Here are eight easy ways to simplify your life and impact your bottom line in 2017
By William Lynott
The start of a new year offers an opportunity to revitalize your groundwater business for the challenges and opportunities lying ahead in the coming months. Here are eight easy steps you can take to simplify your life, lower your expenses, and pump up net income in 2017 and all the years ahead.
No. 1. Slash your costs for keeping in touch
As for keeping yourself reachable, you’ve never had it so good. With your cell phone, broadband Internet access, regular telephone service, and perhaps even a pager, you’re never far from anyone you want to reach or anyone who wants to reach you.
Unfortunately, you’re probably paying a lot more than you realize for all that communication. Contact your primary provider to see what bundled plans are available in your area. You may be surprised how much you can save by giving all your communications business to one company. In addition to saving you money, dealing with just one supplier will greatly simplify your bill-paying procedures.
If you’re already dealing with only one communications company, give them a call and ask for an analysis of your account. Companies are constantly coming up with new bundling plans and one of them might save you a bundle. But don’t expect them to come looking for you. You’ll have to ask them.
No. 2. Give your accountant a cut in pay
Sure, you hate all that paperwork and record keeping that have become part of your life. Don’t we all? Nevertheless, if you find yourself scrambling to find receipts and other records for your accountant at tax time every year, you’re probably costing yourself some real money.
Hopefully, your business records are well organized, but that may not be true for your personal tax records. The certified public accountant Tom Normoyle of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, says even the simplest of systems—one file for income and one file for deductible expenses—can be a money saver.
“When clients present me with a shoebox full of unsorted papers, I have to charge them for the hours it takes to make sense of them,” Normoyle says. “A simple filing system that separates records of different types is one sure way to reduce my fee.”
No. 3. Save money even while you’re paying bills
No one enjoys paying bills. That’s why we sometimes postpone this unwelcome job to the point of risking late payment fees and blemishes on our credit reports. Paying bills may never be fun, but new technology has made the task quicker, easier, and less costly.
If you’re still writing checks and sticking stamps on envelopes, here’s something you need to know.
Virtually all banks have online components these days and most offer free online bill paying. Once you sign up and then choose a password, you log on to the bank’s website where you enter the payee’s name and address, phone number, and the amount to be paid. The bank takes over from there, either mailing a check to the payee or making an electronic transfer of the money.
You need to enter the name and address of a payee only once. Each entry is memorized, so the next time you make a payment you only need to click on the payee’s name and enter the amount. The system will enter the rest of whatever information is needed.
You save precious time, the cost of postage—now nearly half a buck for every check you mail, buying checks, and trips to the post office. What are you waiting for?
Saying, “charge it” is quick and easy, but that habit, uncontrolled, can lead you and your business down the road to financial oblivion.
No. 4. Slay the credit card monster
Life as we know it today would not be possible without credit. All the same, credit has its dark side as well. Credit cards can be compared to drugs: they offer short-term pleasure in exchange for long-term pain.
Saying, “charge it” is quick and easy, but that habit, uncontrolled, can lead you and your business down the road to financial oblivion. Once you become hooked on credit cards, it can be painfully difficult, and sad to say sometimes near impossible, to free yourself.
Independent studies continue to show the more credit cards you carry around, the more likely you are to dig yourself into a bottomless financial pit. Equally important, what if your wallet or purse, heavy with plastic, is lost or stolen? The risks of identity theft skyrocket.
So if your wallet or purse is bulging with plastic, now is the time to relieve yourself of that hazardous burden. Perhaps you have one of those “reward” cards for personal use and a separate card for business. That’s all you need. Dump the rest and your wallet will be bulging with extra money you have saved instead of all those plastic squares.
A note of caution here. Avoid cancelling several credit cards all at once—that could affect your all-important credit score. Instead, cancel them over a period of months and be sure to keep the two cards you have had the longest. The credit scoring companies like to see a long history of good credit performance.
No. 5. Dig yourself out from under all that paper
With all the paperwork you’re required to slog through for business purposes, you don’t need to add to the burden by hanging on to reams and reams of paper because you worry you might need a particular sheet one day. Most of it will never see the light of day.
If that sounds like you, organizing guru Maria Gracia of “Get Organized Now!” fame (www.getorganizednow.com) suggests these guidelines to help end the nightmare of out-ofcontrol paper. She calls them Using the 4 D’s:
- Do it
- Delay it (file it in an action file or archive file)
- Delegate it
- Dump it.
She adds the tip of opening mail over a wastebasket and immediately getting rid of mail you don’t need, such as catalogs or advertising offers of no interest. Then, simply use the 4-D system on what is left.
No. 6. Get rid of insurance you don’t need
The cost of insurance is a major burden for small business owners these days. That’s why it’s important to cut through the smoke generated by the insurance industry. In addition to business liability insurance, there are only the five types you must have: life, health, disability (as long as you are working), homeowner’s, and auto.
For most people, the rest are a waste of money.
Life insurance on your kids is a classic example of insurance you don’t need (unless you’re raising a future child acting star). Also, never agree to credit life insurance or to car rental insurance. Your own auto policy or credit card will probably cover those.
Once you’ve pared things down to those five types, look into consolidating some of the remaining policies with one company. That’s often a money saver right there.
No. 7. Go the extra mile
Never forget a complaint from a customer can easily be turned into a valuable asset. A major retail marketing study some years ago revealed customers whose complaints were satisfactorily resolved became better customers of the company than they were before the incident that triggered the complaint.
Some of the most successful companies in the world have been built on a foundation revolving around the principle that customer complaints provide a valuable opportunity to build the business.
L.L. Bean, founder of one of the world’s most successful catalog order firms, suffered what could have been a disastrous setback when starting out. Shortly after he began shipping his first waterproof hand-made boots, complaints that the boots leaked started coming in from customers.
Determined to fulfill his promise of customer satisfaction, Bean returned the full purchase price to every customer and then set out to correct the flaw in the boot’s design. That was the very beginning of the customer loyalty that helped make L.L. Bean what it is today.
Sometimes, satisfying a customer complaint calls for measures you may feel are unreasonable. Whenever that happens, remember to think of all the cost in time and money as an investment in your future.
Once you’ve sold yourself and your employees on why your business is the best choice for customers who require the utmost in professional workmanship and dependability, it is essential to focus your marketing efforts on ways to promote this image to both customers and prospects.
In short, make customer satisfaction the hallmark of your business.
No. 8. Adopt a marketing mentality
If customer satisfaction is the mashed potatoes, marketing is the gravy.
But keep in mind that marketing is a complex challenge, all the more so in a business operating in a specialized niche such as water well drilling and pump installation. If you are to achieve optimum success in marketing, you must be willing to spend time studying, reading, and analyzing your market and your competition.
Keeping your business healthy and profitable requires an ongoing marketing program. Simply put, there is no other way. While they are essential—optimum performance, quality workmanship, competitive prices, and dependability will not do it by themselves.
Marketing embraces all facets of your operation. To be an effective marketer, you must nurture and promote your business image, sell yourself as well as your service, and concentrate on making your business the best choice for demanding customers.
While any time is a good time to adopt business-building strategies such as these, the fresh start of a new year presents an especially opportune time to strengthen your management skills.
William Lynott is a management consultant, author, and lecturer who writes on business and financial topics for a number of publications. He wrote the Your Money column for Water Well Journal from 2001 to 2016. His book, Money: How to Make the Most of What You’ve Got, is available through any bookstore. You can reach him at email@example.com or through his website: www.blynott.com.