The Apprentice is back! Sharp suits, hair gel, snappy one-liners and a whole field full of ponies.
We spoke to former Apprentice stars and other business brains to find out how they’re cutting costs in a stagnant economy. We also found some expenses are too good to keep.
Former winner of the Apprentice and founder of the Raw Talent Academy Lee McQueen says:
“I’m cutting back on taking cabs, particularly to meetings a short distance away. And I’ve always tried to cut office costs. When the business started we saved money by converting a small building at home, before moving into our current office. Companies shouldn’t move before they are ready and maximise any space they have.”
Apprentice Runner Up Ruth Badger, who runs a business consultancy service:
“I run a tight ship when it comes to spending. Each month I ensure my Financial Director sits down and signs off the expenditure in all of the businesses that I have a financial interest in.
“A necessary guilty pleasure is first class train travel. I hate traveling in the standard class. It’s noisy, dirty and you have to fight for a seat. I work too hard to do that. Yet my accessories are a personal reward and are the best money can buy. I’ll stroke my Smythson writing pad in a meeting when I am bored and I will only ever write action points down to save wasting paper.”
Clair Young, Apprentice runner up, founder of School Speakers, which connects schools with inspirational speakers:
“We’ve moved into a smaller office, renegotiated our contracts, phones, broadband and stopped any marketing with big outlay. School Speakers has grown for free, through word of mouth and social media.
Personally I allow myself a few guilty expenses, I love a posh coffee such as Costa Flat Whites, but I’m trying to reduce this expense with a coffee maker. I also have two magazine subscriptions, to Red and Glamour which I read in the bath, accompanied with Jo Malone oil.”
Steve Lowy, head of the UMI hotel group, founding the company at the age of 27.
“Over the last six months I’ve been reviewing spending on a business and personal level.
“Work wise, we revise what we spend on non-fixed costs on a quarterly basis to see if there’s a better deal. Our biggest expenditure was IT, and we sought greater efficiency and reduced subscriptions. No expenses are overlooked, we even assess our use of printer cartridges, and cut back on paper and ink.
“Personally, I cut costs by assessing subscriptions I’m not using, for example my Sky TV subscription, and I look for the best deal with my utilities. I’ve also downgraded my car to something really little and cost effective.
“I confess I keep enough cash to spend on my passions: football, travel and food. Having trained as a chef, I love cooking, and by reducing the amount of takeaways, and eating out, I feel healthier and save money. I hate wasting food so my weekly shop takes into account if I am out during the week or not.”
Emily Bendell, founder of the luxury lingerie shop Bluebella.com
“Cost cutting in business must not affect the top line, so you have to be very careful what you cut. Making sure you have the best deal from suppliers and outsourced services is key. Shop around as prices vary massively.
“My biggest expense this year will be buying a house in London. I also love eating out and would every night if I could, though it’s not good for the wallet. I need to get cooking in the kitchen a bit more really – and have invested in some good pans and equipment to help make this more pleasurable.”
Alastair Crawford, founder of the UK’s leading online directory 192.com
“Cash is king in business and you should never spend money unless you absolutely have to. I started 192.com from a spare room in my sister’s house and took on multiple roles, from head of customer services to finance director. At 192.com we have the same principle, providing more for less, be that company reports at affordable rates or free directory enquiries.”
Wendy Shand, mother of three who started Tots to Travel, a family friendly holiday company.
“I can feed a family of five for a week with a £100 spent in Aldi. I’ve cut by expenses by not shopping for groceries online. The question I then have to answer, is that have the hours I’ve spent shopping taken me away from the business for too long? It can be a difficult calculation to make.
“Since we launched Tots to Travel seven years ago we’ve been operating in a recession so we’ve had to be efficient. We cut costs by outsourcing less, bringing our teams in-house. This has promoted better team work. We also reviewed our staff to focus on those providing a return on investment. We automated our marketing systems and acquired our holiday properties with a greater level of clarity and cost effectiveness.
“A personal guilty expense is training. It’s tempting to think that the next seminar, the next business book will reveal that one secret to everlasting success, and it can be tempting to spend too much money in this quest. Saving money is all about doing what you do better, and spend less time doing it.”
The Gym Queen
Celebrity fitness trainer Laura Williams counts Vanessa Feltz and Lauren Goodger as clients, and designs bespoke diet and fitness regimens.
“The business expense I’m trying to cut back on is eating out and endless coffees. I’m forever planning to pack portable meals and snacks but end up spending a fortune in cafes between meetings and clients.
“I’m trying to cut back on petrol because I can’t justify nearly £1.40 a litre just for the sake of being warm and comfy when I’m on the move. I’ve started wearing a pedometer and those steps really do add up when you take public transport. I won’t compromise on running shoes. I need every penny of cushioning, stability and research that goes into my running.”
Robin Brown, 89 uses 192.com to trace missing friends for his website, findanoldfriend.co.uk
“I grew up used to austerity, and when I came out of the army in 1948 I didn’t have a penny. I’ve lived in the same house since 1964 and became completely self-employed at 75.
“I supplement my pension with income from my websites, and to save money I use a free bus service and a senior rail pass. I’m very aware of switching off lights and appliances, and go for all the bargains at supermarkets.
“To cut my business, costs I don’t advertise and never had to. I have a maximum of £1500 overheads annually and apart from the PC equipment that gets replaced every few years my other expenses are printer capsules, which I’m trying to cut back on.”
192.com money saving tips
- Cut out the middleman by researching the best deal online: from holidays to tradesmen, to phone numbers, find them for free with a click of a mouse.
- Cut back on mobile phone calls to 118 numbers which for a 45 second call can cost up to £2.00
- Book travel in advance, and visit sites like the trainline.com and megabus.com
- Compare utility providers with www.energyhelpline.com
- Make a weekly budget for grocery costs and find the right balance between online and offline shopping.