Whenever a startup can upgrade from a ramshackle set-up to having a proper office for the first time, it is a momentous business step. As a startup, you’d never think about your water bills as your primary concern right? For many start-ups, the move from working around cramped desks to having a dedicated space for the team should be simple enough if viewed as scaling up in all the right ways.
I often find that when start-ups are run by those without much experience, the excitement and plate spinning of looking after a company can typically let seemingly innocuous issues fall by the wayside, namely in the realm of bills. Overheads are one thing, but not taking the time to understand what you are paying for and how much you should be paying can accrue costs over time you never wanted or needed.
In particular, one area I want to highlight is the humble water bill. Many businesses, not just startups, can make a meal of water bills by underplaying their importance. It can be something which, when looked after, will save you money for years to come. When it isn’t looked after, a startup could be throwing away anywhere from a tenner to hundreds of pounds every month. That is why I want to highlight what every startup should be watching out for when looking over water bills.
If you’re reading this while running a startup, and are wondering what problems water bills can pose, here is what to look out for.
All startups are built around estimations, looking at what growth a company can achieve and what the next year and beyond looks like. It is nice to have estimates at times. It is terrible to have estimates when they’re used for your water bill.
There is a commonality among startups when it comes to location. You will tend to find that many startups decide to have offices (at least in the UK) in converted spaces, or businesses which had a former life. For example, let’s pretend that you had a start-up taking over a unit that was a coffee shop previously. While it is great to have the plumbing in such a manner that your staff can enjoy a fancy coffee machine getting installed, what will happen if you don’t tell your water supplier who you are and when you moved in?
If you remain quiet, a water supplier will assume that whoever is in the business will be using water in the same way. In our example, you’re looking at hundreds of litres a month that are no longer used. Your supplier might not know that though and keep the estimated rate in line with what was there previously. It creates an inflated rate that you might be none the wiser too. As soon as you have a move-in date, tell your water supplier and ask them about what rates you should expect for your business niche.
Startups know how to graft their way up from the bottom. When moving into an office, it is normal to be superficial and have it looking its best, without addressing what’s moving and shaking under the floorboards. I am a big proponent of getting your business water audited. This is where an auditor will come to check how water enters the property, how your business uses water, and if there are usage problems (or even leaks) that no one has noticed. It may incur a small cost, which is something no small business wants, but better to do it now than have a burst pipe cause havoc in the near future.
I would also recommend you ask your supplier about your water meter. If you have moved into a converted or refurbished property, the water meter may still be an old analogue meter which needs regular checking to submit readings. Ask about a digital/smart meter which sends usage data that is accurate. Again, it may cost a little, but it will bring water bills down if water estimates were too high.
Knowing you can switch
Just settled into your new office? Got a good flow going amongst staff? Everything going well, but just been hit with a stinger of a bill? It might be worth seeing if you can switch. Switching water supplier can help reduce tariffs and make it easier to pay bills. I recommend reading how you can switch business water supplier here.
Getting to grips with running a startup
That is all I have to say about water bills for now. Don’t forget, Start Smarter has a range of resources at your fingertips to help with running a business. If you liked this article, I recommend reading this article on tips for organising your business finance.