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BFS Capital Blog

Summer Cost Cutting Tips for Small Businesses

May 24, 2016

George Gershwin clearly never owned a small business.

If he had, the words “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” would never have even registered. It would have been more like “the livin’ is incredibly stressful because half my employees are on vacation, sales are down, and I’m going to need a loan to pay this electric bill.” Although, that wouldn’t have been very catchy.

Summer can be lean times for a small business, and staying afloat in the warmer months can be a challenge. So how do you make sure your doors are still open in the fall? Cutting your small business’s costs is one way to mitigate the challenges of the slow summer months.

We know – that’s easier said than done – but here are ten ways you can try to cut costs during the summer for your small business.

Move to a Four-Day Workweek
Restaurants must be incredibly careless on Thursday nights. How else would one explain why so many people seem to come down with food poisoning on Friday mornings during the summer? To account for this horrible pandemic of questionable Friday illnesses, you might look to moving to a four-day workweek this season, with 10-hour workdays. It not only makes your employees more efficient while they’re in the office, but it also means you have to turn on the lights one less day per week, ostensibly cutting your energy bill by 20% if you start days earlier when cooling costs are lower.

Control Your Transportation Costs
Since the magic elves who control gas prices know we all travel more in the summer, they tend to go up during the warmer months. If you’ve got a fleet of vehicles – or just drive around a lot yourself – we could write an entire post on things you can do to maximize your fuel efficiency. But here are a few tips to control your transportation costs:

Keep your tires inflated
Only use your vehicle’s air conditioning on the highway
Use the recommended motor oil and keep up on maintenance
Don’t strap anything to the roof (it creates wind resistance, using more fuel)
Drive slowly and non-aggressively
Drive during non-peak times
Bring In Some Interns
Though the use of unpaid interns isn’t as acceptable as it once was, you can still hire them at minimum wage on a part-time basis. Hit up your local university or community college’s career center and see if you can find some qualified candidates. This will free up your full-time employees to do more revenue-generating stuff, and likely be cheaper – and probably more efficient – than hiring seasonal hourly workers. It might also get you some leads on young employees for the coming years. Just make sure you have the time to teach them about your industry so they gain from the experience as much as you do.

Only Use Cold Water
Obviously, we’re not saying wash your salon’s clients’ hair in ice cold water and try and pass it off as some hip, new “arctic scalp treatment.” But if you run a restaurant, bar, auto shop or any other service business where hot water isn’t necessary for things like pre-washing, power washing or other non-thermal operation, don’t even have hot water as an option. The room-temperature stuff does just fine, and saves you considerable money on water heating.

Pre-Cool Your Office
If you’ve taken our advice and moved to that four-day workweek, program your thermometers to go to cooler-than-normal temperatures in your early hours, then higher-than-normal temps in the afternoon. Even if your business is still on the standard five-day workweek, cool your office space more aggressively in the mornings and reduce the thermostat in the afternoons. The net effect won’t be too noticeable, but can save you 25-30% on cooling costs.

Run Large Machinery at Night
If your business has big machinery that doesn’t need to be run at specific times, do it when it’s cool outside. Things like industrial washers, power cleaners, water purification systems or sanitizing equipment can be run strategically so they don’t heat up your space. Or, better, can run unsupervised when air conditioning isn’t even necessary.

Crowdsource Your Employees
Interns aren’t for everyone and, quite frankly, can sometimes be slightly less motivated than, say, people who have to work to pay their rent. So if your business needs seasonal help look into crowdsourcing your employees. This is a practice where companies hire freelancers to do work staffers usually do, at a fraction of the cost. Most work for themselves, and you can find them on sites like Upwork and Freelancer.

Adjust Your Lighting
Much as some of us would work under stadium lights if we could, keeping that level of intensity up can ramp up your overhead. Much like with cutting fuel costs, we could probably give you an entire post on how to make your lighting efficient but here are some quick tips:

Replace fluorescent lights with LED lights. They’ve got the added benefit of NOT making you look like a corpse
Clean fixtures regularly, then use lower-wattage bulbs to maximize the light a fixture can give
Install motion-detecting lighting in your office. This way nothing stays on accidentally or for days at a time.
Light only the areas that need to be lighted. Your storage room isn’t afraid of the dark.
Only keep rooms as bright as they need to be. If you’ve got big windows that let in natural light, then don’t even use your lights during the day, especially in a restaurant or auto shop. If you need light, install dimers to keep the levels as low as possible.
Make Your Kitchen More Efficient
Restaurants run at a fast pace, and are prime candidates for energy waste. Do stuff like loading your dishwasher as much as humanly possible so you run it less. Look at your ice makers and see if they’re more than you need, and make sure the insulation on your walk-ins is updated. Keep your pots covered to help minimize heat loss, and buy insulated cooking equipment.

Hit Up Late-Summer Sales
Back-to-school sales aren’t just for kids who need art supplies. Those sales are a great place to pick up cheap office supplies, employee uniforms, and even office furniture. Labor Day sales are also great places to get discounts on purchases like electronics and furniture. Some states even offer a “sales tax holiday” before school gets back in, so make the most of that too.

These summertime cost cutting tips for businesses can apply all year round, but as summer begins and costs rise, it’s a good time to make sure all of this is up to snuff. If you’re looking for additional tips, here is a summer checklist for small businesses.