Secrets of Keeping Your Business Costs Low – Lessons from Lara Waters

Secrets of Keeping Your Business Costs Low – Lessons from Lara Waters


As a sole proprietor, you’re entitled to all the profits your business makes, but you’re also responsible for all its debts, losses and liabilities.

For Lara Waters, founder of Get Stuff Done, which offers secretarial and business administration support services on an as-needed basis, it makes sense to keep her costs as low as possible.

Related: 6 Costly Mistakes People Make When Starting a Business

Hiring temp staff

She’s done that by employing people on contract. The benefits of hiring permanent staff seem obvious – they are likely to feel more committed if they know they have job security, long-term prospects and the opportunity to build relationships with other employees.

However, Waters found that employing someone on a temporary contract with a chance of renewal if they perform well can be a great motivating factor.

Given the nature of most of the services she provides – general administration, office management, accounts administration, database management and events management, among others – offering reliable and professional staff the chance of a new contract can be an incentive in itself.

Waters has found that temporary workers often feel a need to prove themselves in the job, and strive for an extended contract, to such an extent that they outshine permanent staff.

“My contract workers perform very well,” she says. “That’s because being on short-term contracts drives their performance. The downside is that the great ones are sometimes offered permanent employment by my clients, but that’s actually quite a positive outcome, especially when it comes to word of mouth.

“I have a national team of people who are specialists at what they do – from accounting to database administration – and who are available when needed.”

Communal space

She also recently started sharing office space with other small business owners, all of whom offer services that are complementary to hers.

Sharing commercial space to house your operations really works best when you share with others whose needs are similar to or mesh well with yours.

“Sharing space and expenses reduces overheads and makes the cost of running the business so much more affordable,” says Waters.

“It also means that our fees remain reasonable. That’s what made it possible for me to move out of my home office when the business grew too big to be contained in my house.”

A shared services model

The other advantage comes from Waters being able to apply to her own business the services she offers others.

“Get Stuff Done provides outsourced services. By partnering with other small businesses, I too can outsource some of my needs to them. It’s like a shared services model. When a client needs a website or a copywriter, I bring in one of my partners. We’ve bonded together and it’s working exceptionally well for us.”

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Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.