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Twelve Low-Cost Employee Perks for Fun & High Performance

It’s always a good idea to help employees stay motivated, and there are many things you can do besides the traditional cash bonus.  Here are twelve ideas that cost little yet go a long way with employees, contractors, and other business associates.

1.     Compressed workweek. 

Employees love getting Friday afternoon off, or even a full day a week.  Providing weekday time off cuts absenteeism since the employee has a window to run errands that need to be done during business hours.

 2.     Social activities. 

Create social events that become a tradition in your company.  The employees will look forward to them.  If you’re not sure what to do, consider the hobbies of your employees, plan an event based on a holiday or anniversary, or simply have a meal out.

A business owner who offers training classes can have movie showings in their training rooms complete with popcorn on Wednesday evenings.  The cost of the movie and popcorn is minimal compared to the fun everyone will have.

3.     Telecommute part-time. 

If possible, consider allowing employees to work from home one day a week.  They love the flexibility, often get more done without constant interruptions, and save road time.

4.     Customized recognition.

Every employee likes to be recognized for a job well done, but each may differ in exactly how the recognition is expressed.  Instead of guessing, ask at the time the employee is onboarded whether they prefer gift certificates, time off, sports event tickets, cash, or public recognition.

5.     Bring a child to work.

Last-minute emergencies can come up regarding child care, and the question is whether the employer can help out.  Create a policy around when employees can bring little ones to work.  You might also want to have a list of childcare and/or eldercare referral services handy.

6.     Education. 

Education is always a great perk.  Here are some ideas along those lines:

  • Cross-train employees on job duties other employees do so you have a deeper bench of knowledge to pull from.
  • Consider reimbursing for professional memberships or allowing employees to attend professional association events.
  • Bring in an instructor who can teach self-defense.
  • Have on-site fitness yoga classes.
  • Encourage employees whose first language is not English to take English as a second language or accent reduction classes.
  • Send employees to learn a foreign language.
  • Bring in a teacher for CPR and first aid training.

7.     Stress reduction.

Who isn’t stressed out?  Treat employees to a massage, or bring in an instructor who can teach stress-reduction techniques like meditation.

8.     Casual dress.

On days with no client appointments or perhaps every Friday, offer a casual dress day.  It cuts down on dry cleaning, and employees are more relaxed.

9.     Errand concierge services.

Cut down on absenteeism and long lunch hours by bringing the errands to the employees.  I suspect local businesses would love the business.  Find a nearby dry cleaner that can pick up onsite and maybe even throw in a discount.  Do the same for car wash services, take-home meals from a caterer or local restaurant, prescription refills, postal services, banking, and more.

10.   Transportation.

Offer a subsidy for carpooling, public transit subsidy, or purchasing a hybrid car.

 11.  Discounts on products and services. 

Provide discounts on your services or merchandise for employees.

12.   Time off. 

Offer a creative twist to holiday pay.  Instead of the standard holidays, allow employees to have their birthday or job anniversary as paid time off.  Consider also providing pay while philanthropic employees volunteer their time and talents to nonprofits.

Try one or more of these twelve employee perks to rev up the motivation on your team.

Cutting Expenses Key To Profitability, But How? Some Tips

It may seem like a no-brainer – cut expenses to make more money – but many small changes can result in significant savings.

It looks like the economy may finally be looking up. Still, this is no time to loosen the purse strings in terms of your business expenses. Rather, why not re-double your efforts to cut costs and boost your profitability?

Excessive expenses cause debt, which in itself can be very costly. So any money-saving actions you take will be doubly rewarding.

 More Effective Money Management

 To cut expenses significantly, poke into every corner of your company’s finances. Inventory is a good place to start. If you sell multiple units of the same item and reorder regularly, you should be using QuickBooks’ inventory-tracking tools. Go to Edit | Preferences | Items & Inventory | Company Preferences.

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 Figure 1; Make sure that these settings are correct. If you need advanced features like FIFO costing, serial number and lot-tracking or inventory management at multiple locations, contact us about upgrading to Enterprise Solutions.

 

You should be stocking your inventory to match the pace of sales. You don’t want to be caught short, nor do you want to be sitting on too much and tying up money unnecessarily. QuickBooks can help, but you’ll need to calculate the sweet spot for each item. Several built-in reports can help, including:

  •  Inventory Valuation Summary. Displays the current asset and retail value of each item and inventory as a whole
  • Inventory Valuation Detail. Shows how individual transactions have affected the value of your inventory
  • Inventory Stock Status By Item. Helps you set up smart reordering procedures
  • Open Purchase Orders
  • Outlines each purchase order and its expected delivery date

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Figure 2: To maintain profitable inventory levels and minimize expenses, you’ll need to study QuickBooks’ related reports regularly. When you’re making buying decisions, consider factors like reorder turnaround time and seasonal sales upticks.

 

Ratio reports, like profit over sales, can also be very telling. QuickBooks does not supply these, but we can help you create them in Excel.

Using Available Tools

The efforts you make toward reducing expenses in other ways can result in more savings than you might think. Here are some actions you can take that will accelerate your cash flow:

Use QuickBooks’ budgeting tools

. This doesn’t need to be as onerous as you might expect – you can start by pulling in your real data from the previous year as a base. Build in line items for ongoing accounting support like QuickBooks maintenance. Click on Company | Planning & Budgeting | Set Up Budgets

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Figure 3: Selecting this option simplifies your task.

 

Minimize your April 15 obligation with year-round tax planning. Work with us throughout the year on the next year’s taxes to, for example, make smarter quarterly payments, and we’ll help you reduce your tax bill by making better decisions every day.

 Get discounts by paying invoices early. Set up a custom field in vendor records to track this.

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 Figure 4: Get to know which vendors offer early discounts – and take advantage of them.

 

Analyze the cost-effectiveness of your transportation. Can you replace some in-person sales calls with web-based communication? Make sure that your delivery routes and sales call paths are efficient.

Change product/service prices to build in your own cost increases. Do it across the board, in small increments. It may not even be that noticeable to customers.

Talk to us about establishing a line of credit. We’ll help you determine if this is a viable option for emergencies. It’s cheaper than using credit cards.

Cross-train employees. Have employees train each other on their tasks where it makes sense. You can avoid costly temp help and relieve overworked departments.

 Don’t try to change everything at once. Establishing these new procedures will require some extra work. And you may not notice a reduction in expenses immediately. But over time, you will see a positive change – one that will give you extra dollars and hours to invest in making your company flourish.

The Power of Permission

What have you been wanting to do in your business for a really long time?  Perhaps you’ve been wanting to raise your prices.  Maybe you want to hire an assistant or another team member but haven’t gotten around to it.  Or maybe you want to work less and focus on personal time, but you haven’t taken action for one reason or another.

Ask yourself what project you’ve been thinking about forever but haven’t taken action on.  We all have a wish list.  The question is, why are we waiting?

What causes us to put these important, yet inconvenient or uncomfortable items on the back burner?  In many cases, there’s a really simple answer.  Here are three questions you can ask yourself if you would like to get unstuck and move forward with your list of items.

  1.  What’s it costing me to delay this decision?  In six months, will I be better off or worse off having done nothing?  This helps you bring a sense of urgency to an item.
  2. Do I simply need to give myself permission?  It’s surprising how this simple revelation can create the shift you need to gain momentum.  Going deeper, this can be a deservability issue, i.e., do I deserve to charge a higher fee?  If that’s the case, working on your confidence is something that will help you get unstuck.
  3. Am I getting stuck because I don’t feel like I have the skills, or is it possibly a mindset issue?  Making the distinction between the need to build skills and the need to work on your mindset can help you determine the next logical step to take.  Often, however, it can be both, and in that case, start by parsing out the skills you feel like you need.  When you do that, often the mindset will take care of itself.

By habit, we wait for other people’s approvals since we’ve done this all our lives.  We’re used to getting the approvals of teachers, parents, professors, bosses, spouses, and relatives, but when we’re in business for ourselves, we don’t need to ask anyone!

Is there something you’ve been delaying that you need to give yourself permission for?

  •  Giving your business or yourself a long-wanted gift?
  • Starting a long-awaited project?
  • Hiring someone or making a staffing change?
  • Launching a new product?
  • Raising prices?
  • Making a purchase?
  • Working less?
  • Taking your business to the next level?

If there is, ask yourself what you’re waiting for.  The power of permission might just set you free.

Do You Know the Lifetime Value of Your Client?

How much is the average client worth to your business?  Not just per project or even per year, but for the lifetime of your business.  Calculating the lifetime value of a client is an eye-opening exercise I recommend to every small business owner.

Repeat business

Let’s take several examples.  A client who eats a $15 lunch at your restaurant every Monday is worth $780 for one year and $2,340 for three years.  It really adds up, doesn’t it?

A personal services business, such as a chiropractor, massage therapist, manicurist, or hair stylist has a similar business model where hopefully they can attract repeat clients.  A client who gets a $20 manicure once every two weeks is worth $520 per year and $2,600 in five years, and that does not include the tips.  Grocery stores, hardware stores, clothing stores, and office supply stores are just a few industries with similar models.

Large purchase with add-ons

Some businesses rely on a larger but less frequent purchase than some of the industries listed above.  This may include furniture stores, airlines, and computer sales.  Many of these larger purchases can be increased by adding service contracts, delivery charges, financing charges, and by selling more items.

Some businesses will benefit from becoming aware of the lifetime value of their vendors, partners, and employees.  For example, contractors are often reliant on their subcontractors to deliver great services so they can complete the construction projects.  Landscaping firms make great partners with nurseries and bring them much business.  And employees who sell and close large contracts can have a lifetime value to your business of millions in some cases.

Referrals

One way all businesses can increase the lifetime value of a customer is by counting the amount of referrals the customer sends you.  Let’s say Marni bought $500 and was so impressed with you that she sent three clients your way.  They each bought $1,000.  Marni is now worth seven times what she originally purchased from you:  $3,500.  When each of these new clients refer more people and buy more in subsequent years, Marni’s value to your business gets bigger.

This might just have you treating your clients like Marni with a lot more respect!

Multiple service lines

The more products and services you offer, the greater your opportunities for increasing the lifetime value of your customers.   Let’s say Katie buys a $500 product from you in January.  In May, she comes back and wants the $2000 service you talked about in a newsletter you sent her.  She’s so happy she refers two clients to you that buy $1,000 apiece.  What can start out as a $500 client has now morphed into a $4,500 client and can easily mushroom into a five-figure client by the end of the year.  I’m sure it’s happened to you over and over again.

Take some time next week to create a spreadsheet that shows you the lifetime value of your clients.    I’ll think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how valuable your current clients really are.  If you need help with the calculations, let us know.  We’re here to help.

Are You Working on All the Wrong Things?

Have you ever gone through your list of things to do and looked for the easiest thing to knock out first?  Have you ever been moody when you’ve looked through your tasks and said to yourself, “I don’t feel like doing that one, that one, or that one?”  Do you have some items on your to do list that have been there for a while (like months)?

If so, you’re not alone.  However, you may be working on all the wrong things.  One of the top time management secrets that smart business owners implement is to prioritize their tasks in a very special way:  by the highest payback, and not the biggest sense of urgency.

The hard truth is we may not be able to get to every single thing we want to do, especially those of us who are creative business owners who have an idea every minute!  You may have a lot of them captured on your to do list, and some may still be swimming around in your head.

One of the ways that you can choose your opportunities and slim down that ever-growing to do list is to understand the concept of return on investment.   For each task, how much money could it bring you if you did it?  Some of the items that are not urgent but incredibly profitable are often the items we’re too exhausted to do once we complete all the required client and compliance work we need to do.

The successful business owner will make time for those profitable but not urgent activities.  In fact, they will do them first thing in the morning before checking their email or returning calls.

Here’s an exercise to try on your own to-do list.  Assign a dollar value to each task on your list in terms of revenue potential or cost savings.  If you got to that task, how much could it save you or make you?

Then the fun starts.  Sort your to-do list by this new dollar value column you just added.  Sort the highest payback tasks to the top and the lowest payback tasks on bottom.

What’s jumping out at you on the top of your list that you’re not getting to?  Can you find a time on your calendar to do it this week?

When we step back, become more proactive about insisting that we get a return on our time for what we’re doing, we can make a really huge difference in our bottom line.  It’s as simple as assigning some values to the tasks on our to-do list, and then re-sorting them by that value.

However you identify them, the goal is to bring to our attention our highest potential revenue opportunities so we can act on them.   Even if you only get to one more per week than you are currently doing, you’ve made wonderful progress.

It may take some discipline to resist tackling the urgent tasks.  When we accomplish our urgent tasks, we feel needed.  We love rushing to the rescue of clients that need us. When we attempt our high-dollar tasks, it may be a little uncomfortable, even scary.  So that’s why we avoid them.

Prioritizing is something we all have to do, since we live in a world that competes for our limited time.  Prioritizing by highest dollar return on investment is something the most successful business owners do, even if it feels a little uncomfortable in the process.

When we do the serious work of choosing what is really going to move our business forward, we will see the changes in our revenue.  If we can help you with any of your high-payback tasks, let us know.

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