As an entrepreneur, there are certain things you have to think about on a weekly basis. You have to think about how your staff are performing, whether the business is profitable, and how your competitors are performing. You have to constantly monitor advancements and developments, as well as keeping one eye on current affairs to see if there are problems brewing in the business world or economy at large.
Given the sheer scale and depth of all of these areas, it’s no surprise that many entrepreneurs don’t spend much time thinking about office supplies. Office supplies, after all, are relatively innocuous; the paper, printing materials, pens, and other items that you need for your business to function are important, yes, but do you need to actively dedicate time to thinking about this area of your business? Isn’t it a simple case of “need office supplies, buy office supplies”?
While office supplies are somewhat secondary to the major business concerns, this is an area that tends to benefit from additional forethought and consideration. This is due to the sheer volume required; while office supplies are relatively inexpensive in and of themselves, the costs can quickly add up - potentially to a point where they become detrimental to the business. Below, we’ve put together a simple list of three things every entrepreneur needs to know about office supplies, as well as some tips for office supply usage that can significantly improve your business.
#1 - You can (probably) deduct office supplies from your taxesOne of the best reasons to document your office supply costs and carefully monitor expenditure is related to tax and, namely, the fact that office supplies are usually tax deductible. If you underestimate your office supply costs and thus do not deduct the correct amount from your taxes, then you’re effectively paying double for the same supplies - which we can all agree is not an ideal situation.
The exact law regarding whether office supplies can be deducted from your taxes will depend on your local tax authority, so either obtain this information yourself or ask your accounting team to do so on your behalf. When you know if you can use this deduction, and how much is considered allowable, you’ll be able to formulate a cost-effective strategy for the use of office supplies in your business.
#2 - Plan a careful purchasing strategy for office suppliesFor many entrepreneurs, purchasing office supplies is something that they don’t particularly think about - the cost seems relatively small, and many even outsource the task to a member of staff.
This, however, is an oversight, as office supply costs can quickly mount up, a problem that is all the more likely if you are overpaying in the first place. It’s therefore helpful to establish a strategy for how office supplies will be purchased, which should include answers to the following questions:
- What are you going to buy? It’s important not to just buy items by default; instead, assess each type of office supply and ask your staff what they use. This step can drastically reduce your expenditure, and ensure you only have to fund essentials such as printer ink, paper, and collating materials, rather than providing a huge range that no one ever actually puts to use.
- Where are you going to purchase your office supplies from? Research is your friend here, as there are plenty of hidden gems online that are well worth your consideration. By looking online, you’ll have options such as Cartridge Shop for ink, toner, and paper, as well as specialist vendors for other products - all of which are usually far more reasonably priced than you would find if you purchased the same items on the high street.
- How frequently are you going to purchase office supplies? Most businesses place orders on a regular basis, so they can be sure employees will always have the necessary supplies as and when needed.
- Who is in charge of placing the order? You can manage office supply ordering yourself if you prefer, especially if you believe you will only need to make occasional purchases, or you can ask a member of staff to do this for you. Either way, diarize a reminder to check that all orders have been placed as per the designated schedule, so you can be sure there’s no risk of your office running short.
#3 - Create a “checkout” policy for employee usage of office supplies
Many business owners accept that they will lose a portion of their office supplies to employees, usually due to absent-mindedness: for example, an employee uses a pen during the day, and takes it home with them that night, perhaps even forgetting that the pen technically belongs to the company. For the most part, this issue is something most companies can cope with; after all, a pen costs a few cents to replace, so it’s not particularly time- or cost-effective to try and track every single pen in the office - and the same applies for staples, elastic bands, and similar small items.
However, many items - folders, display boards, staple guns - cost a lot more than a few cents to replace. As a result, it’s helpful to try and keep track of these items by implementing a “checkout” system:
- Store all office supplies in a single cupboard or room
- Create a manifest of every item in the area; for example: “Staple guns x 2, folders x 10…”
- When an employee removes a larger item from the area, they write down their name and details on what they have taken.
- Every week, you or a member of staff check to see if all items have been returned.
- If anything is missing, you can ask the employees for more information based on the information that has been recorded as to who has used what. In most cases, you’ll find items have just been left in a desk drawer, but by tracking them down, you can avoid expensive replacement costs.