When setting up your first office, how do you know where to cut corners and where to splurge? Here are six questions to ask.

1. What are the core functions of your business? Spend more on tools that support your essential operations. For example, for a graphic designer, a large, high-resolution computer monitor and a printer able to handle quality color printing on all types of paper, photographic and card stock are essential tools of the trade. For an accountant who spends the day viewing spreadsheets and printing black-and-white tax documents, they are not.

2. What will customers and clients see? Conveying a professional image is important. Spend more on what customers will see, and save on what they won’t. For instance, if you are launching a financial services firm and will meet customers in your office, splurge on quality office furnishings and sleek equipment that send a message of financial success. A battered, beige PC or an ancient printer held together with duct tape won’t convey the right image. On the other hand, if you have a mobile dog grooming business and work from a home office, you can save by using your old computer and secondhand office furniture, and spend more on your vehicle and mobile technology.

3. Where will you spend most of your time? Technology that makes you and your employees more productive is worth the expense. If you spend 10 hours a day sitting at a desk typing, an ergonomic chair that provides proper back support and prevents repetitive stress injuries is a worthwhile investment. If you spend the day on the road meeting clients and only pop into your office for 30 minutes every morning, a basic task chair may be all you need.

4. How much is your time worth? Outdated office equipment costs you time, and time is money. If you spend an extra five minutes editing, saving and printing each document because of a slow computer, you’re wasting a few hours each day. If you make lots of copies, a copier that requires feeding each sheet one at a time will slow you down, while one that lets you feed in 200 pages at a time, then collates and staples, frees you up for more profitable tasks.

5. How quickly will this technology change? Smartphone and computer technology changes so rapidly that it’s worth upgrading every few years. You’ll access new features that will put you on the cutting edge and give you an advantage over other business owners. Other technology changes more slowly, so you can make do with older models. Before making a substantial investment in any office technology, find out when the next model comes out. By waiting a few months, you can often get a newer version with better features (or get a great deal on the previous model).

6. Can this technology grow with your business? Be sure the office equipment you choose has the flexibility to adapt to your future needs. A discount on a product that barely meets current needs is not much of a deal, since you’ll have to upgrade it as soon as your business grows. You don’t need all the bells and whistles on every single piece of equipment you buy, but you do need tools that will not only serve you today, but also into the near future.

 

Even for those items you need to splurge on, here are some ways to save:

  • Search online for coupon codes before buying.
  • Join warehouse stores that offer business memberships.
  • Consider leasing instead of buying to save cash upfront.
  • Buy refurbished technology products (make sure they have a reseller’s warranty or certification of quality).
  • Shop at factory liquidation, auction or going-out-of business sales.
  • Buy floor models or factory seconds of office furnishings with minor cosmetic flaws.
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