By Kristen Gramigna
Small-business owners could typically use more of two very important (and often scarce) resources: Time, and money. Despite the many productivity “hacks” you incorporate into your personal and professional life to make the most of those two things, you may be missing out on one simple operational shift that can gain your business more of both: Going paperless. Here are just four reasons why it can be one of the most impactful moves you make for your business:
You can immediately reduce expenses. The supplies you buy to run your business may be tax deductible — but they’re not free. Worse still, much of the money you spend on “disposable” supplies, including paper, pens, and all those filing cabinets, file folders and other organizational tools eventually makes its way into the trash can (which your business likely pays to have collected). According to reduce.org, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy each year, and the costs of using paper in the office costs as much as 31 times the cost of purchasing it. In other words, buying a $5 ream of paper can cost your business more than $150 when factoring the “all in” costs of paper use, including printing, hard copy storage and disposal.
Cloud computing is no longer a corporate concept. Managing your business operations “in the cloud” is no longer an intimidating concept requiring a dedicated technical resource, or pricey investment. In fact, there are many document management systems designed particularly for the needs of small-business owners to ensure your paperless environment is secure and streamlined, for desktop and mobile users. Aside from expedited information sharing with your clients, business partners and accountants, your team’s internal productivity is increased with a paperless environment as margins of error are simultaneously reduced. (No more guessing whether the latest version of a shared document is the correct one). A study by Nucleus Research of small, medium and large businesses found that for every dollar a business invests into a cloud-based system, it gets $7.50 back, in at least two years.
It can improve your accounts receivables process. Paper-based invoices cost you in the form of time, money, materials — and risk. Though the Institute of Management and Administration estimates that it costs anywhere from $3 to $5 to produce a paper invoice, the intangible costs are more significant. As Bloomberg Business Week reports based on data by the Commercial Collection Agency Association, the longer an invoice goes unpaid, the lesser the probability the issuer will successfully collect on it. Paper-based invoicing presents inherent delays that can be avoided entirely by going paperless. When an invoice is issued electronically, you can track it when it reaches the recipient’s inbox, and when it’s opened.
By incorporating some form of web-based or mobile payment process into your payment options, you empower invoice recipients to pay what they owe your business immediately via check or debit card. As a result, you can expedite your accounts receivables process, and maintain a more stable cash flow model. Client payments collected via a mobile payment processor, for example, are deposited into your business bank account in about 72 hours. From a simple process shift, the time delays associated with mailing paper invoices and receiving paper checks via “snail mail,” driving to a bank branch to deposit checks and making collections calls to late paying clients are minimized.
(Note from the editor: Folks, I can personally attest to the wisdom of doing your invoicing electronically. When I began sending my invoices electronically instead of snail mailing them, I noticed an immediate improvement in the speed with which they were paid and when I started using a web-based payment optios, that sped things up even more.)
Manage risk more seamlessly. A paper-based office exposes you to many potentially devastating events, including fire, theft and other catastrophes that can be minimized with a paperless system. Additionally, cloud-based document management systems can serve as an insurance policy of sorts against pricey and crippling data loss, should your servers or internal hardware systems crash.
If your business handles sensitive customer data like social security numbers, financial or medical information, you’re subject to certain compliance standards — proving compliance with hard copy documentation is a laborious process. When your business is paperless, it’s easy to search for documentation that auditors and similar governing compliance organizations require in order to prove that you are, in fact, adhering to privacy and security standards, and transmit it electronically.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the bankcard industry helping small businesses succeed.