Small businesses should shop around to cut costs

iZettle card payment machine © iZettle
Shopping around can be fruitful for small businesses

Small businesses need to keep an especially close eye on their outgoings.

In an uncertain and potentially volatile marketplace, it’s vital small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) focus on what they can control for themselves, particularly by managing their costs carefully. From office stationery to a broadband connection, SMEs too often pay over the odds, even when their owners and managers are confident bargain hunters in their personal lives. The good news, however, is that you can save a lot of money by shopping around.

Where you can save

Financial services are a good example. If you have not switched bank accounts since launching your business now is the time to look at what’s available. Leading providers including HSBC, TSB, Co-op Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks are currently offering new SME customers fee-free banking for at least 18 months. Alternatively, consider a challenger bank such as Starling, which offers permanent free banking if you don’t need an overdraft.

Similarly, don’t leave your firm’s spare cash in a savings account that pays no interest. Many banks pay almost nothing on such accounts, but you can earn more than 1% annual interest with the market leaders, including Teachers and Market Harborough building societies; if your business has sizeable contingency funds or investment capital, that will add up. Corporate credit cards also often offer a real opportunity to make savings.

Next, make it a priority to shop around on the utilities your business needs, including gas, electricity, telecoms and broadband services. Most of the leading price-comparison websites now carry best-buy data aimed at small businesses. You could also try a specialist SME aggregator, such as SmallBusinessPrices.co.uk or SmallBusiness.co.uk. The average SME reduces its energy costs by £1,150 a year when switching to a cheaper supplier, says comparison site Make It Cheaper.

Elsewhere, think about how much you’re paying to manage the payments made by your customers. If you’re currently buying merchant services from your bank, there’s a good chance you’re paying too much. By dealing directly with the global players that provide banks with debit- and credit-card processing – including Worldpay, Global Payments and First Data – you can often save money; Cardswitcher.co.uk can help you find the best deal. Similarly, don’t assume the card terminals your bank hires out at high cost are good value. Challenger brands such as iZettle and Square are more cost-effective for many SMEs.

Finally, for other types of procurement, SMEs are increasingly teaming up, leveraging their joint purchasing power to secure better deals on all sorts of goods and services. For example, Huddlebuy sells SME membership for around £150 a year; in return, members can access a range of discounts the platform has sourced on an array of products. The Black Bear Group operates a buying group working on a similar basis.