Discover ideas and get tips on how to make your small office, home office, or personal workspace look and feel productive

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How To Minimize Overheads And Expenses In A Small Business

When you are just starting out, or perhaps you simply just have a small business, keeping costs down is crucial. You can’t afford to waste cash on things you don’t need, and time dealing with anything other than your priorities. Here are five key expenses faced by many small offices and how to minimize them.

1. Office Space

First you should ask yourself, Do I really need an office at all? Working out of one’s home is quite acceptable these days. Internet based businesses are able to put up their shopfront in a virtual world without anyone knowing where the physical work happens. Even if you do plan on bringing clients over to meet you, a home office can still be a cheap, neat, and functional space separate from living areas of your house. You can read about setting up a home office here.

If you must have office space, try negotiating the rent down a little. In many areas landlords are struggling to fill space, and once tenants are in there they don’t want to lose them. Use it to your advantage. Ask for lower rent or more flexible lease terms such as a rent-freeze for two or more years.

If you are locked in to a larger office and not fully utilizing it, perhaps you can sub-let out a room to somebody. Sometimes micro-businesses need office space because their home is unsuitable, and a single cubicle or a small room would be perfect for them.

2. Office Furnishings

Small and simple office with few furnishings to save money

Whether you are working from home or in a commercial office, you are going to need some basic furniture such as chairs, desks, and storage. To keep costs down you should look on the second hand market – whether that be EBay, Craigslist, or some other local classifieds service. There are many bargains to be found at a price heavily discounted off retail. Plus you are in a better position to negotiate down the asking price. Items for sale might not be in new condition, but who cares if there is a scuff or scratch present? There are hundreds of dollars to save by buying used furniture, or conversely, hundreds of dollars to waste on purchasing new furniture.

3. Staffing

For many businesses this is a significant cost, perhaps 50 to 80% of your total overhead. Hire only when it hurts – when you just can’t survive without the extra help, working crazy hours, and the business simply cannot function much longer on the staff you have. It will mean the new recruit won’t be sitting idle waiting for business to develop, so you can get more output from their wage, and they will have plenty to do to keep them occupied and interested in the work.

On the other side of the employment ledger, if somebody is not working out, or you just can’t afford them long term, firing should be done fast. Don’t wait, don’t hope, just get it over and done with. The conversation will be uncomfortable for many bosses but you, the former employee, and the rest of the office staff will be better off for it. Once the deed is done don’t jump straight in to hiring again – try to delay, again until it hurts.

4. Consumables

Reduce paper, reduce toner and ink, reduce printed material in general. This eco-friendly idea is also a major cost saver. Check out our tips on How To Reduce Paper Usage In The Office on exactly what you can do to reduce consumable costs.

If you have a fax machine consider moving to an email fax service, even if only for inbound. Many e-fax services will port your existing number, and although the initial setup cost might seem high, over a year and beyond you will save money each and every month you don’t have to pay for line rental, paper, toner, and equipment maintenance costs.

5. Power

If you run a lot of electronic equipment and/or you have heaters and air conditioners, electricity costs could be significant for your small office. For tips and ideas on how to reduce power costs and help save the environment, have a read of The Environmentally Friendly Office. There is always opportunity to reduce power usage by turning off or changing lights, turning down the cooling just a pinch, or replacing energy-sapping equipment.

 

Here we have presented strategies for reducing overheads and expenses in a small business. Office space, furnishings, employee, consumables and power costs can all be reduced with some smart thinking. Why not have a look at your office expenses today and see what savings you can make? Both now and over the next 12 months.

 

 

Tips For Selecting A Small Office Printer

When you walk in to any technology or office supplies store to buy a printer for your computer it is easy to be overwhelmed by the choices available. It is wise to do some research beforehand to try and narrow the choice and pick the printer that is best for your business. Here are a few tips to selecting a small office printer:

Ink or Toner?

Laser and LED printers use a toner, instead of ink, and are quite affordable these days. Generally speaking we would recommend a toner based printer for a business, instead of an ink jet printer. They offer good print speeds (compared to ink jet printers) and you won’t find yourself replacing toner as often as you would with ink. However ink printers might be a better choice if you plan on printing on to specialty paper, such as photographic paper. The color with ink jet printers is much more vivid.

As with any printer you should compare the cost-per-page for replacement consumables. What might appear to be a very cheap purchase price could be expensive over the long term. To calculate cost per page, take the purchase price for a toner (eg $90.00), divide by the number of pages that the toner will last for (often 5000 pages at 5% coverage but check), and multiply by 100 to get the cost-per-page in cents.

Example: $90.00 divided by 5000 multiplied by 100 = 1.8 cents per page.

You can calculate cost-per-page from a number of different models and brands to see what is more economical.

Paper sizes and paper traysSmall Office Laser Printer

Consider what size paper you are going to print on, if you are deviating from the standard Letter or A4 size. Pretty much all printers have a manual feed if you need to print smaller, such as an envelope. However if you want to print smaller sizes regularly you should look for a printer that has a second paper tray that fits your desired media.

Similarly if you intend printing on large format paper (such as A3) this will dramatically narrow your choices and will incur a greater cost. The demand for larger formats is low and so the options are limited and substantially more expensive. It might be easier and cheaper to head down to your local print store to print the occasional large format document.

MFC or Dedicated

MFC stands for Multi-Functional Device. These are printers with scanning, copying, and faxing built in. Although you might not require such features every day, they can be handy to have in case your other scanning or copying device has a problem or is tied up with other staff.

A dedicated printer on the other hand is likely to be faster at printing, have less things to go wrong, and fewer buttons to operate.

Computer Interface

Every printer these days will have a USB interface. We recommend selecting a printer with a network interface (sometimes called LAN, 10/100, or Ethernet). The advantage of these is that the printer does not need to be connected to a turned-on computer to operate, and so can be placed in the office in a convenient location.

Many modern small office printers also have Wi-fi (wireless network) capabilities, which is great if you have laptops that need to print, but are not always wired in.

From a technical viewpoint the network printers are not as difficult to install as they used to be. You now insert the CD in to your computer, run the install program and it will discover the printer on your network and install the driver for you. The software can also be downloaded from the manufacturer’s web site.

Duplex

If you are accustomed to printing single-sided documents you might not imagine how useful an automatic duplexer can be. Duplex printing means double-sided printing; printing on both sides of the paper. This can dramatically reduce paper usage in your office, which is good for the environment and good for your bottom line. Other environmentally sound ideas for your office can be found in this article of the Small Office Ideas web site.

Duty Cycle

Finally if you are evaluating office printers the product literature often quotes a duty cycle number. This is a recommendation from the manufacturer of the maximum number of pages you can print in a month through the printer. Our experience suggests that this number is highly exaggerated, and you should divide by three to get a genuine number. Pushing the printer every other month is ok, but regular over-printing will wear down the mechanics inside and you are likely to need to get the printer serviced quite frequently.

 

Above we have detailed some key factors in narrowing down your choice for a new printer. If you make a few easy decisions before you start looking, you should be able to find a printer that is best for your small office and performs year in year out.

The Environmentally Friendly Office

An environmentally friendly office is good for the environment and good for your bottom line. Reducing energy consumption saves dollars and emissions. With prices continually rising due to various environmental and carbon taxes, now is a good as time as any to go green and eco-friendly. Here are five simple ways to get started:

Raise Awareness

Talk is cheap – so do more of it! You should ask staff in the office what changes can be made to become more energy efficient and environmentally sound. Even if you aren’t a manager you can still make a difference, starting at your own desk, and share ideas around. The chances are your workmates have done some things at previous jobs, or at home, or at their kid’s school, to help the environment. What cheap and simple ideas can you bring in to this office to help get you started?

The great thing about this is activity is infectious. A change you make in your office might be replicated at home, or other organisations, and the pattern continues. Even if your small office cannot make a big impact, the attitude will propogate through your community and together a difference will be made.

Lights

This is an easy one: replace incandescents with flourescents. In some places around the world you can no longer purchase incandescent lights, thanks to governmental policy to reduce energy consumption.

You might even consider replacing arrays of screw-in down lights with banks of flourescent tubes. They are no longer the buzzing annoyance they once were. Quiet, cheap, long lasting, and great reflector systems can spray a lot of light over the room with little energy consumption.

Check the air conditioning

Air conditioners can consume a lot of electricity, which means carbon emissions at the power plant, and an electricity bill to match.

Sometimes in office environments we get so used to turning on the air con and leaving it on all day. Is that necessary? Is there any natural ventilation, such as opening a few windows and/or using just a fan, that could help move air through the office?

A green office can save you money and save the environment

A green office can save you money and save the environment

If you must have the air conditioning running, check the temperature. Just a degree or two warmer and you can save 10% on the power bills for cooling each year!

If you have an old split system air conditioner, check it’s energy efficiency. Perhaps it is time

to replace with a more efficient inverter model. Inverter air conditioners run at different speeds, rather than a stop-start motion. They are quieter, more efficient, and less prone to breakdowns. The cost of replacing an air conditioner unit might be cheaper than keeping your older, louder unit running year in year out.

Use recycled paper

We now know that the paperless office is a work of science fiction. More than ever we are printing stuff out and working with paper copies. So why not make the switch to a better paper for your printers?

Next time you are ordering in paper, or down at the office supplies store, have a peek to see what else is available. It might cost a bit more, but the cost-per-sheet difference is probably in fractions of a cent. It’s a small change but an easy one to make.

If nothing else do a little investigation to see where the paper is sourced from. Managed plantations are good. Brazilian or Indonesian rainforests are not so good.

Also try re-using scrap paper. Most of us do this already but in case you don’t, you can save a few sheets of paper and use it instead of purchasing notebooks. Cutting the page in half gives a nice ‘notebook’ size that is great for writing down notes at the desk, doodling, sketching ideas, etc.

Finally, don’t forget to recycle your recyclables. Make a habit of having two bins available everywhere: one for paper recyclables, and one for garbage.

Check for rebates, incentives, and more ideas

Your local energy company and local government probably has a web site full of green ideas and options. Check for governmental rebates and incentives: you might be able to get a discount on installing solar panels, or rainwater tanks, or switching light globes, or any number of other purchases that you might consider making.

 

Going green and staying true to your word is easy, and you don’t need to go overboard with policy changes or major investment. You just need to get started with a few small changes and work upwards from there. Whether you are making changes to save the environment, save on expenditure, or both, you can make a big difference to your office whether that be large, small, or a home office.

Looking to go green on a different level? Check out our guide to office plants and greenlife. It’s a great way to pretty up the office, plus if you pick the right plant, it will clense the air for you as well!

How To Make A Small Office Look Big – For Cheap

Here are some actions you can take that will help make your small office / home office / personal workspace look big. Or if a large workspace isn’t your aim, perhaps you are just trying to avoid the opposite – something that feels more cramped than cosy.

1. Clear the ClutterCluttered Office Desk

This will have the biggest impact in the shortest period of time. Get rid of all that ‘stuff’ sitting on and around your desk.

That means:

  1. You can actually see your desktop, and have space to put paper down and write.
  2. Cables are neatly hanging out the back. (no need to go overboard and cable tie things, just make sure you aren’t getting tangled in anything, especially your feet)
  3. Only the items you need frequently are at hand and on the desk.

No shortcuts folks! Don’t just stuff everything in to a drawer. Out of sight might be out of mind… but until you open that drawer and have to take everything out to see what’s in there.

Use something less than twice a week? Find a home for it. Use something less than once year? Perhaps you should get rid of it, or at least put it in the attic, basement or garage.

You might also want to read up on Ideas On How To Organize A Small Office for more tips and tricks on getting rid of clutter and making good use of space.

 2. Clean your desk

That’s right! Get out a rag and a surface spray and wipe everything down. Just cleaning out that top layer of dust, plus giving the surface a soft shine, will light things up. Speaking of light…

3. Add some light

If your little workplace is like most, your desk is up against a wall and the light for the room is up behind you on the ceiling. So try some simple additions such as a desk lamp or two, that will provide an accent.

Here’s a great ideWorkspace Lightsa: have one lamp pointing over your desk or keyboard to give you light for the work area, and have another pointing up to the wall behind the monitor to accentuate the space.

If you have a shelf above your desk, try mounting some LED strip lighting to point down.

Either way you’ll open up the space and, as a bonus, give your eyes the right amount of background light when looking at a computer screen for extended periods of time.

4. Add some colorOffice with color that brighens up the space

Try painting the walls around your workspace bright blue, or coral, or orange. Something that will ‘pop out’ and open eyes.

This is not always possible, especially if your workspace is part of a larger office or home and the furniture police have their eyes on you, but you can still make a statement with colour through other means:

  • Remember that backlight from step #3? Try changing the bulb to a coloured one. A splash of colour against a white wall can make a huge statement and costs very little
  • Plant some brightly coloured stationery on your desk. They need not be large: a bucket or tray for pens, a couple of filing trays, and a mouse pad can all be easily sourced in bright colours for peanuts. You can also grab what you have and spray paint them to a new color if you wish.
  • Hang a print in front of you. Can’t drill holes in the wall to hang anything? Try those removable “Command” hooks, or simply rest your print on your desk, against the wall. Either go all out and get a print such as a jungle, or beach scene, that can plant you somewhere else, or keep it very simple. Grab a blank canvas from an arts supply store, spray paint it a nice dark red or green, and presto! You now have a coloured wall.

 

Have you got any more ideas? Please leave a comment below and share your ideas of what worked or did not work for your office. We would love to read about them.

 

photo credits: creecher94 via photopin cc