No small business wants its investments to be a gamble. On the contrary, small business leaders by nature can't stand the prospect of putting what little money they've been able to generate toward something that isn't a sure thing.

Though it's still early in the year, what have small businesses been opening their coffers for, and more importantly, are these investments working out?

"Investing in the small business 'bread and butter' can improve productivity and employee morale."

Innovation yet to be named
In late 2014, American Express polled small business owners as to how they would spend their capital in the next six months. The word on 45 percent of small business respondents' tongues was "technology." Capital investment can be the toughest nut to crack, especially with tech investments. Operating expenses are tax deductible and usually involve an ongoing service than can be discontinued, however painstakingly. Trying to recuperate costs from the purchase of a large piece of industrial equipment could prove more difficult.

Moreover, new technology generally comes with an adjustment period for the buying business. A Cargo study found that three-fourths of small business owners haven't quite wrapped their minds around what kind of technology is available in their fields or whether or not purchasing would be a sound investment over similar products. What is further troubling is how little input employees have in the decision-making process – 28.4 percent versus 42.7 percent relying on search engines and 41.7 percent relying on advertisements. That disconnect could lead to the purchase of a piece of machinery that a small business either doesn't require or doesn't reflect the needs of the people operating it on a daily basis.

Getting down to brass tacks – literally
Luckily, the report from Cargo also revealed another spending trend well within the grasp of SBOs and their employees: office supplies. More than 30 percent of small businesses will be upgrading standard workplace equipment, beating out advertising, travel, telephone, Internet, financial services and even computers.

With the economy performing well in the opening quarter of 2015, putting funds toward an office facelift makes sense. An update to your small business doesn't need to involve cloud-enabled mobile devices or "wearables." Investing in the startup "bread and butter" – the desks, chairs, staplers, etc. – can work wonders on productivity and employee morale.

Don't be afraid to spend for your small business - just know what you're getting intoDon't be afraid to spend for your small business – just know what you're getting into

The buzz about social media
Hold on a second. Social media? Isn't that free?

Yes and no. While many social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram began as free services, paid advertising options have been added to just about all of them. So while creating an account, filling it with information, and linking to your webpage continues to be completely without cost, your small business's social media account will stand out about as much as everyone else's. Facebook, for instance, has more than one billion monthly active users according to a press release from January 2014. So, what can a small business looking to shine do? Pay a little extra for prime electronic real estate.

Advertising Age reported in the fourth quarter of 2014 small businesses in particular focus harder on social media advertising than any other form, including print and billboards. Additionally, more than a quarter of respondents rated social media advertising as phenomenal in regards to ROI. This makes perfect sense – not only does social media attract an unstoppable online audience, but chances are, there's little to no learning curve on the backend. Someone at your organization is bound to have at least some familiarity with whatever platform you choose to market on.

Equipment and business industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.