One rarely sees high-traffic blog posts on administrative strategies. Especially posts about effective cost saving strategies that don’t involve the “L” word.
Yeah. Sexy stuff, there.
No one said being an administrator would wow ’em down at Career Day. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a hero (or a superhero), saving your institution beaucoup bux in the process – by having a few strategies up your sleeve for maintaining morale, high service levels, and – best of all – sustainable costs.
So – let’s say your boss tells you to cut your budget, deeply. You look at your balance sheet. It ain’t pretty. Payroll is your largest expense, but you’re understaffed and overworked as is. Plus, no one deserves to get the crook. What do you do?
Fear not. There are several strategies you can employ to knock dollars out of your budget, without having to let people go.
Your mileage will – naturally – vary. I mean, if your business is failing, sometimes all the accounting chicanery in the world can’t bail water fast enough out of your sinking boat (if I may mix a few dozen more metaphors).
So, with that warning aside, here’s the list:
- Freeze positions. This is the lowest of the low hanging fruit.
- Look for employees close to retirement, and offer an early retirement package. This won’t always be an immediate budget savings, and not always desirable, but when looking for year-over-year gains, this is a great (and sustainable) place to look.
- Look at your essential service contracts (network / infrastructure monitoring, internet, phone, equipment, vehicle fleet, dining, etc.) and negotiate for longer terms at more favorable pricing. Often, this will translate into not only lower monthly and annual costs, but will also increase the amount of services you can afford. For us this year, this tactic alone saved us $100,000, while our service levels increased – by a factor of 10 in a few cases. A sustainable, effective, and long term tactic.
- Straight up, ask trusted vendors for a reduction in what you pay. This doesn’t need to be a draconian, one way conversation, where one party threatens another. An open and honest conversation about value promised and value delivered is always something to be pursued with your key vendors. A temporary reduction in fees can make a relationship between your institution and your vendor stronger in the long run, especially if you can reward that vendor loyalty with increased volume. Please know, I’m not talking about abusing or trying to underpay your vendors – far from it. But I am saying that there are times when you both know you’re paying too much for a good or service, and some normalization of price is called for.
- Consistently cut the non-essentials. This sounds idiotically redundant (want to save money? don’t spend it). But really, cutting non-essentials shouldn’t be a one-off, one-time thing. You should constantly be evaluating whether goods and services that were once best of brand or best value still hold that distinction. We’re doing better with this. The key is to be consistently vigilant, and proactive.
- Defer maintenance. This is not a long term fix. It is quite effective if you need to save a lot of money, one time. We were able to save around $82,000 this year from our budget, by deferring the replacement of some of our fleet of systems across campus.
In short, you can save significant amounts within your budget, if you don’t treat it and the items that make it up as a static, annual-only, process.
Business conditions change. Vendors change. Technology changes. Paying attention, in real time, can reap significant savings.
You don’t have to sacrifice people – or morale or service – in order to have an appreciable impact on your budget, when times call for a little more austerity.
Now – who still says that writing about budgets ain’t sexy?