There was a time, not so long ago, when small business owners had it tough. They were out there on their own, often just winging it and hoping for the best. They had little help and almost no institutional support.
Times have changed, a lot.
Things now are so much different, and better. Today, small business owners not only have access to an incredible amount of resources designed to help them succeed (blogs, podcasts, webinars, etc.), but there is also a new breed of corporate partner out there committed to small business success.
One of the best parts of writing the small business column for USA TODAY, as I do, is that I not only get to meet and hear from a lot of small business owners, but I also get to meet a lot of these corporations, the ones dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed and grow (like my pals at Staples. But I am getting ahead of myself).
Let me give you an example: I recently had an important printing project that I needed to get done. Every summer I am involved in a big charity event that raises a lot of money to send underprivileged kids to camp. Having been both a camper and a counselor, I know how significant the experience can be.
For many years, I wrote a private blog about the camp for the 100 or so folks who participated in the annual fundraising event. We decided that this year we would print the blogs, then professionally bind them and give each Board member a copy at the annual event, as a thank you.
But here’s the deal: I couldn’t do it all myself. Like many small business owners, I wanted to do just that. Indeed, we entrepreneurs like to wear many hats – VP of Sales, Marketing Manager, etc., but one thing I have learned is that the best small business owners know what they don’t know. They know what they can – and can’t – do.
I have worked with my pals at Staples for many years now and have always been impressed by their dedication to small businesses. I knew that for this important project, the Staples Print and Marketing team would be the ones who could help me because of their ability to create custom printed materials like banners, business cards, promotional gifts or, in this case, bound books.
Two other aspects drew me to Staples for this important project:
- First, given that I was doing this for a non-profit meant it had to be affordable, fast and efficient. Check.
- Second, I knew I was in fact able to do part of the project myself. So, what I needed was a print shop that would allow me to do what I could myself (given my entrepreneurial do-it-myself DNA), and then finish the job professionally. Check again.
Staples checked all the boxes. In fact, their self-service system is now better than ever. While I was in New York this month, I was given a demonstration of the brand-new Xerox self-service machines exclusively available at Staples stores. Amazing! Imagine a copier with an interface like an Android computer tablet . . . because that is exactly what it is. These multifunction machines are fast, super easy to use, intuitive, and smart.
Smart? You bet.
You can print from the cloud, email or thumb drive. You can scan, print, email or fax. You can swipe and tap and see what’s going on. And you can pay at the machine using a bank card, a Staples rewards card or you can scan Staples coupons. These Staples / Xerox multifunction machines are the future of copying and printing.
So, this was the perfect option for my project. And maybe best of all, when I was ready to hand off the job, the full-service team of Staples printing experts made it easy to do that.
In the end, the project turned out great, the Board was thrilled and we raised a bunch of money for the kids.
And I couldn’t have done it without the help of my friends at Staples.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.