According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data published on the U.S. Small Business Administration website*, only 50 percent of new small businesses in the United States survive for five or more years. In the event of an economic crisis or a natural disaster, small businesses are usually the first ones to go down under (and we don’t mean Australia!). Not securing your business information can wipe out any chances of recovery. So how can you safeguard your small business documents and help prove any negative statistic wrong? The answer lies in scanning them. Here are some ways scanning documents can help save your small business:
1. Scanning documents makes them permanent
While creating many documents in paper form is understandable due to legal regulations and operational requirements, keeping them in a paper-only format can be dangerous. The United States witnesses hurricanes and tornadoes every year. Other regions of the world too witness disaster events of different kinds. As a case in point, a massive fire in the legislative assembly in Mumbai, India destroyed a large part of that building. But because the state government had digitized hundreds of thousands of documents, the loss of data was minimal. As a small business, you cannot afford to lose even one business-critical file. So it makes operational sense to scan your documents, store the digital files on your laptops and keep them backed up online and also offsite on removable media. What’s more, this way you can prolong the life of your original paper based documents as they will no longer exchange hands frequently.
2. Saves your time otherwise spent on searching documents
A Docstoc article on Forbes.com** reveals that over 22 million of the 28 million small businesses in America “are self employed with no additional payroll or employees.” As a small business owner, you know that your small office hardly uses any human resource other than yourself. Looking for files to work on or communicate information to your clients and other stakeholders can take up your time considerably. As your client base grows, so does your document repository. Digitizing documents by scanning them and then naming each document as per a pre-decided file naming convention saves you an enormous amount of time – which you know you can invest in nurturing business relationships.
3. Reduces or eliminates need for employing assistants
One of the first moves made by small business owners as they grow and can no longer manage increasing paperwork is to hire an assistant. But before you too go that way, know that paying salary to full-time staff is a recurring expense. The flow of documents in your businesses is not going to dwindle but only increase with time. So you won’t be employing temporary staff like a college sophomore on a summer vacation looking to earn their next smartphone. The right way to overcome your document management challenge is by scanning documents and managing them using a file or document management system; ex. Windows Explorer for PC. This will eliminate the need to employ an assistant simply to file, retrieve, copy and handle paper-based documents.
4. Helps reduce cost of office supplies
While scanning documents does need investment in a scanner and related consumables, your overall costs will be far lower in the long run. You can encourage your business contacts to share documents in digital format only while doing the same yourself. This will eliminate the need to create photocopies of a document every time you need to share it. No longer would you have to bear recurring expenses for paper, files, folders and other paper-centered stationery items.
5. Lets you deliver a better customer experience
If you have a small business, you are most likely to be the sole point of contact, whether for government agencies, vendors or clients. Now let’s say a client walks into your office and you need to pull up their records. What will help you serve them promptly? A cabinet with hundreds of client files from which you need to pull out theirs; or your laptop in which you have stored every possible document you might need for client meetings? Naturally, the latter. Customers today feel more comfortable dealing with businesses that are tech-savvy and have digital processes than those with archaic, paper-centered procedures.
Economic conditions are volatile, and as a small business, you are up against stiff competition from medium and large enterprises. But don’t despair, as even in such a scenario, smart, digital business processes can help your firm survive the tough times and emerge as a success story in your niche.
* ‘Advocacy: the voice of small business in government’ http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/FAQ_Sept_2012.pdf
** ’16 Surprising Statistics About Small Businesses’ http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/09/09/16-surprising-statistics-about-small-businesses/