Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of three articles focusing on specific cost savings and cost recovery strategies for Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owners. In this article we examine water,  sewer and trash expenses. To see the first article about energy expenses: Saving Money & Recovering Costs: Strategies for Franchise Owners To see the second article about Water, Sewer and Trash expenses: Saving Money & Recovering Costs: Strategies for Franchise Owners, Part 2

For five years, Michael Lefkowitz owned and operated four Dunkin’ Donuts stores in Miami-Dade County. Before selling his stores in August of this year, he established ECS Business Services (ECS), a cost reduction and cost recovery consultancy. As ECS President, Lefkowitz is dedicated to helping franchise owners and other clients save money and recover costs related to fixed expenses.

As a former Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, Lefkowitz brings a unique and valuable perspective–he’s been in your shoes–together with more than 30 years of experience managing hotels, including overseeing all purchasing and facility management.

His team of experts at ECS can perform thorough and meticulous analysis of your fixed expenses to identify opportunities for saving money on future bills as well as recouping overpayments made due to erroneous billings. This analysis can typically be accomplished in a few weeks.

ECS is so confident that it can identify cost savings for you that its services are guaranteed: If ECS can’t save your business money, there is no fee. ECS is paid only via a percentage of the funds you save and recover. There are no up-front costs to you, so it is genuinely risk-free. 

Telecommunications Audits

Telecommunications involves three components: telephone “landlines,” cell phones and Internet service. As an affiliate of Schooley Mitchell Telecom Consultants, the largest independent telecommunications consulting company in North America, ECS has access to proprietary software that enables the firm to identify billing problems and to find better plans and rates for its clients on an ongoing basis. Its affiliation with Schooley Mitchell also enables networking with other affiliates, including an up-to-the-minute, online “Bulletin Board” that provides information about advances in products as well as rate changes.

In order to conduct a Telecommunications audit on your behalf, ECS requires at least two to three months of historical billings along with your current service provider agreements or contracts. ECS may also secure additional documentation from your service providers. Once ECS receives this information, the data is entered into Schooley Mitchell’s proprietary software. Based on the data and other relevant factors, ECS performs an in-depth analysis of your costs.

According to Lefkowitz, as a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owner you are obligated to have a couple of different landlines. This involves having service from a local or regional provider as well as a long-distance carrier. You likely also need cell phone service. In both cases, the bills can be quite complicated and often contain features you might not need. Cell phone bills are especially complex and tend to contain more errors, because there are so many different carriers and plans.

By analyzing your historical billings and service contracts, ECS can identify erroneous charges that indicate opportunities to recover costs. In terms of identifying future savings, ECS–particularly with its expertise having operated Dunkin’ shops–can analyze your current land line and cell phone plans to determine if you are indeed paying for features you don’t need. ECS also investigates whether or not you might qualify for a better plan or tier that the provider offers, or if a different provider/carrier altogether offers more advantageous rates or plans. ECS can then negotiate for current service contract modifications or entirely new contracts.

“ECS knows all of the existing carriers and plans and we are able to constantly keep track of new products, plans and carriers as well as rate fluctuations,” Lefkowitz said. “So, we’re able to continually work to find you the best carrier and plan for you at the best price.”

In terms of Internet service, Dunkin’ Donuts shops must have high-speed service that is secured by a third party largely for credit card transactions. Depending what other components you have in place–POS system, security cameras, a router for wireless access for customers–ECS can help determine what level of speed you really need.

“Of course the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want to sell you the highest speed possible, because the higher the speed, the higher the cost. Often you don’t need as high a speed as they suggest or as you may have already signed on for. We can uncover what your actual needs are and recommend the most cost-effective ISP and plan to meet those needs,” said Lefkowitz.

In some cases, packaging all of your telecommunications services under one provider or carrier might be advantageous. In other cases, you might save money by splitting off different services. This is another piece of the puzzle that ECS can solve for you.

Workman’s Compensation Insurance Audits

State law requires all employers to have Workman’s Compensation Insurance (Workman’s Comp) in order to compensate employees injured on the job for lost wages and medical expenses. The insurance rates are set by the state and are based on the type of work being done. Different classification codes for the type of work (e.g., counter/cashier, truck driver, bookkeeper) together with the total amount of payroll determine the premiums.

In order for an ECS Workman’s Comp audit to be worthwhile, you need to be paying a minimum annual premium of $15,000 to $20,000, which usually means you are operating more than one store. Upfront, ECS needs your coverage profile along with three to four years of your loss runs and your insurance company’s annual audit statements. ECS can get this data directly from you or from your insurance company or agent. Based on this data, ECS analyzes your actual costs, checking for such errors as inaccurate classification codes and payroll information (since you are typically estimating your payroll for the year).

ECS can also monitor claims on an ongoing basis to make sure each claim is ultimately closed. If a claim isn’t closed and remains on your books, so to speak, you are penalized with higher premiums. In addition, if doctors can’t immediately make a determination about an employee’s prognosis or how long he or she will need to be out of work, your insurance company determines and sets aside a reserve to cover that claim. Again, if that claim goes unclosed, your premiums go up.

“Erroneous job code classifications and inaccurate payroll information are common, as are cases of claims remaining open for months, even years, on end,” Lefkowitz said. “It’s nearly impossible for a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owner to stay on top these issues in the course of everyday business. That’s where ECS can help. We have the experience and the time to vigilantly monitor your policy to make sure your Workman’s Comp costs are sound and don’t escalate unnecessarily.”

For more information, contact Michael Lefkowitz at michael@ecssaves.com or 786-220-9250. You can also learn more at www.ecsbusinessservices.com.