How to Create a Paperless Office

Business.com
How to Create a Paperless Office

BY SCOTT KOEGLER

The idea of running an office without paper has been with us since the dawn of computers. Not only does a paperless office aid in environmental conservation, it saves floor space otherwise devoted to file cabinets and makes it easier to share large amounts of information and documents digitally. 

Paperless office tools and technology are widely available, and the costs of storing massive amounts of information online through document management solutions have lowered. But for some, the reality of ditching the paper habit is still elusive. 

Even though the general consensus tells us that we can trust our information to digital storage and our thoughts to computerized apps, many office workers still want a piece of paper on their desk. It's a safety blanket. That desire for paper is the main impediment to moving away from a paper-based workflow. But you can take steps to encourage your staff to call it quits with paper. 

Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free: 

 
Provide tools and training for staff.

Don't assume people will find their own ways to minimize paper. They need clear instructions they can understand. Create written guidelines and operations they can follow.  

Make it easier to work without paper.

The paperless process needs to be easy (hopefully easier than the old paper method) and deliver tangible benefits (save time, save effort, save the environment) that include easier filing and retrieval of documents and the ability to share them without having to make copies or scan them. 

Move/remove printers and copiers.

If printers are still easy to access by your team they will get used. If you remove them from desktops and replace them with centralized network printers it can limit their use. Enable logging and password access to make printing secure when it's necessary. That also allows management to track usage and address any abuses. You can institute policies that restrict purchases of ink and toner for only approved devices. That will curtail the use of any printers that may remain on users' desks. 

Devise a new paperless filing system.

Invest in modern document management software that will replace filing cabinets. Selecting the software that connects your company to its documents is an important decision and there are several good ones available. These four are representative of the best examples. Some of them offer free evaluation periods that can help you find the right package for your business. Pricing starts around $15 per month per user. [Interested in document management software? Check out our best picks.] 

M-Files FileHold Express Dokmee eFileCabinet  Switch from file cabinets to digital storage.

This means adding networked disk storage capacity, backup systems, and automated online backup systems. Your digital filing system can be even more secure than paper because it can be accessed even in the event of a disaster.

 

Enable digital scanners.

Modern shared copiers include scanners that can be pressed into service to scan paper documents into digital storage systems. Work with your office copier vendor to make your copier part of your paperless office. Set up a digital scanner on the copier to integrate with an online faxing service. 

Integrate with business operations.

Users should be able to file their original documents directly within the software they use to create them. Connect their Microsoft Office account, of whatever other software you use, to the document management software you implement for both saving and retrieving files. 

Replace fax machines.

Use online fax services to avoid the print-then-fax process. These can be attached to their office software to enable direct inbound and outbound faxing from users' computers. These four fax services offer similar features with prices starting around 5 cents per page after a standard monthly allowance. [Interested in online fax services? Check out our best picks.] 

Nextiva vFax GotFreeFax FaxBetter RingCentral Fax  Set goals and timelines for incremental change.

Lay out timing for implementation and set a date for converting to your target reduction in paper use. It's unlikely to completely eliminate all paper in the office so set an initial goal to reduce printing and paper use by some percentage. A 50 percent reduction is a good starting place and a final goal of 80 percent reduction is a realistic final goal. Check your progress and adjust operations as needed.

4 Tips to Help You Achieve Work/Life Balance

In our fast-paced world, there is a constant struggle to always be better at something, to do better at work and be successful. The average lifestyle has been designed to get us to work, and by default, everyone tries to work harder because we believe it is a sacrifice for success. However, the internal quest to always push harder might eventually take a toll on your health and your overall productivity. 

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 1 in every 8 employees in the OECD works 50 hours or more per week while they spend 11 to 15 hours on leisure and personal care. 

Pursuing your career (increasing your standard of living) doesn't have to be so strict that you barely have time to relax or increase your standard of life. Working overtime could lead to high levels of stress, long-term health problems, inability to think clearly, and it can affect your relationship with friends and family. 

A great way to avoid these complications and still be successful at what you do is to create a work-life balance where you are able to manage your work and life, in general, effectively. In achieving this balance, consider the four elements below.

1. Make room for fitness.

A poor work-life balance not only affects your psychological health and relationships with others, but it affects your physical health too. Make physical and mental health a priority, give yourself the care that you deserve to avoid complications that arise from poor health management. 

A healthy lifestyle makes you a better employee and can improve your productivity, as you are likely to function better because you are in good health. When you skip meals and workout routines, sleep less and develop a sedentary lifestyle because you're spending more time behind your desk, all of these factors add up and take a toll on your health. 

Regular exercise, such as brisk walking, yoga, swimming, and cycling, benefits men and women of all ages, and physical ability improves your work life. It increases blood flow to your brain, which pumps oxygen to your brain cells and provides it with the adequate glucose needed for your brain to function. A chemical known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is also known to help improve brain cell growth and learning. Further, the other effects of physical exercise – it boosts energy, helps lower stress levels and boosts your mood – will help you function better at work. 

2. Manage your time more effectively.

Time management helps you to work more effectively while still carving out time for yourself and other things you want to accomplish in your personal life. Closely examine the areas where you aren't making the most of time. List the time-wasters in your life, and then commit to reducing the time you spend on these frivolities. Another tip is to break up your work hours so you can sneak in a few breaks, which will help you function more effectively when you turn your attention back to work. 

Another great way to manage your time well is by keeping your private time private. You shouldn't get so busy with work that you hardly have the time to bond with others. Schedule time with yourself or with your friends. Don't let work-related activities spill over into your private time. Turn off your phone during your private time to avoid distractions.

3. Connect with customers using emotional marketing.

Emotional marketing helps you connect with your audience through emotions like happiness, sadness, fear or anger to get them to interact with your business. According to research from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, ads containing emotional appeals outperformed advertising that used rational persuasion.  

By implementing the right emotional marketing strategy in your marketing campaigns, you can boost sales but attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Editor's note: Looking for an online marketing service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

 
4. Get in the habit of saying no.

According to authors James Altucher and Claudia Altucher, one word can bring health, abundance and happiness and that word is no. Not everyone has mastered the art of saying no, however. Many people would rather say yes to commitments they know aren't good for them in the long run because they are afraid of hurting the other person's feelings. Remember, it's not your duty to make others happy. Your health and overall productivity is at stake, and you must learn to say no when necessary.

Follow This Process to Discover the Unique Selling Proposition of Your Business

Whether you run a mom-and-pop store, an e-commerce business or a startup, you need to find the unique selling proposition (USP) of your business. You need to know what makes you different from or better than all of your competition, or you could get lost among the crowd.

What does USP mean?

A USP is the unique quality that sets your business apart from the thousands of other businesses out there. The distinguishing factor that makes your customers come back, again and again, for your products or services.

The concept of a USP was introduced by Rosser Reeves of the legendary Ted Bates advertising agency way back in the 1940s. According to him, a USP is what gives marketing campaigns an extra jolt and makes customers notice and connect with the product.

Even if it sounds cliche, there's no denying that without a USP, your business is like a ship that has lost its rudder. The USP is what steers all of your business operations on the right path.  So how do you identify the USP of your business?

Identify your USP in 7 simple steps

This definitive guide includes a step-by-step approach to figuring out the USP of your business. By the time you finish reading it, you will have a clear strategy for identifying and defining your USP. Let's get started.

Step 1: Brainstorm ideas

Creating the USP of a business is not the task for a single individual; it's a team effort. It should include people from all teams – customer support, marketing, sales, finance, IT, product development, HR, and more. Get them together and start collecting ideas.

Start by asking your team what they think separates your business from your competitors. Initially, you may get only vague answers like our product is better, we provide better customer service, we have more experience, etc.

But that's okay. Don't be judgmental. Remember, this is a brainstorming session, and all you're doing is gathering ideas. Keep a record of all the input, as we'll come back to it later.

Step 2: Identify your customer

Very often, businesses make the mistake of promoting their products and services without understanding their target audience. You need to identify your potential customers based on their age, location, gender, earning levels and other such characteristics.

You can then group them together into different buyer personas. Try to be specific. The more you're able to define the characteristics of your target audience, the better.

Step 3: Analyze your competitors

This step is all about market research. Before you find out what makes your product unique, you have to discover what's available to your target audience. Start by listing your direct competitors. Then it's time to do an in-depth analysis of each of your competitors.

Find similar products offered by competitors. Focus on how your competitors promote their products. Take a look at their social media pages, websites, and other marketing materials.

At this stage, you are trying to get a clear picture of all your competing products, their strengths, weaknesses, and more.

Step 4: List your strengths

This step is all about finding your strengths. What makes your products better? Is your pricing competitive? Do you make it easier for the customer to order products? Do customers like your free delivery option? What are the features that make your product stand out?

The idea here is that once you identify your strengths, you can market them to attract your target audience.

Step 5: Know your weaknesses

This is a crucial step and shouldn't be skipped. It's only when you are aware of your weaknesses that you can come up with a strategy to overcome them.

For instance, if your products are priced higher than competitors because you offer extra features, then make sure that you don't mention pricing in your marketing.

Identify your weaknesses so that you know not to mention them and discover what needs improving.

Step 6: Figure out what makes you unique

This is the crux of this whole exercise – what makes you unique? How do you stand out from your competitors?

Using all of the data collected in the previous steps, think about the features that make your brand distinct. This could include data from the input of your employees, your strengths and weakness, etc.

Think of something that none of your competitors offer. Think of something that resonates with the needs of your target audience.

Look for that "magic element" in your business that isn't found anywhere else. Voila, this is your USP.

Step 7: Translating your USP into the right words

This is the final step. Try creating short phrases using the feature you arrived at in the previous step. Be clear and concise.

Stay away from big words that make it difficult for the customer to connect with your brand. Remember, keep your USP short and sweet for maximum impact.

Some examples of popular USPs to inspire you:

Let's take a look at the USPs of some famous businesses, to give you an idea of why they work.

"We're number two. We try harder." – Avis.

This is my all-time favorite USP. I love how the car rental brand has transformed their weakness into a sign of positivity. They don't want to be stuck at number two, and they've managed to convince their customers they will give their all to move up. The best part – they express all of this in six short words.

"Love your beverage. Or let us know, we'll make it right." – Starbucks

We all know that Starbucks isn't the cheapest coffee brand out there, nor are they the most luxurious. So how do you transform a brand that's somewhere in the middle to the world's most popular brand? They tap into what all coffee lovers expect – getting a drink tailored to their specific tastes. This is Starbucks' USP, and they've nailed it perfectly.

"Sheer Driving Pleasure." – BMW

Nothing more needs to be said. BMW knows what they are good at and they communicate that message effectively.  

Ultimately, it all comes down to one question

Your USP is all about answering the questions  "Why you?" "Why should I buy from you?" or "Why should I hire your services?"

Remember that your USP is the very core personality of your business. It is the sole reason why people should be willing to spend their hard-earned money on your business.

Keep it simple, short, and genuine. Once you have uncovered your USP, use it consistently in all of your branding and marketing strategies to attract your target audience.

Do you have any other tried-and-tested methods to discover the USP of a business? Have I missed anything? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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