As a small business owner, one of your main priorities is to reduce operating costs. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a paper free business saves nearly $80 per employee annually by eliminating toners, ink cartridges, printers, filing cabinets, postage, trips to the post office, and other expenses related to paper use and management.
Nearly 1 in 5 US businesses have gone the paperless route. How can you do the same? In this article, we offer 7 tips that will help make your business completely paper-free.
1. Use a Project Management Tool
Company projects often require the coordination of multiple people working from multiple departments with each department having their own timeline and resources to get things done. Monitoring progress on paper can work, but it is inefficient. You have to print and distribute copies to every person involved, and if project information changes, you need to edit your document and print out additional copies. All of this costs time, energy, and resources
Instead of relying on paper to keep track of your projects, your business can leverage cloud-based project management apps such as Basecamp, Asana, and Trello for the same purposes and more. Project management apps enable you to run a project online with no team member limit.
Here are some of the things you can do with a project management app:
- Assign a specific task to a team member or group of people complete with instructions.
- Provide updates on the task in real time, reducing the need to hold meetings and print reports.
- Create a calendar of their own timelines which can be viewed by members from other departments which helps keep everyone involved on the same page.
- Prioritize specific tasks and set deadlines for every part of a project. This lets members identify which tasks to work on first and how much time they have so that projects can move according to schedule.
With project management applications, you can reduce paper use while improving your project’s efficiency.
2. Adopt Electronic Payroll
Nearly half of small businesses pay an average of $850 per year to fix payroll issues, such as missed payments or tax penalties. Reduce the likelihood of errors and go paperless at the same time by using a reliable payroll software.
Instead of tracking employee hours worked, computing salary, and filing taxes manually, payroll software lets you to automate these tasks while reducing paper use and eliminating human error. In addition, the software can also pay employees via direct deposit, saving your accounting department the hassle of making a trip to the bank every pay day or having to print checks.
Your employees stand to benefit as well. Many electronic payroll software have employee self service features. Employees can log in to access their payroll data online using any device. They can view their personal details, direct deposit information, tax deductions, and pay stubs. This gives employees more privacy and security over their personal details and compensation information.
3. Switch to Google Business Suite
Google offers amazing cloud-based apps that can help you significantly reduce paper consumption, including the following:
- Google Mail & Chat – Use for online communication with employees and customers. No need to print and send memos.
- Google Documents – Scrap paper use by collaborating, storing, and managing files electronically.
- Google Sheets – Save more paper by using Google’s spreadsheet functions for database management, charts, scheduling, audits, and feedback forms.
A personal Google account is free, but most businesses will want to get a G Suite business account, and the pricing starts at $5 per user. Included in the cost is a business email account (e.g. JaneDoe@ABCCompany.com).
Google Suite, which is used by 3 million businesses, enables your employees to access data anywhere with an Internet connection. With G suite, you don’t have to pay for licenses, as you would have to if you used word processing software and email clients. In addition, all of your data are saved on the cloud so you don’t have to worry about backing up your system
4. Digitize Receipts & Invoices
Another way to purge paper from your business is by going digital with receipts and invoices. You can start by offering customers the options to get receipts in digital format. Square’s Point of Sale, for example, allows you to send receipts online or via text. This gives your customer the advantage of saving the transaction record for future reference instead of throwing it in the trash.
While you’re at it, ask your suppliers to issue digital receipts/invoices as well. They can send their invoice to you via email. You can create a dedicated email account for this purpose or store electronic invoices in your accounting software program.
5. Store Data in the Cloud
Research reveals that companies spend around $25,000 to fill file cabinets with documents and another $2,000 annually to maintain and safeguard that information. Your business can do away with such expenses while going paperfree by switching to cloud storage. Cloud-based platforms like Dropbox and Google offer massive storage capabilities with an option to organize your files into separate folders.
Best of all, these cloud-based platforms are free up to a certain storage limit. For instance, Dropbox offers 2GB of free storage per user, which is usually enough for text files and images. You can even earn more space by referring friends, family, and coworkers.
6. Invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
A CRM is powerful software with a broad set of applications that can reduce your company’s reliance on paper to store internal and external documents.
Popular CRMs in the market offer the following features:
- Storage of customer data and customer interaction
- Storage and management of employee details
- Management of leads
- Assignment of tasks
- Management of vendor and affiliate data
- Project and task management
- Storage of company documents such as contracts and invoices
In addition, you can use your CRM with other apps discussed in this article. For example, you can save the links of Google Documents and Google Sheets on your CRM. You can also attach digital receipts for storage and easier tracking to projects within your CRM. With your data stored online, all you need is an Internet connection, and you can access it anytime from anywhere.
7. Move Your Marketing Strategy Online
You don’t need to print mountains of paper to reach your customers. According to Harvard Business Review research, online and email marketing are cheaper but just as effective as direct mail marketing campaigns.
Direct mail campaigns can cost as much as $10 per customer when you factor in design and printing costs. In contrast, you can set a daily budget as low as $5 when you advertise on Facebook, and the average cost each time a user clicks on your ad on Google is just $0.58. Several popular email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp, are completely free for a basic account. Plus, both Facebook and Google offer remarketing campaigns where your ads are shown only to users who have previously visited your site. This is a powerful feature that no print ad can offer.
Going paperless is healthy for both the environment and your business. You save trees by eliminating paper consumption. Furthermore, investing in online software and applications such as G suite, CRM, and email marketing keeps your business competitive while driving down operating costs. There’s a lot of incentive for you to take the paperless route now.