Make money by saving money through the fine art of advocacy
Times are tough right now for small businesses—including ours. But you can be a financial advocate for your business and find ways to save money. Financial advocacy takes time—but a little bit of research, a few phone calls, a smile, and a “thank you” can be all it takes to reduce costs. During the Great Recession, we made a few changes that helped us stop leakage and save money—today we’re implementing some of those same changes to help weather this storm. Hopefully, these practical tips can help your business, too.
CARES Act PPP
Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which includes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This program provides funds for small businesses (generally with fewer than 500 employees). Program participants receive 2.5 times their financial need to cover the cost of payroll, rent, utilities, and health insurance for your employees for up to 8 weeks. To apply for the program:
- Speak with your attorney to make sure PPP is right for your business.
- Work with your local bank to obtain the necessary forms and work with your accountant to obtain the required business documents to apply.
- Remember this funding is a loan—it’s not free money. We remain hopefully optimistic this loan will be forgiven, but only time will tell.
If you’ve been approved and have received funding:
- Continue to maximize your business reserves where possible.
- Put the loan excess into a savings account so it’s there if you need it.
- Track every payment to prove your expenses qualify for forgiveness.
Ask your credit card company if there is anything that they can do to help you reduce your credit card expenses:
- If your card has an annual fee, ask if it can be waived or switch to a card that doesn’t have an annual fee.
- Request a reduced interest rate.
- See if you can make a payment over two months without additional fees.
If you can, pay off your balance and cancel your card. By switching to a local bank debit card, you’ll be forced to stay within your means. Be aware that business debit cards come with their purpose-built challenges—for example, in many cases, you’ll have to call your lender to get approval for larger purchases.
If your checking account goes negative, you may be charged overdraft fees. Ready reserves or lines of credit can be used to cover these fees, but you’ll have to pay it back (sometimes with interest). Ask your bank to set up a “sweep account” that will automatically transfer money from your savings account to your checking account to cover any overdrafts.
If you think that you might be short on rent or on a mortgage payment, reach out to your landlord or lender as soon as you can. You may be able to work together to find a proactive solution for a payment plan.
Has your attorney reviewed your business policy? Ask them to take a look to ensure that there aren’t any gaps in coverage. Talk to your local agent about your personal home and auto insurance and see if there are any opportunities to save money—you don’t know if you don’t ask!
Instead of making insurance payments a year in advance, consider monthly payments. Cash in hand gives you the ability to use it. In these times, this ability could be worth more than a small discount you’d get by paying everything upfront.
With a couple of phone calls to your providers, you may be able to reduce your internet or phone expenses. Ask if any new offers exist, or if they’re able to increase your internet speed to add some efficiency while working remotely.
Review your reoccurring expenses and determine what is “nice-to-have” versus “need-to-have” to potentially free up some of your budget.
Software companies often run specials for new customers—if you have a longstanding relationship with a company it doesn’t hurt to ask for the same or a similar discount for your loyalty.
Talk to your partners
These are practical tips that worked for us, but every business is different. We encourage you to talk to your business’s financial professional, accountant, attorney, and lender to find the best options for you.
Most importantly, continue to prepare for the storm that may or may not be coming. Continue to save, continue to tell your story, and continue to provide great customer service. When you do that, your business will be in a better place as we settle into our new normal. That’s strategic growth through intelligent design.