Here’s what to consider when looking to lease or purchase a copy machine

Last updated on May 30th, 2022 at 02:37 am

For many small business owners, office production copiers will be some of the biggest investments they will make. And that copier is an essential tool in everything from marketing to management.
So, just how does a business owner go about acquiring the right copier for his or her business?
The most important factor is value. And “value” is distinct from “cost.” A small business that buys a copier because the price is the lowest is almost certainly making a mistake.
Remember the Yugo automobile? In the mid 1980s Americans lined up to buy Yugos, the cheapest new car available, but by the early 1990s, poor quality had driven Yugos out of the American market.
In the copier business, there is no major brand that is the equivalent of the Yugo. Nevertheless, a small business must be wary of a copier company that hasn’t demonstrated long-term reliability.
A quality copier in a business setting should last at least five years if it is appropriately maintained and the copy volume matches the design capacity. And a seven-year lifespan for a copier is not unusual. Unfortunately, if you end up with an unreliable copier brand, the lifespan might be a mere three years, and the value of that copier ends up being far less than a reliable machine that cost somewhat more.
A reputable office equipment company can provide references from satisfied customers. What small business owners should ask for, specifically, is a reference from a business with copier requirements similar to their own.
In addition to reliability, a business should ask tough questions regarding other aspects of the copier purchase. For example, what are the expected costs of operating the machine? What are the costs of toner and electricity? How quickly will the copier company respond when service is needed? If replacement parts are required, how long will it take to obtain those parts? Are the vendor’s service technicians qualified? What service assurances or guarantees are part of the sales agreement? If the copier is out of service for an extended period, can the business equipment company provide a temporary replacement?
A copier purchase is not only a substantial investment for a small business; it’s also the foundation of a continuing relationship with the business equipment company. At a minimum, the copier will need periodic professional maintenance. At worse, emergency repairs might be required. Before you agree to acquire a copier, there must be a level of trust and confidence established between you and the vendor.
There are several important decisions that a small business owner must make as he or she decides on a copier.
Is color reproduction an important or useful feature? For some businesses, such as graphic design firms, color is essential. Others use color copiers to set themselves apart from their competition. A business will incur a significant additional cost for color, but in many cases that’s a worthwhile investment.
What technology, digital or analog, is appropriate? Most copy machine manufacturers are no longer introducing new analog models. With fewer moving parts, digital copiers are winning over more and more customers. Digital copiers generally produce higher quality reproductions and have a greater range of options. A reputable business equipment company can help small businesses weigh the advantages and costs of the digital and analog alternatives.
How will your copy machine work with your other office equipment? Modern copiers often have the flexibility to serve multiple functions. Rather than purchasing a separate computer printer or fax machine, some copy machines can be networked to serve that purpose. Amazingly, a document printed on a dedicated printer can cost as much as 3 to 4 cents per copy; if printed on a networked copier, that same document can cost as little as one cent to print.
How quickly will you outgrow your new copier? Small businesses can grow quickly so it is important to consider not just today’s needs but also the needs the business will have in the next several years. When you employ a handful of people, a smaller copier may suffice; with a dozen employees, you’ll likely need greater capacity.
The quality of a small company’s copies is important. A poorly reproduced document with fuzzy letters or smeared toner reflects badly on a company. Sometimes that poor quality is obvious, other times it’s subtle. Quality reproduction, on the other hand, sends a message of professionalism.
No business, large or small, wants to spend more than it has to on a copy machine. But the ultimate question is whether the investment in a copier pays appropriate dividends.

Lee Marnett is the founder of Marnett Business Center in Grafton.

Nov. 8, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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