SME – Setting Up Your New Office

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To run an office efficiently, you’ll need to have certain equipment in place. Apart from its aesthetical value, a well-planned office exudes the right ambience to offer visitors a good first impression and will also increase your business’s efficiency. We take a look at the basic necessities to get you started on the right track.

Among the essential items required for a new office are furniture, telephones, computers and peripherals such as printers, facsimile and stationery. The elements of an efficient office includes well laid out furniture and a good telephone and computer network.

LAYING OUT THE OFFICE FURNITURE

To furnish you office well, you’ll need to have a floor plan of your office. Firstly, roughly plan on paper on the space allocation and positioning of the required furniture. Once you have a good idea of the items you need and their dimensions, you can then start shopping. Make your initial pick from the many office furniture catalogues available. With the advent of the Internet, some of these are even available online! It is advisable to furnish your office with basic fuss-free furniture such as standard-height desks, adjustable chairs complete with castors and back supports or L-shaped desks for PC users. Pay careful attention to the ergonomic support they provide. Try to place frequently-used items such as your printer, telephone, fax or even files within easy reach to maximize productivity. Similarly with employees, arrange for those who work together to sit closely to each other.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Being able to be contacted is crucial for any business. You wouldn’t want your potential clients to fail in their efforts to reach you. Therefore, careful consideration should be given in selecting the range of services and devices to ensure that you can always be reached.

•    Telephone
Make sure that you have sufficient number of telephone lines and extensions within the office space for maximum productivity. If you are operating your business from home, you may want to consider having a dedicated business line instead of operating from your home phone line.

•    Internet Connection
In this Internet age, being able to surf the Net and to be reached via email is crucial for fast communication. Subscribe to a reliable broadband internet service for faster transfer of data.

•    Facsimile Machine
Although a facsimile (fax) is now becoming less important due to advancements in technology, it is still the medium used by certain companies, some of which may be your customers or suppliers. Most fax machines today are multi-purpose in a way that allows you to make telephone calls, do plain paper faxing and basic photocopying. In general, cheaper fax machines use thermal paper which fades over time and become unreadable whereas more expensive machines use plain paper.  It is advisable to use plain paper faxes that uses ink ribbons, bubble jet or laser jet technology, depending on your budget.

OFFICE EQUIPMENT
Making sure that you get the right equipment in your office the first time round will have you save time and money later on.

•    Computer
Traditional desktops are gradually being replaced by notebooks as employees and businesses become more mobile. With notebooks, business people can bring their work away with them after leaving the office or use it to deliver presentations to their clients.

•    Printer
There are many types of printers to choose from, depending on your business’s requirements. Two major types of printers are inkjet and laser printers. In general, laser printers cost more than inkjet printers. However, it is advisable to go for laser printers if your business requires heavy printing as the cost of printing is usually lower than inkjet printers and you’ll save money in the long run. There’s also the choice between monochrome (black) and colour printers, which ultimately depends on your needs. Choose a printer with a higher resolution (dpi) if you need to print images too and don’t forget to also consider the sizes of papers that can be printed by the machine.

•    Photocopier
Determine your expected copying workload before deciding on a photocopier. It will not make much sense to purchase a very expensive photocopier with multifunctional features if photocopying is not done on a large scale. Many small businesses can just rely on their fax machines or the photocopy shop next door for everyday copying. This helps to cut down on maintenance charges which in most instances can be very high. If your business involves heavy copying workload, run a check on the basic features such as the speed of the photocopier or look through the manufacturer’s brochure to determine the number of copies a month it is designed to handle as well as its expected lifespan. This will give you an idea on the suitability of the photocopier in meeting your business needs. Other features you may want to keep an eye out for include reduction and enlargement, the ability to use A3 paper and automatic paper handling for multiple sheets.

•        Scanner
Consider investing in a scanner with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software if your budget allows. It can save you hours of work if you are routinely required to reproduce large volumes of text on your computer. The advantage of a scanner with OCR software is the ability to read text off a page as well as the ability to capture it in a computer file suitable for word processing or other uses. Flatbed scanners are highly recommended as they are faster and offer higher resolution.

If space is a constraint, you may consider investing in an all-in-one equipment, which includes a printer, photocopier, scanner and fax. There are many models and makes to choose from. So, take your pick!

COMPANY STATIONERY
You can purchase the standard items from stationery stores for a start but if your company’s image is crucial, you’ll need to consider getting your stationery custom printed with your company name and logo. Do consider investing in the following to boost your image.

•    Overall Style
All your office stationery should carry the same overall style of typefaces, design and quality of paper or card for uniformity. It is advisable to choose a clear and easily-read typeface. As to the weight of the paper to be used, it would really depend on whether heavy, which can sometimes be thought of as “quality” stationery is important for your business. A prominent logo or a catchy tagline can help to build your corporate image. You can also get tips from reputable printers or designers who will be able to advise you and show you examples of their work.

•    Letterhead
Letterhead on A4 size paper is used for formal correspondences to customers and suppliers. It is important to include your business name, address, telephone and fax numbers along with email address and official website address in your letterhead. It’s better to use .com.my domain names than .com because .my domain names requires official business documents and identification, hence shows more trust to your visitors. By law, the company registration number should also appear in your letterhead.

•    Invoices, Statements and Receipts
The volume of invoices, statements and receipts will also depend on the nature of your business. If your business only issues these occasionally, you can always print them on your letterhead paper and save on the additional cost of having invoices, statements and receipts printed externally. All you need to do is insert the appropriate heading below your letterhead to distinguish between the three.

•    Business Cards
Business cards are most useful in giving your customers, suppliers and other contacts a record of your name and details. Your company’s name, your name and job title should take centre stage on your business card. You can also include relevant qualifications, if you feel it will add value to your business. Include other contact details such as your direct telephone line, fax line and mobile phone numbers. If necessary, include your email, web address and also brief details of your company’s business.

Running a business takes a lot of organizing and planning. The first step should always involve providing your employees with the right equipment to start on the right footing. After all, it is in the office that people spend most of their waking hours and therefore, comfort will tantamount to productivity and morale.