While many industries have specific equipment needs, there are several across-the-board items that are common to most. To determine exactly what to buy for your business, first conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess how much use you’ll be able to squeeze out of each new piece of equipment.
If you’re a small, service-oriented business and your cost-benefit analysis tells you that you’d be spending more on a dedicated copier than you would by using the in-house printer, make the wise choice and rule that purchase out for your immediate plans.
Office managers and business owners frequently make the mistake of focusing only on big ticket items, but it’s the rest that can add up. For example, software is often an after thought, but it’s far from free. Purchase only the software you need today, not what you think you’ll need tomorrow. And if you don’t need the version with all the bells and whistles, opt for the free download or the simpler version instead.
Your goal should be to only purchase equipment that in the long run will:
- Save you money
- Save you time
- Help you stay competitive in your industry, or give you an advantage
- More than pay for itself by increasing your profit margin
If the equipment doesn’t clearly meet one or more of these criteria, it’s not worth purchasing. Also read Tax Incentives for Office Equipment Purchases for some advice.
Carefully determine your long distance phone needs. Select a carrier based on how many long-distance calls you make, and on which regions you typically call. If a carrier tells you they have a cheaper rate that only applies once you’ve made a hundred long-distance calls in a month and you typically make only fifty, the plan obviously wouldn’t benefit you. Try to match the plan to what your long-distance calling needs are; not what you think they are. This means paying attention to your phone bill each month and updating your service as necessary.
Consider whether your business will benefit from an answering service, or whether it can get by with an inexpensive answering machine. The answer depends on the nature of your business and the volume of calls you receive. These days, many small businesses owners have their calls forwarded to their cell phone when they aren’t in the office. The alternatives are yours to weigh.
Computer purchases can run the gamut from a single desktop or laptop, to multiple computers in elaborately-configured networks. Your task is to determine not only how many computers you’ll need, but also which software and whether or not a network would be right for your current, or anticipated, business environment. Ask yourself how many employees need their own computer to accomplish their job. Do they need access to shared files? What kind of software needs do you have?
Once you have answers to these questions, it’ll be time to tackle the peripherals dilemma. Printers are a given, because nearly every business needs hard copies of documents. Scanners, fax machines, and other peripherals should only be purchased when absolutely needed, or if they’re included in a package deal at little or no additional cost.
Security systems are often an after thought, but if you’re buying office equipment, you might as well protect it. A security system can also reduce your insurance bills. Be sure to check out Tips for Saving Money on Office Equipment for additional information on this topic.
The bottom line, when attempting to determine your business’s equipment needs, only purchase those items that you need to conduct business, and to keep pace with your competitors. If it doesn’t meet these two criteria, you don’t need it.