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Are you still wasting time with paper?

Are you impacting on your business by still consigning everything to paper? And why should you be trying to move away from it?


Hi all, Zarte here. No, the restraining order didn’t work – I’m still here.

I’m going to start today’s blog article with a massive admission. Probably one that you might feel undermines my entire set of thoughts to follow. Ready?

I’m a massive hypocrite. What I’m about to tell you off for doing, I do ALL the time. That might sound terrible, but it’s BECAUSE I do it, that I truly know how wrong it is! I’m imploring you NOT to be like me. Let me explain.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a notepad near me. I scribble notes down constantly. Everything from business ideas, to shopping lists. Little poems, to ideas for revolutionary inventions. My brain is, as anyone who has ever met me will testify, usually going at a million miles per hour. When it’s silly things, and things that only matter to me, that’s fine, but when it’s work-related, it becomes a whole other ball game.

Why? Because the number of ways I’ve then lost that information is ridiculous. I have... spilt drinks on it. Torn a sheet off, only to bin it when I see something else on it and think it’s dead. I’ve written whilst doing other things and made it so illegible I can’t remember what it was about. I’ve written it in one room, left it there, and then can’t remember where I put it again until it’s too late. I even once managed to drop a notepad down the loo.

How many brilliant ideas have I forgotten and failed to act on as a result? How many great opportunities have I missed by scribbling a phone number badly? Fine, these are more personal applications, but for a modern business, putting things to a computer rather than paper, is a really important step.

For instance, let’s say you’ve got an order book. You’ve got line after line of beautifully written order records, addresses, so on and so forth. What happens when two people need it at the same time? If you’re pretty much a sole trader, then perhaps it’s less important, but if you’ve got a few people who are set up to take orders, or you’ve got an accountant who needs access to it, or any number of other reasons, what do you do, when you can’t access it there and then? Chances are you grab another bit of paper, and write down the notes on there. OK, that’s fine. But then you forget to write it in later. And then it’s the weekend. And by Monday, you’ve forgotten about it. And by Tuesday, someone else has found it and tidied it up. A week later and you’ve got an angry customer wondering where their goods are.

Just over a week ago, there was an office block round the corner from us that went up in flames overnight. Now heaven forbid this should happen to you, but if it WERE to... that’s that order book gone. No chance of using it to try even to contact people and explain what’s happened. You’re starting again, quite possibly with nothing. You might think “Well if our computers were in a fire, then they’d be gone too” – which is true. But with a file, you can back it up. And with a database, you can set it to have multiple access points – people can update it in real time, from wherever they are, meaning that the first issue I raised can also be avoided.

And OK, so human error can never be totally avoided. But if you’re taking down contact details – software could tell you that the phone number you’ve entered MUST be wrong, because it’s only 10 digits, but I would almost guarantee that you’ve written down a phone number before and missed a digit out without noticing? I know I have.

I know I’ve said I’m a hypocrite, but I’m REALLY trying to put more of what I do onto a computer (and back it up!) – perhaps it’s time for you to think about doing the same. To make sure that whatever life throws at your business, nothing’s gone forever.

Welcome your thoughts as always – send us an e-mail, give us a call, or follow us on Twitter/Facebook and let us know what you think.

Until next time,