From the January 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

If your employees are spending too much time on snack runs or bickering because someone isn't paying their share of the snack pool, office vending machines could boost productivity and morale. But you have a variety of options, so research and shop around before making a final decision.

A vending service is the easiest route to take because it does everything--sets up, stocks and services the machines--for you. Most services require you to have at least 20 employees so they can be assured of a profit. If you fit that profile, get several competitive bids and insist on a comprehensive contract, advises Brian B. Allen of the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

You could also lease the machines and stock them yourself. This lets you control what's sold and how it's priced. Some vending companies insist that you purchase a certain amount of products from them. As with a service, get bids and be sure you're clear on your rights and responsibilities.

Another option is to buy the machines outright, which gives you total control. But that also means you or someone on your staff has to do all the stocking and maintenance. Vending machine prices start at a few hundred dollars for a minimachine and go up to several thousand dollars for a feature-rich machine. Allen also suggests checking out warehouse clubs because many sell economical models that are suitable for small offices. Check your local Yellow Pages for a variety of vending services.


Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

Don't Forget

Tips for boosting your memory.

Do you constantly search for lost items or forget someone's name minutes after you've been introduced? Simple solutions can help, says Shale Paul, a personal effectiveness coach in Tallahassee, Florida.

The first tip's a given: If you routinely misplace things like keys and eyeglasses, always put them in the same place so that you'll know where to find them.

Your ability to remember numbers may be enhanced with a memory-improvement system. "Most systems are built around common principles such as association, translation [changing numbers into letters and making a word out of it], repetition and visualization," says Paul. "Study your attention patterns, and develop a system based on them." Or get some books on the subject and build a personalized process that works for you.

Hopeless with names? "The reason most people forget names is because they don't hear them in the first place, particularly upon introduction," Paul says. "Perhaps it's because they're nervous or too much is going on to focus on the name."

Try this: When you first hear a name, repeat it out loud once, then silently at least three times. Paul also suggests associating the name with an object, then visualizing that person holding a large version of the object. The absurdity will help you remember.

Another tool is to get the person's business card or write their name down as soon as possible, even if you have to do it on a napkin. Finally, Paul says, "Make it a point to mentally review the names of people you've just met at least three times within a 24-hour period. Repetition is the key."

Business Central

Checked out your local SBDC lately?

When did you last visit your neighborhood Small Business Development Center (SBDC)? Here are some reasons you should stop by soon:

Administered by the SBA, SDBC programs reflect current business needs and trends. One example, says Johnnie L. Albertson, the SDBC associate administrator, is dealing with the Y2K problem; SBDCs across the country are helping small companies prepare for January 1, 2000. (See "Millennium Meltdown" on page 122 for more on the Y2K bug.)

Many SBDCs also help small businesses take advantage of welfare-to-work programs and educate entrepreneurs on legislation that affects their operations.

To find the SBDC nearest you, call (800) 8-ASK-SBA for a referral.

Contact Sources

Coach in Personal Effectiveness, Shale@Shalecoach.com, http://www.Shalecoach.com

National Automatic Merchandising Association, 20 N. Wacker Dr., #3500, Chicago, IL 60606, (312) 346-0370, ext. 222

Small Business Administrator, johnnie.albertson@sba.go