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Article 3 big ways paper hurts small businesses

You wouldn’t think it, but it’s estimated that 80% of all business information1 is still stored on paper.

So even though businesses spend a lot of time talking about going digital, the reality for most businesses is quite different.

Far too many processes still rely on a slow, costly and inaccurate method of storage. In fact, the average small business spends between $922 to $1,106 per employee every year on traditional office supplies2, and that includes paper.

Now it’s worth pointing out that 65% of small to mid-sized businesses are digitizing their paper processes3.

That stems from a realization that a lot of these expenses and issues just aren’t worth it.

So let’s take a look at what some of the biggest ones are and how they impact your processes. Then we’ll look at a smart way to get around them.

Paper slows you down

From customer filing, to stock management, to signing off jobs and capturing data in the field – for some businesses, paper is everywhere and everything.

The problem is that a single piece of paper can lead to a whole range of unnecessary steps in your processes. Take something like a physical form.

It may not look like a big deal. But you also have to deal with filling it out, getting it signed, driving it back to the office, storing it appropriately and entering it into a computer (assuming you can read your colleague’s handwriting).

You take the same form and render it as a mobile form and that whole process moves so much faster.

It’s filled out in a format everyone can understand. As soon as it’s filled out it’s stored safely. And you don’t have to wait for someone to drive back to the office to get it entered.

Yes, you’ll save some money too. But the real upside is how much more money you could make if your team was moving 30-40% faster.

Paper makes errors worse

Human error is a fact of life. But when errors are made on paper, it’s much harder to fix them fast. Especially when they’re found by your customers, or months later when the damage is already done.

In the worst-case scenario, an employee’s mistake could put customer data at risk, or an audit may find you failing to meet regulations. By digitizing your forms, you can easily track every action taken with a document – from who helped create it and when, to where and why it was last accessed and by whom.

You also eliminate the costs of losing that paper. For example, if an employee misplaces a form or needs to reprint a copy and send it to a customer, an exact replica is always waiting in the cloud to be sent by email.

And if you’re sick of people skipping certain fields on forms, you can make them required fields in a mobile form in a way you can’t with paper.

These details matter.

Paper keeps your business disconnected

Let’s say you’ve got someone working in the field, finishing a job for a customer. As long as they’re on the road, you can’t enter the details of that job. And even once they’re back, you probably have to wait a few days before all those details are entered into a computer.

Just because it’s going to take someone a while to enter all that information and they’re probably avoiding the task until they have a big stack to deal with.

Well, now you’ve got a gap of that-many-days between knowing how many customers you’ve served, how much you earned from them and what your cash flow is likely to look like for next month.

Digital forms can be completed and shared anytime, anywhere on mobile devices.

That makes it easier to get the right data in front of the right people at the right time.

Going digital doesn’t have to be complicated

Now, there will be some processes where you do need paper. And some businesses are going to need more paper than others. (You probably can’t run a design agency without a printer.)

But far too often, businesses use paper because, well, they’ve always used paper. And so you get used to the inefficiencies and expenses that come with it.

The thing is, going digital doesn’t have to involve expensive software and robots and sensors. The best place to start is with simple process changes – like introducing mobile forms – that will make a real difference.

You’ll move faster, make fewer mistakes (that cost less) and make it easier for different parts of the business to work in tandem.

That’s useful no matter what business you’re in.