Business owners are used to wearing many hats. It comes with the territory.
My firm provides bookkeeping services to small businesses. Accounting and client services are at the center of our work, but I remember when I also had to be the HR manager and IT director.
Thankfully, today I have employees that handle some of these ancillary tasks.
But after all these years, there has been one duty that I’ve never gotten off my desk: Equipment.
Admittedly, equipment is an afterthought. And that’s largely the point.
Our workspace needs are not complex enough for a full-time office manager. Each of my employees has different workspace needs, so it’s not obvious which of them should be “in charge” of equipment. Then, equipment purchases are large budget items. Even if I centralized the purchasing process, I would still spend lots of time reviewing and approving requests.
So here I am, CEO of the company, and also its equipment boy.
My situation is not unique, of course, and many small business people will spend countless hours looking for the right desk, printer, or PC.
In this post, I figured I would draw on my unwanted experience to help you more smoothly and affordably acquire the items that keep your business ticking.
The night before my second employee was due to start work, I looked around our small office and realized that she had no place to sit!
Finances were tight in those early days, but even now, I feel embarrassed by how I decided to “problem solve.”
I ran home and grabbed a card table and lawn chair from my garage.
Thankfully, she was a good sport, and we got her a proper set-up shortly after.
The price tag on new office furniture can be impressive, and when you’re in a rush, solutions don’t come cheap. These days, I take a more active approach to making sure our office has the right accouterments. Three sources have been invaluable in keeping our expenses down.
As a small businessman, I regret endorsing the use of a mega-retailer like Amazon. But sometimes, a deal is a deal.
The main advantage of working with Amazon is that they deliver. Our office moves at a quick pace. It would take an hour to drive to the nearby showrooms, purchase and load a desk into my truck, and drive all the way back. That time is valuable!
With Amazon Prime, you get free delivery and generally accurate estimates of when you can expect to receive your purchase. Moreover, the prices are reasonable. The Amazon Basics line has a leather-padded office chair for $67. Elsewhere on the site, a 55-inch work desk only runs $82, and executive-style furniture can be purchased in the low-to-mid hundreds.
Most major markets will have at least one dealership where office furniture is repaired, remanufactured, rented, and sold. A simple Google search will help you find nearby options.
Working with these firms has multiple advantages. First, it’s good to support your local economy. But more to brass tacks, dealerships can provide you with personalized service. They can rent your furniture if you’re hosting temporary employees. They can work within your budget to optimize your bang-for-buck. And when you’re ready to get rid of an item, they make the buyback process easy.
For owners who are patient and on a shoestring budget, networking within your local Chamber of Commerce can pay dividends. Small business people generally want to help one another out. Especially if you’re just getting started, ping the local listserv or Facebook group that you’re on the hunt for used furniture. As often as not, this will yield several good, affordable options.
For years, it seemed like there was no harder task in business than finding a reliable printer.
Thankfully, today’s printers work more consistently. But much of that fear lingers, and many business owners have dreamed of re-enacting the last scene of Office Space.
I have avoided many headaches by following one, simple rule: do not buy more printer than you need.
Very rarely do our requirements exceed basic black-and-white printing, 8.5 x 11” copies, and scanning. These days, we get away with purchasing from more affordable lines of home office printers, which of course come with almost all the same functionality!
Of course, many small businesses have more demanding printing needs, which may include printing thousands of pages per day, or creating color brochures. In this case, ask your local dealer about purchasing pre-owned or refurbished printers.
It is key to make sure these machines have only been lightly used. You can ask to see the counter, which keeps track of how many prints the machine has made. Be sure to watch for signs of bad maintenance, like toner stains or dust on the inside of the machine. Finally, ask about the warranty. Printers at this end of the spectrum are pricey, and you want all the peace of mind you can get!
There are big hazards to watch out for when purchasing a used computer. Just consider the cost of basic repairs. It is not unusual to purchase a five-year-old machine for $300, only to spend the same amount on getting it fixed!
Thankfully, computer prices have been declining since the early 2000s… or as the kids call it, “the Stone Age.”
This is especially true for desktop computers, which are much easier to repair.
I tend to stick with buying desktops, except for employees who are in and out of the office. You should check the computer’s specs to make sure it can handle day-to-day processing. Stick to computers with 900 MHz of CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 500 GB of memory on the hard drive, and they will take care of all your basic functions.
If you decide to buy used, it is important to take certain precautions. Purchasing from reputable dealers—particularly if they offer maintenance or warranties—will provide better returns in the long-run. Make sure the machine has undergone a factory reset, and run antivirus software on it before beginning its daily use.
Finally, for used laptops, double-check that it still has the advertised battery life. Anyone who has owned such a machine knows how batteries can dwindle from providing 9 hours of use to as little as 30 seconds!
I hope some of these musings are helpful to you. If you feel like I’ve missed something, drop me a line. I am always looking to incorporate new ideas into my posts!
Again, furniture and equipment are not top-of-the-mind for any business owner. But they are important investments as your company grows.
If it’s come time to make that equipment investment, but you need additional cash flow, contact us to explore your factoring options. Invoice factoring services provide businesses with the fast cash they need, without forcing them to take on costly loans!