By Maria Valdez Haubrich

We’ve been in a down economy for just about a year now, and small business owners are still hanging on. But until recovery comes, you may need even more ways to cut costs.

If you haven’t already done so, one of the smartest ways to cut your business’s expenses is to talk to your employees about it. Employees are the ones who are on the front lines, and who see which systems do and don’t work. Chances are they’ll have some great ideas for places you could cut waste.

To get the best results, make sure your employees have some idea of the company’s existing expenses and income so that they can come up with ideas that make good sense. Hold a brainstorming meeting where staffers can feel free to throw out suggestions. You’ll get better ideas if you give your people notice ahead of time so they can think about the issue. And if some employees are too shy to speak up, you can also create a “suggestion box” where they can write down their ideas.

The types of cost-cutting suggestions employees come up with will surprise you. Workers who know that saving money could make the difference in whether or not they face layoffs or pay cuts are highly motivated to think creatively.

Of course, you won’t end up implementing all of the ideas, but simply the fact that you’re listening and taking employees’ ideas seriously goes a long way toward helping their morale—and in times like these, the psychological bottom line can be just as important as the financial one.