Monday, October 28, 2013

Frugal at Home, Frugal at the Office

My frugal ways do not stop when I walk into my office.  In fact, my frugal ways are key to the continued operation of my business.  Here are a few frugal ideas any business owner can incorporate into their business plan:

  1. Avoid debt.  Eight years ago I started my own legal practice and not once have I borrowed money for the venture.  When I started I was a solo with no office support, and in fact no office. I drafted papers in a home office and met with clients at their home. I joked that I was the lawyer who made house calls, which was an ideal fit for my focus area wills, powers of attorney, etc.  Over time I did get an office, and then a bigger one.  I had student office help, and now have hired a recent legal graduate as an associate. I call it organic growth -- I expanded when called for, but never once borrowed money to look like something more than I was.  The result -- no interest payments, and freedom to try new things without the pressure to make a loan payment each month; 
  2. Develop loyalty with an office supply store.  Oddly I use the national chain Office Depot, which has a small town feel.  The employees know me, and when I walk in without a coupon they find one for me. Last week I picked up some office chairs, and not only did they accept an expired coupon, they increased it from $10 off to $15 off.  A key feature of the loyalty is using a customer card, which sends me quarterly store credit.  Usually it is between $30 and $50 -- free money that I am happy to accept.  Don't accept loyalty blindly though. I do know their prices are competitive, and it is close to both my office and home; and
  3. Combine your social entertainment with networking.  If you launch a business you will be the recipient of endless marketing options.  From web search optimization to the relic yellow pages, people who sell advertising will target you.  I do not have an ad in the phone book.  I do not purchase ads in newspapers.  I know that referrals are by far the most effective means of attracting clients.  The art of referral could be a post, a book actually, of its own.  But here is a great frugal example.  Last Friday night my husband and I had a sitter and went out.  The event was sponsored by a client of his company (he designs and builds circuit boards) and was a fundraiser for the Wisconsin Bike Federation.  Early birds were given a break on ticket prices -- he bought 2 of the first 100, securing a discount.  The purchase was through his business, making it a write-off.  He got some nice face-to-face time with his client.  And with my legal practice I can walk into any room and likely connect with someone who could benefit from estate planning.  Last year I even made a connection with a women who is part of a nonprofit that became featured in a book I am about to release (Middle Class Philanthropist: How anyone can leave a legacy).  And this year my husband even won a free pair of high end biking socks for placing third in the power test.  All in all it was a very frugal date night!
There is a joke that business owners set their own hours - we decide which days we'll work our 80 hours.  Part of that is that fact that business does not stop when the office lights are turned off.  And the behind the scenes operations of a business are an excellent way to inject frugal thinking.  Something that is great for the bottom line, stress, and even planet earth!   

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