It's January and we all know what that means. It's time to get on the scales, cut out the excess consumption and work off the unwanted fat. But the detox I'm referring to is not about improving your body, it's about improving your business. The good news is unlike the no sugar, no fat, no carb detoxes that always prove impossible to stick to, this detox for your business really works. That's because it doesn't rely on willpower, it relies on commonsense, sound principles and good financial management. Here's how to get the strong, healthy business you always wanted, without the tears:
1. Commit to getting the figures right. Set yourself goals and take them seriously. Last year more than 500,000 new businesses were started up, according to StartUP Britain, but the failure rate for new businesses is high, with one in three not making it through to their third birthday. Many firms fail because they get their numbers wrong. Don't be one of them.
2. Review your office costs. Could you be getting a better deal from your mobile phone provider or broadband supplier? Are you wasting money on lighting and heating your office when everyone has gone home? Draw up a list of everything you spend money on and find out if you could be doing it cheaper. It will be worth the few hours it takes and will reassure you that you are on top of your figures (see above). Have you thought about consolidating all your office suppliers into one? You may secure better discounts and it will save you a lot of wasted time in dealing with many different suppliers.
3. Become the bottleneck in all expenditure. If everyone has to fill out a Purchase Order and get it signed off by you then it becomes harder for them to spend the money! Question every request - your staff will quickly get the message. It may take a little bit more time out of your day but it's really effective in cutting out those slightly-less-than-necessary purchases. It also means you know exactly what expenditure is happening and it'll help you get on top of your figures.
4. Look at your recurring costs. Regular overheads such as taxi costs are well-worth reviewing - having an account with a single firm will work out cheaper instead of people using taxis on a random basis, and will be more accountable too. If employees know every receipt must be explained, they may be more inclined to walk or take the bus.
5. Review travel and international costs. If your employees need to travel aboard for work why not think about using a travel agent to arrange it all - you will be surprised how much they can save you on cost and they'll save you time and a lot of hassle. You can also reduce costs by using a foreign exchange company to secure the best currency rate for local costs while your staff are abroad. In the UK, buy train tickets in advance, not surprisingly it is considerably cheaper.
6. Streamline technology needs: It is easy to spend a fortune on technology without really noticing because you are usually adding on bits to existing systems and replacing kit as you go along. Work out how much it is actually costing you, then consolidate. Mobile phone contracts should be from a single supplier, the same for tablet computers. And consider leasing rather than buying - not only will it cost you less, you will also resolve the problem of obsolescence if your contract automatically upgrades products to the latest version every couple of years.
7. Review your entertainment budget: Look carefully at how much you are spending on entertaining clients. Yes it is important to maintain good contacts with customers, but it can be easy for budgets to get out of hand. Carefully measure where money is being spent and exactly how profitable those customers really are. Might it be more productive to meet once a quarter rather than once a month? And might it be sensible to meet for a drink or even coffee instead of a lavish three course lunch every time?
8. Review your recruitment strategy: Ask yourself - are you relying on external recruiters more than you need to and paying unnecessary fees? Whilst recruiters can be a great source of information about who is on the move within the industry and who is hiring whom, that information comes at a cost. A clever LinkedIn strategy and some recruitment marketing of your own can be just as effective. Use your own networks and get everyone in the business to help identify new talent.
Finally, though, remember that just as any successful detoxer allows themselves the occasional treat, you too need to make sure that your drive for a leaner, trimmer business does not alienate the most important element that keeps it all going - your employees. Attracting and keeping hold of good people is essential to business success and an unhappy workforce will not be a productive one. So beware of cutting out anything that makes their working lives greyer - which means keeping the free coffee machine and the Friday afternoon doughnut delivery. Your employees and your business will thank you for it.
Rupert Lee-Browne is founder & CEO of Caxton FX, the leading currency exchange business.