With our country’s economy still in flux, it is difficult for people to find jobs and businesses-corporate and “Mom and Pop” alike-to stay afloat. In fact, nearly $10.2 billion in business loans defaulted in 2011 alone. So how does a small business make ends meet and keep business going? By sticking to a budget, getting creative, passing on credit card and loan offers, and riding out the storm.
For the past five years, my husband and I have run a non-profit men’s minor league football team in a state that seems to be saturated with this type of program. For some teams, it’s about making a profit, but for us, it’s simply been about making it through from one season to the next without going into debt or dipping into our personal savings. By sticking to a budget and making good use of our resources, we have endured when others have fallen.
Conservative, Realistic Spending
Each year, before our season begins, we take stock of all our equipment, uniforms, helmets, etc.; then, we sit down and list all of our expenses for the upcoming season, such as: uniforms, incorporation filing fees, insurance renewal, game-day officials, field rental (game and practice), advertising, ticket printing, and more. The key is that we don’t go overboard with our spending. We order what we need, and we don’t get pulled in by the bulk-ordering trap. Bulk-ordering of any item, no matter the business genre, can be a waste of money, especially if the company feels forced to buy hundreds of an item when they really only need 50.
Cut Out the Middle Man
One of our largest expenses each year is the purchase of our team uniforms, and one way we have managed to cut down that cost and thus be able to offer an affordable product for our players is to cut out the middle man-literally. After discovering the huge mark-up we were being charged for our uniforms last year, my husband made the decision to become an authorized representative for both our uniform distributor and for our Riddell helmet distributor. By ordering directly from the warehouse, we have been able to cut down costs for each player by $165; multiply that by a team of 40, and we’ve lowered our annual expenses by over $6,000.
Use Your Resources
Given that we have more than one local university and junior college in our area, there is no shortage of college interns who are in need of practical, hands-on experience, and we are not ashamed to say that we take advantage of this resource! Throughout the past few years, we have taken on interns to help us with everything from marketing to game-day field operations, and this has been a true blessing for us. We operate off very limited funding, and all of our players, coaches, and staff, are part of our organization voluntarily, which makes it sometimes difficult to find good help. Having interns work within our organization for the season is a win-win situation.
Another resource we take advantage of is the opportunity of cross-promotion with other small area businesses. We have advertised for other businesses on our Florida Falcons website in exchange for sponsorships or bartering of services, such as team advertising, facility usage, or even gratis performances by local talent at half-time. For example, our dance team is able to hold their three-times-a-week practices at a local dance studio free of charge in exchange for us supplying a link to the studio’s website on our own.
As any business owner knows, advertising is a big expense, with sometimes very little return. So what’s the solution? We use any free resource, such as Facebook, local community calendars, Twitter (basically any networking source), to promote our games, tryouts, and events. We invite the local freelance photographers and reporters to any and all happenings we are involved in. The key is to get our name out in the public, and get it out frequently. It has taken a few years, but we’ve built a fan base, and have advertisers and sponsors who want to come on board.
It may be awhile before our country will be singing the words “happy days are here again” when referring to our economy. But for small businesses, figuring out how to keep the doors open another year may not have to be such a burden. All it takes is a conservative budget and some creative resourcefulness. A little positive thinking never hurts, either!
Author’s personal experience
Farrell, Maureen. “Bankruptcies 2012: Doubling Down.” CNN Money. www.money.cnn.com. 4 January 2012. Web. 2 May 2012.