Documents easier to locate, less likely to lost
Saves time and space
Lowers storage and retrieval expenses
Documents can be searchable by keywords
Documents can be shared
No need to purge files annually
Documents can integrate with QuickBooks
Increases employee productivity
Provides disaster recovery
Eliminates document wear and tear
Will Paperless Work For You?
Any piece of paper a company would normally file—including estimates, contracts, customer notes, materials bills, etc.—can be scanned and filed on the computer, resulting in less office clutter, less time wasted searching for files, and less money spent on paper and printer ink.
Landscape companies that would benefit most from a paperless office would be generating at least $500,000 in annual revenue, according to Dickran Babigian, president of consulting and software firm Navix. More importantly, the company would have at least one dedicated office staff member who would be responsible for scanning documents into the computer, etc.
Still, as Glenn Zior of Clip Software and Clip Lawn Care points out, you’d be hard-pressed to find any contractor who wished he had more paperwork sitting around. “When I visit contractors, even the smaller companies, virtually all of them say they wish they could go paperless,” Zior relates. “They are receptive to the idea, for sure. It’s just a matter of execution. The dollar investment can actually be pretty low. The main investment is in time. But when you think about it, it really doesn’t have to be that much of an undertaking, and the time saved later can more than make up for it.”
Contracts, Invoices & Materials Bills
Clip Lawn Care has had an almost 100% paperless office since day one. Even with contracts, the paper copy goes right in the trash once it’s scanned into the computer. The next step is to get 100% of customer bills sent via e-mail.
The only thing that isn’t at least partially paperless at Clip Lawn Care is accounts payable, though that too may change soon. “The IRS now allows a PDF scan as a legitimate receipt,” Zior explains. “So materials bills and other receipts could also go paperless now, making it much easier for contractors to keep track of these things and recover the costs.”
“The biggest issue is finding the estimate when a customer calls,” Zior relates. “Understandably, busy contractors have a growing pile of ‘to be filed’ paperwork ... namely estimates. It’s not always a quick process to get an answer back to the customer. With an electronic filing system, it can be more orderly and much faster.”
MowCow Lawn & Landscape in Fairfax Station, VA, has recently begun heading in the paperless direction for this very reason. “We wanted important documents like estimates and notes from the field to be easier to find, while also reducing the chance of their getting permanently lost,” owner Richard Lindsay says. “Even with the best paper filing system, things always seem to get misplaced.”
Post-it notes and other hand-scribbled reminders also lend themselves well to a paperless system. “You want to be able to retrieve and share notes on customers and specific phone calls without having to dig out a paper file or track someone else down in the office,” Babigian says. “The goal is to get rid of all those notes around the office, which are easily lost, forgotten or simply not legible.”
Communicating in the Field
An electronic post-it note system comes in especially handy when you are out in the field. You can retrieve information, log notes and respond to queries from customers or the office on your laptop computer or mobile communications device—without having to scribble a note to yourself or drive back to the office.
According to Zior, many landscapers lose money by not billing for extra work they’ve done. The ability to electronically log the information in the field so it syncs back to the office can make a big difference over the course of a season.