Nothing is worse than saving up to buy must-have essentials for your business, only to wonder whether you really, truly got a good deal. Everyone wants to save a little money – especially small business owners who are already accustomed to watching their wallets and pinching their pennies.
It can feel especially unfair when big corporations, already crowding out small businesses around the globe, can afford to buy in bulk from suppliers and save big while independent ventures are left to fend for themselves.
Luckily, unbeknownst to many, there are a wealth of discount programs available specifically for small businesses, helping them save money on office supplies, airline fares, shipping costs and other common expenses. Couple these benefits with the cash back perks of a business credit card and you can really save money.
Here are 12 big ways to save.
Allied Business Network
Perhaps the best all-around discount program for small businesses, the Allied Business Network offers an incredible collection of discounts for insurance, business services, car rentals, hotels, office supplies, shipping, technology, and more.
Sign up and membership for ABN is completely free, and the benefits include savings of 5 to 85 percent (depending on the deal), discounts that never expire, and deals with national vendors like Hertz, Office Depot, UPS, and Days Inn.
Formerly known as Rewardli, PerkHub is a platform where small business owners and employees of member firms can come together and pool their buying power, allowing them access to the kind of bulk deals that big businesses get. Sign up (for free) to get trial memberships and discounts on purchases from Office Max, NetParcel, Bing and other sellers, as well as a free business credit report consultation from Dun & Bradstreet.
A comfortable, productive office starts with the right decor and furniture, creating the right environment for both your employees and your guests or clients. Wayfair, which sells exactly those things at affordable prices, has a business program that gives you additional discounts (around 10 to 12 percent) on your initial purchases, along with a dedicated account manager who can track your purchases and provide design advice.
To join Wayfair Business, you just need an EIN for your company and a registered address – no membership or application fees needed.
Online retailer for tech and computer products, Newegg has a business-oriented sister site called Newegg Business. If you need to invest in hardware or software for your company, sign up for Newegg Business's loyalty program to garner rewards on your purchases and use those points to get future discounts.
Office Depot Business Solutions
Whether you're a sole proprietor or the owner of a business with hundreds of employees, you can probably get mileage of out the Office Depot Business Solutions program. Use this free-to-join program to purchase office supplies, electronics, and furniture at low prices, with additional incentives like customizable workflows and multiuser accounts.
Verizon Discount Program
If you're a Verizon customer, you can join the phone provider's discount program to gain access to deals on not just Verizon products but on products from Verizon's partners as well.
Eligible businesses can get 25 percent off selected services, and 8 percent discounts off of monthly access fees on eligible voice and data calling plans and features, plus business pricing on wireless equipment.
Verizon MyBusiness members can also access discounts on services and products from FedEx, Staples, Rainbow Advertising, Ricoh and Verizon Merchant Services.
Home Depot Pro Xtra/Lowe's for Pros
Both Home Depot and Lowe's have professional accounts that are great for all businesses, not just contractors and handymen (though they will definitely want to join both of these programs).
Pro Xtra is a small business discount program that helps you save on things like paint, lumber, tools and tool rentals, and other office renovation necessities. Lowe's for Pros lets you save money on bulk purchases, access exclusive members-only sales and benefit from tax-free purchases.
Hertz Business Rewards
If you even just occasionally need to rent a car for your business, a program like Hertz Business Rewards is a must. It's free to join with no membership fees, and you get 20 percent off car rentals (for business purposes), free Hertz Gold membership, special rates, and points that go toward free rentals.
Business Extra/SkyBonus/Perks Plus
Many major airlines work with large and small businesses alike to offer discount programs and encourage their business. Each airline has different requirements in order to join, but if you do so, you can not only reap frequent flier miles as a business owner or employee but as an individual, allowing you to double the miles you earn with each flight.
Business Extra from American Airlines gives a company two points for each $10 spent on air travel on American and its partners (British Airways, Finnair, Iberia), which can be redeemed for flights or perks.
Delta's SkyBonus program requires that $5,000 be spent cumulatively by at least five travelers each year, but it has a generous tiered earning structure (you can earn as much as 30 points per dollar spent on pricier flights).
United's PerksPlus program requires five travelers to spend $25,000 a year, but if you fly United and its partners (ANA and Lufthansa, among others) often, you can get six points per dollar spent on flights.
If there's a discount program out there that can save you money, why not jump on it? Even if it doesn't save hundreds of dollars, many can help you streamline the buying, returning, and customer service processes from your preferred vendors – and time is money.
In days past you had to walk down the hall to someone's office to have a chat or pick up the phone. At the very least it would involve volleying emails back and forth, but new online tools have made the collaboration process an easier and more productive one.
Digital collaboration services, like Slack, give businesses the ability to facilitate easy communication and collaboration among their employees. These types of tools foster teamwork by providing an online hub for conversations, the sharing of ideas and the transferring of files. These services allow for one-on-one conversations as well as group discussions.
Jaime DeLanghe is the search, learning and intelligence product lead for Slack, and knows how businesses can get the most out of digital collaboration tools. In her role at Slack, DeLanghe builds data-driven products that help users find the things they need and get their work done more quickly and efficiently.
Prior to joining Slack, DeLanghe spent more than seven years at Etsy where she held a variety of roles, including director of product management and group product manager.
We recently spoke with DeLanghe about digital collaboration tools and how they are impacting the way employees work with each other. In addition, we asked her some rapid-fire questions about technology, her career and advice she has received over the years.
Q: How have online collaboration tools, like Slack, changed the way employees work with each other?
A: The way companies work is changing rapidly. Whether your company is using Slack or not, you need to find ways to drive interdepartmental communication, improve transparency, improve agility, increase your velocity and do all of this while keeping a creative and increasingly millennial workforce engaged. Slack and other collaboration tools are helping companies and individuals adapt to and drive this change by getting out of the way and helping people do work the way they want to.
I think that the best work happens when information flows freely and is easily accessible. Slack helps to make this happen by breaking information out of memo-style email chains and into channels. In channels, the right people are included in the conversation, relevant information is in one place, and new team members able to get up to speed easily.
I was visiting a customer recently and we asked them this exact question: What's changed about your process since you started using Slack? No one thought their process had changed much at first, but once we dug into it, everything about their process had changed: Files were being shared more easily, issues across departments were resolved quickly, onboarding and training were easier, their company culture had significantly changed. It wasn't that the process was the same, it just didn't feel like a process anymore.
Q: Has the rise in the remote workforce increased the demand for collaboration tools? Why or why not?
A: Digital collaboration tools have become critical to productivity regardless of where a company's workforce resides. I'd say the demand for collaboration tools has more to do with the shift to digital work than the shift to remote work – that said, digital collaboration tools are essential to remote work life.
For a remote worker, Slack is the main lifeline to their company. It's not only the place to go to collaborate on projects across distances and get important company updates, it's also the main conduit for company culture – seemingly small things like custom emojis, social channels, and team rituals create a sense of team and connection that are hard to get through an email or static documents.
Regardless of whether they're remote or not, we've found that Slack users clock in happier with the level of information-sharing and communication at work versus non-Slack users. Data shows that 87 percent of Slack users say the platform makes them more productive.
Q: Do online collaboration/communication tools have any value for businesses where everyone works in the same office? If so, what?
A: Shared physical location doesn't automatically create a sense of collaboration, connection, and belonging – all of which are important to a company's employee engagement, retention, and productivity.
A study led by Kelton Global revealed that nearly one in four workers say they are dissatisfied with communication at work, including how information is shared, and Slack users are more likely than non-users to say they are satisfied at work (47 percent versus 37 percent).
One key reason for this may be the sheer number of uses for Slack at work, from sharing files to making decisions to integrating with other programs. For example, channels help improve collaboration and boost context by allowing individuals and teams to build a virtual workplace on Slack based on their unique needs. Channels can be created, prioritized and archived at any time, by team, project, location – whatever is needed – even shared securely with outside vendors.
Q: What do you say to those who think sharing GIFs and jokes all day via online collaboration tools is just an unnecessary distraction? How can you ensure that online communication tools don't become too much of a disturbance for employees?
A: First off, don't discount those GIFs and jokes; a good balance of work and play can actually improve overall productivity and increase engagement. That said, we all know that real collaboration requires more than just a few laughs between friends.
A great deal of work has gone into the design of Slack to ensure that everyone has the ability to customize Slack to the way they want it to work. There are controls for how and when users receive alerts, notifications, etc. The first time someone uses Slack, we encourage them to familiarize themselves with those controls and fine-tune them to their preferences.
In Slack, channels also allow you to separate the critical work from the social stuff. I know that I can count on #puppies for a mental break when I need, but don't necessarily have to wade through dog Gifs when I am trying to figure out the status of my team in #team-search.
Q: Do you see a time where online collaboration tools eventually replace email as the main form of digital communication?
A: I believe that in the next five to 10 years, everyone will be using Slack, or a tool like it. The way we communicate and interact with one another at work is changing in a really profound way, including a transition to messaging and mobile, and a real demand for transparency within organizations.
As more and more digital and mobile natives enter the workforce, they expect work software to behave like the software they've grown up with in their personal lives.
Q: What are three lesser-known features of Slack that can help small businesses be more productive?
A: 1. Ctrl + K: With quick switcher, you can alternate between different channels or conversations instantly
2. Search: Helpful new filters that refine your search results by people, channels, messages and dates
3. App integrations: Stay on top of changes, streamline approvals, and squeeze the most out of Slack with apps and integrations like Asana, HubSpot and Coupa
Q: When it comes to security and privacy, should Slack messages be treated as secure and private or are they considered more public?
A: It's important to be considerate with what you say and how you say it in any work conversation, and at the end of the day, Slack is a business communication tool.
With Slack, the same practices you use for email or any workplace communication system apply. All messages stored in Slack are private to the people in your Slack. Messages in public channels can be seen by everyone in your organization, which we think is a good thing – it increases the shared knowledge of your company, makes it easier to onboard new people and ensures that information doesn't get unnecessarily siloed.
That said, different industries can call for different settings. For example, law firms handling sensitive information may use more private channels. We also offer advanced security features for enterprise clients. You can learn more about Slack's security features here.
Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?
A: I'd have a really hard time meeting the demands of my life without my phone. Like most folks in a management role, I spend a lot of my day bopping between meetings, triaging people problems, catching up with the team and have basically zero time at my computer.
My phone keeps me informed about what's going on with the team via Slack, tells me where to go with Calendar notifications and lets me handle quick errands (like buying dog food or scheduling a doctor's appointment) when I have a spare moment.
When I'm not at work, it becomes a navigator, entertainer, corresponder, alarm clock, wallet ... I could go on and on and on.
Q: What is the best piece of career advice you have ever been given?
A: Know when to push and when to sit tight. Sometimes the best thing you can do is enjoy the job you have, instead of pushing ahead to the next thing.
Q: What's the best book or blog you've read this year?
A: I became mildly obsessed with The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. It's an imaginative exploration of technology, humanity and society.
Q: What do you do to achieve work-life balance?
A: I try to abide by a value we have here at Slack: "Work hard, and go home." When I'm at work, I'm 100 percent at work. When I'm not, I do my very best not to be.
A great part of working at MIT SMR is hearing from our readers. After all, you are the ones seeing important changes happening in business and in management and putting the lessons and research from our authors into practice. Here are 10 comments from the past year that we found especially insightful.
On what “digital transformation” really means:
“Firms need to develop a leadership capability for virtually constant business transformation — not a ‘digital’ strategy, [but] a capability with competencies in collaboration, ecosystem alignment, operational excellence, organizational change, talent development, and technology as well as leadership.”
— Bob Akerley from “Your Company Doesn’t Need a Digital Strategy”
On the future of work:
“… a proclivity to community is going to be increasingly important (to the future of work), too: Not just online community, but those person-to-person connections (in all three dimensions) are going to be increasingly key.”
— Greg Tutnjian from “Planning for the Future of Work”
On leading by example:
“It is vital for managers to model the new behaviors and values they are expecting from their staff. Too often managers merely do the telling — but their example is more powerful. As well, research reported by Gallup and in the Harvard Business Review ... has shown most managers don’t have the skills for coaching their employees, so a program of coaching the coaches is needed in such change activities.”
— Kim Harrison from “Using Digital Communication to Drive Digital Change”
“Too often ‘strategy’ becomes hostage to the faddism and ideologies that come and go. In my time in the corporate sector, strategy has proved elusive, like finding cadence in jazz. I know it’s there; however, if rationale, diagnosis, process, and logic play their important parts — genius is the usual casualty. Great strategies seem to have a provocative discord and sense of a different tune being pushed.”
— Adrian Jobson from “What Sets Breakthrough Strategies Apart”
On the need for innovation in a digital landscape:
“In a digital world, the outcome-based approach rests on two fundamental assumptions: You can measure business outcomes, and you can manage speed of delivery. Traditional operating models are not equipped for these challenges, hence there is a tremendous need for management innovation during digital transformation.”
— Hakan Altintepe from “Selling Solutions Isn’t Enough”
On the future of leadership:
“… the pendulum is slowly swinging toward more enlightened and ethical leadership. Building a strong ethical foundation is critical … The balance is shifting toward transparency with the disintermediation of information sources. Secretiveness and power through control of information will not work in the future.”
— John Decker from “Leading Into the Future”
On why SMART goals don’t live up to their name:
“I think the problem with SMART goals in a changing environment is less about the corporate-level strategy and more about individual performance. Setting individual SMART goals in October with the expectation that you know what needs to happen in July is silly …. This will continue to be a struggle so long as managers believe they have unique and insightful expertise about the future rather than about the past.”
— Benjamin White from “When SMART Goals Are Not So Smart”
On finding digital maturity:
“Many organizations have not matured in their digital quest. They are still in the process of “doing digital” versus “being digital.” Many of these firms think implementing yet another widget is a panacea. We believe to be successful, companies must build the digital transformation on a sound framework. A digital business capability map may help.”
— Ravi M. from “Coming of Age Digitally”
On the ethics of algorithms:
“The proliferation of algorithms knows no bounds. While it is, in theory, possible to create ethical guidelines for the development and application of algorithms, the idea of regulation and/or enforcement is most likely tantamount to science fiction. The negative effect of algorithms is much like cockroaches on restaurant row at this point. A good day is when there’s no evidence of them in day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, visible evidence is the only way to tell when they’re not staying in their place.”
— Robert Jones from “Coming to Grips With Dangerous Algorithms”
On the future of AI:
“Unlike humans, AI in its present form needs big data for meaningful results and is not able to use the experience for another similar application. The work in progress on more effective deep learning is likely to overcome these limitations to some extent in the near future. In such a scenario dependence on big data may be reduced, and AI driving business innovation will be smoother.”
— Subodh Saxena from “How Big Data and AI Are Driving Business Innovation in 2018”