Even in challenging economic times, some small businesses are managing to stay on top.

In a recent survey commissioned by Small Business Majority, 24 percent of small business owners believe their business is doing well and 57 percent are not being seriously impacted by rising costs. Those numbers beg this question: What are the successful businesses doing right? My guess is that they have taken steps to keep tight control of their costs.
For small businesses seeking to overcome any cost-centric depression - especially those who deal in e-commerce and ship products to consumers - I have four words of advice: United States Postal Service

The Postal Service is the most practical shipping solution for businesses that send small packages. This is especially true when those businesses access USPS services by using electronic postage, a software-based solution that enables businesses to go online to print postage.

While private carriers may be the right choice for shipping large or heavy packages, they are not usually the best choice for small packages going to a residential address, especially those weighing less than five pounds. Businesses that ship small packages will save considerable money and get deliveries to customers quicker by using such Postal Service options as Priority Mail Flat Rate packaging. Coupling USPS service with electronic postage technology amplifies these benefits by increasing fulfillment efficiencies and providing access to postage discounts.

Why are the Postal Service and electronic postage technology a better shipping choice for small packages? Here are key reasons:
· No surprises. Unlike private carriers who may advertise a low rate but then tack on surcharges (for everything from residential delivery to an incorrect address that only appear on invoices after the package has been shipped), the U.S. Postal Service has no such added fees.

· Discount? What discount? Often businesses will negotiate a volume or new customer discount with a private carrier that may - in reality - be less than expected. That's because private carriers usually assign a net minimum rate per package. This means that if you ship small, lightweight packages you will probably not receive your full discount. For example, a $10 package that you believe is eligible for a 50 percent discount for a total charge of $5 to ship may only yield a 30 percent discount if the net minimum rate requirement for any package is $7.

The Postal Service actually offers a variety of discounts to all electronic postage users. Additionally, some electronic postage customers are eligible for high-volume pricing categories that can save them significant money with even deeper discounts on postage.

· Always there. The Postal Service regularly picks up and receives mail and packages from nearly every U.S. mailing address. If you use electronic postage technology to process your shipments, all you need to do is have the packages ready when the postal carrier arrives.

· No pedal to the metal. As mentioned, users of electronic postage technology can print everything they need to ship their packages from their Mac or PC - without having to make gas-guzzling trips to the Post Office. By saving time with the efficiency of electronic postage solutions, business owners can spend more time serving customers and growing their businesses.

· Bells and whistles. Electronic postage solutions give businesses the ability to leverage Stealth Postage to hide the postage value on the shipping label and protect shipping and handling fees, easily track their packages, provide pre-paid return shipping labels as a convenience to their customers, and electronically complete international customs forms.

One company that is taking advantage of the USPS and electronic postage solutions is Unkamengifts, a family-run e-commerce business that sells handmade jewelry and jewelry supplies. Unkamengifts has used an electronic postage solution to reduce the time it takes to prepare packages by about 90 percent - savings that have directly spurred their growth.

Of course, businesses should always assess their particular needs before selecting a shipping provider. For instance, heavy packages that are going to a business address may be better served by private carriers.

For businesses that ship small, lightweight packages to residential addresses, the Postal Service is the smart choice. When enhanced by the use of electronic postage solutions, the benefits of cost savings and improved efficiencies can be substantial - so substantial, that it can positively impact the long-term profitability and viability of the business.

Amine Khechfe is general manager and co-founder of DYMO Endicia, the leader in postage technologies with nearly $7 billion in postage printed.