Great Business Ideas: Buy Used Office Furnishings

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Buy Used Office Furnishings

When i was an investigative reporter, my beat was white-collar crime. I chased after the slickest, sleaziest business criminals in the country as they defrauded investors out of millions with precious metals scams, stock frauds, and real estate schemes.

The one thing they all had in common—other than a passion for stealing money—was a passion for glitzy, opulent offices. To impress prospective victims of their schemes, they always rented expensive space on the top floor of the nicest buildings, with a spectacular city or ocean view.

My favorite con man had a reception area the size of a small apartment, with plush gray carpeting and stained glass panels. His perfectly coiffed secretary sat behind a massive cherry wood desk. His private office was about 2,000 square feet with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. It was no wonder that visitors were convinced he was a legitimate commodities dealer. Only a very successful businessman would have such a fabulous office!

He’s why, to this day, I still equate fancy offices with criminal behavior. And that’s one of the reasons I urge smart business owners to outfit their offices with as much used equipment and furniture as possible.

Unless you are running an advertising or modeling agency, which depends heavily on presenting a hip image, forget about buying expensive office furniture. In my view, the funkier the office, the smarter the business owner. Think of all the money you’ll save if you rent space in a building a bit off the beaten track or in a less than desirable area—as long as it’s safe for you and your employees.

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But before you spend a dime on furnishing your office, buy some graph paper and draw up a floor plan. Take inventory of everything you have and make a detailed list of what you need.

Then, when it’s time to buy, find the nearest used-office- furniture company. They are all over the country and offer tremendous bargains on barely used furniture. Companies going out of business are often forced to sell new or barely used desks, file cabinets, credenzas, and chairs. Another option is refurbished office equipment, which is available at a fraction of the price, but make sure it comes with a solid warranty. You should also check the classified ads for private sales.

Here are some office furniture buying tips from Steel- case, a Grand Rapids, Michigan–based firm:

  • Define your furniture requirements by what your employees need to work effectively rather than by the features of a particular furniture line. Ask these questions: What kind of furniture do we need? Tables for meetings? Acoustical panels for privacy?
  • Inventory all the furniture you have to avoid buying things you don’t need.
  • Buy furniture for its functionality, not for image. If furniture isn’t appropriate for the way your people work, it becomes impractical.
  • Consider leasing or renting furniture. This will increase your flexibility as your company grows or shrinks.
  • Think about the health and safety of your employees—be sure to consider comfort and ergonomics