Have a business or technology question? Send it to ask@NCET.org and if selected, NCET’s panel of business and technology experts will answer it in our monthly column.
How can I reduce some of my operational expenses?
This is a very timely question as there are many business owners trying to figure out how to reign in monthly overhead expenses. Before moving to the extreme of eliminating your workforce, here are a few ideas that may help to quickly reduce your overhead expenses:
- . If you are taking credit cards as a form of payment, chances are you’ve felt nickeled-and-dimed to death, not to mention confused by the statement. Instead of continuing to throw your hands-up and concede, take the time to explore your options as not all merchant processors are created equal. With some due diligence, you could potentially save hundreds or even thousands a year in fees.
- These services can cost your business big, but for a nominal monthly fee, you can sign up for a subscription service like http://www.stamps.com or Shipstation.com, which provides access to commercial rates saving you upwards of 25% on postage and shipping. The savings can add up if you are regularly shipping envelopes and packages.
- With so many businesses moving to virtual environments, chances are you have an empty office or two in your building. Why not sublet that space? Many independent professionals desire a commercial location but cannot afford current market prices or don’t want to sign a long-term lease. Create a win-win by sub-letting an office for a fixed monthly rate. If you are obligated to a long-term lease and have space, why not get some help with the rent?
When it comes to reducing overhead expenses, don’t be afraid to get creative. There are likely several little things lurking in your payables inbox you either don’t need, can be combined with another service, or the terms can be negotiated. I have found most vendors are willing to work with you, especially if it means helping you stay in business and keeping you as their customer.
Lindsay Bradley is the Founder of Guided Arrows (www.guidedarrows.com), a business consulting firm focused on helping businesses overcome the everyday challenges of business ownership. She is passionate about optimizing business operations, elevating people, and creating value through innovative, conscious, and sustainable strategies. Lindsay currently serves on the NCET Board of Directors as VP of Email Services for Biz Bite and Biz Café.
What should I look for in a Home Office when I buy a new house?
Whether working from home is a required necessity or a work & lifestyle choice, planning for a home office is an important consideration whether buying a house or considering a re-assignment of space for your home office. The first considerations for buying a house should always be location, size and required rooms, price, schools, commute, and lifestyle choices. Once the basics are determined, then consideration for a home office come into play. There are 3 areas for consideration: Location, Atmosphere, Technical.
- Location. If you are buying a home with a separate office, then you only need to review the next two considerations. If the required bedrooms for your family and guests allow one bedroom to serve as an office, then pick the room and move to the next two considerations. If you do not have a spare room, then you will need to find space somewhere in the house. Sometimes there is space in the master bedroom, sometimes in the living or family room. Sometimes you can plan to split a bedroom between being a guest room and an office. In doing this, consider the logistics of how you will be able to conduct your work while entertaining visitors. When buying a house, finding one with a standalone/dedicated space is the best choice.
- Atmosphere. You want to consider how you work. Do you need quiet space, isolated from the normal household noises? Do you need to be able to conduct phone calls or on-line conferences frequently? Do you need to have private conversations? These considerations drive the need for space separate from the rest of the house’s everyday activities. If you can’t accommodate separate space, then you need to figure out how to have the necessary privacy to conduct business. You should consider other factors as well. How is your concentration? Are you easily distracted? You should even consider how messy your office normally is. My wife would not be happy if my office space was in the living room because everything piles up. Finally, do you need office space for two? In that case you may need to use the 2nd largest bedroom in the house for the dual office or use two separate spaces.
- Technical. There are two aspects. One is an optimum layout for the office, conducive to the way you work. Second involves mobile phone coverage and available bandwidth. I had a client who was a regional service manager for a high-tech company. We looked at townhouses for a few months. In each home, he pulled out his cell phone to check how many bars he had for his company’s private network. He also set requirements for the internet service provider and the available bandwidth. This is a key consideration. Be sure you can get strong cell coverage, either directly or through the addition of equipment to amplify the signal. When at my desk, I like to have my PC set up with a direct ethernet connection to the internet instead of via Wi-Fi. I do the same with my printer. Be sure all the connections are available or can be made available into the office, including a TV connection if you like to keep up with news, sports, or soap operas while working.
Jock Ochiltree is a Realtor® at eXp Realty (www.jockochiltree.exprealty.com), a long-term veteran of high tech, and NCET’s VP of Tech Wednesday.
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