I’ve talked to dozens of founders over the years looking to go digital. Companies now more fully recognize the benefits of paper reduction, including environmental benefits and significant cost savings. But even the most conscientious company has quite a few pages landing on the office printer every day. It can seem like an unavoidable part of getting work done.
Even a small amount of paper waste takes its toll, though. If you’re looking for ways to cut costs and go green, reducing the reams of paper and ink cartridges you’re still purchasing can make a difference. Here are a few steps you can take to drop paper use even further in your business.
1. Shrink file cabinets.
Many offices still have large file cabinets equipped to hold decades of files, despite the fact that less paper is generated each year. Not only does this take up much-needed space, but it may also encourage workers to generate and save paper files. It’s time to digitize those old files using a tool like a document management system.
Going digital will help you shrink file cabinets to a small drawer. By doing that, you’ll encourage everyone to keep paper files to a minimum, while also sending the message that you’re a company that prefers to work electronically. The document management tool can help make it easy for employees to access old files when necessary.
2. Go digital with your meetings.
If you haven’t discovered the power of technology to transform your meetings, you may be missing a valuable opportunity. Let’s say all your meetings involve sitting around a conference table with team members or clients. Even then, you can eliminate paper waste and improve the content of the meetings. If your team members have tablets or laptops, encourage them to use them for note taking rather than relying on a pen and pad of paper. Use a projector or whiteboard for your visuals instead of paper-based handouts.
3. Invest in e-receipts.
If yours is a customer-facing business, receipts can be a serious source of paper consumption throughout the year. As more storefronts have shifted to electronic receipts, customers are beginning to prefer them, not only because they’re more environmentally responsible, but also because an email or text is easier to save than a piece of paper.
If your existing point-of-sale setup doesn’t allow for this, consider making the switch, since it can make things easier for everyone involved. At the very least, begin asking your customers if they actually want a receipt, especially if you specialize in low-dollar items that aren’t often returned for a refund or exchange. You’ll likely find at least some customers decline, allowing you to save paper.
4. Go digital by creating a payment portal.
Another area of a business that can be paper-intensive is accounting. Invoicing may still involve paper at least on a small level, since there are some vendors and clients who prefer paper-based processes. Instead of relying solely on email or billing software to manage your invoicing processes, consider investing in a payment portal that will allow clients to pay their invoices with a simple login. Automation can also have the added benefit of improving cash flow, since you’ll spend less time waiting for things to circulate through the postal system.
5. Rethink your marketing.
If you’re still using direct mail marketing, you may be needlessly wasting money. Pay close attention to the ROI on these campaigns, taking into consideration the cost of printing and postage. Instead of paying for coupons in local circulars, consider a loyalty program that will keep customers coming back. Email campaigns can save money while also giving you the analytics you need to inform future marketing efforts.
6. Use a collaboration tool.
If paper is used for interoffice communications, it’s a sign you don’t have a platform available for employees to collaborate. A collaboration tool can bring everyone together in a social media or chat-style setting. This gives you a perfect place to post announcements or track project progress. This can especially benefit organizations with a combination of on-site and remote workers. They’ll be able to stay in touch in a way they couldn’t otherwise.
7. Make it competitive.
Few things can encourage a team of workers to all go digital more than in an initiative like a competition. Announce your goal of reducing paperwork. Then, offer a prize to the team that does the best job of helping out. The prize could be awards to the team that comes up with a great suggestion for a way to cut costs, or for a demonstrated reduction in paper usage in a particular department. Even if only one team can win, the overall result can be a workforce that is more conscientious about waste.
Businesses have plenty of reasons to go digital and cut down on paper use. Perhaps most importantly, it saves money. Even if you’ve taken measures to automate processes, you’re likely still using more paper than necessary each day. By performing a business audit and identifying possible areas of reduction, you can become more environmentally aware while also helping to make your operations more efficient and productive.
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