Printing services can be a source of hidden and unnecessary costs for small businesses.

But like every problem, this is also an opportunity.

In this post we take a look at an important decision for small businesses when it comes to managing and controlling printing costs: should you buy or lease?

Let’s start with some definitions:

Buying: When you buy a printer, you own it. It’s your asset and your responsibility. You can decide whether and how to maintain it, what consumables you use with it and when to replace or upgrade it.

Leasing: Leasing printing services usually involves a monthly fee to a manufacturer in return for use of their printers. You still take physical possession of the equipment, but you don’t buy them outright. As part of your leasing agreement you will usually get technical support, maintenance, supplies and upgrades.

How to decide

Whether to buy or lease printing services will depend on your particular circumstances. But here are 4 considerations that should help you figure out the best option for you:

1. Focus and control
Small business owners can be quite particular, but not necessarily about the same things.

For some, an issue like the printers running out of ink would be an unwelcome distraction. It takes their focus and that of the team away from closing deals and delighting customers.

For others, keeping personal control of even the small, mundane tasks is the sort of attention to detail that makes all the difference between success and failure.

If you are in the “focus” camp, you might prefer to lease your printing services. A lease can take away the hassle of replenishing consumables, arranging maintenance or switching out redundant equipment.

But if you’re more of a “control” kind of business owner you’ll want to keep all of that a little closer. You’ll probably prefer to own your equipment and make your own arrangements for running and maintaining it.

2. Cash flow management
Australia’s small businesses face a tough trading environment and a higher failure rate than their larger competitors.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that of the businesses with between 5 and 19 employees in 2011, almost a quarter (23 per cent) were no longer trading five years later. For sole traders, the chances of survival are even thinner, with 44 per cent going under during the same period.

One of the most common causes of business failure is cash flow.

Small businesses may have made the sales they need but if they can’t get the money quickly enough – or get access to credit while they wait for it – they can reach the end of the line.

If your number one business challenge is cash flow, you’ll probably want to lease your printing services.

A lease means no upfront cost, which can be significant if you need a large number of printers or require high-end equipment. Instead you can pay monthly, effectively borrowing the cost of your printing needs.

For many Australian businesses, cash flow is their biggest risk of failure.For many Australian businesses, cash flow is their biggest risk of failure.

3. Opportunity cost
For some small business owners cash flow is less of a problem.

If your customers pay up front, for example, you might always have the working capital you need to run your business.

In those circumstances, avoiding the upfront, capital cost of buying print services will be less of a priority.

It is important, though, to remember that the real comparison is between cost of the lease and the opportunity cost of not tying up your funds.

So, if you have $20,000, does the business benefit more by buying printer equipment and eliminating ongoing costs? Or would you get a better return by taking the lease option and spending that $20,000 on, say, frontloading your annual advertising spend?

If things go well, your business can look very different 12 months down the line. That’s in terms of who you hire, what they do and where they work.

4. Change and growth
Your business might be small today but perhaps you have ambitious plans to expand in the future.

One of the advantages of running a small business is the level of control you can have over how it operates. Launching a new product, restructuring a team or overhauling the brand all have fewer barriers.

That means change can come fast and often.

If that sounds like your business and printing services are a core function of how your business operates you might benefit from the flexibility of a lease.

Leasing printing services will usually mean that you can adjust your printing requirements as your business grows.

You will also be able to benefit from the manufacturer’s expertise when it comes to optimising your printing services. If you have the wrong printers, your business could be leaking money.

Managed print services combine an external assessment of your printing requirements with a tailored lease agreement to ensure you have exactly what you need to support your business.

If you still can’t decide whether to buy or lease your printing services get in touch with the Brother team and we’ll help you find the right solution for your business.

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