Just now, someone somewhere purchased a large file cabinet and copy machine to organize all of her business-related documents. Her contracts, checks, and employee files don’t just take up precious real estate in her small office; generating and storing all these hard copies can cost her hundreds of dollars per year. Maybe she hasn’t heard of e-signature technology or she isn’t sure if whether it’s legal.
It may surprise you to know that e-signatures are legally binding in most countries, and they have been legal in the United States for over a decade.
Going paperless might sound a little scary, but it’s really one of the best ways to boost your business’s productivity and efficiency. Better yet, going paperless is easier than you think.
Where Is It Legal?
About 14 years ago, e-signatures became legal in the United States with the passing of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (U.S. ESIGN Act, 2000).
The United Kingdom, along with other European Union countries, Canada, and even some countries in South America, Africa, and the Oceania region, have since passed similar laws.
There are some countries where e-signatures do not share the same legal standing as handwritten ones. China, India, France, Japan, and Russia (to name a few) have enacted legislation regarding the effect and validity of digital signatures.
Companies that deal internationally should know that e-signatures do not hold the same value as handwritten signatures in these nations. Fortunately, that shouldn’t impact most small businesses in the US.
Evangelize Paperless in Your Office
As Joe Kissell of MacWorld says, “the biggest barrier to a paperless office may be the very word paperless.” This may be true. It can be daunting to completely let go of something used nearly every day.
This type of resistance makes it extra important to implement paperless alternatives that are so easy and intuitive to use that no one will balk at the change. There are a number of vendors that are evangelizing the paperless movement, including Gusto and PandaDoc.
In addition, apps like Asana and Trello keep your to-do lists and project management paperless, while Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box make for seamless collaboration. Other apps like Quote Roller allow you to create online business proposals. Once you’ve sealed the deal, you can use an app like Harvest or Freshbooks to allow you to better track your team’s time and expenses as well as pay invoices.
Going Paperless by the Numbers
Ever wonder how many trees it takes to sustain the amount of paper your business uses in a year? The Businesses Paper Calculator provides a good estimation. Using just 2 reams of paper per week equates to 624 pounds of paper per year or 7 trees. It puts things into perspective.
According to Cecil Adams, the use of office paper in the U.S. has decreased by 40 percent from 2000 (the peak of office paper consumption) to 2011, with similar reductions seen in Europe as well.
Going paperless not only has environmental benefits, but it can significantly boost productivity, reduce costs, and increase profitability. The software you’ll use to help you go paperless will help you get organized and retain secure electronic backups of documents. No more rummaging through hard-copy files looking for that one receipt, invoice, business contract, or contact number.
Additionally, The Paperless Project, a grassroots movement educating businesses on going paperless, reports that:
- 15% of an organization’s revenues are spent creating, managing and distributing documents;
- The average document is printed 5 times; and
- At $30/hr, knowledge workers waste $4,500/year working with paper.
Those are definitely some numbers to think about.
Less time spent on administrative and duplicative tasks means more time spent where it’s needed: focusing on your business.