Whilst making the most of school budgets, it is essential that you scrutinise your expenditure. Small business expert and author of Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business, Erica Wolfe-Murray, provides some simple, money-saving tips borrowed from business
When you start your own small business you can determine many of the processes you use – supply contracts terms and how your team operates for maximum effectiveness and financial efficiency. As a school business manager, however, you are very likely to have inherited a whole range of commercial activity that is now your responsibility.
With ever-tightening budgets, how best can you borrow that small business thinking to drive economies across the board? What simple ideas can you introduce that small businesses use every day to minimise waste, gain best value and drive more from your budget and your school’s assets?
Here are some money saving ideas for you to consider:
1. Re-look at all supplier contracts
Taking a look at all your supplier contracts is a good place to start. Most companies offer 30- or 60-day payment terms but, rather than trying to extend your credit, have you thought of agreeing a seven-day payment term for a sizeable discount? Many supply companies will welcome a client who pays within a short timeframe and, if your current supplier doesn’t, find one who does.
2. Go for marginal savings, everywhere
Remember how we all watched in amazement as the British Olympic cycling team won gold medals galore? This extraordinary achievement was arrived at by taking apart every single aspect of the equipment, the athlete’s physical performance and their on-track performance to seek a tiny gain in every single way. When put back together – those tiny marginal gains added up to world-beating gains.
You can use this method in your school, too. Look at every single element of spend, asking how you can save 1, 2 or 5% absolutely everywhere. It could be through better buying, limiting usage or turning switches off. Get your team to help, awarding a small prize to the best ideas. And implement these savings relentlessly; you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
3. Additional revenues from your assets
Schools vary across the country – each one will have a different building, different facilities, different assets. Stand back from the business and write a list of all the assets you have access to. Can you use any of these to drive new revenues?
4. Get everyone involved
You don’t have to have all the answers yourself. Everyone who steps into the school will have money-saving tips they use in their own lives and in their businesses; welcome, and mine, this rich seam of knowledge. Be open and ask for help; then put up a monthly ‘thank you’ notice for those who came up with those ideas you are implementing, with the savings made.
For example, if you have a south-facing sloping roof, would installing solar panels bring in some long-term savings? A local company can help you with advice on this. If you have to pay regular monthly licence fees for software – paying annually can shave 10% off these.
And don’t forget to share your achievements with other local schools and organisations. Good ideas can flow out from your school, as well as in.
Of course, not all of these ideas will be right for you, so cherry-pick those that you can make work. Some could be quick wins, whilst others may offer longer term development opportunities.