5 Expenses That Are Sinking Your Small Business

By on December 12, 2014
small business expenses

Every small business owner has their eye on business expenses at all time. However, there are simple things that are easy to overlook which could be costing you and your small business a lot of money that you’re missing. These expenses are sneaky and appear slowly, creeping up on you in ways you didn’t expect. They’re the totally not sexy money expenses that when you read them later on in this article, you’ll groan at but must absolutely bring to your attention for revising. Yes, these expenses might take a commitment of time from you or your accounting team to help dig into a little but, but that time will be well invested if it saves you a significant amount of money in the short and long-term future.

1. Rent or Mortgage Payments

Everything in life is negotiable. You shouldn’t stay compliant in your rent or leasing payments just because it’s what you’ve always paid. Let’s take a look at rent for your office space. If you’re renting, odds are good you’ve consistently paid incremental rent increases over the years. Those are expenses you come to expect and hopefully, budget for in your financial planning. However, have you ever stopped to see what the rents are in your area now? When you moved in you probably spent a significant amount of time negotiating rent and researching the area, or hired a broker to do that for you, before committing to a lease. But when leases are coming due or in the event of large business changes (i.e. construction outside your building restricting access, significant damage, etc.) you can always and should always look into renegotiating rental terms with the property manager. Don’t just approach them and say you want cheaper rent – do your homework! Build your case and approach them citing reasons for reduced rent or CAM fees, or any other perks and added value propositions you can negotiate for your business. Never accept a first offer and don’t settle for where you’re leasing from just because you’ve always been there – keep a vigilant eye on ways to bring your rental overhead down.

So what if you own your building space? You’re locked into your mortgage and the bank is never a place known for being open to negotiation. That’s partly true but the market isn’t something the bank can argue with either. What did you purchase your property at and what are current market interest rates? It may well be worth refinancing the building to lock in today’s historically low interest rates. There are upfront costs involved, you’ll need to factor in whether it’s right for your business, but it is something worth exploring. The different in even 0.5% interest on a commercial real estate building can mean big savings for your static overhead costs. Do some exploring and see if there are ways you can bring down mortgage payments.

If there aren’t ways for you to re-finance, could you sublease some of your building space to others for supplemental rent toward your mortgage? Co-working and open space office plans are very hot right now. How might you be able to gain from that trend and sublease some space?

2. Insurance Premiums

You should have a professional accountant who helps you with all your financial planning and insurance carriers, but this is still something to visit. Premiums and policies change and you should annually be reviewing your insurance policies to see where you can save costs, so long as cost cutting doesn’t negatively impact the safety of your coverage. Are you putting all your eggs in one basket at an insurance company? This can be a great way to cut costs under an umbrella policy. Another great tactic is if you already have all your various assets under one insurance company, you can always explore if breaking apart your coverage will save you money. In most cases having all your coverage under one carrier saves you money, but in some cases you are better served splitting your various insurance needs across different companies to cover your business. Just make sure you or someone on your team does their research to see which is better for your business and your bottom line. Also, you can always call and try to negotiate better rates or more coverage for the same premium you’re paying. Big customers and long-time customers should have more pull to negotiate better terms for your insurance policies.

3. Healthcare Policy Offsets

Many healthcare plans offer discounts and lowered premiums for certain offset activities that help improve your company’s overall health. Why would they do this? If you incentivize your staff to stay healthier, there’s less likelihood of their need to use the doctor and their health insurance plan, making you a less expensive group for them to cover on their end. It’s an attempt to incentivize better health up front so it costs them less to cover you and your employees (because you’re all healthier now) later. Ask your healthcare provider what incentive programs it offers to help offset your overall policy costs. Many offer things like employee wellness plans, health screenings and other preventative medical programs to encourage your employees to stay healthy.

4. New Equipment Leases

As a small business, you need equipment and technology to run your business, but you have to find the balance. If your equipment is too old and outdated, it will slow down your business and cost you more in manpower time than the slow equipment is worth by just replacing it. However, keep an eye on the spending creep that surrounds technology. Much of the equipment that you own can be leased instead of bought, and can be reused and repaired for cheaper and longer than buying new. Only you will know when the tipping point is right to spend on more equipment, but be very weary of taking on the cost of new equipment and even new leases, which are big fixed costs for businesses and could drag down your profitability.

5. Non-utility Players

Most small businesses simply don’t have the resources for dedicated professionals that are too heavily niche targeted. You need to screen, hire and keep utility players who can step into and across various roles to get things done in your business. For example you probably won’t need a dedicated social media marketer, that’s too niche and they won’t be able to run a holistic marketing campaign for you. In fact you may not even be able to hire a dedicated marketing person but might need a marketing and sales hybrid role. You shell out a lot of money for employees so hiring a non-utility player can be a real waste of money for most small businesses. Make sure you’re clear up front with potential hires what you need from them and the various roles you’ll be expecting them to play and perform.

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Matthew Toren

About Matthew Toren

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right .