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Get your small business out of the 80s

When it comes to our entertainment today, perhaps no decade has been as thoroughly mined for style and nostalgia than the 80s.
TV and film studios are producing a constant stream of reboots to long-dormant franchises, while old school 8-bit graphics and sound have once again become an incredibly popular aesthetic in videogames.

Regardless of how you feel about our 80s retro obsession, it has clearly carved out a place in the lexicon of modern pop culture. But one throwback from the decade that's less appealing is its outdated business processes. Nevertheless, a surprising number of small businesses are still using them.

Is your business still stuck in the 80s? Here are three common vestiges from that bygone business era — and easy suggestions for bringing them into the modern world.

​Keeping physical records is costly and takes up valuable office real estate.

1. You still keep your records in filing cabinets

Keeping physical records is costly and takes up valuable office real estate.

It’s also dangerous.

In a particularly dramatic example of the risks, muddy water from a burst pipe at Harvard flooded a half a million negatives of pictures taken by astronomers around the world for nearly a century.

Fortunately, the negatives weren’t destroyed, but saving them has proved to be quite a headache. First, they had to be loaded into 2,000 boxes and rushed to freezers to prevent mold. Over the next year, they’ll have to be unfrozen, cleaned, digitized and placed back in order. If they had been digitized in the first place, none of this ever would have happened.

Floods aren’t the only problem — physical documents are also subject to fire and theft. Of course, a disaster or a burglary could theoretically happen at a data center, but at least you’d have a backup in place.

Why not join the 21st century? Having documents converted to digital formats is relatively painless these days, and once it’s done, you can access them anytime and anywhere — improving productivity by light years.

​When modern collaboration tools like audio and video conferencing, interactive whiteboards, and inexpensive VOIP are available, there’s no reason to spend so much of your time and money on travel.

Woman picking up the mail.

2. You spend hours filling out paperwork

Nobody enjoys the drudgery of filling out forms, paying bills and processing invoices manually — yet, according to a recent study1, the average finance worker spends half a day doing just that.

You don’t have to be in the Fortune 500 to benefit from automating your workflows. It makes a big difference, especially for functions like accounts payable, where you scan invoices, press a button and you’re done. An automated system puts information into correct fields for processing so you don’t waste valuable time doing it yourself. After that, the invoices are sent to the finance department for approval if necessary, then they’re on their way to the service provider.

Taking human hands off of documents not only saves time, it reduces the possibility of errors along the way.

It saves you money, too — an AIIM study2 found that two-thirds of businesses adopting paper-free processes reported a payback within 18 months, as well as better audit records, faster response times, improved productivity and better monitoring of process status and workflows.

Workflows done right

Paper-based processes take up valuable human resources and can slow things down — learn how to streamline and automate what you do.

3. Business travel is busting your budget

Sometimes attending a conference or spending face time with a client makes sense, but not all the time.

In addition to hotel bills, meals, mileage and airfare, little things like baggage fees, cab fare, tips and even ATM charges add up to real money over time. Travel is also a time sink that puts you behind on day-to-day tasks, making you feel overwhelmed when you return.

When modern collaboration tools like audio and video conferencing, interactive whiteboards and inexpensive voice over internet phone (VOIP) are available, there’s no reason to spend so much of your time and money on travel. Take a look at your needs and choose the solution that works best for you.

Fortunately, transporting your business from the 80s won’t require a flux-capacitor-equipped DeLorean. The business equivalent of time travel can now be achieved by implementing a few simple and inexpensive technology updates. Your only regret will be that you didn’t try it years ago.


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1 Mary C. Driscoll. "Metric of the Month: How Finance People Spend their Time"