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Passing Over Dollars to Pick Up Pennies

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (MainStreet) -- One of my first jobs was working in a small business. I learned a lot -- one of the biggest lessons being not to pass over dollars to pick up pennies.

What I mean by this can best be illustrated by what I consider one of that business owner's "classic" actions. Because it was a small business, every penny spent mattered substantially to the cost of each project and to the business as a whole. One of the biggest expenses was the printed materials, everything from marketing fliers to a monthly newsletter. Marketing materials stayed essentially the same: a simple black and white, one-page document that described the services provided, benefits of the services and how to contact the business for more information.

Be careful when making decisions on how to "save" money. The real, total cost might look a little different -- like passing up a dollar to pick up a penny.

This was in the "old days," before Internet marketing, desktop publishing and laser printers, so print shops were true print shops: Jobs took significant time to set up, and substantial setup costs were required for each job, unless you had an unchanging design and made regular orders. Delivery and shipping costs also applied.

This small business usually distributed an average of 500 fliers per month to existing and prospective customers, as well as around 5,000 copies of the monthly publication. The setup cost for each of these jobs was the same: around $50.

One day the business owner came in and was excited that he had found a one-cent savings per page for the flier and a savings of 10 cents per copy for the newsletter in a town 60 miles away -- a round trip of 120 miles for three hours' total drive time). So he would save $5 on the fliers and $50 on the cost of the monthly publication and would have to pay $50 in new setup costs at the new supplier for each project, or $100 in setup costs plus the cost of gas and his time (this was a three-person operation)!

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