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If you operate a small business, you have to oversee your money carefully. Small businesses are known for straddling very narrow margins. Frequently, running a small business is a financial balancing act. If you run a small business, this may sound quite familiar. You probably are very receptive to ideas, suggestions and advice about how to trim your budget down even more.
Here are some new ideas about how to make the most of your office supply budget.
Detail Your Inventory
Focusing on the big picture of your budget and consolidating all of your office supplies into one area are helpful tactics for streamlining your budget. Maintaining a vigilant record of office supplies is another great way to trim the fat from your business expenses.
When you keep a detailed account of your inventory, you easily see what your office does and doesn’t use. This tactic also lets you order specific amounts of a product without over-ordering. Your office may have a lot of printing needs, so you may find yourself ordering printer ink much more than sticky notes, for example.
Keep an Eye on Bookkeeping
When you run your own business, you certainly have to wear a lot of hats to keep it all running smoothly. At times, you may have to adjust your priorities, depending on what needs the most attention at the moment.
If at all possible, do not shift your bookkeeping to the back burner. Not keeping a close eye on the books can lead to all sorts of problems for your business. If you don’t have a grasp of your income and expenses, you won’t have a big picture of your budget, and you could end up spending even more on late penalties.
If you find that managing your books is the most stressful part of running your small business, consider outsourcing. Hiring a CPA or business accountant can help you keep a handle on your books and a daily, weekly and monthly summary of your spending, sales and cash flow.
Forecast Your Costs
Most small businesses fall into an ebb and flow of earnings versus costs. For retail shops, certain holidays may prove more lucrative than others. If you’re an accountant, tax season is your busiest season by far.
When you’re creating a big picture of your budget, make sure to build-in fluctuating margins. Every business has a slow season, so make sure you’re ready for it. Forecast your overhead costs during the year and budget for the slow seasons so your business can survive, or even thrive.
Identify Best Vendors
The most cost-effective way to run your business is to identify one vendor for many of your supplies. Often, vendors work hard to retain you as a client which means they will also work hard to understand exactly what your business needs from them.
If your style is comparative shopping—comparing prices of different vendors to see who will offer you the best deal—narrow it down to two to three specific vendors using online reviews and word-of-mouth referrals. Minimizing your choices will cut down the time it takes to research each vendor.
Your business will flourish if you take steps to buy things in larger quantities. Finding a vendor from whom you can buy ink cartridges in bulk, for example, will save your business money over time, even though the up-front price may be higher.
Consolidate Office Equipment
If your office or business tends to have small stores of office supplies scattered throughout your physical office, you may want to reconsider this tactic.
Keeping all your office supplies in one place avoids miscounting, losing or over-ordering office supplies. It is much easier to keep track of what you are spending on office supplies if all of them reside in the same area.
Minimization is also useful in terms of your office equipment. When it comes to buying machines or technology for your office, opt for those that are healthy for your bottom line.
Get rid of the equipment your office no longer uses. Fax machines were the wave of the future 25 years ago, but, these days, with the appearance of internet-based fax/copy/scanner combos, they are obsolete. If you switch from a fax machine that is phone line-based to a combo that is internet-based, you will see savings in paper, toner and ink costs.
Don’t Spend Too Much Too Soon
Your primary job in your small business is to grow. But, sometimes, business owners fall into what Nathan Furr calls “premature scaling” in Startup Genome. What this means is that when a business owner sees growth, they begin to spend and stop budgeting effectively.
Overspending too early can be a mistake and may lead to your business’s failure. Instead, continue along the same path of scrimping and saving to see continued growth.
Have a Contingency Plan
When disaster strikes, it’s good to have a plan in place so that you don’t have to make lots of crucial decisions in a panic. A contingency plan is a detailed overview of the business and how it works so that if there is a flood, tornado damage, fire, theft or any other type of calamity, you know what steps you have to take.
A solid contingency plan should include:
- Your business’s principal risks
These do not include any unforeseen natural disasters, of course, but should outline the slow seasons or any potential threat that might derail the smooth running of your business.
- A list of essentials
What do you need to get started again? What equipment? How much capital? How many employees do you need to start over?
- An emergency evacuation plan
In the event of a natural disaster, you want all of your employees to be safe. Make sure you go over emergency exit plans in new employee orientations and review them as a company at least once a year.
- Insurance specifications
To recover from a disaster, you need insurance. Make sure the coverage you have relates to the area in which your business is located. If you live in a flood area or near a major source river, you must have adequate flood insurance.
It takes a lot of vigilance and foresight to get a small business off the ground. However, if you focus on your budget, allocate your office supplies to a few vendors and make a solid contingency plan, you have an excellent chance of running a flourishing business.
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