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Mark Washburn

Control Your Cost of Doing Business

How to use technology to your advantage in this age of high energy, travel and commutation costs.

July 17, 2008
by Mark Washburn, CPA/MST

The rising cost of commuting provides an opportunity to rethink how you conduct business. A simple SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis may help you discover new ways to reach your clients.

Obviously, one threat to today's business environment is the cost of fuel. From the gasoline or diesel we use to fuel our cars or trucks, to the rising costs of aviation fuel, to the costs of a business lunch, these costs are increasing our cost of doing business. These costs can be measured by the increased costs to commute to the workplace and to conduct business away from the office place.

As usual, whenever threats present themselves, opportunities also exist. One such opportunity comes from the technology we are so used to working with on a daily basis. Even most of us baby boomers have better than average computer skills and certainly anyone from Generation X or Generation Y is more than comfortable utilizing technology to communicate. So, one solution would be to use existing or emerging technologies to repel this threat.

Connecting Remotely

Productivity software should always be a technology you should stay abreast of. Software which allows you or your employees to access the workplace computer and perform routine job duties from a remote location, i.e. home, should be high on your list of opportunities to combat the threat of rising fuel costs. Several vendors such as Citrix, PC Now, PC Anywhere and I'm In Touch offer a variety of work at home or away from the office products popular with CPAs.

For example, Citrix's GoToMYPC®, allows users to access office computers from remote locations, such as employees' homes, using the Internet to provide connections. Benefits to such software include the ability to perform routine job functions at home or while traveling. Once connected, the user is able to access software or files located only on the computer at the office. Offering employees the ability to work from home reduces the threat of losing key employees who may be rather immobile when it comes to moving closer to the workplace. Productivity can remain high regardless of where the work is performed.

If your business is meeting intensive, vendors such as Citrix and Webex offer programs allowing businesses to hold meetings in an online setting as opposed to formally meeting in a fixed location. It offers real time viewing of presentations, whether for customers or employees. Citrix markets different versions of the software allowing small users to have the same advantages as large users but in a cost effective manner.

Other Solutions

The Internet provides many solutions to companies who are experiencing higher costs of doing business as a result of sharply rising fuel costs. Most of us are adept at using e-mail for quick communications that don't necessarily require an immediate response. Of course, the telephone remains a means of rather immediate response, but sometimes bouts of phone-tag can negate productivity. Unless an immediate response is required (think 9-1-1), use e-mail to communicate less urgent questions and responses.

Another way of offering a competitive advantage is to have a Web site for your practice. Offering clients the ability to have access to you through your Web site eliminates useless travel. It also provides a convenience, which is almost demanded by today's high-tech consumers. For example, virtually all professional grade tax software packages include client organizers. E-mailing these data collection devices to clients can cut down on many areas of office overhead, including travel to and from the post office. Clients can return the organizers either online or in person, depending on their personal situation.

Conclusion

As the price of gasoline continues to increase, it behooves you to examine how you use technology to control your cost of doing business. Many opportunities exist, you just have to know how to and be willing to take advantage of them.

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Mark Washburn, CPA/MST, is a Senior Lecturer in Accounting at The University of Texas at Tyler. He teaches both Individual and Corporation tax courses at the undergraduate level. He is a certified public accountant licensed in Texas and holds a Master of Science in Taxation from the University of Texas at Arlington.