Small Business Savings on Office Supplies

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Now that you have reviewed your expenses (End of Year Checklist for Small Business) and understand how your money is being spent, what are you going to do with that information? For many small business owners office supplies seem like a minor expense. But every year, businesses in the United States spend billions of dollars on office products. If you do not manage and control your office supply expenses, these purchases can add up very quickly.

• Buy Generic:  Name brand supplies have name-recognition but most of the time they are not always cost-effective. Many generic supplies are just as good and can be purchased for less. Generic or “house brands” are also more likely to go on sale.

• Dollar Stores: Dollar stores buy up products that have been discontinued, have packaging problems, or did not sell somewhere else. The stores purchase products for great prices and these savings are passed along to you. Making a special trip to a dollar store may not make sense but if you pass by one when you are out, you might as well stop in and check for discontinued name-brand supplies.

• Office Superstores: Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy and other superstores frequently offer the lowest prices on supplies. Most major national retailers offer a discount by signing up for their free rewards programs. For example:
Staples Rewards: Members receive up to 5% back on everything except postage and gift cards. They have a price match guarantee, $2.00 back per recycled ink cartridge, and they offer members free shipping.
Office Depot/Office Max Rewards: Members receive 10% back on paper, ink, toner, copy, print, and shipping. They offer rewards for recycling ink cartridges with a purchase, member’s only coupons, and birthday bonus rewards.

• Negotiate with your Supplier: If you have a favorite supplier for office supplies, you may be in a position to negotiate pricing. It never hurts to ask!

• Shop Online:  Check out discontinued and online specials before heading to the store. Online stores typically offer better discounts than in their walk-in stores. In most cases, shipping is quick and efficient, which means you can schedule automatic delivery of things you need on a regular basis. When you order online, Staples and Office Depot usually ship from your local store and you can get in-stock items delivered, free of charge, in 1-2 business days.

• Bulk Ordering: Look for items that you can purchase in bulk but remember just because something comes in a larger package does not mean it is cheaper.   You may actually find it is cheaper to buy 10 small packs of 10 pens than it is to buy 1 pack of 100.

• Buy Ink Off-Brand: Perhaps one of the most common ways to save money is buying off-brand ink cartridges. A few suggestions before you buy:
1.  Know your warranty:   If you have a new printer, you may want to consider letting your warranty expire before you try off-brand ink. Not using the manufacturer’s ink cartridges can void your warranty.
2. Know your cartridge: Get a good look at your brand name cartridge and know the numbers printed on it. Be sure to purchase the correct cartridge.
3.  Know your price:  Depending on your printer’s make and model the off-brand ink may be just as expensive as the brand name.

Do you know how much you spent on office supplies in 2016?   What can you do to save on office supplies?

About the Author:  Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Virtual Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area.  Sheri helps small business owners save time, money and frustration by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks.  Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business.    www.anotheryouerrands.com  937-416-2207

 

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End of Year Checklist for Small Business

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Here are some things every small business should look at as the year-end approaches. With so many things on your plate, it’s a good idea to create a checklist for your end-of-year activities.

1. Get your books in order. Whether you are a solopreneur with a box full of receipts that haven’t yet been entered or a small business owner who has a bookkeeper on your payroll, you have to get this step done before you can do anything else.

2. Review all your systems from top to bottom. A system review can be an eye-opening experience for business owners. Carefully examine what is working and what isn’t. Don’t assume that just because you have had a certain system in place from day one that it is adding value to your business or your customers.

3. Review your expenses and vendor contracts. Run an expense report and see where you are spending your money. Is it money well spent? Are you getting a good ROI from all of your memberships? Are you really reading all those magazines that come each month? Take a look at how much business you are doing with each vendor. Are you getting optimum pricing based on how much you are working together?

4. Touch base with your best customers. Be sure to tell them you appreciate their business and ask if there is anything you can improve on or do differently to help them grow their business. Send them a Christmas card or gift or plan to send them a card at the beginning of the New Year.

5. Take a good look at your website and social media platforms. You need to make changes to your website to keep people coming back and take advantage of SEO. Is the content on your website and business social media profiles up to date? Dedicate some time for touching up, revamping or overhauling your digital presence.

6. Revisit your pricing. Once you understand your business’ financial picture, it’s time to get honest about how things are going. Many freelancers and small business owners make the mistake of under-charging their clients: is your pricing adequately compensating you for your time, experience, and costs (which include taxes, retirement plans, health insurance, and more)?  The start of the New Year is a natural time to bump up your rates.

7. Goals. Pull out your business plan and any other planning documents and review this past year’s goals. Did your business accomplish what you set out to do? Why or why not? Set Goals for next year. Be specific, give them a timeline, and make sure they are measurable and written down.

8. Revisit Your Business Plan. If it has been a while since you examined this critical document, now’s the time to get to it. Review it to ensure it’s still aligned with your company goals. Change what needs changing. And if you never had one, this is the time to make one.

9. Meet with your accountant. The end of the year is the perfect time to meet with your accountant to plan your taxes. Discuss with them what you should do with excess cash and take a look at anything you can write off.

10. Get Organized. If you’re like a lot of business owners, your desk is cluttered, and so is your desktop. Spend a few hours throwing away and shredding things you don’t need and organizing your computer files. I guarantee you’ll feel more together come January.

headshot2About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Personal/Virtual Assistant service based out of the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks. Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business.

 www.anotheryouerrands.com                                                                 937-416-2207

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4 Tips 4 Remembering Names

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Remembering names is one of the simplest yet most important factors of interacting with people.   A person’s name is the single most important word to them. As Dale Carnegie said, “If you remember my name, you pay me a subtle compliment; you indicate that I have made an impression on you. Remember my name and you add to my feeling of importance.”  Use these 4 tips to remember names.

  1.  Pay Attention: Be sure to pay attention as you are introduced.  You’d be amazed at how little attention we pay to the person we are meeting. Clear your mind and focus on them not on you or what you’re going to say next.
  2.  Repeat: As soon as you’re introduced, say, “It’s lovely to meet you, Jane.   Repeat the name silently to yourself a few times.  Repeat the name throughout the exchange. Try to also use their name during conversation and when the conversation is at an end.
  3.  Mental associations: Make a visual connection with a person’s name to something memorable in your world.   Try to connect the name with a familiar image or famous person.  Associate the person’s name with a picture that is easy to recall.
  4.  Did I mention Repeat? Use their name frequently:  People typically like the sound of their names so this tips bears double mention.  Try to use their name at least three times during your conversation:  when introduced, during the conversation and conclude with their name.

After meeting the person,  jot down notes with their name, where you met, how you met and the specifics of your conversation in a “new contacts” file (paper or electronic).  Take a look at your notes prior to the next time you anticipate seeing that person.

Although it makes us uncomfortable, we all forget names.  If you absolutely can’t remember a name, try to offer any information you can remember, such as where the two of you may have met. Alternatively, if you shake hands and introduce yourself, your contact will most likely follow suit.

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About the AuthorSheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Personal/Virtual Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area.  Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks.  Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business.    www.anotheryouerrands.com                                                                                                          937-416-2207

Six Cool Things to Do in Your Business This Summer

deckchairs-355596_640Summer for many businesses tend to be slower than normal due to kids being out of school and vacations.  There are things that we can do during our slower times to help our businesses. Here are 6 cool things that you can do in your business this summer.

 Make a list of your top prospects. Every small business owner in a business-to-business company, should have a list of their top customers and their top prospects that they keep handy. Ideally, the list should be visible all the time, taped on a desk or posted on a wall. It often takes some research and homework to identify prospects, and in the day-to-day rush of business, that can be hard. During the summer, do some research and uncover contacts who have the potential to become big customers before the end of the year.

 Develop your fall marketing plan. Summer won’t last forever, and you want to be ready to land some big customers as soon as people are back at their desks. The summer months are a great time to do some strategic planning. Clarify and narrow your target market and figure out the best ways to reach prospects. Come up with a marketing budget and marketing vehicles so you’re ready to go.

 Redo your own marketing materials. While you’re focused on marketing, summer is a great time to freshen up and modernize your own marketing materials. When was the last time you took a hard look at your business cards? Brochures? Do you still have a fax number but not your social media handles printed on your material?

 Update your operations.A slow summer is the perfect time to work on internal operations. Switch any soon-to-be-upgraded on premise software programs to cloud-based applications.

Tackle a project. We all have a wish list of projects we’d like to take care of someday. It may be creating a new prototype of a product. It might be clearing out old inventory, cleaning out a storage room, or getting some much needed training. Do the spring cleaning you didn’t have time to do in spring.

 Get a mobile website. This is your most important summer task. When you realize that two-thirds of all Americans access the Web from their smartphone — and about 40% use their phone as their preferred or only method of getting on the Web — your site must look good and work well when people view it on a mobile device. If customers can’t easily read your content and navigate your site on their phone, they may go somewhere else.

A HUGE Thank You to Emma Farmer of Cybertary.com for this blog post. 

The Networking Event…To Go or Not To Go

networkclockBefore you leave your office you take a look at the calendar to prepare for tomorrow.  There it is… that networking breakfast, lunch or meeting.  Also on tomorrow’s calendar is a mile long “To Do List” of things you HAVE to get done.  What do you do?

I opened my Personal and Business Concierge service, Another You,  almost a year ago.   Like with most start-ups, I had a lot more time than actual work.  In the beginning.  I considered Networking to be my full-time job.  I had to get my name out there!  I needed to build a network of people who I could refer to, count on, and hold me accountable.  I understood that building relationships would build my business so I visited as many networking groups in the Dayton area as I could find.  After a few meetings, I joined as many as my small budget would allow.  For the past 6-9 months, it has not been uncommon for me to have 5-7 networking events scheduled on my calendar each week.  I agree with  Alan Collins , that, “Pulling a good network together takes effort, sincerity and time.”

Because I am blessed, have worked hard and have had the help of supportive people in my life, my business is really starting to grow!  Now I find that I am having a hard time fitting in client work, networking, and the administrative tasks of my business.

  • Decisions:  If you skip the networking meeting and use that time to work, you might actually be able to complete and cross off most items on your To Do List.  That then leaves time in the day for family, friends; whatever you enjoy.  Work-life balance is very important.
  • Decisions:  I find that networking can be fun.  My business has grown because of  networking.  I am still looking for new clients and feel that networking is the best way to market my small business.   Cindy Gaboury Co-Owner of Audio, Etc. , who I met through networking says,  “If it was important enough to you to add to your calendar, then you should attend the event.”

So how do you decide on how many networking events you attend?  How many events do you add to your calendar that you do NOT attend?  How much time do you devote each week to networking? Just how important is networking to your business?

headshot     About the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Personal and Business Concierge service in the Dayton, Ohio area.   Sheri helps busy people with a focus on the small business owner.     Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business.        937-416-2207

 

 

It Takes a Village…(To Run a Business)

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In 1996, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton published the book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us. The focus of the book was on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have on a child’s well-being. The book’s title is attributed to an African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Recently, I met with a woman who, after retirement, started her own consulting and coaching business. She thought she would start a business doing what she loved and also have time to enjoy retirement with her husband. So she hung out her shingle and before she knew it her small business flourished and she got busy; too busy, in fact, to do it all herself. Her  business had turned into a wonderful success but she was working more than she wanted. She was not spending the time she had envisioned on herself, her husband, family and friends. She loved the work but understood that something had to be done. Being the well-rounded woman that she is, she was not afraid to admit that she needed help. She began outsourcing some of her work. She delegated scheduling, calendar management, social media marketing and was now discussing the delegation of other business matters to me. During our conversation, she mentioned that, “It takes a village to run a business.”

Outsourcing is a term borrowed from the corporate world that refers to contracting out a business process to a third-party. Applied to small business, outsourcing is about taking things that we need to do to run our business and having someone else do it. Outsourcing just 4 hours out of your 40-hour work week gains you a 10% increase in time that you could be spending with clients, friends and family. The average “working” person according to Dr. Wetmore of the Productivity Institute, spends less than 2 minutes a day in truly meaningful conversation with their spouse or loved one. Think about how you would improve your life, relationships and business with an additional 4 hours a week.

So, how do you know when to outsource something? Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • Am I doing this task “after hours” or not at all?
  • Am I procrastinating on this task?
  • Do I dread starting this task?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to outsource some of your tasks.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, but rather that of being proactive. Asking for help is not a sign of failure, but yet a sign of success. Any of us who have done it or know someone who has, understands that it takes a village to run a business. By handing off tasks that don’t require your time, energy and unique skills, you will be able to focus more on both your business and relationship growth.

headshotAbout the Author: Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Business Concierge/Personal Assistant service in the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps small business owners save time and money by taking care of their day-to-day administrative tasks. Think of her as your right hand while your left hand is growing your business. www.anotheryouerrands.com 937-416-2207

What does your Priority List look like?

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While I was out digging up a few dandelions that had sneaked into my new spring  lawn, I noticed my neighbor’s grass.  From the road his lawn appears to be full and green but when you take a closer look you see that instead of grass, his lawn is mainly weeds. My neighbor has a wonderful home that is beautifully decorated and he is constantly working on it to keep it looking very nice.  His home is definitely on his priority list.

A priority is a thing that is regarded more important than another thing. Each of us has different items on our priority lists. What decides our priorities? How do our lists change with our life transitions? What does the list of a small business owner look like?

Good business planning must involve the setting of priorities. Priorities might include money (cash flow and expenses), customer service, networking and making sure your service or product is the best that you can provide. I wonder how many business owners have TIME on their priority list. Do we schedule FAMILY and FRIENDS on our list? Is ME time a priority?

Work–life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development. It is so important to both the health of your body and mind and the health of your relationships to have a balance between work and life. Where does work-life balance fit on your priority list?

As a small business owner when was the last time you studied your priority list?  Is your list conducive to a work-life balance?   Do you need to delegate tasks to someone else to free up time? What if you took most of your workday to do the tasks that excite you and that you are great at and then simply delegate the other stuff to someone else?  Outsourcing just 4 hours out of a 40-hour work week gains you a 10% increase in time that you could be spending on yourself, your family and your friends.

Steven Covey suggests that, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”  My neighbor, Donnie, is a hard worker and a great neighbor; but one who has not scheduled his lawn on his priority list!

If you are a small business owner that has few hours a week of tasks that you would like to delegate, I would be happy to discuss how I could help you.

headshot  About the Author:  Sheri Miller is the Owner of Another You, LLC, a Personal and Business Concierge service in the Dayton, Ohio area. Sheri helps busy people. She provides support for both the individual and the small business owner. http://www.anotheryouerrands.com 937-416-2207