With 75% of small and medium-sized companies voicing concern about the long-term impact of the cost-of-living crisis, it stands to reason that business owners are on the hunt for any cost-saving strategies they can implement.

Whether through mounting overheads - including the ongoing impact felt by the rise in energy costs - or juggling the needs of employees living during an economic crisis, SME owners face an uncertain future. Natalia has worked with blue chip companies for her entire career - both as an employee and as an SME owner - and knows a thing or two about protecting the bottom line.

"All too often I see companies attempting to strategically implement cost-saving initiatives by cutting resources and compromising on quality," explained Natalia. "For me, efficiencies stem from understanding any weaknesses and working to improve these areas, through upskilling or outsourcing. Running my own virtual assistance business means I often identify these weak points and help my clients to find solutions - some of which I'm pleased to share with you."

Sales support and customer service

Here, you must think of the big picture. As the owner and ultimate authority on your business, your time is best spent in the final stages of any sales process. Where it really counts. If your business is largely transactional, then I'd question whether you should be involved at all. Regardless of the value of your average sale, extricating yourself and/or your senior management team from the early stages of lead generation and enquiry handling is a smart step. More holistically, the act of engaging with an outsourced provider will force you to review your processes and ensure they are clear and fit for purpose. Mapping out the customer journey is a great way to identify areas for improvement and efficiency gains. It's understandably a hard thing to delegate but it will ultimately save you time and money.

The exact same principles should be applied to your customer service activity. Customers want and need fast, personal and responses on the channel of their choice. Having a well-integrated third party on the ball is likely to increase conversion ratios and customer satisfaction whilst leaving you free to focus on larger, value-add activity.

Debt collection and recovery

Believe it or not, this is often one of the most overlooked cost-saving strategies! Allowing customers to fall outside of your payment terms or, worse still, fail to pay at all, essentially means you are financing someone else's business or lifestyle. When you think about it like that, it really hits home.

A weekly review of your aged debtors, followed with appropriate communication is the single most effective way to get money that is already yours, into the bank. This doesn't mean adopting a Jekyll and Hyde approach to dealing with customers, often a quiet word or a polite email is enough to spur people into action. And, for when all else has failed, you should make use of the small claims court to enforce the terms of a non-disputed contract. It's quick and easy to do and it won't cost you a penny to get the paperwork submitted and sent to the other party.

My experience in the legal sector - I previously worked in an advisory role for an internationally recognised five-star hotel chain - means this field is something I'm often approached to support with.

Client feedback and reviews

If there's one piece of advice I find myself repeating, it's to never underestimate the value of feedback and insights from your previous or current clients. Working with them to create case studies and testimonials will give you some of the most compelling sales content you're ever going to get - for free! And knowledge gained during this process will often highlight ways in which you can improve your customer experience, and even expand your offering. A few ways to use this content include:

  • Keyword rich client case studies for your website to improve organic SEO
  • Short quotes for social media to grab potential customer's attention
  • Testimonials document to send during sales process to help build trust and close the deal
  • Showcasing impressive brand names on your website to increase your profile.

But gathering this oh-so-valuable content can be tedious and time-consuming. By delegating to someone else in your team, you're able to focus on the big-ticket items - talent development, client relationship management, expanding your product or service offering and financial planning, to name but a few.

Just make sure the person tasked with this project has a way with words - simply writing down a customer's thoughts and uploading verbatim to your website isn't quite what we're looking for! And if you don't have an in-house wordsmith, then this is a task that can easily be outsourced to an external marketing or administrative supplier for a fraction of the cost of doing it yourself.

Natalia concludes, "I'm a huge fan of outsourcing to reduce overheads, minimise risk and increase flexibility. For business owners who are just starting out, as well as those on the brink of expansion and, in this case, looking for ways to make efficiencies in the face of a rapidly declining economic landscape. Utilising external agencies and the technologies they often bring with them means no recruitment costs, reduced HR administration, no sickness or holiday cover to worry about and, as a general rule, only paying for the time used.

"As a business owner, it can sometimes be reassuring to be reminded that you can't know everything about everything. Calling on the support and guidance of specialists isn't a sign of weakness, quite the contrary. The most successful business owners are those who recognise gaps in knowledge or experience and enlist the services and support of those better qualified than themselves to drive their business forwards."

For more information about Alchemy VA and Natalia's virtual assistance services, visit:

Alchemy VA