Expense Reduction Webinar with Josh Fox, CEO Bottom Line Savings
Expense Reduction Webinar with Josh Fox, CEO Bottom Line Savings
Full Transcript Below:
Lee Ferber: Good afternoon. Hello, my name is Lee Ferber. I'm a CPA, and partner with Gettry Marcus. I also head up the firm's business advisory services group. In that regard, when working with clients, and regarding business advisory services, the focus is always on building value for a business, whether it's M&A advisory services, strategic planning, helping clients develop growth strategies, perhaps succession planning, it always comes back to building value for a business, whether it's to bring in the best line to sell the business in the future, or perhaps just simply succession planning.
Lee Ferber: So, when we talk about building value for a business, there are really two factors. One is increasing bottom line profit, which is pretty obvious, and the other is making changes in a business to ultimately increase multiples of the earnings down the road when, and if there's a sale of the business, or you want to bring in an investor to get the highest possible valuation.
Lee Ferber: Today we'll be focusing on increasing bottom line profit, and specifically reducing expenses. So, that being said, I'd like to introduce Josh Fox from Bottom line Concepts, who's going to discuss his approach to working with clients to reduce expenses.
Josh Fox: Good morning everybody. This is Josh Fox. I am the founder, and CEO of Bottom Line. Are most of you guys in the New York area?
Josh Fox: Well, I'm in New York. I think most of the people listening today are also in the New York are, so I hope everybody is staying warm, and dry during this latest snow episode. I'm very proud to say that in April, which of course is tax season for Gettry Marcus, but in April, our company will be celebrating 10 years in business, so it's a pretty big milestone for us, and I'm pretty excited, and proud.
Josh Fox: You know, most companies unfortunately do fail in the first couple of years. So, for us to be able to reach that 10 year milestone, we're pretty proud to say that. We have a great relationship with Gettry Marcus, they're an incredible accounting firm. We're so proud to call them friends, and partners, and I really do appreciate the firm giving us an opportunity to address the folks that are on the call today.
Josh Fox: Hopefully you guys have all access to the screen that I'll be sharing going forward. So, what we've done in working with companies is there's a lot of types of consulting that are out there, and I think the issue with most consulting is that the risk is definitely born by the corporation, and not by the consultant, meaning most firms are either charging by the hour, or by the project, and that leads to a very large cost to a company, and sometimes they become very disappointed, because they pay all this money to get advice, and they don't feel like they got what they paid for.
Josh Fox: But the second issue is that the advice that they're giving is just advice, and then the firm is left to make the implementation themselves, which typically falls short. So, advice, and direction is given, and then there's no implementation. So, words on a paper, pictures on a graph, numbers on a chart are just that.
Josh Fox: What we've tried to focus on is not only to help give companies advice, but to make sure that we hold their hand throughout the process to make sure that the recommendations are actually implemented. And that's what we're saying here in this first slide is when working with companies, there's two approaches that we take. One is a look back approach, and one is a look forward approach.
Josh Fox: So, whether you've bought a company, and you're fairly new to the industry, or you've built the company for a long period of time, there's definitely many, many opportunities in looking back on certain expenses in areas where you can actually get refunds back, and then there's a whole other part of the business where you can look forward, and look at all your vendors, and contracts, and try to negotiate better pricing.
Josh Fox: Now what Lee was saying earlier is, our whole belief system is three things. How do we reduce the company's costs? How do we increase the profits of the business, and then eventually most business owners are looking for some kind of exit, whether they exit to a family member, whether they exit to private equity, whether they exit in the perfect world to going public. Of course the key to that exit is the valuation of the business at the time.
Josh Fox: So, our whole goal is to reduce costs, increase profits, and enhance the valuation of the business, so upon the exit, that they can sell for the highest valuation possible.
Josh Fox: So, when we're helping our clients, we are only looking at their indirect cost, we are not looking at their direct costs. So for example, you know, we've done work with Domino's pizza, a great company, a great client, but we don't look at their cost of cheese, and we don't look at their cost of dough. What we are looking at are the things that are on this list. So, any of these areas would be a great way to start reducing cost, or finding out ways to bring back money onto the bottom line.
Josh Fox: It's done in alphabetical order starting at the top with accounts payable, and moving all the way through worker's compensation. Now, the key is the middle here, right? I mean, every organization has a CEO, a CFO, a chief procurement officer, kind of the newest, fanciest term for purchasing, and also an HR department.
Josh Fox: And I think what we have found over the years is although individually these four groups of people are phenomenal, if there isn't a lot of coordination, and integration between the C level executives, it usually leads to inefficiency, and redundancy, and waste, where it's super important that the C level executives are constantly in communication, and meeting with each other to make sure that all of these different areas of cost are being handled at least every year.
Josh Fox: Now what we do here is we take the previous slide, and we break it down to what I was discussing a couple of minutes ago, which is on the left side of the page is all different ways that a business can save money next month, and going forward, and on the right side of the page is all the ways that a business can look back, and try to get refunds.
Josh Fox: So, we have a process here that is very repeatable, and can be done over, and over, and over, and over again. We are completely industry agnostic, and we are also geographically agnostic. So, I always laugh that we have clients in South Carolina, and North Dakota.
Josh Fox: For our business, and how we help our clients, it really doesn't matter what city they're located in, anywhere in North America, we've done work for them, and it also doesn't matter what industry they're in, whether they're a retailer, or a law firm, or an accounting firm, or a real estate company, we look at these things very similarly.
Josh Fox: A lot of people try to say that their business is different, and unique, and unique, and different, and special, and special. At the end of the day, if we're trying to help our clients reduce their cell phone bill, it doesn't matter what industry they're in, if they're with Verizon, or they're with AT&T, it's the same exact approach no matter how big, or how small, or what industry that company is in. Let's do the same thing with AT&T, or Verizon, and help our clients reduce their cell phone cost as an example.
Josh Fox: So, step one is we basically want to look at our clients spends, you know, right now we're basically collecting a summary of the 2018 spends, so if we can get eyes on who our clients vendors are, and where they're spending money, and how much they're spending money, it really gives us a wonderful snapshot to be able to show them where the opportunities are.
Josh Fox: So, we've worked with let's say the top 200 vendors over, and over, and over again. So, if we pick on the office supply industry for a second, if we see a client spending money with Staples, or Office Depot, or W.B. Mason, the top three office supply companies in the country, it's a pretty easy conversation to help them bring those costs down.
Josh Fox: If they're working with, you know, ABC office supply company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that were not familiar with, the negotiation becomes a little bit harder, but in our experience, 90 some odd percent of the time, our clients tend to use the same vendors over, and over, and they're all consistent.
Josh Fox: Once we review the expenses, we show them exactly where the opportunities are to help them. Now, what we're trying to do is focus on the top expenses. You know, if a company is spending $20,000 a year on three, or four people's cell phone plan, it's not worth the company's effort, or our effort to try to focus on the small expenses.
Josh Fox: We try to help them focus on the larger expenses, because if we average about 18 % savings on any category, we'd rather make an impact, and look at something they're spending $1 million a year on, than $100,000 a year on if we're averaging the same 18 % savings.
Josh Fox: We're then going to work with the different departments. So, if the Chairman, CEO of a company wants to do this process, we then work with their CIO, and we'll get information on telephones, and software licenses. We'll work with their HR departments, and we'll get information on their payroll, and employee benefits. We'll work with their legal team to understand some of the cost in that department. So, it's all about, as I said earlier, the coordination of working with different departments to make sure that they're all in line working together.
Josh Fox: Step four is to obtain the relevant invoices. So, this is the key to benchmarking. By creating, and reviewing last month's invoices, we can actually create a benchmark document showing the company exactly what they're paying today, and for companies, this is kind of the first time they're seeing it. Not sure what that was, but welcome back everybody.
Josh Fox: The benchmark processing is the key to the whole process. So, for the first time, a lot of companies are seeing exactly what they're paying for things. So, utilities for example is a very big expense to most industries. You know, let's say a company has 10, or a hundred locations, they don't even know exactly what they're paying for their gas bill every month, or for their electricity bill every month, or their waste management bill every month. We're able to take hundreds of invoices, and create it on a beautiful one pager to show them the benchmark of exactly what they're paying today.
Josh Fox: And that benchmark allows us to measure, and manage, and quantify on a go forward basis how the savings actually occurs. So, what we'll do is we'll take the delta in the change of price. Let's say that we were looking at electricity bill, they were paying 10 cents per kilowatt, and we get it down to 7 cents per kilowatt. We'll take that change in the price times the usage.
Josh Fox: So, the bills will change every month in terms of the usage of electricity, and we'll show them every single month exactly what they're saving, compared to the benchmark before they started working with us.
Josh Fox: One of the keys that we have found is that we try always to work with our clients existing vendors. So, if we find that our client's using FedEx today, we have no reason to do an RFP, we have no reason to call UPS. We very often are able to call up our client's existing vendors, show them exactly the opportunity, and because we're familiar with these top 200 vendors, they're often very cooperative to lower their pricing in order to keep the business.
Josh Fox: The net result is the vendor gets another long-term contract. The result is the client saves a whole bunch of money, and it's a win-win for the vendor, and it's a win-win for the client.
Josh Fox: So, what I've done here is I've listed some best practices. After 10 years of doing this, and working with over a thousand companies, I tried to create some really easy wins, some nice best practices for people to adhere to.
Josh Fox: So, the first one is that when FedEx, and UPS come to meet with their client, they very often try to get their client to sign a waiver that permits them from auditing the bills, and they will present a one, or 2 percent discount in order to avoid the client doing an audit of those packages.
Josh Fox: Now an audit is, for example, if you send a UPS, or FedEx package, and it's supposed to get there by tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM, and they have those beautiful little machines that they timestamp when the package arrives, if it arrives just one minute late, because the driver was drinking coffee in the truck, the client is supposed to get 100 % refund on that package for the late delivery.
Josh Fox: So, in our experience is that somewhere between four, to 10 % of the money spent on shipping can be gotten back by doing auditing, and so by signing a waiver, you're really giving up a pretty big percentage, and UPS, and FedEx are very, very smart companies, they do a great job.
Josh Fox: There's definitely a bit of a monopoly there between the two companies, and they often convince clients to sign waivers to forego, you know, three, four, five, six percent in auditing. So, one of the best practices is definitely to not sign these waivers, and then hire a company to do the auditing for you, and this auditing can be done remotely, it's in the cloud, the client doesn't have to spend any time, or effort on it, and what happens is at the end of the month, credits are put onto your account, and so it's very seamless, and it's easy to do, and there's no reason for signing waivers.
Josh Fox: Number two best practice is at least every two, but definitely every three, to perform an accounts payable audit. You know, I'm sure you guys all have hundreds, if not thousands of vendors that you pay invoices to, and we're all human. You know, it just happens, a vendor gets paid twice, a vendor gets paid three times by accident.
Josh Fox: It's really a best practice to hire a firm to go back, and look at, you know, thousands, and thousands of invoices times two, or three years. Now you're talking about 20, 30, 40,000 different invoices, and by reviewing that to make sure that there's no duplicative payments two, or three times, we often find that at least one, or two percent of the spend, often we find in errors that you can go back to the vendors, and get the money back.
Josh Fox: Very similarly, especially for companies that are located in multiple states, when you're looking at those same invoices I just referenced, there are sales tax attached to most of those invoices. So, let's just say that you have a company headquartered in New York, but you also have offices in three, or four, or five other states.
Josh Fox: So, you buy a thousand computers, the invoice comes to your New York headquarters, the vendor charges you New York sales tax, but at the end of the day, the vendor didn't realize that a portion of the computers that you bought were being used by employees in states other than New York that had a lower sales tax rate, and it's easy to convince, and go back to the government, and tell them that the wrong sales tax was paid on some of those computers.
Josh Fox: So, reviewing the sales tax is a phenomenal idea every three years. Most of the states have statute of limitations that are at around three years. So, if you do this, if you don't do this every seven years, you'll lose a lot of money, because you can't go back on the statue of limitations.
Josh Fox: A lot of people are familiar with this. Maybe you've opened the newspaper, or maybe you've seen a family member listed in a article where people have found unclaimed property that belongs to companies. If you could believe this number, there's $45,000,000,000 in this country in these types of checks.
Josh Fox: They're checks that were sent to people, and companies over the years that simply went uncashed. Companies that move offices a lot, this is notorious for that to happen, because checks are mailed to old addresses where they won't be able to get those checks, and they're not forwarded on.
Josh Fox: In New York alone, cause I think a lot of you are in New York, New York is holding about $14 billion of the 45. So, New York represents about a third of the unclaimed property in our country, California second at about 8 billion. So, between California, and New York, it represents about half of the money that goes unclaimed. So, by doing these searches, you know, once, or twice a year would be a great way to see if there's any lost money for your company.
Josh Fox: Another thing, depending on your industry, and how expensive worker's compensation is, is that you get a modification every year, and that modification is published by the insurance company, and that's calculated to determine your premium on worker's compensation.
Josh Fox: So again, we find that often the statue of limitations on worker's comp is two, or three years, so by performing an audit to make sure that your calculations were correct, and your premium was calculated correctly, you would want to do this every couple of years.
Josh Fox: Now, in our experience, everybody has insurance brokers, but this is not typically a function of a broker. It would be an outside consultant, someone like us to do it, to kind of check on the work of the broker.
Josh Fox: Unemployment tax has become a pretty big topic. We all know that employees are coming, and going more often than ever. I used to think that employees would stay at companies for 20, 25 years, but that's just not the norm anymore. So, as employees are coming, and going, and coming, and going more often from companies, their unemployment rate tends to be higher than it used to be in the past.
Josh Fox: So, very similar to worker's comp, if you look at your unemployment rates across the country, there might be different strategies that you can put in place to either recover, or reduce your unemployment rates, and your cost across the country.
Josh Fox: There are things like joint accounts, and voluntary contributions. Those are two strategies that are available that can serve as ways to reduce, and capture back on employment costs, and then everybody has insurance policies. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, whether you have directors, and officer's insurance coverage, or medical insurance, or dental insurance, or vision insurance.
Josh Fox: I mean today, the list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on of all the different types of insurances that are out there. Now, there's one called cyber security, I mean, that wasn't even offered a handful of years ago, and that's a policy that a lot of companies are buying.
Josh Fox: So, as the insurance costs are going up, and as the premiums are rising, and as more insurance policies need to be purchased, all that means is that the insurance broker community is making a larger commission.
Josh Fox: So, in our experience, if you were to approach your broker, and say, listen, 'I love you, I want to work with you. I'm not here to eliminate you, or fire you. I would just like to work on a flat fee, as opposed to you getting a percentage of premium from all these different insurance carriers', and most of them find that to be fair, and reasonable, and something that really works for the partnership between an insurance broker, and a corporation.
Josh Fox: In our experience, there's a lot of vendors out there, and they probably call your companies every day, and they're just simply trying to switch you to whatever company they represent. So, if you're with Staples, then W.B. Mason is going to call you all the time. If you're with FedEx, UPS is going to call you all the time. If you're with ADP, Paychex is going to call you all the time.
Josh Fox: So, you're just bombarded, and I'm sure we all experience this by vendors that are trying to get you to fire, and eliminate the relationships you have in order to save money, and that's a pretty hard one.
Josh Fox: You know, it's the old zero sum game where one vendor loses, and another vendor wins, where I think it's a much easier approach to just continue to keep the 10, or 20, or 30 year relationships that companies have with their vendors, and just simply renegotiate, and restructure contracts to your benefit, as opposed to doing expensive time consuming RFPs, or time expensive meetings where all these vendors parade into your office, and they bring you gifts, and they try to convince you to fire your existing vendors, and hire them.
Josh Fox: And so that's what we're saying here is like in our business, we really sit on the same side of the table as you the client, as you the corporation, trying to help you maximize your savings, not by trying to sell you some product, or replacement service that you really don't need it at the end of the day.
Josh Fox: So our whole mantra is again, zero risk. Our clients should not have to come out of pocket up front for an hourly wage, or a consulting fee. You know, we want to take the risk of our time, and show our clients how to save money.
Josh Fox: There are absolutely no out of pocket costs, and there's no obligation. You know, we're in the business of advice, and direction, and counseling, and if the advice, and the direction, and counseling aren't what it's supposed to be, or there isn't enough savings, and our clients don't want to go forward, we're not here to force them, or push them to do anything.
Josh Fox: So, I didn't want to take too much time today, but I understand that there's at least a couple of dozen people on the phone today, and I really wanted to kind of turn it over to you guys giving the presentation, and see what people's thoughts, or questions where,
Josh Fox: So, is there anybody that's listening that wants to have a conversation, or an interesting debate about some of these best practices? Or maybe you can share some stories of things that you did for your own company that either impacted in a positive way, or a negative way based on cost savings, auditing, speaking to your vendors, working with your vendors.
Josh Fox: You know, it'd be really interesting to have a conversation to see how some of these things have gone for you guys as companies. So, you're there I'm sure, I mean you're a partner in a really nice accounting firm, and I'm sure you deal with these types of issues all the times when you're in partner meetings, and you're discussing the firm's profitability, and even working with clients, you know, what are some of the things that I've mentioned today that tend to be helpful?
Lee Ferber: Yeah. So, I'll give you a few thoughts just based on meetings that I have with clients, and I can tell you when we talk about growth strategies, and building value for a business, the focus always seems to come down to the easy fixes. How can we reduce expenses to increase the bottom line profit?
Lee Ferber: And where I see most business owners don't really focus on certain areas, one would certainly be the vendors, and especially when you have companies that are really growing by leaps, and bounds, their accounting team generally takes a while to catch up with the volume if ever, and there's clearly situations where there are expenses being paid, and it comes up periodically in meetings where there are errors in bills, wrong amounts being charged, and you know, they always talk about reviewing telephone bills, reviewing different insurances, and reality is nobody has time to do it.
Lee Ferber: So, that to me is just the key focus for all business owners, kind of the low hanging fruit for them. So, maybe if you could just discuss a little bit in some of your experiences with working with companies, and let's talk about small, to middle market size companies, not the Fortune 500 companies, but just what your experience has been, how you work with their team, and what type of feedback, or coordination that you get from ownership, and management.
Josh Fox: Yeah, I mean our biggest challenge, like most things in life is really, for really, really smart people, because anyone who's achieved a C level executive position at a company, let's be clear, they're really smart people.
Josh Fox: They've been highly educated, they've worked at some great companies, they have incredible resumes, and basically, the purchasing person, or the legal team, or the HR team really kind of has to like admit to some degree that they might want some outside help, and that's not an easy thing to do.
Josh Fox: You know, we're all humans, we all tend to like to do things on our own. We tend to not seek outside help in general in every area of our life. So, one of the things is that we just need our clients to be humble to the point where it's like, 'Hey, I've negotiated this contract really well I think, but it'd be nice to get a second opinion.'
Josh Fox: 'I just saved the company 10 %, I thought that was pretty good, but if we can help them get the 20, or 30, or 40 % savings, I would think the client would appreciate that', and just be humble enough to say, 'I did well, but I think there's a way to do better'.
Josh Fox: In my experience also, I think these vendors are almost shocked when the clients don't call them on an annual basis. You know, a lot of people sign these three, four, five year deals with vendors, and the old set it, and forget it, you know, if it's like, I don't have to worry about it for three years, you know, most companies don't pay attention, they're off to something else, but we are finding the concept of blend, and extend is an incredible, incredible way to save money immediately.
Josh Fox: So, we often find clients that have signed these three, four, five year contracts, and right now, a year, or two into the agreement, there's definitely ways to blend, and extend that agreement so that they get immediate savings, and then they can also lock in the savings for a longer period of time. So, that's a pretty big strategy for us on the blend, and extend side.
Lee Ferber: Josh, it's Lee, [inaudible 00:28:05] has one more question, then I guess we could wrap it up, and that question is on an ongoing basis, just using maybe some real life experiences that you had, again with smaller, to middle size companies.
Lee Ferber: What's your experience, or what's your process in future years? How much of this work can possibly be taken on by the staff with the clients to work with you going forward once they get the process down, and I'm really focusing more on time commitment, and how you extend this process to future years.
Josh Fox: Yeah, I've never met a client who didn't say that they were super busy, and super crunched for time, and I think that's a big part of how we help our clients. If they just don't have the time to do what we do in two weeks, it might take them three months to do it, just because there's always a stop, and a start, and a stop, and start where they're just doing 20 things, they're juggling 20 things.
Josh Fox: And I think the other issue is that most of our clients tend to have relationships with their vendors. They play golf with them, they go to dinner with them, they go to lunch with them, they happened to know them from the local church, or temple.
Josh Fox: The problem with those relationships on a very friendly basis is that it's hard to call your friend at the office supply company, or it's hard to call your friend at the credit card company, or it's hard to call your friend the banker, and really negotiate the way that you need to do it, because of the positive, close relationship.
Josh Fox: So, having a third party in the middle there I think is very effective in kind of bridging that gap between personal friendship, and maximizing the lowest cost for the corporation.
Lee Ferber: You know, Josh, I think at this point, I just want to thank you for presenting to affirm our respective clients at Gettry Marcus, this has been very valuable. So, I'll let you just wrap up, maybe go to the last page with your contact information, and then we will send out to all the participants on this call, their own copy of this presentation so they could keep it for themselves. Josh, you wanna wrap up with any final comments?
Josh Fox: Yeah, I mean, if anybody has questions, or thoughts, or just a conversation they didn't want to share with the whole group, I'm happy to set up a separate call, or even come to a meeting. I mean, you know, we're located here in the city in midtown, so anybody that has a thought, or a question, or a comment, I'd love to hear from you.
Josh Fox: It's definitely a collaboration between us, and our clients. So, I really appreciate your time. I know you're all busy, and thank you so much for listening, and stay safe in the snow. Take care.