“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
That old “penny” slogan may be ancient and corny, but
it’s never outdated. Save enough pennies and they add up to dimes, dimes add up
to dollars, and dollars eventually can add up to enough money to boost your
company’s profitability and your personal lifestyle. And, since time equals
money in the business world, saving time amounts to saving money. So without
further ado, let’s review some ways to save pennies-dimes-dollars-time in your
business and personal lives.
1. Take early lunches. When eating lunch at restaurants, you’ll find service a
lot better at 11:00-11:30 than during the rush starting around noon. Servers
will take and deliver your order quicker, and you’ll habitually trim 15 minutes
or more off the time it takes to eat. Construction people typically start work
earlier than the typical 8:30-9:00 starts for most businesses, so your stomach
ought to be growling well before noon anyway.
2. Shop with promotional cycles. Study the flyers put out by office supply
stores, Home Depot/Lowe’s and your supply houses. You’ll start noticing
patterns to their product discounting, and that’s the time to stock up.
Bargains are available on many things after the holidays, and January typically
offers many clearance sales by retailers. Learn these rhythms and capitalize on
3. Buy private labels. Big office and construction supply stores typically
carry a slew of private-label merchandise that functions just as well as the
brand names they carry, but at a much cheaper price. Does it really matter
whose name is on tape and paper clips or hammers and nails?
4. Buy used tools and equipment. Used tools don’t necessarily mean broken-down
tools. Many contractors have gone out of business in recent times, and are
selling off assets to pay bills and keep roofs over their heads. You can find
great bargains on eBay and from other secondary markets for tools, equipment
and other merchandise still in good condition.
5. Stop buying stuff you don’t need. This is a discipline that needs to be
enforced in conjunction with items #2, #3 and #4. By all means shop for
bargains, but just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need to buy
it, or buy it in more quantity than you can use in a reasonable time frame.
Paying $90 for 10 widgets gets a better unit price than $10 for a single
widget, but isn’t worth doing if you only use one widget a
6. Get the best banking deals. Most successful businesses have longstanding
banking relationships, and there’s something to be said for that. At the same
time, it also makes sense to shop around for the best rates on CDs and savings
accounts. Banks frequently come out with new financial offerings and
introductory rates that aren’t always publicized to existing clients. Tell your
account rep that if s/he values your business, you wish to be informed of all
new offerings, and be given the chance to take advantage of them even if they
are aimed at new customers. Park as little money as possible in checking
accounts, and a lot more in accounts that earn more interest, but whose funds
could be swept into your checking account when needed.
7. More email, and less telephone. Routine information can be exchanged much
more quickly via email than telephone. It’s also more precise and provides
ready-made documentation. Where phone contact is important, set up
conversations in advance via email, telling what you want to talk about,
whatever information is required and decision deadlines, then nail down an
appointment time for the call. This will avoid a lot of phone
8. Exert “reply to all” discipline. Encourage everyone on staff to minimize
“reply to all” responses. It’s hard to set precise guidelines because this is a
judgment call, but so much time gets wasted copying everyone on messages
relevant mainly to one or two recipients. Simple “thank you” or “you’re welcome”
courtesy replies in particular don’t need to extend across the board.
9. Photograph job mishaps. I used to advise contractors to supply cheap cameras
to their work crews to document jobsite damages, accidents or other conditions
leading to disputes. Nowadays, most people have cell phones with photo
capabilities, so you don’t even need to issue cameras in most cases. Simply
instruct your crews to use their cell phones to document situations where
visual evidence could prove helpful.
10. Eliminate paper wherever possible. Printouts waste time, ink and paper, and
wear out equipment, so minimize them. Get in the habit of keeping electronic
files (with automatic backups – very important) for routine business tasks. Set
the fax machine to print out reports only for transmissions that don’t go
11. Get the best gas prices. A station near my office almost always sells gas
for at least 10 cents a gallon cheaper than anywhere else around, so I do
almost all of my fill-ups there. This seems a no-brainer, but I’m astounded by
the number of people who don’t look around for the best gas prices. This often
is the case with construction crews driving company vehicles. Warehouse stores
like Costco offer member discounts on gas prices, and you often can negotiate
discounts if you operate a sizable fleet.
12. Organize batch work. Henry Ford revolutionized industry by coming up with
the assembly line to boost productivity, and the same principle applies to many
tasks both in the office and field. Let certain kinds of tasks accumulate until
your people can group them into a single kind of work, such as billing,
mailings, filing, etc. Shop prefabrication can save a lot of time and material
compared to assembling things on a jobsite where weather and other conditions
may hamper productivity.
13. Strive for productive meetings. Few business activities waste more time
than pointless meetings where everything gets discussed but nothing resolved.
Don’t hold a meeting without a preprinted agenda, and then stick to it.
Establish times for both beginning and end of the meeting, and what is to be
accomplished. The person in charge of the meeting takes responsibility for
moving it along, even if that means curtailing discussion and stopping digressions.
Take detailed notes and record who is expected to do what, with deadlines. Then
follow up to make sure everyone performs as expected, or can explain why
14. Be an energy miser. Even small offices can save thousands of dollars a year
in electricity and fuel bills by eliminating bad habits. Turn off all lights,
computers and copiers for the night, unplug chargers, replace incandescent
lights with fluorescent bulbs or the new LEDs. Consider timers if appropriate.
Use programmable thermostats, and consider ceiling fans to help reduce a/c
costs in summer. Humidifiers in winter can make the surroundings feel warmer
and enable you to turn down the heat two degrees to three degrees with no loss
of comfort. Reduce water temperature settings, change furnace filters
regularly, and wash full loads. Individually, all of these things contribute
rather trivial savings, but when done together as a matter of habit, they add
up to big bucks.
15. Buy bundled telecommunications. Fierce competitive battles are taking place
by telecommunications providers, and the best buys are for their bundled
services – phone, Internet and TV for a single price. Cell phones can be added
to the plan in some cases. Just like banks, the telecoms often offer steeply
discounted specials to new customers. Existing customers often can get the same
deal simply by calling the customer service department and ask for it. (I tried
this with my cable provider for a getaway home I own, and got the newcomer deal
without an argument.)
16. “Measure twice, cut once.” This old construction adage applies not only to
field work but also to drive time. Every time you’re tempted to run out to a
jobsite or visit a business contact in person, think of any other stops you
might make in the same direction. If the activity can be postponed, wait until
you can make several appointments along the way to save time, fuel and vehicle
wear and tear. Speaking of which, be sure to have all work vehicles on a
maintenance schedule. This does not cost money; it saves a bundle in the long
Smart Business: Tips to Save Time and Money
September 1, 2011