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Oily Rag column: Business tips and future proofing

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Frank and Muriel Newman

We have had a number of business-type tips recently, so we thought we would share them - and add a few more of our own.

- Anonymous writes, "I have introduced an oily rag mentality throughout my business. Everyone in the business has benefited. I have shared the rewards with staff so they are now being paid more and the business is more profitable. Their jobs are now more secure, and I am doing better too, so it's a win-win all around."

- Remind staff that business is about performance not perks. A person recently told us about a manager who wanted a car as part of the pay package. They had already picked out a nice shiny new one and talked to a leasing company about a great deal. After some discussion it was agreed that the budget did not extend to leasing a vehicle and that reimbursing running costs was a better option. At that point the manager miraculously came to the view that their old car was not so bad after all! The point is that it is really easy to want to spend other people’s money.

- Another reader mentioned an IT problem they had. Their server had "passed on" and they were at a loss to know what to do. So they turned to an ‘expert’ - a very experienced IT company who proposed a $25,000 solution to "future proof" their business. Fortunately someone suggested an alternative and to cut a long story short, they were able to get the job done for $2,500. When someone says they are future proofing, what they are really saying is that they want to sell you something you don't need now, but may need in the future! Whenever you hear the words "future proofing" you should look for someone focused on the here and now.

- BJ writes, "We recently had a builder give us a price to do some work. He explained the quote by saying, 'It is what it is', which I took to mean, 'My pen inexplicably took control when I was writing the bill and that's what it wrote'. I replied, 'It is what we make it, and how about we make it a lot less!'. Needless to say, he didn’t take that too well - so we found another builder, who had far better control of his pen!"

- Lots of people are working from home these days. There are huge savings to be had, and the day becomes a whole lot more productive. No time wasted in traffic, and no travelling costs! Many businesses are now much more flexible about staff working remotely so it’s a win-win. The business owner does not have to provide expensive office space - and everything that goes with it - and the employee/contractor can fit work around their family and other activities.

- If you need an office, how about sharing space with others, and combining secretarial services - this cluster arrangement works well, especially for businesses operating within the same industry.

- Chris writes, "I conference call by using the call merge function on my mobile phone. It's free!"

- Shop around for stationery. P.P. from Auckland says, "I bought a huge number of envelopes on Trademe for $10.50 (including postage). The normal retail was $250! That means $240 added straight onto the bottom line!"

- Save on printer ink by using the ‘draft’ print setting.

- Make sure airpoints gained on business travel are used for business travel. Crediting them for private use creates an incentive for people to travel - at your expense - when the good-old telephone or email would do.

- If you, or your staff, regularly stay in motels, negotiate a corporate rate. One motel chain had a corporate rate of $125 compared to a "list" rate of $185.

- Make someone within the organisation responsible for reviewing all costs. Have them keep a record of how much they have been able to save, and reward them with a bonus if they do well!

Running a business off the smell of an oily rag is really about asking the question: can it be done cheaper with the same or better results? Doing this is good for everyone - you will increase your profits, your staff will continue to have work, and your customers will be able to buy your goods at a better price.

Do you have tips to share or questions to ask? If so, contact us via our website at or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

-Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Read our wealth of tips on the Oily Rag website at

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