How to become a “paperless contractor”
The term “paper contractor” has been around for a long time to describe a GC that doesn’t perform any work themselves but rather uses subcontractors to do the work. This has nothing to do with that.
This blog post is about how to become a “paperless contractor”…..meaning getting rid of the manual paper forms and processes that slow your company down and cause tons of extra work and wasted time. We’ll explore different ways to go paperless to streamline and elevate your business. As the owner of a GC company and a framing contractor, I have witnessed first hand the efficiencies gained by going paperless and trust me, we’ll never go back to paper.
What is going paperless, and Why Does it Matter?
Going paperless is an ambitious goal for any size company. The larger and more established a construction company is, the more challenging it is to bring it into the digital world.
The concept is simple. Take any paper based manual process like filling out a paper invoice or a paper time card and transitioning that process to a computer or phone based process. The number of tools available today allow for this to happen with relative ease.
The good news is that going paperless can be achieved with small steps that won’t disrupt your business in a big way. Once you decide to try a digital process and see how much it will save you in time, you won’t want to go back.
Once you are freed from the physical limitations of a paper based process, you will experience a new sense of flexibility and freedom. You no longer have to run back to the office to finish that document or form. It can be done from anywhere.
How to go paperless
In construction there are countless processes, forms and documents making it a paper heavy industry. I will discuss various common tasks and systems and ways to go paperless with each one. There are so many ways to do this, it’s not a one size fit’s all approach. I hope that you will get some ideas, solutions and inspiration to start your paperless journey.
Cloud Based File Storage
If you are still storing documents on local computers or using thumb drives to transfer files from one to another, it’s time to check out some cloud based solutions to share documents. There are many options available to fit your budget and needs. Best of all, you no longer have to worry about backups or software updates….it’s all done for you. Here are some that we have found to be very useful:
Google has one of the most cost effective options out there….from free to $10/month. Besides storing documents just like you would on a local file server, Google has many very good tools for common tasks like google sheets (similar to excel) and docs (similar to word). Once you install Google File stream on your computer, the google drive will show up on your computer like any other hard drive…..but it’s in the cloud, available to you from anywhere.
The egnyte service is used by many contractors for the advanced features of file sharing and permissions. This service costs more than most others but it’s performance and capabilities are very impressive. We use this service to share folders of drawings with trade partners and designers. If you are looking for a full featured file storage system, check egnyte out.
This is another well known file sharing service. It also has a local drive options and is competitive with other similar solutions available. I would consider this if you like to share folders frequently but don’t have the budget to afford Egnyte.
Replace the Fax with a Scanner
The fax machine is a dying breed. It is a physical device that keeps people tied to an office. Consider a “fax to email” service that will receive your faxes and convert them to PDF’s that get emailed to you. This will allow faxes to still be received but it will be in digital form that can be easily shared or saved to a file server.
Instead of a fax machine, get a flatbed scanner with a paper feeder. These are common in most Multifunction printers these days. Instead of faxing a document, ask for an email and scan it to PDF and send it off. This is the future and if you are still sending faxes, you may find yourself in the minority very soon.
The practice of scratching out a paper time card each week to turn it in at the office is still very common in construction. The problem is that this manual process is not very accurate and it comes with lots of wasted time and money. Consider switching to a digital time tracking app like buildcenter.com which allows you to ditch the paper time cards and eliminate the drive time to drop off or pickup time cards.
Offer and encourage direct deposit for paychecks. The cost is minimal and the benefit in time savings for both the office and the workers is far worth it. Some employees might want the paycheck but offer them a “pay stub” instead so that they get the documentation they are looking for but they don’t have to race to the office to get paid. Ask them to try it out and you may be surprised how much they like it.
As you explore the possibilities of going paperless, ask yourself “what is the most common paper process we currently have” and then look for ways to go digital with it. The beauty of going paperless is that you can do it slowly. You can continue the paper process while starting the digital process. After a few weeks or months when everyone understands how to do the new process, you can stop doing the paperwork. I suggest starting with one task or one process and once you have that working, look for another manual or paper process to eliminate. I promise you that once you experience the freedom that going paperless provides, you will wonder how you lived without it all those years.
Paper may not ever go completely away but eliminating routine manual processes based on paper and replacing with digital, cloud based solutions will create efficiencies that you never knew were there. I hope that you continue to explore the possibilities and use them to elevate your construction business.
Try BuildCenter’s digital time tracking and crew management software to see how it can elevate your business.