From leases to supplier contracts, small businesses are finding that renegotiating their agreements can save money and free up cash. Businesses that pay on time or pay cash are finding they can cut costs by 15% or so, and landlords are letting companies revisit leases rather than have them walk away. "Most of us grew up knowing that once you agree to something, you don't back out of it. That rule doesn't apply anymore," says Bill Bartmann, a small-business consultant in Tulsa, Okla.

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