Introducing the Five Per Cent Plan

By: Mark Williams

Date: 12 October 2009

I once interviewed a highly successful and experienced business owner from Northern Ireland. He was a lovely, intelligent man, senior in years, who swore by his “Five Per Cent Plan” – something he said could make a tremendous difference to the profitability of any business. It goes something like this…

Look closely at all of your business expenses and try hard to reduce each one by just five per cent – a reasonably small and achievable figure. That might involve cutting out more waste, using less or driving a harder bargain with your suppliers (many will gladly say yes, if it means hanging on to your custom).

A five per cent saving can be achieved in many areas quite easily, he reckoned, especially when you’ve been in business for a number of years, by which time many inefficiencies can build up. You never know, you might even be able to make greater savings. If a cost makes no tangible contribution to your business, you should eliminate it altogether, of course.

If a five per cent saving isn’t possible, you should aim for four, he advised. If not four, then aim for three. If not three, aim for two. If not two, then just one, but never settle for no saving unless there genuinely is no alternative.

Our friend from Northern Ireland was a plain speaker and a realist. He smiled and conceded that reducing costs, even by just one per cent, would not be possible in every instance. But at least the exercise forces you to seriously consider what you spend your money on, what contribution it makes to your business and whether you’re getting maximum value for money. Continually monitoring expenditure and cutting unnecessary costs are both excellent habits to get into.

Time to focus on your prices. Good knowledge of your customers and competitors is vital, of course, but consider whether at least a five per cent increase is possible on some or all of your prices. Many businesses unnecessarily leave their prices set for many years for fear of losing customers, but this can mean needlessly throwing away profit. If you can enhance your product or service, you might even be able to achieve a greater price increase, providing you can explain how this gives your customers greater value.

Our friend from Northern Ireland recommended employing the “Five Per Cent Plan” at least every six months. Even a seemingly measly five per cent reduction or price increases here and there can seriously improve the profitability and well-being of all businesses, he said. That seems especially important in times like these. I’m sure he’d tell you that.

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