Here at Morey Publishing, we’ve had the opportunity to work with many great companies and excellent entrepreneurs who’ve taught us how to increase profitability in this challenging economic climate. From them, we’ve learned many cost-saving strategies that we’d like to share. Call it our way of paying it forward!
From Adam Schwam, the chief operating officer of Sandwire Corporation, we’ve learned the cost-saving benefits of Voice Over the Internet Protocol, aka VOIP. You plug your phone into the Internet and you’re connected, that’s how easy it is.
“As a matter of fact, you can plug the phone in any Internet connection, even in China,” says Schwam. “It makes no difference, and it works as it’s here on Long Island, without delay.”
To change your service, you don’t need to go to the phone company and jump through hoops, he explains. For example, by just going to the website, you can easily reprogram your phone. Schwam has his office phone set up so an incoming call can be displayed on his own cell phone wherever he is, his office phone as well as his assistant’s phone, in case it’s an important call and he can’t pick it up himself. Likewise, he points out, you could program outgoing calls to use your office number in case you prefer to keep your cell phone private.
“You don’t have to run telephone wires everywhere when you have this system,” Schwam says. “It goes right into any place that has the Internet. One wire. When you want to replace the telephone system, you don’t have to do any rewiring. You just plug it in.”
The connectivity options can make a huge difference on the bottom line. In an instant, separate offices can be interconnected. You go to one place, plug in your phone, and it acts like an extension, as if you’d just stayed put.
Another advantage to VOIP is that it enables your cell phone to function with your laptop to create a portable office, enabling assistants in the field to stay in touch as they work on an outside project, for example. All you need is Wi-Fi.
Schwam says the VOIP technology was developed more than a decade ago but recent developments have made it faster and more affordable, particularly because Internet bandwidth has become so much cheaper compared to traditional telephone service. Now you can get as many lines as you need, when you need them. Plus, a handset may break, but the phone system won’t. If your office loses power in a storm, for example, you can go plug your phone in somewhere else and go back online. Or log in from anywhere and have your business calls go directly to your cell phone. What you do is up to you. That’s the message we’ve taken to heart.
Making the shift to EMV credit cards—the new global standard for cards equipped with this innovative technology designed to authenticate chip-card transactions and cut down on fraud—is the right way to go. Embedded in each EMV, which literally means Europay, MasterCard and Visa, is a small, metallic square that is actually a computer chip. Unlike the traditional magnetic stripe on the credit card, this new chip creates a unique transaction every time it’s swiped, making it harder to duplicate if the card were stolen because it would be denied.
EMV won’t prevent data breaches but it will make life more difficult for crooks who get their hands on these new cards. So the switch is on and increased security is the goal. The national deadline for businesses to install smart-chip readers was October 1st.
That heightened protection is a plus for customers and retailers, alike. But, as we’ve learned from Joseph Doyle, a partner at MerchantPro Express, retailers might also want to examine their merchant processing fees because that’s a great way to save money.
Visa and MasterCard take a look at “every single credit card in the market place” and come up with rates and fees for each one, explains Doyle.
“If you’re a merchant and you take 100 different credit cards a month, that’s 100 different rates and fees,” he says.
As a result, processors are being charged a certain amount for each account and they are charging their customers. According to Doyle, there’s a good chance you are on a certain pricing structure, and not even be aware of it.
Merchant Pro Express can look at our credit card processing statement and see where we can save money based on what the financial industry calls basis points, a unit of measure defined as one hundredth of 1 percent that enables them to compare interest rates.
As Doyle put it best, “It’s all about basis points.”
And he should know.
Too many small businesses today are still carrying legacy debt on their books that is very difficult to refinance. Thanks to our association with direct lenders like PowerUp Lending Group’s Jay Kirchner, we’ve learned how to tip the balance in our favor.
“As a direct lender, we’re able to make decisions quickly and provide answers for small to medium-size businesses that have been shut out of traditional banks,” Kirchner says. “At PowerUp, we have carved out a great niche as an industry leader in the direct lending space by providing loan consolidation options for our clients.”
We’ve been able to roll up our existing loans into new loans with more comfortable payback periods, and that’s enabled us to concentrate on what we do best.
• Change Up Your Insurance
When’s the last time you bid out your business insurance? Good question, and we can thank James Harnett, senior vice president at The Whitmore Group, Ltd., in Garden City, for posing it to us.
“There are always new carriers getting in and old ones getting out,” Harnett says. “It’s good to test the marketplace.”
Of course, insurance carriers like to put a premium on continuity and staying power, but he recommends doing your due diligence every two to three years by perhaps contacting two or three other carriers besides the one you’re currently with. Why? First, of all, you “keep your carrier honest,” he explains. If your present carrier likes your account, and you get a competitive bid lower than what you’re paying, you might be able to negotiate a reduced premium.
But since no two insurance policies are exactly the same, Harnett points out, you have to weigh cost and quality.
“Coverage counts,” says Harnett. “Balance them both.”
And some coverage out there, as he notes, “is not worth the paper the policy is written on.”
Here’s something else to consider, Harnett advises, how your insurance carrier handles your claim. If you’re happy, go for it.
“When you see the policy working,” says Harnett, “that’s what can really sell the insured.”
But as he’s taught us, there’s a lot that goes into it.
“It’s not just price,” he says.
And that’s something every business should learn when it comes to considering their insurance.
Domenic A. Casillo, the president of TradeWorks in Kings Park, taught us the modern value of the ancient barter system, one of the oldest forms of payment.
“We help our members use leverage to create buying power,” says Casillo. “How they create that leverage is based on their cost of goods.”
He explains that when you’re a member of TradeWorks, you don’t have to do a direct one-on-one trade. Instead, you can accumulate trade credit and use it to obtain what you’re after.
“It’s a lot harder to find two people who need each other’s services,” Casillo says. “It’s a lot easier to find somebody who needs somebody’s services and then that person needs somebody else’s services and so on and so on.”
Now five years old, TradeWorks has more than 400 members on Long Island, with services ranging from plumbing to accounting and so much more it’s mind boggling. And that’s not all.
“We go outside our initial system and deal with people throughout the country to give our members other opportunities,” he explains. For instance, he did a deal with a company in Pennsylvania that bought a lot of exercise equipment from one of TradeWorks’ Long Island clients. In exchange, he hooked up a member with a hotel room, a hot air balloon ride and a winery tour.
Typically, TradeWorks helps facilitate the transactions, as well as making sure that everybody is getting a fair deal.
“It’s a great way to use leverage to create more buying power and also to expand your market share by introducing your product to people who wouldn’t normally work with you,” he explains. “That’s the beauty of it!”
And we couldn’t agree more.
• Monthly Financial Reports
Our accountants, DeFreitas and Minsky, CPAs, made us realize how too many small businesses see their accountants only once a year just to get their taxes done, and they lose out on the cost-saving potential of consulting with their accountants much more frequently, either monthly, quarterly, or every six months. No question it’s been a huge benefit.
“We changed our business model about 25 years ago,” says Manny DeFreitas, “dedicating ourselves to meeting and communicating with our clients as much as possible. Visiting the clients at their place of business is by far the most effective. We get to see then in their comfort zone and see the operations firsthand.”
He says that the clients who see them monthly have been the most successful.
“We normally prepare monthly financials that we review with the client in their office,” DeFreitas explains. “When there is a question, someone is there who knows the answer or can find it.”
The frequency is important, he stresses, because that means the financial information is most up to date.
“If the financial information is not timely, it is futile,” DeFreitas explains. “Our outside eyes look at things differently from the business owner. This is obviously a very important and powerful tool for the client.”
It’s certainly worked to our advantage.
• Cloud Computing
Not too long ago Gerard Hiner at Webair Internet Development, Inc. convinced us to consider the cloud instead of hosting our software and website in house. Redundancy and connection speed are two of the factors he helped us consider when we enlisted his company’s services.
“Cloud computing enables companies to realize significant cost savings compared to hosting their infrastructure, software and websites in-house,” Hiner says, “mitigating the need for large capital expenditure investments, and server and system maintenance, software licensing and upgrade expenses, and power and cooling costs.”
Hosting our system in a state-of-the-art facility like Webair’s NY1 datacenter also allows for increased reliability, low latency connections and personalized service that a company like ours simply cannot get with hosting providers located thousands of miles away.
And in a hurricane prone region like ours, there’s another benefit, as we found out firsthand.
“Webair’s NY1 datacenter is the most redundant facility on Long Island, so there is no fear of costly downtime in the event of a disaster, power or hardware failure or data corruption or loss,” says Hiner.
That lesson not only saves cost, you might say it’s also invaluable.
• Strategic Alliances
In the new economy, Kirk Kordeleski, former CEO of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, has given us a lesson in the new math: 1 + 1 = 3. That’s right, with the right combination, the sum can be bigger than the parts. Kordeleski, now the CEO and Founder of Kordeleski Consulting, a national consultant in the credit union field, is a big proponent of the benefits of strategic alliances.
“A lot of the work I’m doing with both small and mid-sized companies,” says Kordeleski, “is to look at shared services, which are basically the backroom operations: accounting, HR, legal services, marketing, things that are essential for companies to be successful.”
As Kordeleski sees it, too many small to midsize firms “try to do it all themselves by hiring people who aren’t as skilled because they can’t afford them. Our strategy for these folks is to put their work together where they have like businesses and to help them find ways to consolidate those backroom operations into things that are more professional, quicker to market and more cost effective.”
The goal is to produce a winning combination.
In our case, we forged a strategic alliance with Bethpage Federal Credit Union to further the Best of Long Island promotion.
“That is a great example of putting together two organizations that have a common interest in business on Long Island and creating a brand that works,” says Kordeleski. This partnership enabled us to use our skills and broaden the image of Bethpage as a community-oriented financial institution with a unique engagement at the local level in a wide range of enterprises.
In his new consulting role, Kordeleski is helping businesses learn how to profit from those shared savings, in other words: to invest those resources rather than let them lie dormant. Whether these savings come from improved digital expertise, faster speed to market, market expansion, or just being more mobile across more channels, the idea is to reach the consumers who are the ones ultimately making the decisions about your products and services.
“Use the money you save from operations that don’t add value to your company but have to be done,” advises Kordeleski, “and put them into parts of your company that can make it grow and enable it to compete in the future.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. But then, we’ve learned from the best.