Four key ways to make your small business cheaper to run

The pandemic and its lockdowns have changed everything about the way small businesses work.

From working from home to complete shutdown, you would be forgiven for considering giving it all
up for an easier life. Yet, with some resilience and a desire to cut costs and make efficiencies, you
can run the business at a lower price and thrive, not just survive, in the future.

Here are four simple tips that could make all the difference to the cost of running your small business.

Trethowans
Trethowans

1) Continue working from home

Your office and the running costs are a significant outgoing for your company. Over the lockdown,
many companies have found reliable video conferencing, high-speed broadband, and cloud-based
resources make remote working reliable and effective.

Companies such as Google and Uber have seen team members be even more productive when working from home. Therefore, common sense suggests there’s little point in paying out for a central place of work when it is less effective for your business.

More information on the eligibility criteria is available in the Revenue’s Tax and Duty Manual on e-
Working and Tax . If you are worried about the lack of contact between team members and the costs of working from home for your employees, there are solutions.

Your staff can claim £6 a week back from tax for the utilities they use to run their home office. Then, if you even want working days together, there are town and city centre workspaces for hire for hours at a time.

2) Encourage efficiencies

Obviously, for some businesses, the idea of working from home is neither practical nor desirable. Therefore, your options for cheaper running costs require some time and effort to realise.

First, you could require all computers to be switched off at the end of the working day. Having lots of
computers and monitors on standby is costing you money that is easy to save. In fact, almost half of
the electricity your business uses is used outside of standard operating hours, and even standby
appliances use energy – around £1 per year per device.

You may also consider lights you do not need, and install, for example, occupancy sensors to prevent lights being required at all hours at night. These sensors are said to cut energy use from lighting by 30%, which is money you can then keep in your pocket and business.

Second, you could turn your heating and air con down a degree or two, as it is estimated that you
can save 8% for every 1 degree on your thermostat. These facilities will have the most impact on
your energy bills, and your utilities will represent a significant chunk of your running costs.

Air conditioning may not be needed if you can open windows and doors to create a breeze running
through the workspace.

On average, energy efficiency measures can help you save 30%. 10% of these savings can be
achieved with little to no capital cost, and the other 20% may take a little more of your budget, but
payback is as little as a year and a half.

You can also change your light bulbs to CFL or LED. The initial costs will be high, but over a long
period, you will see the savings. The bulbs last longer and use less energy. Also, they are helpful
when installed in high ceilings and you are saved money in the cost of the workman to come to
make the changes when the lights go out.

3) Apply for energy efficiency grants and loans

You might be able to see a million ways your company could be more efficient. You recognise
utilities are a significant cost to your business, but the investment to make your space more efficient
feels prohibitive at this time. It might be helpful to know that grants and loans are available for those
looking to undertake such projects.

The terms and conditions for these grants and loans vary dramatically, and it is a good idea to do
your research. Salix Finance, for instance, offers interest-free funding to businesses in the UK public
sector. The Carbon Trust Loans are sums up to £100000 unsecured with zero-interest for projects
that reduce energy consumption.

This loan is paid back over four years, and the Carbon Trust anticipates it will be paid with the energy savings you make. Finally, there are grants available from the Big Lottery Fund, with grants up to £50000 available.

4) Switch utility suppliers

We are all guilty of allowing our contracts with companies to run over and permit our tariffs to
switch to a variable rate. The likely cost of this inaction is significant – indeed, Npower predicts that
switching companies could save you at least £1000 a year.

As well as that, on average, Power to Switch helps save businesses 11% off their energy bills, which is your money put directly back into your business.

Switching suppliers has been made simple and straightforward due to regulation by Ofgem. A simple
search on an energy comparison website and a single phone call could switch you from one
company to another without a break in supply.

It is a great idea to set a calendar reminder to yourself to research energy suppliers when you know
your contract is coming up for review.

Overall, there are plenty of ways to cut back on your energy costs and funnel that saved budget into
something more important or fulfilling to your business.

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Armagh, Northern Ireland. She has previous experience as a website editor and journalist, and currently works with Power to Switch.

Photo by Annie Spratt