In September 2010, Financial Director magazine stated: “Waxing lyrical on building an economic recovery is all very well, but there is a growing belief that 2013 will be the year a second recession kicks in. Which is why cost cutting is not about to go away, a well-worn topic though it is.”
Now this situation is even more pressing.
The recent study of 750 small businesses by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) reveals that 78% of small business owners identify rising costs as the most significant threat to their company this year. More than two thirds of firms have seen their profit margins hit by increasing costs over the past three years.
However, KPMG, in their authoritative global survey conducted by the Economic Intelligence Unit, report: “Businesses are under constant pressure to reduce costs, yet many find it hard to do so in a sustainable fashion”. The survey included interviews with senior executives in a cross-section of industries and large, midsize and smaller organizations and experts in the field of cost management. It revealed that 9 out of 10 companies are potentially missing out on major opportunities to boost profits.
They found that:
- Just eight percent of businesses reach or exceed their targets for cost-saving initiatives
- One of the single biggest barriers to achieving these targets is the lack of adequate processes to drive cost reduction
- Getting people to assume personal responsibility for cost management is always difficult
The survey concluded that many businesses seem to be aware of this, but too few are acting to redress the situation. Too many firms treat cost reduction as an unpleasant exercise in abstinence; a pressure do the same things only a little bit more efficiently.
KPMG repeated their advice in their recent paper, The Cost Boomerang. “In this environment, businesses that are able to identify and exploit sustainable cost-efficiencies will enjoy significant competitive advantages over their peers: better profit margins, more flexible working capital and a greater alignment for future growth.”
While opening this year’s Financial Director Summit, Professor Doug McWilliams, founder and chief executive of the Centre for Economic and Business Research, caused a sharp intake of breath among members of the audience listening to his speech. He predicted the end of the euro and added that the kind of annual growth Western nations enjoyed in the decade before the economic crisis would unfortunately be consigned to the past. His thoughts cement the position of cost management at the top of the FDs’ agenda – and as something that will be a real leadership issue for the next few years. He stated: “Procurement is an ever more troublesome jewel in the cost-management crown.”
In their ‘Eight Strategies for Surviving the Downturn’, ICAEW offered the advice that “now is a good time to review the structure and cost base of your business critically. Do you have the right business model to see you through the recession and put you in the best possible position to take advantage of the upturn when it comes? If you need to make savings, examine carefully how you can get the best value out of your business and enable your business to emerge leaner and fitter at the end of the recession.”
Finally, they ask – ‘Is outsourcing a possibility?’
In a recent edition of FM World, the Facilities Management journal, Kevin Stanley wrote: “With cost-cutting still an economic necessity, the question of whether or not to outsource services has never been more relevant. Which is best – insourcing or outsourcing? The issue has long been a source of debate. The key drivers of large-scale outsourcing are cost reduction, efficiency and the expertise, knowledge and support gained from a specialist provider. What better time to put outsourcing to the test than in a recession, when every penny counts?”
In the same article, Richard Thompson, Managing Director of PBMS (UK & Ireland) agreed, “I believe it can. In an economic downturn, outsourcing is a smart way to get your organisation moving forward. Managing processes internally can distract an organisation from focusing on growing the business and can possibly contribute to missing out on growth opportunities. Sometimes people fail to act in this type of economy, to create positive change through a new partnership.”
The consensus certainly seems to be turning towards outsourcing cost management.
Established in 1994, Auditel is the premier independent cost and purchase management consultancy in the UK, with over 200 fully-trained specialists. Their services include a free Business Health Check which consists of an examination of all expenditures associated with making effective cost management decisions. This free service coupled with their performance-driven contingency fee model, means the service is totally self-funding. There are no up-front fees, no hidden charges and no extras.
Chris Allison, Auditel’s Managing Director, confirms: “As a result of the recession, we’ve all become a lot more cost-conscious. Everyone understands the need to keep operating expenditure as low as possible. However, to achieve long-term, sustainable savings that take all the direct and indirect costs of products and services into account, you need expert knowledge, buying power and above all, time. With over 3,500 satisfied clients on our books, we can safely say that Auditel’s brand of sustainable and ethical cost and purchase management is playing a pivotal role in that equation.
“Our Total Cost of Purchase ® is a holistic way of reducing and managing the costs of doing business. It enables organisations to lower their business costs year-in and year-out. For 2012, we would encourage our existing clients to take a look at some of the less visible items. Cleaning, merchant cards, stationery, alarms, insurance and janitorial supplies and many others, for example, where savings achieved range from 22% to 64%.”
Farnham Maltings is a multipurpose arts and community centre set in the heart of Farnham in Surrey, attracting more than 350,000 visitors a year. With savings achieved of 13% on electricity, 26% on telecoms, 13% on gas, 23% on merchant card fees, 47% on franking machines, and 60% on alarms. General Manager Chris Maddocks, affirms:”I see Auditel as another member of my management team and we’ve got a stream of projects that will keep them busy this year. Auditel offers us lots of guidance and experience and altogether I see the experience as being 100% positive. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Auditel to any business, large or small.”