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Words of advice for a small business from someone who lived it

When I started at my first small business, I was in graduate school. Actually, the business was a non-profit. It was a fundraising job for a homeless shelter in the worst hospital in Boston. It was a job where I had to be constantly on my toes. I had to get quarterly TB tests; TB ran so rampant in the hospital. We had multiple floors locked-down for mental health patients. It was also the only hospital in the city of Boston that would take patients from prison.

I learned a lot of things at this job. I learned to look where I was walking and look before I sat down anywhere. I grew a spidey sense to feel when people were watching me and worse, when they were going to be trouble. I learned some basic self-defense moves to get out of hand holds, and that the best defense of all was to just run – really fast.

But most of all, I learned how much I hate dealing with manual mailings. See, all these other lessons were valuable, and I carried them with me when I moved to New York City and other places. But during the giving season of the holidays and during other push campaigns, I spent 20 plus hours a week, starting at 6:30 am, manually processing our fundraising requests. I was haunted by mail merges. Maybe some of you reading this can relate to those merge joys.

This wasn’t 1980, it was the early 2000s. I had a sponge on a popsicle stick to dip in a cup of water to seal envelopes and then add a stamp by hand. God forbid I didn’t seal the envelope crisply enough. I once was “written up” by my sloppy mailings.

The point of this post is not to get up on a soapbox and tell you how tough I had it-most people have a similar story about starting out. The point is you don’t have to accept these pointless manual processes anymore. You can easily rent a franking machine for less than what you’d spend on coffee each month. I would definitely have done this, even on my tiny paycheck. Running or starting a small business doesn’t have to be an operational obstacle course-the cost of a franking machine won’t break anyone’s budget.

Franking machines work by adding a Mailmark stamp on an envelope with the correct postage, saving money, time and frustration. Franking machines can also seal envelopes for you, add a logo or seasonal message next to the stamp, and can be installed by you in minutes.

But maybe don’t ask me – ask the employees slogging through this manual mania.