Ordering Supplies For Your Small Business: 5 Tips To Make You Smarter
By Bob Phibbs
Many small businesses rarely think twice when they order supplies which can affect their cash flow. Yet many times I'll walk into a business makeover and find stockpiles of supplies - sometimes a year's worth just sitting there. Excess supplies are your money sitting there!
These small business tips are intended to help change the way you order your office supplies and save you money.
Ditch your fax machine. Save the money of a dedicated second line, the special ink cartridge and space on your desk. I can already hear you panicking, "But we need our fax machine!" No you don't. What you need is a way customers can send your their orders or you sign documents.
While I prefer everything be scanned, several types of businesses still want the old technology. Buy a new wireless printer like the HP 6520 and signup for efax. It's a free account that assigns you a fax number. Customers fax to that number and it automatically prints from your printer - and stores a copy in your efax inbox. Not only do you have a record of the fax but you enjoy better cash flow without redundant supplies. Buy the more expensive brand. Sometimes the supplies you purchase to save money actually cost you more. Consider the expense of toilet paper for a restaurant. Oftentimes buying the cheapest means customers use more than twice as much which negates your money saving and increases your inventory you need to have on line.
Use the power of the Internet. The larger retailers like Staples and Office Max will advertise loss leaders on common items like paper and ink but the real opportunity is in finding a small, local retailer who will provide good prices on a wide variety of while still offering excellent payment terms. Buying local helps more than just your own cash flow.
Find a local vendor. In particular, look for one that offers early payment discounts and then take advantage of them. Just like you, a smaller retailer is probably trying to level out his cash flow and will offer discounts of 1-3% if you pay your bill within a week of receipt. Local vendors are also far more likely to drop shipping charges on bulkier and heavier items if you are located in the same city.
Order less. While the kingdom may have been lost for the want of a nail, businesses can be destroyed by out of control spending - even on items as small as ordinary office supplies. Order your supplies on a regularly scheduled basis, keep the inventory under lock and key and assign their distribution to a single individual. These simple measures will allow you to get a truer picture of your costs than just buying items when needed.
Being smarter about ordering supplies is simply being smart about running your business and yields benefits beyond the cost savings. Your steps to free up cash flow help keep costs down and employee theft to a minimum. Both are ways that you show your employees you are serious about running your small business properly.
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