Many small businesses struggle with the costs of keeping up with technological demands. From buying computers and covering shockingly huge energy bills to paying for ISPs to covering the phone bill, technologies are a constant drain on our small business resources.
Here are ten simple steps to take to help you deal with these costs.
Use a VoIP solution for your telephone needs. For my own small business, all of my phone service is handled by Skype. I have a phone number, receive calls on a normal phone, and I can easily set up conference calls and videoconferencing with just a few clicks. My cost? $2.99 a month after about $30 worth of startup costs and setup that was roughly as complicated as plugging something into a USB port.
Use a virtual PBX service to manage your phone calls. A managed virtual PBX service like My1Voice gives you a virtual receptionist to manage calls for your business under one number. Calls are rerouted to your personal phone (or, if you wish to have extensions, are routed to the phones of your employees) or to any phone you wish to have calls routed to at a given time. They're surprisingly inexpensive and much more effective than installing equipment.
Use your computer as a fax machine. Don't shell out a bunch of extra money for a fax machine and an extra phone line. If you have a printer and a scanner, you already have all you need. Use a service like PamFax to manage your faxes and get rid of that extra phone line.
Buy recycled printer cartridges. Printer ink can be incredibly expensive. I've used many, many recycled cartridges over the years and never had a problem - but I have enjoyed the 60% savings on cartridges. Re-Inks is a good place to start.
Use motion detectors. Install a motion-detecting light switch in unoccupied rooms such as the bathroom or the copy room. The lights flip on when someone enters and someone is moving around, then turn off after a short period of inactivity. This saves money on energy bills, especially when someone forgets to turn off the light in the bathroom at the end of the day.
Paint your walls a light color. The lighter the walls in your business, the less lighting is necessary to make the room still seem bright, since the light walls will reflect light instead of absorbing it. The next time you re-paint, go white, then downgrade your lighting and save on fewer bulbs and lower energy bills.
Use timers. Install timers around your office to ensure that devices are only powered on when necessary. Timers can cause external lights to come on and go off at certain times (keeping your sign on only when it's effective at night, for example) or can manage devices that can be shut off when your business closes (like your lighted "open" sign, for example, or your coffee maker).
Centralize your printing. Instead of paying for the energy for several printers - and paying for cartridges for several printer types - centralize your printing on one or two printers. Set these printers up on the network in your office so that any computer can print to that printer. This cuts your energy use significantly and also allows you to buy cartridges in bulk.
Add the line ”Address Correction Requested" to any mass mailings you print. Many local businesses print flyers for their customers and mail them out in bulk only to find that many of the items are returned due to an invalid address. Putting "Address Correction Requested" ensures a higher success rate on your mailings because it instructs the post office to actually forward the item if they have a forwarding address. Then, if you do receive a bounced item, you can confidently remove it from your mailing list. This simple move can improve the success of any mailing by 10% and also reduce your wasted costs from undeliverable mailings.
Sell equipment you don't use on Craigslist. Every business has an item or two that's just sitting around gathering dust. Sure, that printer or that fax machine seemed like a great idea at the time, but if it's sitting around not getting used, it's doing nothing more than depreciating and, if it's plugged in, it's costing you on your energy bill. Look around your office and sell those things that you're just not using.
These little money saving tips, when used in combination, add up to substantial savings over time. They can improve your business cash flow and, surprisingly, make your day-to-day work more efficient as well by reducing the number of services you have to worry about.