Before going further, I better get this thought out there. Instead of calling it the paperless office, let’s call it the less paper office. There are myriad reasons why paper is probably not going away soon. The realities of paper in the construction contracting industry force even the most tech-savvy owners to contend with external forces such as customer needs and regulatory or legal requirements.
Yet, there are ways to eliminate much of it and simple ways to deal with what is left. The way it shapes up, you can either manage it or it can manage you.
Where does all that paper come from?
Vendors, wanna-be-vendors, customers, fellow contractors, government entities, service organizations, your copy machine . . . and on and on.
But, you can begin to stem the paper barrage when you realize every piece of paper coming into or generated in your construction contracting office is likely to fall into one of these four categories:
- Archival (such as completed contracts, insurance policies, or real estate records)
- Reference (like warranties, active contracts, or your policies and procedures)
- Actionable (for instance reminder notes, call slips, or your daily roster)
- Trash (you know – everything else)
If it feels as if it is raining paper and your office roof is leaking it is time to deal with the paper overload.
What should be done with it?
The simple answer is to digitize as much as you possibly can, keeping in mind the four categories seen above. The less paper stuffed in file drawers, piled on top of desks, and wafting in the breeze on office walls the fewer “emergency paper searches” and “last minute re-does” you’re going to have.
One app we at Schulte and Schulte, LLC recommend for helping you move closer to the less paper office is Hubdoc. You can find out more about it by reading this article written by our own Technological Operations Leader, Steve Lewis.
The harder answer is you may have to make a concerted effort companywide to clear the paper clutter. Moving to a new digitized system may take some time, but the reward will be seen on both the financial meter as well as the hassle meter.
If you’re still wondering Why it is a good idea to ditch the paper, this 10 point list will give you a bigger picture.
The down and dirty of dealing with all that paper
I borrowed stole Barbara Hemphill’s brief list of questions to ask yourself when determining what to do with clutter – in this case, paper clutter.
- Do I really need to keep it?
- In what form should I keep it? (paper or digital)
- How long should I keep it? (risk management is involved here)
- Who is responsible for it?
- Who needs to have access to it?
- How do I find it once it is processed?
- How do I back it up?
- What is the worst possible thing that could happen if I toss it and need it later?
In the end, when it comes to either paper or digital documents, legal counsel and your tax preparers advice are what I recommend when you need to know what to keep, how long to keep it, and how it should be stored.
Set your less paper goals now
I’ve noted it is probably impossible for most construction contracting companies to go completely paperless now, yet a move towards doing just that can save time, money, and space. When you and your staff no longer find the need to focus on document processing and searching, you can focus more on doing the things that keep your business going and growing. While an entirely paperless office may now live only in daydreams, an office which uses less paper is without doubt an achievable goal.
Moving to the less paper office will make you and your staff more effective and better equipped to meet the day’s challenges, as well as give you a head start on scaling your construction contracting business up to the next level.
This is the another in a series of articles concerning getting your construction contracting business more organized on your way to scaling your business. You can go here to find more articles in the series.