Erin Elaine Casey

How spending a few hours now can save you a lot of money later

Steaming stamps off envelopes? Paying your 14-year-old cousin to design your website? Turning down the thermostat while your employees pile on cardigans?

Saving doesn’t have to hurt or give you goosebumps. Whether it’s investing in good advice up front, finding the right financial partners and supports, reducing your operating costs, or joining forces with other businesses to increase your buying power, saving money is actually pretty easy.


Seeking quality advice, education and mentoring is critical from the minute you decide to start a business. Craig MacMullin, President and CEO of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED), describes knowledge as the “great equalizer” and suggests we take a closer look at the other side of the income statement.

“A lot of people think if their business is in trouble they have to increase sales,” he explains. “But in the early stages, it’s about knowing if your business model is sound and if your value proposition is right. That hard work at the front-end to have an evidence-based business model is a good investment. Spending some time testing your assumptions, long before employees are hired and money is invested, is critical.”

CEED supports the life cycle of entrepreneurship from startup to scale-up. “We also finance at a very low rate,” adds MacMullin. “Prime plus two per cent on a character-based basis. It’s a great rate and with a lower hurdle to qualify.”

With dozens of organizations in Nova Scotia supporting entrepreneurs with advice, education, training and financing, there’s no reason to go it alone. “We walk people through their options,” says MacMullin. “Entrepreneurship can be very, very lonely. I want them to come here, have a coffee and talk about this.”


Finding the right banking partner is critical. “You need somebody who’s in your corner and takes the time to get to know you, your ideas and where you want to take your business,” says Lindsay Cross, Director of Marketing and Strategy with CUA. “We’re a full-service banking institution with common sense lending practices. Because of our size and our connection to the local marketplace, we can often give people decisions quickly — and those decisions are made locally, not in Montreal or Toronto.”

Shaun MacIntyre, Director of Commercial Services for CUA, outlines some key considerations for keeping more cash in your till. “Each institution has a personality and values. You have to be comfortable with the organization and the account manager you work with — they’re a partner in your success.”

He also recommends reviewing your accounts. The ones you selected when you first opened might not be appropriate and you could be paying too much. While you’reat it, take a look at your paper and digital transaction fees. “If you’re doing 50 or 100 transactions a month, the cost of a cheque can be a dollar or more and an electronic transaction can be as little as 15 cents.”

Smart investments are important. “Consider how much you’re spending each month or year on commercial leases, heating costs and equipment maintenance,” says MacIntyre. “We can help with financing for upgrading equipment and clarify the positive long-term impact of a wise short-term investment.”

Business owners have a variety of tools they can use to help with their cash flow, including chequing accounts, credit cards and lines of credit. “We can have a conversation around how you’re paying for things and how it could be improved,” says MacIntyre. And for those of us with too much money in the bank, CUA also helps clients figure out how their money can make more money through savings accounts and term deposit options.

“You need a partner to help you find the right strategy. You shouldn’t have to figure this out by yourself,” adds Cross. “People, businesses and ideas don’t fit in a box.”


Costs like utilities might seem fixed, but how much do you really know about your water, electricity, phone and other bills? Just like banking, it pays to ask questions and re-evaluate your services on a regular basis.

“Historically, people have been more sensitized to conserving electricity, but are getting more attuned to managing their water,” says Cathie O’Toole, Director of Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer at Halifax Water. Several new programs have been introduced to help non-residential customers save money and help the environment.

In 2017, a stormwater credit program was implemented for institutional, commercial and industrial customers. Nonresidential properties with stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) like in-line pipe storage, stormwater management ponds, engineered wetlands and rooftop storage to help manage peak flows may be eligible for a credit. “Some non-residential customers could reduce their bills by 30 to 50 per cent,” adds O’Toole.

Halifax Water also has a wastewater rebate program for customers who use more than 1,000 cubic metres of water in a 12-month period and can demonstrate the amount of wastewater they discharge= is less than they use. “Things like breweries, ice-making companies, concrete producers and any company using water in some kind of process where the water doesn’t go into the wastewater system could be eligible,” says O’Toole. “It depends on the customer, but some are getting rebate cheques of over a hundred thousand dollars a year.”

Good old-fashioned conservation is also getting easier. Over the next couple of years, new water meter technology program Customer Connect will allow customers to more easily monitor their water consumption and manage their bills through an online portal. “We have tips to help people understand how to read their meter, check for leaks and simple tips to use around buildings and outdoor for both residential and commercial customers.”


When you join a business advocacy organization like the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, you’re not just helping yourself. You’re building a strong business community that can leverage its buying power for mutual benefit.

Amber Thomas-Johnson, Member Services Specialist at the Halifax Chamber, has a list as long as your arm of membership benefits that can help you save money while being a good neighbour to other Halifax businesses and organizations. “Take advantage of our benefit partners!” she says. “Employees have access to these benefits as well as owners. Our benefit providers are all local, all members, all engaged. They’re really here to take care of Chamber members.”

The Chamber’s affordable group health plan for small businesses with three employees or more is offered through the Canadian Chamber of Commerce health plan. Sharing claims with more than 28,000 other Canadian businesses means you have access to healthcare, dental and disability benefits with stable premiums.

Theriault Financial Inc. facilitates the program here in Halifax and one-third of Halifax Chamber members take advantage of it.

Halifax Chamber members also enjoy great discounts, including savings of $400 or more per year on combined home and automobile insurance through TD Insurance Meloche Monnex; up to 85 percent off a select list of products and a large discount off the catalogue list price of Grand & Toy office products; 10 percent off Ceridian payroll services and free implementation; and the Avis Budget car rental Preferred Service program with free upgrades and Halifax Chamber corporate rate.

If you’re a business that takes payments, you’ll see substantial savings on merchant services with Payformance POS. “The Chamber has saved 30 percent on merchant fees,” says Thomas- Johnson. And who doesn’t want to save money on gas? Member companies and their employees are eligible for 3.5 cents off per litre with Esso credit cards. “This is a great benefit because it also helps you monitor costs.”

“There are also tons of member-to-member savings through our marketplace: discounts on park and fly, estate planning services, daycares and a lot more. These are real, usable opportunities for people. Offering a member-to-member value also shows you’re engaged in the business community.”

Access is easy. There’s no card, code or special account number. You just need to be a member in good standing and the vendor will confirm your membership with the Chamber directory. The member services tab on the Chamber website has an ROI calculator to show just how much value you’re getting from your membership dollar. “In many cases, you can get your initial investment back by using just a couple of these offers,” explains Thomas-Johnson.


Every strategy here has a common thread: Investing a little time today will help you save big tomorrow. Do your homework. Ask questions. Advocate for yourself and your business. Make a plan and get feedback. Ask for help.

It’s your money. Go get it!


• Hire people with diverse skill-sets to do various things within the organization and identify and maximize your staff’s strengths. This helps you keep more costly services like graphic design or IT in-house and move people to where they’re needed most.

• Minimize larger-ticket costs like insurance by regularly reviewing your policies to ensure you're only getting what you need.

• Bring training into your staff meetings, instead of sending one person on a course.

• Take on students to do tasks you don’t have the budget for. They will get good, real-world experience and you will get important work done.

• Consider pooling services or benefits packages with other not-for-profits.

• Take advantage of national partnerships for things like marketing and fundraising.


Do-it-yourself — or DIY — is a pretty common strategy for people running small and not-for-profit businesses. The gospel of entrepreneurship preaches a lean, mean approach, but what happens when we take it too far? Doing it all ourselves can lead to physical and emotional burnout and rob us of the passion and purpose that led us into business in the first place. Here are three tips for avoiding the OMG of DIY:

  1. If someone else could do a task inone hour that would take you six, hire it out. Find trustworthy help and feel the relief wash over you.

2. Remember that you’re not indispensible. You’re awesome, but there are other people who can do at least some of the things you do.

3. Recognize when a task or project is not a good use of your time. Time really is money. Don’t waste yours on $12 per hour tasks when your time is worth four, five or 10 times that.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Positive business environment

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