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Small business survival tips

You’re probably tired of hearing right now about how tough times are for small businesses. After all, you’re living with that reality every day. What you need is some concrete advice for how to save money, reduce costs and improve your efficiency while still delivering the excellent customer service that’s the backbone of your business.

No doubt you’ve been trimming costs wherever you can find them (a great practice for both businesses and families!), but there may be a whole landscape you haven’t explored for savings yet.

We’ve compiled nine tips designed to help you mine your business for opportunities to save money while building a strong foundation for future growth. Let’s get started! Find out in this two-part series: “Small business survival tips.”

Tip 1: Print your marketing materials in-house
You may think that there’s no way you have the time, expertise or equipment to produce professional-quality materials in-house. Think again! There are high quality free templates available online for just about any kind of material you print regularly – flyers, brochures, product data sheets, menus and more. You can use downloaded templates right in Microsoft(R) Word to lay in your text, and there’s plenty of information online to help you get started. For a broad selection of free and paid templates, as well as other services.

Tip 2: To buy or not to buy?
New technology, that is. This might seem obvious – you buy a new piece of equipment when the other one stops working. While this may seem like the way to get the best value out of your devices, you might want to consider looking at replacing technology in a new way.

Older, obsolete technology can actually cost you more in the long run than buying new devices on a regular, planned schedule:

  • When an out-of-warranty device malfunctions, repairs are often far more expensive and time-consuming.
  • Older devices have a higher rate of malfunction as fragile parts not designed for indefinite use wear out. Of course, malfunctions tend to happen when you need the device the most, like on the eve of a big presentation.
  • Previous generations of products may have compatibility issues with more recent hardware of software.
  • Previous generations of products are not as energy efficient as newer ones, resulting in higher electric bills.

Look at the way you use your equipment, and consider whether implementing, say, a three-year refresh cycle makes sense. Replace equipment on a rolling basis three years from purchase, or five years, even. The idea is to make it your choice when to give up a device, not fate’s. Put control back into your hands and enjoy predictable levels of service with all your devices under a warranty in case of disaster.

Tip 3: Reduce energy costs
Here’s where we step outside the realm of technology (mostly) to talk about ways you can revamp your office environment to save money on your electric bills.

  • Use natural light. If you can find a way to install skylights cheaply to provide natural light to your office space, do it. Nothing eats up energy like constant operation of traditional office lighting. Plus, natural light has health and wellness benefits for your employees – and yourself!
  • Do an air conditioning checkup. Even if you rent space from a landlord and have no direct control over the heating and cooling, you can get a primer from the management or maintenance staff in how to keep your costs down. Experiment with the thermostat until you find a level that most of your employees find comfortable.
  • Upgrade to ENERGY STAR 5.0 qualified systems. ENERGY STAR 5.0 standards mandate more efficient power converters and place strict energy consumption limits on PCs in sleep or hibernation mode, helping you reduce energy use and save on your utility bills.
  • Turn off every device at the end of every day. Unplug every computer, monitor, printer or what have you from the wall, or power down your surge protectors. Even devices in standby consume some electricity. By unplugging your devices or shutting off the surge protectors, you can cut down on this “vampire power” and reduce energy consumption. The exception to this rule is your servers – don’t power them down or you could lose data!

Tip 4: Automate your paper processes
Does your business push a lot of paper? Are forms, order documents, customer communications and regulatory papers constantly moving from place to place, copied, filed and filled out? It’s time to think about automating those processes.

Instead of filing endless reams of forms, why not use a scanner with a large sheet feed attachment to turn them into electronic documents you can email, fax and – most importantly — protect with regular backups? You only need to scan a form once, and many electronic forms now allow you to fill out fields on your computer instead of with pen and paper.

You’ll save on paper costs and build an efficient workflow for your employees and yourself. It’s easy to lose one piece of paper, but if you’re well organized in how you store files online, it’s hard to lose that important data.

Source : hp newsletter

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