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What not to scrimp on during an economic downturn.

The news and quarterly reports spill over with bad news for a lot of businesses these days. And though this current economic downturn doesn't hit all businesses equally, everyone is affected. If nothing else people seem a bit cold in their business and shopping habits.

At the WBJ, we hear a lot of people discuss the importance of not jumping into anything real fast and tightening belts. I can understand companies cutting back on business travel and scaling back expansion plans and rationing liquor at parties.

However, I'm afraid, chilled actually, to think about how some changes could affect the very core of a business. I've felt the hollow void of some measures I've heard business owners discuss in order to lower their costs.

I get a lot of e-mails about how I could cut down the costs of my business. Here are a few items not to cut back or cut out.

* Heat: It's so important to employee productivity. Too hot and we fall asleep, too cold and we stove up like snakes, holding our hands over the fans of our computers to try and feel a little warmth.

The heat at the WBJ headquarters went out a few times this winter due to a mechanical problem with the furnace. Morale, productivity and purpose waned. I never saw my breath, but it was close. My tears steamed a couple times.

Turning down the heat a few degrees may save a few bucks, but labor quality will plummet with the office temperature.

* Paper towels, miscellaneous office items and toilet paper: A well-stocked office is a well-tuned office. Conservation is essential, but that doesn't mean reusing staples and heaven forbid someone become stranded in the restroom without toilet paper.

We don't have a designated office manager at the WBJ, but we could have used one. January was a busy month with the Readers' Choice Awards, Business Expo and just taking care of business, and we found ourselves scrambling a couple times for basic office supplies.

When you're freezing, you don't have a lot of energy reserves, and having basic office supplies keeps the company moving.

* Samples: I knew times were getting tough when I went to Costco and found only a couple sample stations.

Now, I don't necessarily expect to enjoy a free lunch every time I walk through the doors. I haven't talked to the manager, or heard about Costco cutting back on samples, but I started to think, as I picked up my year's supply of deodorant, "If Costco stopped samples altogether, I wouldn't go anymore." It would simply be another big box store to me. I lay down my money at a lot of stores locally because of the little things they throw in.

I like it and I'll be back as long as the heat stays on.

Back at the WBJ, the heater is back on and working great these days. Our office is well-tuned and I've been munching on leftover candy from the expo. I'm happy and comparatively productive.

Sometimes we all have to make cuts we never envisioned to press ahead, but we can't sacrifice the essentials, or we'll freeze from the inside out.

Ryan Bentley is a reporter at the Wenatchee Business Journal. He can be reached at 663-6730 or rbentley@
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Author:Bentley, Ryan
Publication:Wenatchee Business Journal
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1U9WA
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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