Guest Post: Cutting Business Costs Without Cutting Staff

We all know someone who lost their job sometime over the last couple of years. As of July 2010, 7.9 million jobs had been lost due to the recession, and only a tiny fraction of them have been recovered since that time. Unfortunately, one of the first places businesses cut spending is payroll. Laying off workers is a quick solution, but not always the best one, and certainly not the only one.

This isn't the only way businesses are trying to cut costs, but as a business owner, are you doing everything you can to save money everywhere you can? Before you start handing out pink slips, consider these alternatives.

Go Paperless

Before you send the printer off to be recycled, remember that at some point, there may still be things you need to print, whether out of necessity or convenience. But for the most part, you should be able to switch from paper to digital documents with little hassle, and a lot of savings.

Do you have your employees fill out forms to take time off? Why not create a digital form that's automatically e-mailed to you upon completion? Other human resource paperwork such as W-4s, W-9s, and even performance reports can all be kept online, and e-mailed from manager to employee. Evaluate any reports your business generates to see if they can be done digitally. You'll save in printer cartridges and paper, not to mention you'll be helping the environment.

Allow Employees to Telecommute

The idea of an employee working from home used to carry a lot of doubt. How could you be sure the employee was actually working? How could anyone be effectively managed if they weren't actually at the office? That was before the many methods of communication the Internet makes possible, and before the economy went south.

A remote employee is no longer only reachable by phone. Now there's e-mail, Skype, Twitter, and text messaging. The more employees you have working from home, the less you're spending on overhead. You can work out an agreement with your employee to either cover some of their work expenses, such as electricity and Internet service, or they can opt to take tax deductions for them. Granted, working from home isn't for everyone. Some employees need the disciplined environment of an office. But for those who can manage it, it's a great money-saver.

Shorten The Work Week

If telecommuting just isn't an option for your business, consider shortening the work week. Many companies have employees who work ten hours a day instead of eight, and only work four days a week. A lot of employees won't mind the extended hours because it means permanent three-day weekends.

Having your business closed one day a week may not be an option for you, either. If that's the case, you can stagger your employees' schedules so that someone is always available during business hours. For example, some employees can work Monday through Thursday, while others work Tuesday through Friday. Even with the business open every day during the week, the reduced number of employees in the office two days a week will mean less resources used, and less money spent, with an added bonus of happier employees.

Even if none of these money-saving methods works for you or your business, there are still plenty of creative ways to save money that don't have to include putting people out of work. It just takes a little imagination, and a lot of determination, which you already know you have, or you wouldn't be a business owner.

Shawn Hessinger is the community manager of BizSugar, an online community of small business owners.