David Worrell, entrepreneur and author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Financial Statements, is dedicated to helping small businesses grow through powerful financial and business development strategies. Today he shares his tips for moving to a paperless office.
It seems like we’ve been dreaming of a “paperless office” forever. Now, 44 years later, I can say with confidence that the paperless office is finally possible. In fact, going paperless is now so easy, so prevalent and so powerful, that it’s impossible to ignore.
The paperless office is everywhere
This is not science fiction. More and more industries are going paperless – it will eventually reach your industry too, if it hasn’t already. Consider healthcare – with a US government mandate to implement Electronic Medical Records, even old-school doctor’s offices are going paperless… and realizing the cost savings of automation too. If a doctor can do it, any small business owner can make this work.
How paperless is your industry? If it lags behind, now is your chance to leap-frog your competitors, slash costs and build new digital capabilities. If your competitors are already heading that way, don’t be left behind.
Paperless = powerful
Going paperless is not just about saving trees – it’s about grabbing power. When you go paperless, you’re transforming business documents from pieces of paper to actual data points, which in turn means you can get all kinds of meaning from that data.
Here’s a great recent example: Xero just released Smart Lists. Smart Lists allows you to use the data you already have on your customers to build targeted marketing campaigns, track down debtors, and search your customers by city, region, last buy date and more. Smart Lists works by analyzing information like invoices, purchasing history and more. If that information was on paper and stored in a file cabinet, creating segmented lists would be too time-consuming to be worthwhile. But with that information stored in the cloud, you can quickly segment it in a meaningful, valuable way.
Start with paperless finances
The simplest way to move toward a truly paperless workplace is to start with the accounting function. Since accounting touches every other aspect of the company, digital accounting will introduce – and spawn – paperless systems in the rest of the organization.
Picking a place to start is simple too. Here are three key products to get you started filing away financial documents and automating payments, record keeping and more.
Bill.com offers a simple premise: get rid of your paper bills – the ones you get and the ones you send. Sign up for an account ($29/month) and you will be presented with a company dashboard where you can input vendor data, upload bills via scanner, e-mail or fax, and even track your projected cash flow.
Uploading and paying bills is a breeze after the initial setup. Simply select the bills you wish to pay, and Bill.com will either pay online or by mailing a check with funds linked from your bank account.
Not only are you getting rid of tons of paper, but you are also creating a searchable, archived bill database that can sync with Xero to make sure your financials are always up to date.
The name says it all. Shoeboxed digitizes and organizes your battered box of crumpled receipts (starting at $29.95/month). Using desktop software, mobile apps, email, or even prepaid envelopes supplied by Shoeboxed, your expenses are analyzed by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and then by the Shoeboxed staff.
This double verification process ensures the accurate input of your expenses into your personalized web portal, eliminating the time and hassle of data entry. Import your Chart of Accounts from Xero, and you can correctly categorize and then export your expenses back into Xero. According to the company’s website, “Shoeboxed’s direct integration with Xero works by assigning Shoeboxed receipts into the appropriate Xero account code, then exporting directly into your Xero account as a draft payables invoice.”
Don’t have a scanner? Neat offers NeatReceipts, a mobile scanner and digital filing desktop software package, for only $179.95. Their scanner can read receipts, documents and even business cards, utilizing OCR technology to automatically input and organize the information.
Receipts become digital records with vendor and amount paid information. Business cards become digital contacts. All of your documents are fully searchable, so you will never lose track of your information again.
Like Shoeboxed, NeatReceipts can import your Xero Chart of Accounts so that you can export your expenses back to Xero. Neat also offers NeatCloud (for $15/month), a secure online backup of your NeatReceipts filing system, so you can feel at ease tossing all the paper piling up in your office.
What are you waiting for?
There is no reason to continue to take up storage space or waste time looking for lost receipts or bills in this digital age. Use Bill.com, Shoeboxed or NeatReceipts to organize your financial life, and begin building a paperless office. Everything will be synchronized, searchable and easily accessible from the comfort of your laptop.
How are you going paperless? And if you have, what’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in your business? Leave a comment below.