hipping merchandise can be one of the most complicated operations for any small business. Poor or no planning can result in owners overpaying, as well as losing sales if the company can't provide consistent and cost-effective delivery to customers. For businesses that don't often send larger shipments of several pallets at a time or can't afford to hire a logistics provider to manage its shipping services, developing a set of guidelines can be essential. "Effectively managing shipping costs directly affects a small business's bottom line," says Don Anderson, vice president of transportation services at Tompkins Associates, a Raleigh, N.C.-based supply chain and distribution operations consulting firm that works with large and small businesses. "Every dollar saved in transportation translates to an equal improvement in financial performance." Here's a look at several factors business owners should consider ahead of time before shipping their products to customers View 5 Tips