With everything else you spend money on for your business, the purchase of office supplies may seem like small change. It’s not. Every year, businesses spend billions of dollars on office products. Left unchecked, these expenses—on items ranging from pens and paper clips to staples and print cartridges—can significantly cut into your annual profit margin.
Here are tips for keeping these costs under control:
- Buy generic. Name brand supplies have prestige and name-recognition, but they’re not always the most cost-effective choice. Many generic office products are just as good as their brand name equivalents, but you can purchase them for considerably less money.
- Try the office superstore. Staples, OfficeMax, and other superstores are easy to find and frequently offer the lowest prices on office supplies. They do this, of course, because they buy office products in bulk from manufacturers and sell them in huge volumes. Some of these chains also offer reward programs that further reduce your expenses.
- Negotiate with your supplier. If you have a favorite supplier for office supplies, you can be sure they’re highly aware of their superstore competitors. This puts you in a position to negotiate pricing, particularly if you order frequently and in large volume. Just be sure to focus your purchase contract discussions on those office products your business requires on a steady basis.
- Shop online. Many certified online supply stores offer discount pricing equal to their superstore counterparts. In most cases, shipping is quick and efficient, which means you can schedule automatic delivery of those products you need on a regular basis. (You can also order supplies at any time, day or night.) Buying in large quantity at the same time often makes you eligible for free shipping, yet another cost-saving bonus.
- Monitor use and eliminate waste. Are you tracking the acquisition of office supplies by item and quantity? This information is critically important in keeping a lid on your costs. Try maintaining a monthly log to identify any unnecessary expenditures or repeated purchases that would be more cost-effective if bought all at once. How much are you spending on items that aren’t truly necessary to support your business processes? The answer might surprise you. Employees sometimes use office supplies wastefully or get in the habit of taking items home and never bringing them back. After awhile, the cost of this wasteful usage and lost office products adds up. Encourage your staff to look at cost-efficient ways to use (and re-use) specific office supplies. Establish a procedure for employees to re-order supplies, which will likely cut down on waste as well.
- Set an example. If you find yourself guilty of racking up needless costs, change your ways. Do you communicate with staff via printed materials instead of sending emails? Can you direct your assistant to print a document on both sides of the page, rather than on two separate pages? Model the behavior you seek in your workforce and you’ll likely see a quick reduction in office expenses in your business.