When it comes to efficiency, I don’t think anyone can argue that paperless is not an improvement. Well, other than paper manufacturers.
Here are some great reasons and ways to go paperless in your business today:
- It’s great for the environment. When it comes to saving resources and particularly trees, then it makes sense to waste just that bit less where you can. Yes, there are options for recycled paper, but why not instead simply reduce?
- It saves you money. When you don’t have to buy reams and reams of paper as well as ink, then you know you’ll be saving some dollars. Your business might save a few hundred dollars a year, or maybe tens of thousands. Think about where that money could be spent instead?
- It saves time on purchasing. Time is money and whether you’re online ordering stock or driving down to a supplier, it’s all time.
- It saves money on storage. When it comes to storing documentation, it can cost a fortune. You have man-hours where someone has to file. Then later, there are even more man-hours in archiving. Remember also the cost of filing cabinets, filing crates or archive boxes. That cost adds up. Plus, you may be paying rental for storage space. That may be an office in your business which is used for filing which instead could be used for a person to generate income. It may be you’re paying for a commercial storage space. All adds to the cost of printing and keeping paper. And, remember also, you’re probably paying for pest control, because if you don’t the vermin, rats, cockies and silverfish are going to destroy your records.
- Finding things can waste a heap of time. Even if you have exceptional records, accurate filing and wonderful systems, it still takes time to find a piece of paper. Instead, if you file digitally, it’s so much quicker to find something through a simple keyword computer search.
- Forwarding a copy is easy. Your accountant asks you for the 2015 audit report. Not only do you put your hands on it easy (even though it’s years later) but you can get it over easy because the document already is digital and easy to transfer. No need for copy, post or scan yourself.
- It shows you’re current. Not only is there the perception of being modern and ‘with it’ but your associates will appreciate it – if they are also paperless. It’s easy for them to save and store.
So, here are 30 great examples of going paperless:
- Most documents you need to send to a client
- Anything you need signed and returned
- Proposals and quotations
- Invoices and statements
- Warranties and guarantees
- File notes which are typed
- File notes which are even handwritten can now be saved digitally using apps such as Notes or Notability
- Bank Statements
- Bank Reconciliations
- Credit Card Statements
- Incoming invoices, receipts and bills which have been paid
- Bills to be paid
- Invoices issued
- Budgets (ideally in the accounting software you use)
- Share and investment statements and dividends
- Tax Returns, records and Assessment Notices
- Business communication including emails
- Customer contact details
- Prospective client details (in a database or CRM)
- Staff Timesheets
- Minutes of Meetings
- Plans, Goals, Strategies
- Marketing material (but don’t make it 100% digital … see below)
- Photos (personal and business)
- Certificates, Qualifications & Credentials
- Licenses and Permits
- Cover Notices and policy docs for Insurances, WorkCover etc
- Lease documents
- Loan documents
These are just 30 ideas; I’m sure you all could think of something more yourself.
I mentioned above, one area I don’t like to be 100% digital and that is your marketing material. I believe we still need to have some printed material – such as business materials. You can forward your own contact card to someone, but it’s better still to have a business card on hand, especially when networking or meeting people. Also when you go into a prospective client meeting, it’s always good to leave them with something; whether that be a flyer, brochure, booklet, folder or whatever – there is still value at have some printed material. However, also ensure you have digital versions of things … so that you can email as needed too.
Now with all this on your computer, laptop, phone or in the cloud, you need to ensure a few things:
- You’re using the right program. You need to ensure the program or app handles your needs well and doesn’t duplicate. For example, does the CRM or Job Management app feed into your accounting program – so that you don’t need to re-enter contact info or re-key invoice information.
- You have a great system and plan for the filing. All documents need to have names which ensure they can be found. Example – quotes. Ensure it has the number, name and if relevant, site address. That way if someone comes to you and says you quoted on Smith Street, Capalaba you can search that. You may have 3 quotes for that street, but far easier to sort through 3 than 3,000 quotes.
- Your system is protected and cannot be hacked, damaged or lost. This means great firewalls, security and virus protection. Not your area of expertise; just ensure you have great IT people looking after you. If you need a referral to some great people, just ask.
- You backup regularly and your backup system works. Restoring corrupt files will do you no good, so be sure to regularly test the backup system.
- Train staff on how to use your system and file. I had staff years ago who I discovered were not filing to the server, but rather had a private file on their local hard drive and did their own thing. You create a system, make it great, educate all and ensure ALL do it that way.
- Monitor the systems. Make sure things are still working, things are being filed right and that things are working as they should. Correct, adjust or re-train as needed.
One critical part of going paperless is to engage your team to this activity. By nature, most people do not like change. “We’ve always done it this way” doesn’t mean it’s the right way. In fact, I’ve heard staff say that even despite it’s being done wrong. Some of your team will embrace the change and see the benefits, others will not.
Listen to their concerns and analyse them. Is it fear of change, or have they raised a good issue? That ‘issue’ may mean a tweak in your system, rather than just ditching the whole idea. However, if staff see you do listen and have taken their ideas on board, they will be more likely to embrace the change.
I recommend you educate your staff as to the benefits, you train them in the system and you make it clear it’s not optional. You can’t have some staff using one system and other using another process. You may, for this reason, find it easier to bring one department at a time on board. In my own business, I started with the accounts department and moved onto other departments. This made the change less ‘scary’ or overwhelming, plus allowed the process to be tweaked if something needed a little improvement. By the time the last aspect was implemented, everyone was on board, accustomed to the process and it worked very smoothly. Be patient (but firm) with staff as they can be the ones to balk most at this change. Need help? Just reach out to me; I work on change management and system improvement every day.