Archive for Business Tips

Office Furniture From Big Box Stores – Should I Buy?

We often get questions from customers asking what the difference is between a “Big Box” store where you can pickup a chair and the products that you can order from us at Office Furniture Concepts. The answer is: service. All lines that we offer are commercial grade office furniture, which are great for business, but can also be used in a personal setting. While it’s easy to walk into a “Big Box” store and walk out with a chair, what happens if there’s a problem? Items that are sold at these stores can break in as little as 5 months, but our products are built to last with warranties. When you purchase from Office Furniture Concepts, we will also handle any warranty claims and can provide you with replacement parts if needed.

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Do You Have it in Stock?

We get this questions from customers at Office Furniture Concepts (OFConcepts.com) often: “Do you have it in stock?” The real answer is NO – WE don’t have it in stock, but our vendors DO. The common misconception of buyers is that a company needs to have an item in stock to ship quickly. The reality is that nearly no-one in the office furniture industry, especially those that have an online store, stocks anything these days. As a dealer, we all pull from the vendor’s stock and it ships directly to the end user.

While this may sound like a complicated process, it can really work to the buyer’s advantage. For example, one of the manufacturers that we work with has 28 distribution centers throughout the United States. For the buyer this means a quick turn around for shipment and a shorter distance for the item to travel. When shipping office furniture from a far distance, you run the risk of damage, so the less a box has to be handled and the shorter it has to travel, the better!

Overall, dealers have the ability to get your product to you quickly, regardless of whether it’s stocked at their facility or not. Happy shopping!

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Will Ofconcepts Provide Service for Our Products?

I received a phone call yesterday from someone that purchased an office chair through Amazon. They were having issues and needed some replacement parts. I was advised that Amazon will only deal with their customer directly for 30 days from the date of purchase on any warranty issues. After 30 days, it is up to the purchaser to find help. At Office Furniture Concepts, ofconcepts.com, we service the products we sell with no time limit. We do the leg work and deal with the manufacturers for you. In most cases, if the problem is under factory warranty, there is no charge. If the problem is not a warranty situation and parts are still available, we will work with our manufacturers directly to get the problem solved. We highly value our customers and strive to provide the best customer service experience possible.

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Does Office Furniture Concepts (OFConcepts.com) Charge Sales Tax?

DoesOFConceptsChargeSalesTax

Office Furniture Concepts, ofconcepts.com, only charges Sales Tax in the State of Pennsylvania. Current Federal Law only requires us to collect and remit taxes where there is a physical presence. Pennsylvania is the only state that we have a physical presence. According to Federal Law, which supersedes State Laws, it is the users’ responsibility to remit any applicable Sales Taxes  directly to their state for out of state purchases and Internet purchases from an out of state vendor. This is called a Use Tax. This does not apply to Tax Exempt organizations.  For additional information on this policy, we highly recommend that you contact your accountant.

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How to Ensure You Get Paid in a Timely Fashion

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Cash Flow is an incredibly important part of running a successful business. As our business has matured, we have been able to implement some programs to improve our cash flow. We deal primarily with Business and Government customers. Many customers prefer to use Purchase Orders, but we are also seeing a significant amount of business transactions where the customer wants to use a credit card.

Credit card users get points and airline miles, which is becoming more popular. Although there are fees involved, now running approximately 3%, it is advantageous for your businesses to accept credit cards as a form of payment. Due to the amount of fraud that exists, we charge each credit card at the time of purchase and have little or no customer issues. When dealing with corporate Purchase Orders, Google is an incredible tool to research a company to see if they are credit worthy. It is important to bill customers when you are invoiced and then following up to make sure the invoice is in their system to be paid. On projects where there is a longer leadtime, we get deposits of 50% to help with the cash flow. It is not uncommon today for large companies to pay beyond 30 days, so managing the accounts receivable is an important function, especially for small businesses.

The best advice I can give when extending credit is to go with your instincts and gut reaction. If it doesn’t feel right, get paid up front. There have been times that we have reluctantly given credit and unfortunately it was a bad decision. As a business owner who prides himself in paying our bills on time, getting burnt for money is a very unpleasant experience. Nothing is foolproof, but by spending the time to follow procedures will minimize your exposure to bad debts or fraud.

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Stay Within Yourself, Be Great at What You Do

One of the things that I think is critical for long term growth and prosperity of any business is to stay focused on what you do and try to excel at it. You cannot be all things to all people. It is important to know your strengths and use them  as best you can. All companies have shortcomings, know what yours are and either work on them to make them better or accept them for what they are.

Most small businesses have limited resources, so it is best to utilize every resource that you have. Our industry, office furniture, is very much project driven. We try to go after the projects that have the best chance of success. Large projects require a significant amount of time and resources to bid and have a lower chance to obtain due to number of companies competing for the project. It is quite common for us to pass on very large project opportunities because the time required would take away from our focus on what we do best. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. As a small business, we would rather have a basket with many eggs than just a few large eggs in the basket. If you spread your risk, the chance for long term success greatly increases.

Eggs in a basket

Do you have many small eggs or a few large eggs in your basket?

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Expect the Unexpected and Roll with It

detour expect the unexpected

 

One of the biggest surprises in running a business is dealing with issues and problems you do not anticipate. I learned very quickly to expect the unexpected and then just roll with it. You learn very quickly just how little control you can have, even after detailed planning. I could write a very extensive book on unplanned events. Here are just a few…

(1) Right before we placed the floor samples on our office furniture showroom floor, we painted and carpeted the front room. It was very well done, clean and inviting. It rained the night they finished the carpet. When I went to work the next day, I found that the showroom had taken on a lot of water and did a number on most of the carpet. I was hopeful this was not a sign, but a little discouraged. Fortunately, a wet vac took care of the mess and we moved forward.

(2) Within a few short months of our opening the doors, The Borough decided (unbeknownst to us) to replace the main street going through the business district which closed the main access to our facility. This entrance ended up being closed for approximately 3 months. There was a side street alternate entrance, so I purchased numerous temporary  signs directing customers in the back way. I also purchased a large banner to be hung across the side street to draw attention the our business. Not long after we placed the banner up, a large tractor trailer came down the street and since the truck was not high enough it grabbed the banner and pulled our permanent sign to the ground, snapping the support pole at the base. Our good intentions of redirecting traffic had backfired and cost us money to repair.

The moral of my story is you need to roll with the ups and downs with business. Don’t get too high with the highs or to low with the lows. If you believe in yourself and what you are doing, you will ultimately succeed.

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How to Get the Word Out When Starting a New Business

hand holding yellow business card

When the dealership was originally opened, the most significant marketing tool available at the time was “The Yellow Pages.” Unfortunately, the books were only printed once a year. Based on our physical location, we wanted to market to a 20 mile radius. This meant we would have to advertise in 5 editions, all with different release dates and most of them being months away from the start date. In an effort to get the word out to our target market, I spent a significant amount of time networking. It was not unusual for me to attend business card exchanges hosted by area Chamber of Commerce‘s and other local business groups a few nights a week. It was a very gradual thing, but it eventually paid big dividends for my business. After seeing my face numerous times, I started to get quality leads which eventually turned into sales. The office furniture business is very much a “people relationship” business and we deal primarily with professional business people.

The best advice I can give anyone starting a business, especially a local based business is: Network, Network, Network! If done on a consistent basis with the right people, success is much more easily attainable.

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