Running a small business successfully often depends on whether you have got the basics right, and among those basics, we would rank the purchase of office supplies and equipment very highly. It all adds up, you see. It is not enough for you to find a fantastic office space and a talented workforce. Without proper office equipment, your workforce will be demoralized and unproductive, and you will end up paying through your nose in maintenance and repair costs. So the success of your small business depends as much on whether you have found the right customers as on the reliability of your software vendor and whether the coffee machine is placed at the right spot.

�I didn�t realize the importance of the right stationery until I began to get complaints about the illegible printing on the company letterhead,� says Aaron Samuel, a sporting equipment manufacturer and distributor based in Manhattan. �I hadn�t even noticed how horrible the printing was, and realized the negative impression it would give my customers.�

And that goes for everything: phones, computers, furniture, the lot. �It isn�t like you just order some pens and some paper, and some message and post-it pads,� says Aaron. �Once I began to check out the things we needed and didn�t have, I had a hideously long list in hand. I realized that we were buying very necessary stuff such as printer cartridges, fax paper, computer disks, custom stamps, glue, envelopes, markers, packing tape, staplers, and pens on an as-is-when-is basis. Instead of that, we could so easily fix a regular supplier and obtain bulk discounts.�

The ideal solution is to compile a list of supplies that the company needs every day or fairly regularly. So that whenever an item on the list seems out of stock, you can order fresh supplies. In any case, every two weeks or so, you should check to see which items need replenishing.

�Every month, you should review your office supply costs,� says Aaron. �You should target one or two areas where you can cut costs and get someone to look around a bit for better prices on certain items. If you prefer a particular supplier, ask him for a better price based on what the competition is offering.�

It is best for you to put one person in place to handle the purchasing of all office supplies and equipment. That way, there is no confusion about who should have checked up on dwindling stock, and why a certain item was not re-stocked. A dedicated purchase manager will also make it his business to find out the best rates on offer and take a call on which vendors to patronize.

However, the scope for scams clearly exists within such a set up. As Aaron says, �It would be fairly easy for an unscrupulous vendor to take your purchase person into confidence and persuade him to order that vendor�s products. In such cases, it is difficult to spot the scam unless you are personally involved in purchasing office supplies.�

Nevertheless, office supplies and equipment are essential, so you have to make sure that your employees have what they need to get their work done. In the end, placing a single trusted person in the position of purchase manager will work out to be more feasible than letting each employee order supplies for his or herself.

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