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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Don’t skimp on these 15 expenses (even when money is tight)

No matter how limited your business budget is, every company should find room for these essential line items.

Don’t skimp on these 15 expenses (even when money is tight)
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

A business’s cash flow, especially during the pandemic, can get thin at times. In these cash-strapped periods, it’s vital for executives to make shrewd money decisions based on company values and goals.

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While saving money should be a priority in these situations, there are some parts of the business that shouldn’t be undercut. Below, members of Fast Company Executive Board discuss one thing executives should never skimp on, even on a tight budget.

1. SUSTAINABILITY

Available budget certainly affects the amount of implementation that you can invest in, but the pandemic showed executives that understanding that the myriad of climate, toxics, water, DEI, and other issues captured under sustainability should remain as priorities. Maintaining awareness of the trends that impact your markets, value chain, and business is money well-spent. – David Jaber, Climate Positive Consulting

2. EMPLOYEE WELLBEING

Don’t overlook the high returns associated with investing in employee wellbeing, sustainability, and self-care. As companies struggle to retain talent, those that invested in wellbeing early on— during the pandemic, are benefiting from higher retention, lower recruitment, and onboarding costs, as well as higher productivity levels that are associated with having a committed and aligned workforce. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

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3. AUTOMATION

When money is tight, your employees are forced to scramble, their effectiveness declines, and your margins suffer. Many automation solutions are affordable and yield the triple benefit of greater efficiency, improved engagement with employees freed up to focus on the work that matters most. This provides more money for the bottom line. – Andrew Woessner, R-Path Automation

4. HUMAN RESOURCES

When the companies are strapped for cash, it’s important to utilize the existing resources, especially human resources to their fullest. A sure shot way to ensure this is to have an empathetic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and play on the team’s strengths while working on the weaknesses. – Abhimanu Kumar, CausalFunnel

5. QUALITY CONTROL AND ASSURANCE

Quality control and assurance is the key to delivering a consistently good product or service. If it has your name on it, it needs to deliver above a standard. Executive leadership must create and protect that standard. – Josh Perlstein, Response Media

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6. EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND SAFETY

Never skimp on the health and safety of your employees. That’s the bare minimum and great leaders will do what it takes to ensure healthy employees and a safe work environment, both physically and emotionally. – Kevin Namaky, Gurulocity Brand Management Institute

7. YOUR TEAM

Hiring the best people is extremely important for any business, and if you want real professionals, you’ve got to make sure they are paid fairly. It’s better to have fewer super competent people on the team than have a lot of semi-competent ones (or those who aren’t the right fit). When they don’t know their job to the extent that you need, you’ll spend more time teaching them. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

8. CREATURE COMFORTS

Creature comforts, like coffee, tell your employees that they are valued. They don’t need to cost much. Back in 2001, after 9/11 and the implosion of the telecom industry, I was faced with downsizing our company and weekly “pink slips” were common. But we always had good coffee, it made each day easier for everyone. – Cheri Beranek, Clearfield Inc

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9. YOUR BRAND

Developing and protecting the brand. Your brand is everything. It is the thing that, over time, you will invest the most money, time, and energy in. Therefore, skimping on the brand makes no sense. – Esther Kestenbaum Prozan, Ruby Has Fulfillment

10. PUBLIC RELATIONS

Bill Gates said if he were down to his last dollar he would spend it on PR. I agree. That doesn’t mean just getting coverage in the media; it means securing buyer trust in any number of ways, from thought leadership to reputation management programs. Without trust in business, nothing else matters. Trust accelerates your funnel and makes your leads better. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

11. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Customer experience is the most important aspect of your business. Creating great experiences for your customers is how you improve retention, gain positive reviews and encourage word-of-mouth referrals. But it doesn’t have to break the bank. A great customer experience prioritizes personal, one-to-one messages and supports those engaging with your brand throughout their entire customer journey. – Jason VandeBoom, ActiveCampaign

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12. TECHNOLOGY

Having the right framework in place to boost efficiency and productivity is a type of cost a business must never skimp on. The right technology can streamline processes, build a solid foundation, and save monumental amounts of time and money. Another vital component of this technology is your website. Ensure all information shared therein is relevant, engaging, and up to date. – Irfan Khan, CLOUDSUFI

13. GROWTH AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR TEAM

The growth and skill development of your people should continue to be your priority, even in a cash-strapped situation. When you invest in your team, you are accelerating the growth of one human at a time and your organization as well. Your team needs to have the agility and the foresight to turn information into wisdom, and insights into action. While doing this, also prioritize their well-being. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

14. SECURITY TOOLS AND PROTOCOLS

Executives should never skimp on security tools and protocols—no matter how strapped for cash the business is.  Your assets are your data. And if you aren’t hiring the right people and investing in the right tools, you stand to lose your entire business in a flash. So, always protect your business with solid security tools. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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15. EMPLOYEE RETENTION

Even if you are strapped for cash, there are ways to help your employees feel seen, heard, appreciated, and valued. In 2022, the first thing businesses need to focus on is retention as the number of people looking for jobs has shrunken so much. So, keep the employees that you have and reward them how they would like to be rewarded. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

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