We’ve written before about the importance of maintaining positive cash flow. 40% of Irish businesses cite cash reserves as their main concern, with many struggling to ensure that they have enough money coming in to cover what they need to send out. Achieving a healthy cash flow can be a fine balancing act, and one that can be easily thrown into disarray. A single unexpected expense or one that has been building quietly in the background can do a lot of harm, so here we’re going to look at 8 business expenses you might not have considered.
1. Repairs & Maintenance
Whether your require some industry-specific equipment, such as a sewing machine or a buzzsaw, or simply some relatively standard equipment such as a computer and a cash till, the price of obtaining these will likely be incorporated into your setup costs. When drawing up a budget, these kind of costs are viewed, rightfully, as one-off purchases.
What many entrepreneurs fail to consider is that the equipment will not be in perfect working order forever, especially if it has been bought cheaply to keep costs down. The cost of maintaining, repairing, or even replacing equipment can be a major issue, as there will usually be no warning, the price can be quite high, and the business could be out of action until the equipment is up and running again. There are two “rules” businesspeople use to prepare for this. The 1% rule advises that you budget between 1% & 3% of sales revenue for repairs, while the 50% rule states that if the repair cost rises above 50% of the price to replace, you should replace instead.
2. Unpaid Invoices
In the same way that it is a mistake to believe all of your equipment will work exactly as expected all the time, it is unfortunately a little optimistic to assume that you will always be paid any money you are owed. 67% of small-to-medium sized businesses in Ireland have had issues with late payments, with half being forced to lay off staff as a result.
If you operate long enough, you will come up against bad debt, so planning ahead for it can help minimise the impact. This can include taking steps such as implementing a deposit policy for larger orders, as well as keeping a rainy day fund. But ultimately, not all debts can be chased successfully. But if you have taken the proper steps to follow up and concluded that the debt needs to be written off, it is possible to make a claim for relief.
3. Staff Replacement Costs
The last example of something that too many people assume will be around longer than they will be, staff can be a surprisingly expensive thing to replace. Adare Human Resource Management estimates that it costs Irish businesses an average of €13,100 to replace a member of staff, with an average staff turnover of about 11% a year. The costs of replacing staff include advertising and the cost of time spent researching candidates and conducting interviews. Even if a member of staff gives their notice in plenty of time, it can take weeks or even months to fill a role, especially with unemployment numbers going down, so the costs of lost earnings are hard to calculate. Unfortunately, other than budgeting for this, the best approach you can take to minimise this cost is to hire people who will stick around.
While you may not think that marketing costs could be considered “unexpected”, we have decided to include them here for a good reason. There is a saying in the business world that the marketing budget is always the first to be cut, and the reason for this is that it is not always easy to draw a clear link between your marketing and your sales figures. Well in addition to being the first to go, marketing is often the last to arrive as well, as many people setting up a business try to keep costs as low as possible.
Usually this results in using social media as a free form of advertising, and there are always some vouchers floating around so you can run a few ads anyway. But we know that most of the major platforms earn their money from advertising revenue these days, which is why those who spend less reach fewer people. Your organic reach may work well in the beginning, but that is simply a tactic to get you to rely on the platform so you pay for it when your reach inevitably begins to taper off. While you may not need to budget for marketing from day one, you need to be prepared to pay for it in the future.
5. Bank Fees
Most people understand that banks are a private business at the end of the day, and simply take bank fees for granted. But while there may be no way to avoid bank fees completely, they are not something that should go unquestioned. Every bank has a different policy with regards to how much they charge, how often, for which services, and at what threshold. The amount you will end up paying in fees can vary wildly from one bank to the other if you make a lot of small transactions, for example, so shop around, compare how each bank sets its fees, and determine which model is best for you.
The longer you are open, the more likely it is that you will begin to build up a string of subscriptions. You may start by subscribing to a music service to help the atmosphere, and then an email marketing platform, followed by a TV streaming service, and then a bookkeeping app. Each of these may be deemed necessary at the time, but these regular expenses can quickly pile on and eat away at your cash each month. To reduce them, start by cutting whatever you can, looking for free alternatives, consolidating multiple subscriptions into one service, or buying a one-off, time-limited subscription for peak periods.
7. Petty Cash
If not managed correctly, your petty cash can easily become a black hole for your finances, particularly if you have a lot of staff. It is all too easy for people to take some cash out here and there, throw some in, and before you know it, nobody knows how much has moved through the petty cash, and you’ve lost too many receipts to work your way backwards.
There needs to be one person solely responsible for handing out the petty cash and tracking the expenses. Even if your petty cash is well managed, you will still find discrepancies every now and again, as coins go missing or receipts for small purchases are forgotten. But if you don’t manage it at all, you’re going to lose a lot more.
All business can ultimately be boiled down to profit, and half of the fight for success is keeping your expenses low. While some expenditure is completely necessary, others are not. They may not be the most expensive, and they may even be somewhat useful, but every penny counts, so before you spend it, make sure you have given that expense enough consideration