dialogue.

- Information - Local information is hugely important for planning, perhaps new construction activity is being conducted, a local celebration is to happen or a new shop is opening.

- Support - When times are tough it can feel very difficult to be the sole bearer of the stress, having a close Network can help to solutionise those problems and ease the burden.

- Identifying Opportunity - When someone is new to an idea they instantly have lots of greats thoughts about different ways of doing things, this freshness can really invigorate your own offering.

How to Assess the best Network

- Do your homework - Ensure the time spent building the Network will be sufficient to see a return. Dont force a Network that does not compliment your own.

- If its free then join - Free is the best price because there is no risk.

- If it costs money research - like anything if you are spending cash ensure you know what your getting, ask to see copies of accounts to see where the money goes when it is provided to a central organisor. A profitable  Network is not necessarily a bad one, however it does leave you open to scams, of which there are many.

- Look for proliferation of competition - If your competitors are doing something it's worth checking out, even if just to identify the idea is not right for you.

- Look for signs of Age - An older Network is better in the sense that they will have experience, but you may find there are barriers to engagement, for instance established members may not want you to come up with any new ideas, at least until you have served your time.

- Don't waste your time - Meetings need to have a purpose, it is all very nice to have meal and discuss business with new potential friends, however there must be a purpose or end goal.

In the end as business owners we all want the same thing, which is to have a profitable market share that provides you with a secure and stable lifestyle. You ambition is only hampered by your own lack of knowledge, there are literally thousands of people making ridiculous sums of money selling goods and services that are completely useless, much poorer quality than your product or service and this is because they know how to gain market share. The most powerful way of growing is to rely on the support of others, to build friendships that can provide you with support. Starting a business is a lonely process, growing it needn't be.

Articles submitted by Dunbar T-Shirt Shop; a Garment printing business that provides work-wear and printed gifts for all occasions.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Charitable Giving - Marketing with Ethics

Paying for advertising on TV allows companies to generate more dumbed down reality talent shows, Advertising in newspaper allow for more phone hacking and photo's of the latest celeb putting their garbage out, advertising on the radio funds multi million pound record companies to generate more profit by exploiting artists, see the trend here? Well basically all worthwhile marketing channels have been monopolised and account for multi billions pound companies to increase their shareholder wealth.

So if you wish to take a different approach to marketing why not try charitable giving?

There are ways in which you can garner both exposure and trust from potential customer, without having to hand over your cold hard cash to a private organisation. Here are the steps to consider when looking for ethical advertising.

Think about your cause
Choosing a good cause may sound easy, but you need to look beyond the natural big charity choices, local charities or causes may in fact be much better idea. You may even wish to choose more than one, say 12 and then give them a month each year for the charitable donations. If you link it to sales then you are linking the donation to your success. 

Contact them 
Having a dialogue is important, charities promote a lot in the media and they may be a way of improving your own coverage. Newsletters and press releases happen often for events, so why not agree to provide goods or services for a fundraiser to get the ball rolling.

Promote the fact
Don't be shy, you are doing something really worthwhile. Having the fact promoted will not only raise the awareness of the charity with your customers but it will also attract other interested parties. A poster in the window, a notice on the back of the reciepts are all valid ways to promote the policy of donating.

Support fundraisers
Always try to get involved with fundraisers, it may not get you direct sales but it can really help to promote your brand and attract new customers. Fundraisers often take form of market stalls, so this would even give you an opportunity of making sales.

The end goal of all advertising is to increase brand awareness and increase sales, charitable giving will put you at the forefront of peoples mind, attract business you haven't reached and also boost your standing in the local community.

Shift Planning and Productivity - Get the Right Pattern for Your Business

Often in business we are at the mercy of the workload, whether that be direct from customer or via project milestones. Human nature dictates that we tend to work faster towards the finishing point, or when busy which would indicate a preference for some stress in the working day.

If we examine two aspects of shift, the productivity affected by day of the week and the risk association with shift work then we can get a picture of what the optimum looks like.


The performance efficiency can be measured across the day, showing the relative impact on performance at differing times of the 24 hour day.

 As you would expect performance drops during early hours of the morning from 11pm till the traditional morning start time of 8am. There is also a post lunch dip in productivity, this is the reason most business would stagger their lunch to offset the performance dip. It may also be an area that could be looked to improve, for instance some larger organisations have began to look into the idea of split breaks. A morning 30 minute break and afternoon 30 minute break not only helps to stagger the time away, but it can also provide you with less loss of productivity as staff returning from shorter breaks are able to get back to pace quicker. Of course the counter argument to that is, having two breaks double the disruption in the office, as employees discuss where to go, speak to colleagues or return and update colleagues as to where they have been.

The working week has changed from the ordinary Monday through Friday, with a large number of businesses now operating across 6 or even 7 days per week. This has meant that productivity levels have changed and the natural curve of productivity has changed. Reacting to changes in your workload is key, but there are ways to also improve the distribution of workload, incentives on quiet days to customers or changing key deliverable dates to Thursday or Wednesday may improve this.

Absence continues to be highest on a Monday and Friday, providing  employees with a longer weekend, although this has shifted slightly since the change away from the traditional working week.

Relative Risk

Although productivity is the key factor to business, we must also look at the risk association. A typical night shift would carry 20% more health and safety risk than the equivalent daytime shift, this may seem like a reasonable risk if the workload completed in the night is giving you a greater return, but it may mean you require to add additional safety checks into any night time processes. A health and safety accident can bankrupt a business so should not be ignored.

On the theme of risk, we can also see a direct correlation of the increased level of risk linked to the amount of time someone has been working. Beyond the 9 hour on shift mark we would see a 25% jump in the relative risk, this increased risk can be mitigated:

- Split shift into two blocks giving larger time away for rest and recouperation
- Stagger start times and finish times to give coverage
- Have increased Part time workers to ensure shifts can be shortened and staff present at peak times.

Part Time Working

It is often the case that part time working is seen as bad, the productivity levels and expertise is such that part time working is inefficient. By the time an employee does the review process, learning, meetings and huddles, catching up with communications and the natural idle time (around 10 minutes per hour) it is seen their window of opportunity to be productive is so short it makes it ineconomical to employ them.

Part time working needs to be assessed on the relative strengths of the employee, the complexity of the role and also the workload demand. if the workload demand increases in short periods (for instance two hour peak during the day) the part timers can be used effectively to mitigate this, full time working in a traditional 9 to 5 operation will not provide you with the flexibility you require, on the other hand an 8 to 6 six day week operation allows you to flex your full time working patterns to accomodate workload fluctuations.

Part time workers tend to have a greater desire to remain at the current level, often this can mean you have a constant well trained bedrock of staff that have a good length of service, something to be considered should you suffer a high turnover in employees.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Sale or Return - The Rise and Rise of Crafting

As a retailer we offer sale or return to a number of local crafters. Doing this ensure that we become a more integreated part of the community, but it also presents a great opportunity to help other business develop and perhaps become part of the High street one day.

Small businesses need all the support they get, often they are so busy trying to compete with each other they end up allowing larger out of town options to destroy them both. Competition on a high street today is not something which should be feared, but positvely encouraged. If a high street is attractive to shoppers it will no doubt keep your foot flow from falling, as seen by many towns across the country. A wealth of charity shops, fast food and bookies now make up what once was the heart of a town, many people blame the out of town options, given such subsidies to build on green belt, creating minimum wage jobs to replace the businesses on the high street.

There is a way to compete but it does not come naturally to many businesses, you need to differentiate and collaborate. A strong traders association is vital to the health of a high street, ensuring the interest of the traders are heard on councils, committees and projects plans. Of course there is also the small matter of what to offer, after all ASDA have everything cheap? Well our approach is quality, hand picking our stock allows us to ensure that our clothing is on point for trends, comfortable and stylish to wear but also not going to be economically unattainable for the majority of your local area.

One of the best ways of differentiating is to network with local crafters, people who make things locally. Crafting has seen a boom for two main reasons, people are more conscious about not just dwindling time away in front of the idiot box and want to learn new hobbies. Secondly, times are hard, people need money and they use their spare time to create a small income. That covers why the supply of crafts are there for you to collaborate with, now let's look at the consumer, why would they want to buy crafts from a local supplier and not a £2.50 alternative made in a sweat shop in China sold in nice bright packaging at the local Tesco? Firstly, because most people have a conscious and are all too aware about the appalling ways big business make money, of course it's easier to have morals when your buying a one off purchase like a birthday card or new handbag, but when your buying milk and bread you may use Asda because morals cost a lot of money. Secondly, you will find crafting not only gives you a better finished product, but it also gives you a local presence to discuss, design and customise the products. A gift should always be made with love, it shows a much bigger consideration for the recipient.

So how to get sale or return items for your shop? Well we simply spoke to people, learned what our customers were doing and offered them the opportunity to bring us some along to sell. We agree a commission (usually around 50/50 split of final sale price), and then give the product a time period to sell, no point in us having it if it doesn't make them any money. We have found that this has helped a couple of local crafters start a market stall for themselves, turn a tiny profit into a second income and given them huge confidence.

Couple of Things to do:
- Check the products out, if you like them then stock them, if not don't.
- Don't be tempted to pay up front thinking you can get good margin, this defeats the purpose also leaves you open to be undercut.
- Make sure the crafter is promoting the work, after all they stand to make profit too.
- Ensure if selling in certain areas (especially anything to do with babies, food or cosmetics) they have all the neccessary safety checks or clearly labelled as not being toys etc.
- Dont be afraid to be different, the products don't have to be exactly the same as the ones you have, cross sales happen often and the wider the range the better.
- Ensure you agree time-frame and target before taking more, otherwise you may find your store over run by crafting goods, distracting from your original purpose.

Couple of things to avoid:

- Don't stand a rental space fee, this is a barrier for many of the best crafters.
- Don't set up strict exclusivity deals, barring them for sale in a 100 mile radius, this is ridiculous
- Don't assume you won't get any returns. Ensure contact Facebook page or number for complaints or issues, is provided to customers.

Good Luck

Written by LEC Boutique: A ladies fashion boutique in the coastal town of Dunbar in Scotland. Offering a wide range of clothing, handbags, jewellery and gifts.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

What does Page Authority tell you about potential PageRank?

Two of the most common questions considered by any new website owner is:

Question 1 - What will my PageRank be?
Question 2 - When the hell are Google doing their next update?

The reason you should stop yourself before getting into either of these issues is simple, It doesn't matter and it really doesn't matter.

If you engage in a lot of writing and you have followed sound advice, to begin guest posting to build quality links to your website, you will have no doubt come across an ad for Guest Posting which goes something like this:

Technology article available entitled "Top 7 things you have read before no doubt" must be PageRank 3+

This annoys me for a lot of reasons. Here are 5 of my top pet hates about this kind of Guest Posting offer:
  1. PageRank is like a snapshot in time, taken at the last Google update and bears no relevance to a websites value, in terms of traffic or link value. The reason for this is because you have no idea what has happened on that website between the last update and now. Websites change hands for good money and it may be a new owner, therefore will have a page rank in decline.
  2. If you are going to pretend like you know SEO by stating a required PageRank you should probably already know that Page Authority is a much better indicator of strength. 
  3. Why the hell would you exclude all those websites which will be ranked highly in the future but may be new, much better to check Domain Authority and see if the website is a good one, than relying on an update that happened 6 months ago.
  4. Websites with huge volumes of traffic, don't need or want your free content with links. They make lots of revenue and can generate quality content by paying writers. There are a select few who will offer Guest Posts but you may have trouble finding these in the usual Google Groups, Forums or Email subscriptions.
  5. My final thought on this is, if you are going to the effort of writing content, and your not just some fly-by-night spammer. Then why would you not invest the time to read the website you are posting on, its relatively easy to see if a website is good, read a few of the articles and if you like it, chances are others will, which means traffic will happen.
Answer 1

So to the question of what will my PageRank be at the next update? Firstly ask yourself the following questions:
  • Do you have lot's of content?
  • Is your content good?
  • Do you use Social Media well?
  • Do you get good traffic?
If you answer Yes to all the above points then you can expect a deserved PageRank. However that doesn't really answer your question does it? So here is some amazingly good stats which will confuse you further

Keyworddatabse did a huge study looking at websites with Page Authority and Page-rank to determine the correlation between the two. Below shows the most likely Page Authority against a PageRank as found by their extensive study.

PageRank 0  = Page Authority 20
PageRank 1  = Page Authority 29
PageRank 2  = Page Authority 46
PageRank 3  = Page Authority 46
PageRank 4  = Page Authority 46
PageRank 5  = Page Authority 46
PageRank 6  = Page Authority 73
PageRank 7  = Page Authority 84
PageRank 8  = Page Authority 89
PageRank 9  = Page Authority 94
PageRank 10  = Page Authority 97

As you can imagine the correlation gets stronger as you move to the higher end of websites, but also does not take into account age of the website. Stats can be useful and this is probably the most useful stat I have found on the subject, but remember nothing is an exact science, as Google say if it was then everyone would have a formula to manipulate their search engine.

You can find their interactive chart here

Answer 2

If you knew the exact date or even month of the next update, I would suggest you go to the bookies and get decent odds betting on your sure thing. In essence nobody knows, people already think it has been too long, and the old adage of being quarterly has been shot to shit. What you can expect is an update that will rock the Net and hammer bad practices just as hard as the last one did.

At the end of the day, your main concern will be whatever the purpose of your website is for. Blog owners are most worried about traffic, so use Google Analytics and figure out what works and what doesn't rather than panic about numbers and rankings. If your a business trying to reach customers then try to capture your audience, don't go for a numbers game you will find conversion rates can be really low. Social media and the like are the best for targeted traffic.

Good luck with it all.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Top 7 Innovations to improve efficiency and reduce costs

During a recession all business must do two things to survive, reduce costs and improve efficiency. Unfortunately many businesses tend to grow fat during boom times, leaving them with a large task of cost reduction during lean times. Implementing the culture of lean, allowing staff to take ownership for this is a good way to improve engagement which can be threatened by cost reduction programmes. There are 7 common ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency highlighted below, these are applicable to all sizes of business:

  1. Reduce travel costs - whether it is changing from flights to trains, reducing need for commuting with technology or reducing the number of locations you operate across there is always opportunity to improve this area.
    1. Allowing remote working has two fold benefits, its reduces your costs of equipment as workers use their own computers, it also improves effifiency as home workers tend to work longer, wasting no time on the daily commute.
    2. Changing from flying to rail is a good idea both for environmental reasons, but also cost reasons.
    3. Webcams and conferencing technology is cheap, if you don't have any them you really should get some. You can even get software to share your desktop; Bridgit software is easy to use and can help do remote presentations and enable to track users engagement with it, often the interactivity is easier to assess than a live audience. 
    4. Centralising staff can seem like a good strategy if you are a larger operation, of course doing this may involve redundancy programmes that can be harmful to engagement, doing this well is key.
  2. Reducing hours of your staff, this is a great way to reduce risk of talent drain and keep engagement high. Allowing job shares and the like may facilitate and enable current staff to stay in the organisation, with future possibility of increasing their hours.
  3. Go paperless, this is both environmentally sound and can save on stationary cost, and often ignored expense in business. With emails, shared documents, flash drives and intranets there really is no need for paper in the modern world. Invoicing can be done via email, sales and service can be conducted on tablets and reviews can be interactive using online forms.
  4. Stop emails and Meetings for two weeks. This excercise is a great way to really understand your business. Human nature dictates a desire for interaction, as such companies often get laden with meetings and communications often uneccessary. This technique is used to demonstrate two things. Firstly that you waste a lot of time composing and generating emails which are often ignored or simply repeated verbally later. But also if you have a lot of one to one interactions you will find that more ideas are generated and issues are resolved quicker. This is a huge boost to efficiency and doing this a couple of times a year will help people adopt the techniques and culture longer term.
  5.  Renegotiate with your suppliers; Like personal customers many businesses tend to forget that they are not the only business suffering during a recession. It is the best time to negotiate hard with suppliers for a cheaper deal. Increase your margins by putting contracts out for tender, reducing offers for stock or having your suppliers give you better value for money. You will be surprised with just how much you can save.
  6. Improve sales on your quietest day. No doubt in any business there are trends, cyclical trends of busy and quiet periods. The busy periods often subsidise your quiet ones. A technique to reduce this down time, improve your image and increase the return from your employees is to boost your business on these days. If, for instance, your business has a slow day on a Tuesday, why not introduce Crazy Tuesday where you offers services or products at really small margins. You may find this can even out your workload but it will also attract new business. Doing this on a limited scale, for instance first 12 customers on Tuesday, or first 8 slots on a Tuesday will get 40% discount will be a great incentive and boost income. Many businesses are afraid it won't increase overall trade just simply reduce the margins on that particular day, but remember your not making money on that day anyways so there is no loss involved only gain!
  7. Innovate. This cannot be stressed enough, in order to stay alive in business you need to forget failure, stop negativity and roll with the punches. Expand your offering, try new things, improve your processes and grow. Recession is a great time to expand your offering, because prices are low and competition is literally dying out. Cornering the market in a recession is how big business see triple figure growth in tough times. Research the areas that are perhaps in growth, low cost essentials, or high end luxuries are both areas of growth because most people want more for their money and rich people are getting richer. An example of this would be: A Gardner experiences a loss of 30% customers due to cutting back of household expenses. To differentiate himself and win a larger market share he introduces teaching to his role. Approaching local school he runs an after school club one night a week open to parents and pupils using some of the school grounds to plant seeds and gain interest from the local kids. This is a great idea and he also offers packages of started kits to would be home growers. Without making direct income from the after school club he increases his market share by attracting new customers, he also innovates by selling packs to start ups. Bought from local garden centre with small mark up he is also supporting other local business.

Having had experience of Resource Planning for the fifth largest financial institution in the world and also owning three small busineses I have experience cost cutting and efficiency at both ends of the spectrum, remarkably the principles remain the same. Do not fear tough times, use them to redefine your approach and if you successfully negotiate the recession you will find your growth will be exponential during periods of boom.

Feel free to leave comments and ask questions if you like.