CFOs from top Australian startups share 15 actionable ways to reduce cost
Ever wondered how the best finance leaders operate? We certainly have. That’s why we’ve collated the best advice from global scale-up companies like Propeller Aero, Airwallex, LegalVision, Car Next Door, and Nutromics to see how you can optimise your cost structure.
Alex Millar, CPA
March 11, 2021
1. Reduce your foreign currency costs by reviewing expenditure in USD, GBP or EUR
You may not realise this but more than 50% of subscriptions are charged in USD, meaning you pay 1-5% FX fees on transactions (depending on your provider). Let's looks at a concrete example: if you were paying A$200k to Amazon Web Services, you would pay the following in FX fees:
Domestic bank credit card
Approximate fees: 3-5%
Approximate cost: A$6,000 - A$10,000
Approximate fees: 0.3% with no setup, monthly or minimum fees
Approximate cost: A$600
Approximate fees: 0.6-2% + flat fee on transactions under A$10,000
Approximate cost: A$1,200 - A$4,000
Wise (formerly Transferwise)
Approximate fees: 0.44%
Approximate cost: A$876
"Using services like Airwallex and Transferwise are a great way to save money on your foreign transfers. We saved over A$10k when sending money overseas from our most recent production run" Dan W - Financial Controller at Propeller Aero
2. Eliminate your bank fees
Contact your business relationship manager to discuss their bank fees. There's always room to negotiate their exuberant rates, and even reduce them near zero for the right volume of transactions.
3. Reduce labour costs (by 20-50%) by accessing talent in regional or remote locations
A financial accountant (5 years experience) could cost you the following these cities:
Capital cities in Australia: A$65,000 - A$90,000
Regional Australia: A$55,000 - A$80,000
Philippines: A$25,000 - A$40,000
4. Review of staff headcount
Consider your talent distribution. Can an employee be upskilled to accommodate two roles?
5. Eliminate hourly rate contractors
Hourly rates are very convenient to ramp up work whenever your business requires it, but they can remain hidden and slowly create a dent in your budget. Take the example of a senior engineer who earns A$850/day and works 5 additional hours per week. Those few extra hours could end up costing your business:
Week: A$531 (based on a work day of 8 hours)
Annually: A$25,488 (based on 48 weeks)
6. Centrally track and manage all software subscription costs
Track your subscriptions and monthly payments in a spreadsheet to forecast future expenses. Dependant on the size of your business, you may opt for a software manager like Hudled to do this for you.
7. Manage each subscription on a dedicated virtual credit card
Gain control of what subscriptions your company is paying for by creating dedicated cards, usually at no extra cost for every vendor in your software stack. If you lose the credentials or access, you can cancel the individual card and stop paying for the subscription immediately.
"We've taken our SaaS management to another level by creating a dedicated virtual card for each major subscription. This allows our finance team to cancel unwanted subscriptions by cancelling the card in just a few clicks" Scott M - Finance Director at Airwallex
8. Upgrade to annual plans on subscriptions you are unlikely to churn
Many subscriptions offer discounts of 10-50% if you lock into single or multi-year contracts. Determine what your most business critical subscriptions are for each critical function within your company: Email (Google workspace), Internal Communication (Slack) or Hosting (AWS/Azure).
9. Check license utilisation periodically in your largest subscriptions
Many subscriptions charge based on multiple criteria such as seats, “premium features” or number of contacts. For example, HubSpot charges approximately A$500 for 2,000 additional marketing contacts. By reviewing these contacts periodically, you can remove low quality accounts, e.g.: support@[company].com.
10. Renegotiate or leave your current lease
How long is left on your lease? Do you need an office at all?
Can you renegotiate to more favourable terms?
Can you sublease your current space or share it with another company?
Will your new landlord cover your break costs to start your new lease early? (assuming it’s a cheaper rate.)
11. Contact all major suppliers to extend payment terms or negotiate discounts for quicker payments
Consider whether supplier finance costs, discounts, insurance funding etc are worthwhile - eg. is giving a discount 2% for early payment valid in current climate.
"Cash is king in uncertain times so you need to optimise cashflows and obligations" Warwick D - Finance & Operations at Nutromics
12. Eliminate funding premium on insurance
Is paying a funding premium on your insurance policy worth the standard 6-9% given the surplus funds in your bank account will be earning you less than 1%?
13. Can you renegotiate your debt and interest terms with your bank
Determine whether it makes financial sense to go interest-only for a period of time.
Contact your branch manager and see if there is a more competitive deal available.
14. Is your company eligible for the R&D Tax incentive?
Contact your accountant or R&D advisor to see if you are eligible. Companies can leverage a 43.5% R&D rebate on eligible expenses such as software subscriptions, engineering teams, even certain marketing expenses for product research may qualify.
To track these costs effectively throughout the year, create a tag within your accounting system i.e. 100% R&D, No R&D, Apportioned R&D and Manual Calc R&D
15. Check your consumption and see if it may warrant changing providers
You can use a tool such as Expense Check to compare, find alternatives and manage all your utility costs. Look at Carbon Neutral alternatives such as Powershop. You can manage consumption with a heat-map and reduce high cost items, e.g. electricity for refrigerators that your team isn't using can go up to A$400 / year.
Have we missed anything?
Let us know how you found ways to save in your company!
Alex Millar, CPA
CEO & Cofounder of Hudled. A real-time platform for teams in growing companies to track and optimise their software stack