Archive for Office Furniture Concepts

How to Ensure You Get Paid in a Timely Fashion

cashinhand

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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Setting Up The Office Furniture Showroom

After I left my prior employer, I had exactly 4 weeks to get the office furniture showroom set up and ready for opening day. I found a nice space in an old textile mill that needed minimal renovations, paint and carpet. After hiring a paint contractor and ordering the carpet, I decided to take my pregnant wife and daughter on a long weekend vacation since it was anybody’s guess when I would be able to take some time off.

Upon my return, I then worked closely with area furniture wholesalers and furniture manufacturers to get both educated and also plan the showroom floor. After determining the appropriate product mix I placed an order and shortly after received the products. With the help of my good friends, we had a “Showroom Setup Party”.

Our next step was to purchase a mailing list of businesses’ in a 20 mile radius and have some flyers printed. We did a bulk mailing announcing the opening and in order to minimize expenses, we had 4 different flyers printed at the same time. Our plan was to do a mailing every 30 days. A news release mailing was sent to all area chamber of commerces’ and ads were placed in local business publications. A “Grand Opening” was scheduled, a mailing was sent to all members of the local chamber and the local newspaper was invited to cover the event.

We hit the ground running with a successful “Grand Opening” event and have never looked back. We have made many changes through the years and have tried to adapt to the ever-changing market. Keeping an open mind and being open to change will hopefully insure the continuesd long-term success of the business.

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Planning to Open an Office Furniture Dealership

After 11 years working in the private sector, the last 4 for a major manufacturer of office products, I decided that the best thing for my family and I would be to start my own business. At that time I had a 2 year old daughter. The day I told my wife that I was going to take the plunge, she informed me that she was pregnant with daughter number 2. Undeterred, for the next year I worked diligently to develop a comprehensive marketing plan to make sure that on day 1, not only were we open for business, but we would hit the ground running.

We were up and running 30 days after I left my marketing position. In the year prior to opening, I visited many office furniture dealers along the East Coast to see how they operated and also met with many manufacturer representatives and office furniture wholesalers to determine what would be the best product mix. I also re-mortgaged my house to get a line of credit and opened as many no annual fee credit cards just in case we needed financing. Banks in general do not like to lend to start ups. Fortunately, my wife had a good job in the pharmaceutical industry, so we were able to at least pay the mortgage and basic bills and not go deeper into debt. After determining the market I wanted to serve, an affordable central location was found (at that time, prior to the internet, customers were believed that they would travel up to 30 minutes to see your offering) and the showroom was set up.

At the age of 33, I had the education, experience and fortitude to work long hours and tried to minimize expenses by being the salesman, delivery person and operations manager. I did hire an inside person as well as one delivery person to help with the process. I acquired a marketing mailing list of local companies and sent out a series of mailings to get the word out. I also joined the local Chamber of Commerce, sent out newspaper press releases and had an Open House for the Grand Opening. The business received orders from day one. I also joined numerous professional groups and made business card exchanges a weekly event. The efforts paid off quickly. We made many mistakes in the beginning, but learned quickly and kept moving forward. As my first real business enterprise, I learned to be open to other ideas and never resist change and do whatever it takes to satisfy your customer, no job is beneath you. Plus, the more things you learn to do in a company, the better prepared you are to deal with problems and adversity.

Furniture Frank

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Office Furniture Concepts (ofconcepts.com) Celebrates 25th Anniversary

On March 1st, Office Furniture Concepts (ofconcepts.com) completed 25 years of successfully serving its thousands of customers nationwide. From its humble beginnings as a local dealer, Ofconcepts has become a nationwide distributor of quality product from name brand manufacturers at competitive prices. They also place professional customer service as the number one priority. Ofconcepts was one of the first online merchants, even before Google was a company. With the tremendous influx of technology in today’s world, it has been a very exciting time to be in business. I wish to extend a special thank you to those that have had the confidence to trust ofconcepts in providing solutions that work. During the next year, I will be sharing some of my most treasured experiences through the blog. We look forward to serving you for many years to come. Again, thank you for choosing Office Furniture Concepts, ofconcepts.com.

Sincerely,

Furniture Frank

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Is Ofconcepts.com on GSA Contract?

Office Furniture Concepts, ofconcepts.com, does not directly hold any GSA Contracts. However, many of the items we sell are available on GSA Contract through our different manufacturers. The manufacturers negotiate the contracts for their dealer base. This gives us the ability to sell to government agencies under pre-negotiated GSA pricing as an authorized dealer. Manufacturers in general do not have all of their items on contract but typically have the “A” items on contract. Items on contract are typically domestic made and do not include imported items. To find out if a specific item is on GSA contract, please contact ofconcepts.com directly. In the event the item is on contract, we would be happy to get you a formal quote which will list the specific contract number and appropriate discount schedule. Items not on contract, can be purchased as “Open Market”. Office Furniture Concepts does accept all Government Credit Cards and Purchase Orders.

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Can I Get Fabric and Wood Samples?

OFConcepts works with many office furniture manufacturers throughout the country. Our manufacturers offer many fabric and finish options for their various products. Viewing color sample swatches online can be a good guide, but when in doubt, we highly recommend that you contact us directly to order and receive exact samples. We will order these directly from the specific manufacturer who will send them to you. The main thing to keep in mind is that this will add some time to the sales process, in general, an additional week. We feel very strongly, that as long as you have some time on your side, order the samples desired. This will insure that you are totally satisfied with your purchase.

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Can I Order Inside Delivery and Setup Online?

In order to get a price for inside delivery and set up, you must talk directly to an OFConcepts representative by either phone or e-mail. We have a nationwide network of professional installers that can assist with this service. Since no two deliveries are the same, we must collect pertinent information related to the install to quote a price. In general, the most important factors pertain to issues such as installation times. Many commercial buildings do not permit deliveries/installations during normal business hours. In situations such as these, installers are required to complete their service after hours  and have to pay their crews overtime. It is best to consult with the building management prior to delivery/installation to determine if there are any restrictions or requirements for your building.

Also, logistic information such as the availability of a loading dock or freight elevator will affect the price. Installations that require a liftgate (if there is no loading dock) or stairs (if there is no elevator) will be more time consuming and more expensive. After consulting with an OFConcepts representative, the customer will be advised of the charges involved. In the event that Inside Delivery and Set Up are not required, OFConcepts will instruct the delivery company to contact you at least 24 hours prior to delivery. This will enable you to have the necessary resources available to accept the delivery with minimal problems. For additional information, please contact OFConcepts directly.

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