There's no reason to pay full price for business equipment, services or almost anything else. Among business owners surveyed by American Express, two-thirds said they've negotiated discounts on company purchases. Most (67 percent) arrange discounts on telephone services, followed by office supplies and equipment (42 percent) and car rentals and airline tickets (26 percent).
Nine out of 10 small businesses enjoy discounts of some kind, though usually less than 10 percent off. Nearly one in five business owners gets discounts through trade groups, professional associations or other alliances. If you don't have access to such organizations, consider starting your own group. Identify a half-dozen or so local businesses (not competitors) seeking discounts on products or services you buy. If your group agrees on quality, quantities and brand names, you can get volume discounts on shipping, printing, janitorial services and other products.
Lacking such buying power, you can still negotiate price breaks. Do you ship many packages? Call carriers for quotes; explain that they can do all your shipping for a discount. Expect reductions of 10 to 40 percent.
The Internet may also help you strike better deals with suppliers. Demandline (www.demandline.com) invites small businesses to bid on products or services and then identifies providers who will meet or beat the aggregate pool price. The site currently offers bulkbuying on longdistance phone charges, financial services, Internet access and Web hosting and is expected to expand into other products and services. Similarly, Sourcing Solutions (www.sourcingsolutions.com) has established national buying programs for businesses. Low prices are offered on office furniture, supplies and equipment, computer products, printing and shipping.
Paul DeCeglie (MrWritePDC@aol.com) is a former staff reporter for Journal of Commerce and American Banker.