Editor’s Note: Chad Cohen is a licensed CPA in California and currently serves as a Senior Director of Finance and Corporate Controller for Zillow.com in Seattle, WA. He has over 13 years of experience in corporate finance, audit and accounting; primarily in the technology and entertainment sectors. He has also functioned in financial planning and Sarbanes Oxley compliance efforts. Previously he also worked as a Big 4 auditor of high technology clients both domestically and abroad. Chad spent the first 12 years of his life in Hong Kong and as such enjoys eating dimsum in Chinatown and practicing Kung Fu in his free time. You can follow him on Twitter @cfolounge.
Unemployment is over 10%, the US dollar is going through the floor as interest rates continue to tank and Congress wants to push through a 2,000 page, $1 trillion health care bill. It might appear that our country is coming apart at the seams but if you are riding out this tidal wave, now is the perfect time to take advantage of the crappy macro conditions and start turning the screws to your vendors.
I don’t care if you’re an accounting manager, a senior buyer, AP clerk or CFO; everyone in the finance department should have a part in looking for ways to save the company some coin and NOW is the perfect time.
Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:
Commercial real estate is in the crapper &mdash Talk to your landlord about extending your lease and locking in or lowering your rents for the next 3 to 5 years. Get concessions, push for free TIs, get a couple more parking spaces, etc.
Strong Arm Your Outside Accountants &mdash Accounting firms have been laying off employees left, right, and center so lock in a long term contract and negotiate a steep discount on standard audit rates and other services like taxes. OR have a bake off with other accounting firms. This will get your auditors attention and encourage them to drop their rates to be competitive with these other firms. BDO, Moss Adams, RSM, etc. also audit public clients (it’s not just the Big 4 firms, folks) and their fee structure is 20 – 30% less than the Big 4. Don’t be afraid to switch firms or give parts of your accounting business (tax compliance, SALT, audit, etc.) to other firms.
Contracts &mdash If you find yourself in the middle to end of a contract term, try to extend your subscription, maintenance or service contract for multiple years in exchange for steeply dropping prices. Mandate that your IT, sales or marketing departments bid out services to multiple businesses when deciding who to give your precious business to. Find a free service that can do what your paid service does &mdash these do exist (they’re usually crappier but you may not need the “Cadillac”).
Price out hardware purchase orders with new vendors &mdash You’ll be surprised what others are willing to do now to get your business. You can usually negotiate better at quarter-ends as sales departments have quotas and targets to meet.
I could go on and on but I think you catch the drift.
I read a book on negotiations a couple years ago that encouraged its readers to negotiate “fearlessly”. I couldn’t agree more.