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James Caan's tips from the Dragons' Den

2nd November 2008

James Caan, entrepreneur and business speaker and star of Dragons Den, gives his advice to small businesses on coping in the economic downturn.

If you're a small business you can't avoid the fact that the next twelve months are going to be tough but now is the time to prove your durability.

Successful entrepreneurs are those who not only perform well during the good times, but also the bad.

This is a great opportunity to revise your business strategy and review costs.

I would advise a small business to consider the following options:

If your address and location are crucial to the identity of your company, investigate the option of moving to a virtual office - for example, renting office space as and when you need it or joining a members club, with a prestigious location and access to corporate meeting facilities. This will save your company thousands of pounds a year, without compromising your brand.

If your next move is to set-up a home office, you can make huge savings and spend hundreds rather than thousands on office equipment by buying from auction sites, such as eBay, or shopping channels. Whilst you should be cutting costs wherever possible, there are some investments that you will need to make early on, to make cost savings possible longer term. The first step should be to update your technology and where possible switch from PCs to laptops and PDAs.

Not only will this bring an element of flexibility to your workforce but the cost benefits are significant, by saving on both hardware and IT support. Enabling an employee to work on the move or from home negates the need for large office space, thereby reducing overheads and increasing productivity markedly. Remember, PDAs can be set up to send and receive emails without disclosing their remote source.

Check out different technology providers' business solution packages. For example, mobile tariffs that allows companies to build a plan that incorporates voice, data, texts and international calls according to their exact mobile communications needs can help to protect against 'bill shock'.

And finally – I would strongly recommend that you offer customers a discount for prompt payment. In a difficult market such as this one, cash is king.

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