If you don't know where to start, gathering the pieces of equipment needed to run a successful business probably seems daunting. Every internet search on the topic is sure to yield an avalanche of frequently changing advice on supposed 'must-haves'. But when budget is a consideration -- and really, when isn't it? -- you have to economize and spend only on what will truly pay for itself in the long run. Let's take a look at seven truly necessary items and/or item categories every new company needs in order to operate today.
1) Basic desk supplies
This one may seem obvious, but in the digital age it needs mentioning: As long as people still use three-dimensional items to communicate in some form, your business still needs paper -- for both printed documents and hand-written tasks. That means you also need logo-marked stationary, pens, file folders, and envelopes, as well as scissors, staplers, paper clips, tape, etc. None of these ought to break the bank; a pretty basic Swingline stapler will run you about $10 and should not need replacing often, if ever.
If you're not running a home-tutoring business, you might think a whiteboard is one thing you definitely won't be needing for your organization. But think again. Whiteboards, or dry-erase boards, have become a staple of workplaces in every industry from science and medicine, to advertising and public relations, to retail. It's easy to see why: They're easy to put up (some even come as stand-alone items with their own wheels), they come in a range of sizes, and can be instrumental in helping keep tabs on ideas in a brainstorming session. In fact, studies have even shown that whiteboard use can increase creativity.
With their accompanying markers coming in numerous, vibrant (and often odor-free) colors and their quick-erasing nature, they're a far cry from the dusty, unpleasant-to-write on chalkboards of your youth, and they don't set your teeth on edge if you have long nails.
Even better, they'll barely make a dent in your office budget. You can easily get a 3-by-2 framed dry-erase board for under $60.
Most anyone hoping to earn a living today needs to not only know how to use, but also own and properly operate an internet-connected computer. But which to choose -- desktop, laptop or a hybrid with touch-screen functionality? Each has its high points and its drawbacks. These days a quick, reliable all-in-one desktop can be had for about $1,000, while a good convertible, or '2-in-1' tends to start around $1,200. The former boast larger screens and more power but lack portability, while the latter are lightweight, nimble and multi-functional -- but often pricey. The right choice is the one that best suits your needs.
Once you've settled on a computer, laptop or 2-in-1, you'll need a printer/scanner. Here again quality needn't mean outrageous prices. A good, mid-capacity, small-business printer with a built-in scanner will run you a few hundred dollars. Many such printers are capable of delivering thousands of pages of black ink before needing a refill.
Necessary software for your computer doesn't always come particularly cheaply, but think of it as an investment without which the smooth running of your business would be quite difficult. Consider, for example, how frequently you probably open and/or create written documents. For this, you probably use Word. If you do any kind of financial tab-keeping yourself, you're also likely to be intimately familiar with Excel. A solid solution is Office 365 Business, which at the time of this writing was available for $12.50 a month. You'll also get PowerPoint and Outlook, among other workhorse programs well worth the cost.
You'll also be needing protection from malware, spyware, and adware. Hackers are always in the lookout for accessible credit-card information and other sensitive data, and ending up on the receiving (or, more accurately, bereft) end of an attack could cost you big-time, both financially and in terms of time and heartache. "You absolutely need to install an antivirus utility on all your computers, and keep it up to date," writes PC Mag security analyst Neil J. Rubenking. Here the biggest names in anti-virus protection -- McAfee, Norton -- are often good choices, at about $19.99 each. These will detect phishing, block malicious URLs and perform on-demand scans for malware, among other operations.
If you have employees and will be handling payment yourself, you're also going to require good payroll software. At several hundred dollars a year, a 2018 version of QuickBooks for desktop is something of an investment, but with functionality that includes automatic calculation of withholding deductions and the generation of tax forms, it's well worth it for businesses that have outside hires.
If your business has its own dedicated space, you'll be wanting -- and needing -- furnishings for it. For a typical office, these will include, at the most basic end, tables or desks/workstations, seating of various kinds (think more comfortable and stylish for customer or prospect meetings, and ergonomic for seated employee work), coffee tables, lighting fixtures, file cabinets, and shelving.
If you're unsure where to begin looking, IKEA, Amazon, and Costco all offer a range of office furniture at various price points and in an assortment of styles, from the traditional and bare-bones to the high-end, ultra-avant-garde.
6) First-aid supplies
You hope to never have to need the more serious items in one of these, but a first-aid kit is an essential piece of equipment in any workplace, and not just because the government requires it. You don't want to be scrambling in the minutes after an accident, kicking yourself for not foreseeing the need for bandages or wound-cleaning ointment. Depending on your number of employees, an OSHA-approved medical-emergency kit can cost you less than $50. So get one, put it somewhere obvious and visible to all -- and keep it stocked.
Perhaps you're tired of paying your high office-space rent every month, or you only need a conference room every few weeks, when a client is in town. Or you're just starting out and only have a few employees. Why waste your hard-earned money on a long-term lease in some stodgy building? Consider a shared, virtual and temporary office-space solution instead.
In the Washington area, Metro Offices is the leader in these types of spaces. With multiple centrally located, public-transport-accessible spots throughout the city and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs, Metro Offices has you covered no matter what your particular situation. With lightning-speed Wi-Fi, brainstorm-encouraging huddle rooms, cafe areas for casual coffee meetings with customers or colleagues and more, we're a turnkey solution for a wide array of businesses. Click here to compare the cost of running your own office with simply letting Metro Offices do the work for you.