Be smart in cut­ting costs, says ex­pert

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Etbusiness Daily - By JOHN KRALEVICH john.kralevich@pe­ter­bor­oughto­

CUT­TING costs re­mains a pri­mary con­cern for many small lo­cal busi­nesses, but tim­ing and tar­get­ing the right ar­eas for po­ten­tial cuts is cru­cial.

That’s the view of Mark suth­ern, head of lo­cal busi­ness, East­ern, at Bar­clays Cor­po­rate, when con­sid­er­ing the tough times be­ing faced by firms.

“It’s im­por­tant not to get too ex­cited,” he said, on the news of the UK’s ex­it­ing re­ces­sion. “The road to re­cov­ery will in­evitably be a slow one, but there are valu­able lessons to be learned that could stand firms in good stead for the fu­ture.”

Busi­ness own­ers are feel­ing pres­surised by these tough times, as high­lighted in a re­cent Bar­clays sur­vey, in which 66 per cent cited the eco­nomic cli­mate as im­pact­ing most on how they felt about their busi­ness.

Mr suth­ern said: “Un­for­tu­nately, there is no in­struc­tion man­ual or hard and fast rules in which to sur­vive a re­ces­sion, as all busi­nesses have their own in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics, but there is sup­port out there, es­pe­cially from us here at Bar­clays.”

On the sub­ject of cost cut­ting, staff train­ing, mar­ket­ing and PR are of­ten the first ar­eas which firms look to slash, but these can of­ten be tools utilised to strengthen the long-term fu­ture of a busi­ness.

Mr suth­ern claims staff ex­per­tise and knowl­edge is para­mount to a suc­cess­ful and ef­fi­cient busi­ness of­fer­ing. Mar­ket­ing and PR doesn’t need to be ex­pen­sive.

“Think out­side the box when em­bark­ing upon cam­paigns,” he said. “These are clas­sic knee-jerk re­ac­tions that must be prop­erly thought through be­fore im­ple­ment­ing.

“don’t get me wrong, cut­ting costs has been a vi­tal el­e­ment for firms sur­viv­ing the re­ces­sion, but it is those SMEs that have pre-empted the down­turn and cut costs in the right ar­eas be­fore the sit­u­a­tion has be­come too se­ri­ous that has made them stand out from the crowd.

“In­deed, smaller busi­nesses that pur­sued ac­tive mar­ket­ing strate­gies, or at least kept them steady, have tended to do well, and net­work­ing has proved to be an im­por­tant ac­tiv­ity in pro­mot­ing and pro­tect­ing the busi­ness.

“It is also vi­tal to re­ally look af­ter your core clien­tele and com­mu­ni­cate with them to en­sure they are get­ting what they need to main­tain busi­ness lev­els.”

Mr suth­ern added: “It is in­evitable that some peo­ple will stop us­ing you, for what­ever rea­son, but it is one of the biggest sins to ne­glect ex­ist­ing cus­tomers by fo­cus­ing too much on es­tab­lish­ing new ones. In times of re­ces­sion, it is all about en­sur­ing firms main­tain a happy medium.”

In terms of sav­ing on costs, an­other fac­tor to as­sess was some­thing as sim­ple as en­sur­ing that a busi­ness was pay­ing as lit­tle tax as pos­si­ble, he said. If a small busi­ness was be­ing run from home, then re­ally ex­am­ine if you are claim­ing enough tax li­a­bil­ity. Bills such as coun­cil tax, util­i­ties, broad­band, mort­gage in­ter­est and oth­ers may be ap­pli­ca­ble to claim upon.

It is para­mount that we learn lessons from the last re­ces­sion and con­tinue to ap­ply these to our busi­ness strate­gies to­day. Hope­fully, we won’t have to deal with such a down­turn again any­time soon, but as with most things in life, to be fore­warned is to be fore­armed, he con­cluded.

main­tain a happy medium: Mark Suth­ern, head of lo­cal busi­ness, at Bar­clays Cor­po­rate, ad­vis­ing firms in these tough eco­nomic times.

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