It is easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest furniture and equipment for your office—you want it to look fabulous and make a statement about your success. But don’t lose sight of your budget. Your cash flow could wind up looking like the national debt.

Don’t despair! It really is a breeze to make good decisions about purchasing equipment and furniture, have a nice-looking office, and make your business run smoothly and efficiently.

Should You Buy New or Used Furniture for Your Office?

Some people think that they have to have the latest equipment to hit the market. Cost doesn’t matter. This kind of thinking can lead you to buy equipment with superfluous features, or furniture that goes out of style next week. Before you equip your office, think about your real needs—what you need to make a fair impression, work efficiently, and be able to maintain a good and continuing cash flow situation.

Check into used furniture and equipment. A good bargain may just be the ticket to fulfilling your needs. If you really want to buy good furniture cheap, consider attending a going-out-of-business auction; I’ve been thrilled with the great furniture that I have picked up at dirt cheap auction sales.

Do You Need an Expensive Phone System?

Do you really need all of the bells and whistles available in certain phone equipment today? Don’t get caught up in the hype—think about your business and what you need to handle your day-to-day communication needs.

Make a list of the types of phone equipment that you absolutely must have to run your type of business professionally. Then shop for prices in at least three different outlets.

In fact, I would consider running the entire business on cell phones. You could even use your personal cell phone. But you need to sound businesslike every time you answer it.

Don’t Get Carried Away with Expensive Software

No matter which computer platform you use, there are a host of programs available that will cut down on the time and expense of accounting, billing, creating financial projections, creating graphics and drawings, and even managing your day for you. Again, determine what you need to adequately fulfill a function and shop for the software package that will best meet your needs and your budget. And you don’t have to upgrade your software just because your manufacturer has decided it’s time to issue a new version.

What If Any Computers Do I Need to Buy for My Employees?

Especially if you are starting a small business, you could ask your employees to use their own laptops. If they balk or don’t have one, you could provide them with a basic computer.

If you really want to make your employees happy, you might want to give them a choice. You can offer to give them a small allowance for the use of their own laptop or to buy a company standardized one that remains company property.

If you have decided that you want to provide your staff with computers, don’t just go out and buy the cheapest models on sale or a mixed batch you find at an auction. Instead, I consider standardizing computers, and find a company that will service them, then make sure they are adequate so that employees can work on them quickly and efficiently.

Looks, appearance, and brand names would not figure high on my list of priorities, nor necessarily would the initial purchase price. Instead, I would think of the total cost of the computers, including service and downtime. How much does it cost if an employee’s computer is down? Ideally, in addition to getting quality computers and a solid service plan, I would have a back-up computer available for use.

Do the Chairs Really Matter?

You are projecting an image with the type of furniture that you choose to outfit your office with. Buying it used can certainly help offset costs, and comes as a recommendation for keeping budgets in check, but make sure that it is in tip-top shape. New or used, your furniture should be professional in appearance. Try for a coordinated look and a simple color scheme carried throughout your office. Good, simple, tasteful design is paramount if you intend to have clients visit your office on a regular basis.

Look for furniture that is comfortable and suitable for at least eight hours a day. Make sure your desks and chairs are ergonomically designed to minimize physical stress. Having heavy computer users develop wrist and hand problems is a risk I would work to avoid.

So yes, choosing comfortable and physically healthy chairs for your employees does make a difference!

Should We Have Our Own Email System?

Even many very tiny businesses have their own proprietary email system—their computer consultant assures them it will be extremely reliable. Well, I have been in too many situations when our proprietary email system has crashed and it has taken a full day or longer to get it back up again. You don’t need to bother with your own email system. I suggest you just find a name that is the same as your business at one of the big, free commercial email hubs. If your business name isn’t available, just find something that sounds professional.

No, don’t get your own email system!

You Don’t Need the Fanciest Copier

For most small businesses, a basic all-in-one scanner/copier/printer will work just fine. If you are going to be doing a lot of copying or printing, then you need to first consider finding a good service provider and then choose equipment that the service finds reliable but also repairable.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Don’t get caught up with the latest and greatest—keep an eye on your budget.
  • Stay focused on what you need to be efficient.
  • Your furniture is part of your image.