Running Costs and How to Reduce them!

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on November 19, 2013 No Comments yet

Running Costs and how to reduce them!

[Reward for reading the article at the end!]

We at The Cost Detectives work with a number of charities every month and although costs can differ widely between organisations the relentless pressure to reduce them and get value for money is always the same.

Whether it’s champagne and fish tanks in the private sector or sleeping bags and Gift Aid support in the charitable sector, we have found the same basic questions can be asked of all costs.


The three most important questions

 to ask when looking at any cost.


1    Is that cost really necessary?  [Can we just get rid of it, just because that is the way it has always been done does not mean it should continue that way. Challenge the costs very existence.]


2    How can we be more efficient? [This could mean something as simple as turning the lights off or using free technology available on the internet, or making processes work smarter.]



3    Can we renegotiate with our suppliers, if not can we change them? [Many suppliers will negotiate, you maybe surprised and indeed there are many hungry suppliers who will provide better and less expensive products and services.]



If you can ask these questions and take action on the answers then you will go a long way to ensuring that you are using your income wisely for your charities chosen passion.


Often it is a case of finding the time to ask for help. For example, we are often surprised how many companies are happy to help charities especially those with local connections, equally we come across others who treat charities as just another customer and charge whatever they can get away with. Most charities we see have a mixture of the two. But do find the time to ask.


The key is not only to ask the four questions but also to take action!


Reward Time!


As a reward for reading the article here are three tips that you can take away with you now and potentially save thousands of pounds in your charity. So copy these to your finance team now, you may even get them to make the coffee for a change as a thank you.


3 Cost Saving Tips


1    If you do not know when your energy contracts end then find out, otherwise you will be rolled over into a new much higher, above market rate for years to come.


2    Have a look at your phone bill, if you are paying a minimum call charge, even if the call is one second long then you are paying too much. Also if you are paying over 8 tenths of a penny per minute for local and national calls then you are paying too much.



3    If Vat is actually a cost for your charity then check you are paying the reduced rate for all your energy and water you could save 15% off every bill!



The Cost Detectives are a Cost Reduction company, who help all types of organisations by identify cost savings. We help a few charities each month for free. Follow us on Twitter for more tips or just email  with any questions and help.





Your supplier has just put their prices up, now what?

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on September 24, 2013 No Comments yet

The six questions you should ask when suppliers put their prices up.


We often come across this issue with our customers, in fact it is often the trigger to bring us in to help.

Here are questions you should ask;

Does our contract with them allow for price rises?

Do we have an option to come out of the contract?

Are the rises justified, is the market moving in the same direction?

Should we explore other options with other suppliers?

Can we negotiate with our supplier to try and reverse the increases?

Do we have the time for any of this?


If you do not have the time to find the answers to these questions, then your costs

will just continue to rise putting more and more pressure on your profitability.


You should also be aware, especially for those suppliers that you do not have a contract with, that they can put their prices up without even telling you. Do you check that this is not happening or do you just take it without doing anything about it?


The economy is supposedly turning a corner, so many suppliers will be taking the opportunity to put prices up.

Our advice: Just say no.  Keep Calm




If you need help saying no then just drop me a line on


Costs are like dogs!- The Cost Detectives

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on April 7, 2013 No Comments yet

Costs are like dogs!


We spend a lot of time with clients looking at the actual cost of things that they are paying for, because that is the area they want us to concentrate on.

But we also look at how things are being ordered and why?  dog on lead 1

Companies struggle between empowering employees to do  right when they buy things, but equally wonder why their costs just keep going upwards.

There are things you can do to make sure that the balance works better.

Restrict who employees can order from, but equally make sure the door is open to new suggestions for suppliers as employees who are at the coal face often have an eye on new trends and options available.


Empower employees not only to spend but to innovate as well.

When was the last time you asked your employees, “What do we spend too much on?” If you did , did you take any notice?

If you have multiple sites how do you know when purchases are being made? Do you have a web based ordering and stock control system that can spit out reports at the drop of a hat.

There are many different ways of controlling day to day costs. Looking at costs two weeks after each month end is not one of them or even worse at year end!

Costs are like dogs you need to keep them on a leash, but there is no reason with the right procedures in place that it can not be one of those extendable / retractable ones. Not every dog tries to run away!


dog on lead 2


So have another think about your costs, if you do not have the time to find those last bits of savings then you know where to come.

Don’t forget to follow us on twitter @CostDetectives for great free cost saving tips, or do get in touch if you are looking for any contacts as we now have over 7,000.


How your costs can be like the Olympic Cyclists! by The Cost Detectives

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on March 10, 2013 No Comments yet

How your costs can be like the Olympic Cyclists!


I remember watching an interview whilst the Olympics were on , with some of the management team of the British 2012 Olympic Cycling team, the most successful we have ever had.

The thing that really struck me was how the interviewee said there are no big changes to be made anymore, no one thing is suddenly going to make everyone go faster. So what did they do? Did they just try and do the same thing did they just stop looking? No they listed out every single item and said how can we improve it even if it only makes a difference of a hundredth of a second, and they started to make the changes.


Low and behold all those little increments added together added up to a big something, more gold medals!Olympic Gold Medal


As we visit lots of businesses or talk to prospects we often hear, “oh no we have our costs under control thanks”, well I bet the other countries cyclists thought that as well and look what happened to them!

Making it known in the company that the little things are important will permeate through the rest of the behaviour and all sorts of benefits will accrue. Not only cost control and waste but customer care and delivery as well.Cyclist Finishing First

So have another think about your costs, if you do not have the time to find those last bits of savings then you know where to come.

Don’t forget to follow us on twitter @CostDetectives for great free cost saving tips, or do get in touch if you are looking for any contacts as we now have over 7,000.


Are Leases and HP Agreements the next PPI?

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on February 14, 2013 No Comments yet



Are leases and HP Agreements the next PPI?


Be honest when you had the lease or HP agreement for your last photocopier, phone system or IT equipment for the office did you read all the small print?

Photocopier Leases!!

Even if you did, did you understand it?  There is growing evidence of problems coming from the industry experts that we may have another mis-selling situation on our hands.


There has been some high profile cases involving schools recently who have been massively overcharged, one medium sized primary school was losing £45,000 over the five year contract term, a massive part of their budget. Another school was paying £25,000 too much. These are not scams these are just ordinary leases that just pile up and look OK each time.

Another horrendous example was Glemsford Primary who said it unwittingly signed a deal leasing 100 computers, which the school said was on the basis that it would not cost anything, they ended up with a bill for £500,000.

IT Leases!!

But it is not only schools it is now spreading to all sorts of businesses around the UK.


If you have a lease that is old new or current just send it to us and we can get it reviewed for free for you.

The report will tell you if there are any issues that may trigger some sort of compensation. If not then you have lost nothing apart from the comfort of knowing that you have a good deal.

Just email me on a copy of your lease or click here, Cost Detectives Leases, to upload your agreement for free and send me the link.

We will review the lease in a few days and send you the results we find.


10 Top Cost Saving Tips for any Business

Posted in Cost Detective, General by Marcus on November 10, 2012 2 Comments

Ten top tips for savings costs in any company or at home

 I Recently used this list as a basis for a presentation I did to 20 business women in North London, it was well received. Not only because all the tips are real ones that we have used with our clients, but because some of them can also be used a home.

              1.     Energy                        Make sure you know when your energy contracts are up for renewal. If you     don’t  you will be rolled over into a new contract at a higher than market rate and be paying too much for years to come.


                 2.   Energy Usage           A very simple tip, when you leave your business tonight take a reading of your electricity meter. When you come in tomorrow take another reading. He wonder what on earth have you left on all night that is costing you hundreds and hundreds of ££s a year!


3.  Fax Machines           Please tell me you do not still have one of these, they cost over £200 a year to run. You can now have a digital fax which means that any fax that is sent to you arrives as an email instead. No more worrying about ink or paper of that horrible squealing noise if your fax shares your phone line. We got rid of ours sometime ago and we now use this,  costs £2 a month.


4.   Print Costs                   These costs are still falling so you must ensure that you get more than one quote each and every time. We act as a print price checker for a number of organisations so if you need help with what can be a tricky area but full of significant savings then let us know.


5.    Telephony                    There are again huge savings still being made in telephony, but if you are a small company or a one man band then have you thought about getting rid of your landline altogether? You can still have a landline number and just point  it at your mobile or answering service and you can change the number it points to anytime.


6.    For the retailers amongst you.    You should all be taking credit cards as a payment method, but when was the last time you checked how much your Merchant Credit  Card Company is charging you? It is not all about the headline percentage charges did you now there are over 16 other charges that can appear on your statement? If you have lots of tourists buying your wares did you know there is a way of reducing your charges to zero, and we know companies who are actually being paid by their Merchant Credit card company.


7.      Business Rates                        There are still 41% of small companies in the UK who are not claiming the discounts and rebates available. Have a look at your business rates bill and look for the RV value. If it less than £25,500 if you are in Greater London then you should be getting rebates.


8.      Data Back ups                     Do you back up your data? Do you back up onto a drive that sits next to your computer? Thief will just take both. What about at home are you backing up those precious digital photos etc. A large percentage of companies fail within 2 years of a significant data loss, do not be one of them.  We use a service that charges £60 a year for a terabyte, incredibly good value, if you want the details then just let me know.


9.      Do you run a cafe or a restaurant?        Do you measure your waste food? This is a great way to answer questions like are  our portions too big? Do our customers like what we are serving today? If you simply scrape all the left overs into a bucket then weigh each day you will soon get a picture of what is working and what is changing.


10.      Telephony again.                Have a look at your business phone bill, I want you to look for 2 letters that will highlight the fact that you are paying too much. Those letters are “BT”.  95% of the clients that we work with have been paying too much if they have had BT as their Telephony supplier, are you one of the them?



I hope you have enjoyed these 10 tips, please do not hesitate to ask any questions or indeed add your own. Don’t forget to share this article  if you found it helpful. Just send me an email



Age UK Enfield Continues to Support community.

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on October 27, 2012 No Comments yet


This week I attended the AGM of Age UK Enfield. Did you know each local Age UK office is a charity in their own right and do not receive any money from the National Office?

Age UK Enfield Offices on the ground floor

Not sure what I was expecting, but I had two pleasant surprises.

Firstly was the amount of people there supporting the cause, the Enfield Mayor Cllr Kate Anolue was there, as were a number of councillors. Lots of members of the charity,  as well as volunteers, supporters and the local Police Support Officers.

In fact there were over 100 people in attendance. Including a very sprightly 95 year old barn dancer!


The second surprise was when the CEO Tony Seagroatt during his address, took the time out to mention myself and The Cost Detectives, thanking us for helping reduce their running costs and then recommending us to other charities. Completely unexpected.

The big news of the day was the announcement of a potentially big project on the horizon which sounded really exciting, I am sure we will hear more in due course. This was Tony’s 20th year as CEO a fantastic servant to, well I was going to say “the elderly”, but as they start supporting people when they turn 50 I am not sure I can.

They have some great Trustees but are potentially on the look out for someone that has some marketing expertise they can bring to the team so if you are interested I am sure Tony would be pleased to hear from you.

The police also did a presentation on bogus callers and how to deal with them, a number of people in the audience then st0od up and told their stories of how they had been ripped off, a lesson for us all to be aware. Just another way AGE UK Enfield is helping the local community.

After the meeting was over everyone was encouraged to stay and talk to each other over tea and sandwiches which was great, met a number of interesting people.

Had a great afternoon thanks to Tony and the team at Age UK Enfield.

A final thought “Who do you support in your local community?”.




Charity Facilities Management, what is special about it?

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on October 21, 2012 No Comments yet

What is special about Charity Facilities Management?


I was recently invited to speak to a group of charities brought together by the wonderful Annette McGill of the Charity Facilities Management Group.

There were 15 or so London based Charities ranging from some of the very big players to some more modest ones.

This group meets on a regular basis and recently they have inevitably been talking about costs and trying to make sure that  that they are all paying market rates for goods and services.

Annette spoke of some of the large disparity on some costs from within the group, not explained by volumes etc . I am sure some members took that information away and started negotiating with their suppliers armed with that new knowledge, one of the benefits of the group.

This sharing of information seems more open in the Charity sector, and is not something I readily come across in the commercial world.


Indeed what was special was  how some of the very big charities were more than happy to help the smaller ones and not only with advice but with offering to share contract rates that their bulk had allowed them to negotiate so the smaller charities could benefit from savings.


Needless to say my segment was on not only how we look at each cost to make sure they were paying market rates but also to ensure that they asked two further questions as well.

Firstly;     Do they need that cost at all, what would they say if I told them they could no longer buy that item or service, what would they do?

Secondly;   How can you use less of and goods and services, you will save a lot more money this way. I illustrated this by asking how many of the group had turned off their PCs when they came to this afternoon meeting, only 20% had. All that energy down the drain and out of the bank.

I finished up my piece by letting the charities know that our Cost Reduction Services are free to charities, which as you can imagine was well received.

The meeting also had other presenters from buying Groups as well as suppliers of various items. This all added to the receiving of information and homework for the attendees.


The next meeting is about Energy, with a number of brokers attending, I hope they talk about energy saving as well and not just getting the best price. I hope they read my previous blog on ideas about how Energy Companies can rip you off.


The Charity attendees were:  Cafod, NCVO, John Ellerman Foundation, Unitarian Church, Charity Facilities Management, Trust Thamesmead Ltd.

Campaign to Protect Rural England

Field Lane Foundation, World Vision UK

Peabody Trust,  British Heart Foundation

National Voices, Society of Genealogists

Disabilities Trust, NCMA, Cats Protection

Marie Curie Cancer Care, Spurgeons


16 ways different Merchant Credit Card companies can rip you off!

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on October 4, 2012 No Comments yet

16 ways different Merchant Credit Card companies can rip you off!


We asked one of our experts recently what sort of things we should look out for when we are looking at Merchant Credit Card statements and charges.

They admitted they even surprised themselves with the list.

The headline rates are often touted, but this is not always the full picture!


  1. Admin fee – charge to set up the service
  2. Terminal Rental fee – are the fees being charged an introductory offer, or are they fixed.  Also to ensure the same style of machines are being quoted for
  3. Monthly/annual membership fee.  Not very common but we do still see this one a number of applications
  4. Authorisation charges – price per transaction or process
  5. Chargebacks – what charge is there per chargeback
  6. Voice authorisations – are these charged extra
  7. What number does the authorisation service dial – if this is not freephone, the customer will also be paying for the call.
  8. Premium fees – these are often not disclosed fully on an invoice so hard to quantify, some providers are very good at hiding certain fees like this.
  9. Interchange fees – not normally charge separately, but this is now standard practice for some banks.
  10. Cancellation fees, cancellation terms – some of the companies  can impose very onerous terms for cancellation (e.g. all remaining payments plus a cancellation fee)
  11. Contract Length – if the terms above are unrealistic, this could cause a problem.
  12. Setup time – how long will they realistically take to process the application
  13. PCIDSS fees – this may be an annual membership fee, non-compliancy fees, or similarly worded charge
  14. Paper statements – is this a chargeable service, or has this even been scrapped altogether.
  15. RISK – are they asking for any security up front – this is not as likely as you normally deal with existing businesses, but may still be something of a sticking point.  This will also be what is the payment cycle/deferment of the payment.
  16. What other services does the machine offer? – Mobile Phone Top Ups.



So 16 different things to look at, all before you look at the headline rates of the percentage they charge for each transaction.


If you have any trouble trying to make sense of yours then just let us know and we can get our experts to do the work for you and find you the best current deal. Just email me on


Do you have the fairer sex working for you?

Posted in Cost Detective by Marcus on September 13, 2012 No Comments yet

Do I need to provide sanitary disposal?

Even if you only have one women working for you these regulations apply.


Each company has a duty of care under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The Regulations updated in 1992, stipulate that “In the case of water closets

used by women, suitable means should be provided for the disposal of sanitary dressings”.

 This applies to all commercial premises in the UK.

One of the things that you need to be aware of is that if your building cleaners are just emptying the bins into the general waste bags then you are breaking the law.

So using a highly reputable Registered Waste carrier is essential.

How much should I be paying for the service?

If you already have this service in place with a properly registered Waste carrier then check that you are not paying too much.

Our research shows that if you are paying more than £9 for a monthly collection of each bin then you will indeed be paying too much. If you have a lot of bins that need collecting and servicing, then the price should be less.


Of course if you would like us to help you check your existing contract or put you in touch with a supplier then just drop me a line to and we will do all we can to get those bills reduced.

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