Posts filed under ‘Money Savers’

The Plateau – If you’re at a Flat Point in your Business

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Last week and this week, we are addressing specific situations of small business owners.  Last week, we covered The Upstart, The Recessionista, the Mompreneur (or Papapreneur).  Today, we’ll be discussing “The Plateau”.  I like to describe businesses that are at a standstill as having reached a plateau.

What is a plateau?

A business that has stopped growing (no changes in profit) has reached a plateau.  This is a business that has “maxed out” its market and its ability, but profits continue to remain the same.  In my observation, a business in the wedding industry that is flat for 3 years has reached a plateau.

Some questions to ask yourself…

The following are some questions that can be helpful to determine whether you’ve really “maxed out” your business’ potential:

  • What percentage of market share does your business currently capture?  Is it a large enough share that you feel you’ve truly captured the market?
  • What have your patterns of profit been since the inception of your business?  Have their been ebbs and flows? Is this part of the cycle?
  • Have you made changes to your business in the last 2-3 years?  Have those changes resulted in additional profits, or does your business remain flat?

“Maxing out”

The issue of “maxing out” is a big one for businesses that are established.  After a few years in business, you will start itching for new ways to grow.  You may start seeking another market to enter.  You may start thinking of ways to increase profits by doing more of the same, but with a new sea of customers.

Sean Low, Consultant to those in the Business of Being Creative, recently wrote a post on his blog discussing the phenomena of “Growth vs. Expansion“.  In this article, he discusses expanding your core business beyond your current offering.  He emphasizes that by finding new lines of business, you will be expanding your business to the customer base that already knows and loves you.  Sean describes a high-end wedding stationer who expands into other design specialities: “graphic design, papery beyond life events (and life events beyond weddings), interior design fabrics (wallpaper, textiles, linens, etc.), and flooring (dance floors, tile, carpets).”

Many small businesses may feel like they’ve hit a plateau because they have maximized their current offering, but they haven’t even begun to touch the surface when it comes to offering a whole array of products, conceivably becoming a lifestyle brand of sorts.

The mindset of Plateau

In my opinion, businesses don’t typically (and truly) plateau.  It’s the business owner’s mindset that may be at a plateau.  I am guilty of this myself.  We start to feel like we can’t do anything more to grow the business.  We are stuck in our ways.  We are stuck in a pattern of success and are scared of change.  So, we stay the same.  So, how to get around this?

Overcoming the Plateau

Derek of Prevential.com wrote recently about ways to overcome a plateau.  These are my favorites of his recommendations and some of my own:

  • Seek Outside Consultation
    Consultants can give you a fresh perspective on your business.  They can see things you don’t.  They can give you insight into what works and what doesn’t.
  • Get a Mentor
    If you don’t yet have a mentor, or an advisor, now is the time to get one!  A mentor or advisor can be like a fairy godmother in helping some of your greater goals happen.
  • Take Some Risks
    Many business owners who reach a plateau, have stopped making changes and taking risks.  What’s holding you back?
  • Find Growth/Expansion Opportunities
    Like we discussed earlier, how can you expand your lines of business?  How can you broaden your brand?
  • Scale Business Down
    Instead of taking the offensive (growing income), how about taking the defensive (cutting expenses)?  Where can you cut the fat in your business?  If you can trim some of the inefficiencies and wasted costs, chances are you can maximize your profit to a whole new level.

And, if you find yourself in a plateau in 2009, it may be a case of economic slowdown.  Scaling your business down now may mean that you are more efficient when the economy picks up again.  In a few years, you’ll certainly start to see an upswing in your profits.

See you back here tomorrow for “The Shy One” for business owners whose own ambition scares them.

July 6, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

The Recessionista ~ If you are having to cut back in your business

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Many many many businesses are finding themselves in a tough spot this year. I could sit down and write a bunch of money-saving tips for you, but you’ve probably heard them all!

I’m going to take it back to BASICS:

  • Know your numbers!
    You are going to hear me say this a million times in our relationships as blogger and reader. You must know the numbers to your business. Learn how cash travels in and out of your business. Study the patterns. Write it all down. Small businesses fail time and time again because business owners do not know their numbers. You can hire an accountant to do the dirty work, but know what your business is doing in $ and #. You’ll make better business decisions if you do.
  • Know what’s contributing to your income and how to maximize your promotions.
    During a down economy you must work harder to attract customers. This could mean ramping up your advertising, increasing your networking, or maximizing your level of service. You need to know what’s working for you by analyzing your promotional return on investment. Are you paying for ads that don’t lead to sales? Are you nurturing relationships that don’t cost anything but result in high income referrals? This is the time to maximize your money makers.
  • Take a look at wasted money.
    If you know your numbers, you’ll be able to determine where you are spending money that you don’t need to be spending. I did a series of posts to give you ideas on where you can cut some corners. Make a budget and stick to it. And, make sure that you aren’t cutting out on some the most important segments of your business: branding, service, and quality.

And, some words of inspiration…

  • You are not alone
    According to The Wedding Report the average cost of a wedding went down 30% from 2007 to 2008. I talk to small businesses every day that have had a drop in the number of customers this year and a drop in the dollar values per order.
  • Talk about it!
    If I’m having a slow week, it helps to talk with other businesses about their challenges. It helps to hear how they are making due with the troubles of a bad economy. (psstt… would love to know what you are doing about this! Post a comment below.)
  • And, if you really need inspiration…
    Hopefully, you are not facing bankruptcy (or anywhere close to it)… but if you need to feel pumped to learn that many successful geniuses have also faced failures, read this.
  • Freshen up your Branding
    If you have even just a few hundred dollars do something to freshen up your branding and website. When business is booming everyone in the industry will get a piece of the pie. But, in a down economy customers can be more choosy. If your branding is dated and hasn’t been updated in 4-5 years (or more!) it’s time for a facelift. You might love the designs you chose a few years ago, but trends change. What is the customer looking for? What does the customer expect? What is happening in the wedding market right now? Leila Kahlil of Be Inspired PR recently wrote a great post on Branding. In this post she discusses the branding of your company and the branding of yourself.
  • Be Creative
    Have fun with it! To me, this is an opportunity to do new things with my business. Find new ways to market yourself. Find new people to reach out to and network. Find new ways to promote your brand. Host an event. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Now more than ever is the time to be innovative. Here are few ways that you can spice things up.

And like everything… this too shall pass!

July 1, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

Cost Cutting Thursday!

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Every Thursday, we introduce FIVE COST CUTTING TIPS.  Here are our favorites for the week.  (Some of this week’s tips were taken from SMB Blog, Information for Small Businesses):

  1. Cut the little things
    Adjust the temperature when no one will be in the office, invest in water filters instead of bottled water, use energy efficient light bulbs, save energy by trading in the big CRT monitors for flat screens or take energy saving a step further and trade you desktop computers for laptops.
  2. Rely on the internet
    Embracing the Internet can save you ink, paper, stamps and time. Emails all of your documents, flyers, and bills.  Many bill pay options are available through your bank which will eliminate buying checks and the cost of postage.
  3. Embrace telecommuting
    If you’re tempted to move into an office but aren’t sure given the economy, you might want to hold off for a little bit.  By working form home you not only save the cost of rent, but also the cost of driving to the office.  You’ll also save on the equipment to furnish that space and the monthly office expenses (phone, internet and so on.)
  4. Shop around your insurance
    If you have business insurance (and you should!) shop around to see if you are getting the best rates.  It’s easy to become complacent and pay that same premium every month.
  5. Pack a lunch
    Don’t become a total martyr… it is nice to eat out once in a while for lunch.  But, by bring your lunch to work, you save more money.  While this is a personal expense, it affects your ability to spend money in other ways: like dinner out on the weekends!

Have some cost cutting tips to share with us?  Email them to sage-wedding-pros@gmail.com .

April 30, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Cost Cutting Thursday! (where NOT to cut costs)

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Every Thursday, we introduce five cost cutting tips for your business.  However, there are certain areas of your business where you should not cut costs.  These are areas of your business that if you skimp on (or change) during a recession, you will sacrifice the integrity of your brand.

This week, I want to present  FIVE COSTS YOU SHOULD NOT BE CUTTING:

  1. Branding
    Your brand is everything.  This is an area that you cannot afford to cut corners during a recession.  You can make decisions about how you spend your money to promote your brand.  But, I would not change the way you present your brand in order to save money.  For example, I love my business cards.  Being in a stationery business, it is important that they reflect our brand.  If I were to lessen the quality of the cards, I would lose my brand integrity.  I can change the style if I want, but I must remain true to the brand of my product.
  2. Service
    Good customer service is priceless.  The mission of your business should not change in good times or bad times.  This is an area where you can shine.  Give your customer a value proposition and guarantee them that your service is worth the price of your services.
  3. The “little things”
    Every business has those “little things” that make it different and special.  Keep up with the little touches.  It’s what has given your business its outstanding reputation.
  4. Quality
    Do not skimp on the quality of your product during a recession.  If you lessen the quality of your offering, you are threatening the market niche you have defined.  It will be difficult to regain your target clientele when the economy improves.  Let’s say you are a wedding cake designer and you built your business on the reputation of using the best ingredients.  If you decide to cut costs and replace your yummy delicious sugar with a generic brand, your customers will notice the difference (bleh!) and it will affect your profits.
  5. Appearance
    This is the “overall look” of your business.  Have you let your blog slide?  Is your website outdated?  Is your shop sloppy?  You can still cut costs without letting the overall appearance of your business deteriorate.  Appearance, like branding, is the first thing the client sees… and, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Do you have thoughts to share with Sage Wedding Pros?  Post a comment, or send us an email at SageWeddingPros-at-gmail.com .

April 23, 2009 at 6:00 am 7 comments

Cost Cutting Thursday!

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Every Thursday, we introduce FIVE COST CUTTING TIPS.  Here are our favorites for the week:

  1. Cut your phone bill (landline)
    If you have a landline, there are many options out there for less expensive phone service.  It is a very competitive market so shop around for the best rates.  If you have a home office, you can get a bundled rate of internet, cable, and phone where the phone portion is very inexpensive.  Vonage also offers a great deal for internet-based phone service for $25/month of unlimited calls.
  2. Cut your taxes
    If you did your own taxes and broke your neck to get them in by midnight last night, you probably told yourself you’d never do it again.  So don’t.  Chances are that there are tax savings that you might not be maximizing.  Hire a tax accountant.  The cost outlay is minimal compared to the taxes he or she could be saving you.
  3. Share your office space
    If you have an office, you can cut some of your cost by sharing it with another wedding professional.  If business is slower than you’d like (given the recent economy), you may not be maximizing it’s use.  Ask people in the industry to see if they are interested in getting out of the home office and into an “outside office” 2-3 days/week .
  4. Stop auto-pay on your credit cards
    It’s so convenient to have charges automatically drawn from your credit cards each month, but do you remember everything that is being charged every month?  And, do you maximize that service?  Last year, I was paying $15 for an online service.  At first, I was very diligent about maximizing its use.  After time, I got busy and forgot about it.  But, they didn’t forget to charge me the $15 every month.  Cancel auto-pay on anything you are not using.
  5. Are you maximizing the dues on organizations?
    I think belonging to organizations is very important part of our learning and networking in this industry, so do not cut out this cost to simply save money.  However, are you paying for dues on organizations to which you don’t participate?  Similar to the auto-pay, you may be paying dues monthly (or weekly) to a group that you do not attend meetings or functions.  If you feel your active participation in the group is simply on hiatus, then continue to be a member (and pay your dues).  But, if you seriously can’t say you are committed to the organization, then rethink the cost you are putting into it.

Do you have cost cutting tips for your fellow wedding professionals? If so, please email them to SageWeddingPros@gmail.com.

April 16, 2009 at 6:23 am 2 comments

Cost Cutting Thursday!

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Every Thursday, we introduce FIVE COST CUTTING TIPS.  Here are our favorites for the week:

  1. Apply for Credit Terms with your vendors
    If you have solid purchasing history and good payment record with your vendors, you can ask for credit terms.  They’ll give you an application to fill out.  Typically you’ll be put on 2/10 net 30.  This means that instead of paying at the time of order, or receipt of goods, you’ll have 30 days to pay your invoice.  However, if you pay within the 10 days you’ll receive a 2% discount on purchases.  This 2% can add up over time and you may not be maximizing on it.
  2. Buy wholesale
    There are some things you may already be purchasing wholesale especially if you carry inventory for a product related business (like wedding invites).  However, there is a world of wholesale that is available that most people aren’t maximizing.  Rogie Faber, Director of Internet Operations for Vogue Fabrics, recently shared with me, “I am always surprised at how many event planners and linen companies come to us for wholesale fabrics to make table linens & chair covers in off-beat styles or colors, tulle and netting for pew swags, muslin for custom painted aisle runners with the couples name and wedding date, etc.  They order directly from our Wholesale Fabrics section on our site. ”  You can google “wholesale ______” (anything) and are sure to come up with great sources for anything needed for your wedding business.
  3. Use Craig’s List
    A couple years ago my laptop needed an upgrade.  I spent over $200 at a boutique repair shop adding more memory and debugging it.  Recently, my husband went on to Craig’s List found a young man doing upgrades for $30 as a side-gig.  And, his computer runs as great as mine!  In this economy, you are sure to find a lot of people selling great services at a discount.  Craig’s List is the place for hidden talent at discounted rates.
  4. Company Liquidations
    You can find great office equipment at company liquidations.  Either these companies have gone out of business, or they are simply upgrading their assets.  You can typically find these on Craig’s List or by googling “company liquidation sale”.  Some companies are constantly upgrading their equipment and have warehouses of office goods.  Here, in Seattle, Boeing has a pretty amazing warehouse of desks, office chairs, filing cabinets, etc.
  5. Get a Costco Membership
    Costco has a great corporate membership that gives you really great benefits, in addition to their low pricing on all products.  The savings in office supplies alone is well worth this membership.

Do you have great cost-cutting tips? Email them to us at SageWeddingPros-at-gmail.com.

April 9, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Cost Cutting Thursday!

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Every Thursday, we introduce FIVE COST CUTTING TIPS.  This week, we provide you with cost cutting tips in relation to your postage and shipping.

Here are our favorites for the week:

  1. Recycled boxes
    If you ship product, shipping materials can get costly.  Go onto Craig’s List and you are sure to find boxes for sale at a discount or free.  Often times, these boxes have never been used, or are slightly weathered.
  2. Shipping rates
    Typically the cost of shipping to a client is passed on to them.  However, keeping this cost low is important – particularly when consumer spending is down.  Shop around for shipping rates.  The lowest rates are usually available from US Post OfficeUPS and Fedex charge more, but offer some more guarantees.  With my business, I send “lower importance” (easily replaceable items) using USPS and “higher importance” items with Fedex.
  3. Size of the box
    The size of the box can make or break huge differences in pricing.  With Fedex, once you get into the “jumbo box” category the pricing almost doubles.  Investigate how you can package your box in a tighter and smaller container.
  4. Flat mailer vs. hard mailer
    I mail things to clients using “hard pack” envelopes.  I love them because they keep samples free from folding.  However, the difference between mailing these and a “soft” envelope is ~$1-2/item.  When you’re sending 100’s of things in a year, this adds up.  Look into the USPS website and determine which options make the most sense for what you are sending, and how you can cut some of your mailing expenses.
  5. Buy “forever stamps”
    In the last couple years, the USPS has offered a “forever stamp”.  These are stamps that can be used forever – even after the postage rate has increased (which is typically 1-3 cents per year).  Stock up on these stamps (you can buy rolls of 100) and you could save a significant amount on postage from year to year.

Have some good cost cutters to share with us? Email SageWeddingPros-at-gmail.com with your tips!

April 2, 2009 at 6:00 am 1 comment

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