Like many small business owners, you’re probably running in three directions at once in an effort to get things done. Maybe you’re used to handing off invoices to your finance manager for payment and filing. Or maybe you’re used to quickly signing legal documents so your admin can print a copy for your records and mail them. You might be OK with this system and not worried about digitizing your records. But should you be?
Over time, you may have noticed that your business is buried in paper. It’s human nature to keep multiple copies of all documents “just in case.” Better safe than sorry, right? So you keep it all, year after year: financial records, HR documents, legal forms, letters from vendors and customers. But it adds up quickly. According to the Paperless Project, in the average business paper is growing by 22% per year, meaning that your paper will double in just over three years.
Keeping all of that paper can cause a lot of problems for your small business over time. For one thing, it’s expensive. The Paperless Project found that the process of filing documents costs about $20 per month, while each misfiled document costs $125 and each lost document up to $700. It also takes up a lot of space: Each four-drawer filing cabinet needs roughly 9 square feet of floor space.
Keeping all physical documents onsite also impacts productivity. Nearly half of SMBs say their company wastes a significant amount of time on paper-intensive processes, according to a Xerox survey. That time would be much better spent on furthering the company’s core objectives or tending to customers.
While some small businesses will remain glued to paper for some time, most know it’s time to reduce their reliance on paper. By digging yourself out from under the stacks and digitizing your records management process, you’ll actually improve productivity while reducing cost and lowering risk.
Digitizing your records may seem like a complex undertaking, but there is plenty of help available. The key is breaking it down into steps.
First, determine the records that need to be digitized. It’s more complicated than it might seem on the surface. There are rules and regulations you must follow, though the exact ones depend on your industry and state. You’ll likely need to retain a number of documents for different amounts of time. Failing to comply with state and federal laws on records retention can result in penalties. The best way to get it right is by engaging with a third-party auditor or vendor who can guide you through the process.
Once you’re sure of what needs to be digitized, you’ll need to choose the appropriate digitization partner. Look for a vendor with experience helping SMBs with their records. They should offer a full range of services and solutions that meet your needs. Make sure they embrace the latest security technologies and interface well with your current paper workflow and/or business process management.
After you have completed the digitization process, it’s important to manage the physical records appropriately. Either securely dispose of the paper you no longer need with a secure shredding service or store the files offsite.
While digitizing years’ worth of physical documents is a major undertaking, it’s well worth the effort. You’ll reduce costs, increase productivity, improve customer service and even help save the environment.