I hate paper. It gets wet. It burns easily. It gets lost. It cuts your hands. It's great for taking quick notes, but terrible for anything important.
So at Bolt we try to run a completely paperless office. The first step towards avoiding paper is getting rid of your printer. Generating paper is a lot harder when you have to leave the building to do it.
Depending on the nature of your business, the next step is to use web-based tools to prevent the need for printing things in the first place. We love using the following five tools to keep our desk space spick and span (and save us money on filing cabinets).
The biggest hurdle to a paperless office is signing things. Even in 2014, most people you work with will expect signed documents to exhibit a mark that looks like you made it with a pen.
There are several options when it comes to electronic document signing, but we started with RightSignature because we used it while working at Twilio and we continue to be a very happy customer. It's inexpensive and easy to get started, and their document search is good. Plus they have useful power-user features like signature templates for common forms (such as employee CIIAA and stock option agreements) and a nifty mobile signature pad where you can use your finger to draw a signature that doesn't look like your 6-year-old child forged it.
Physical checks are the worst kind of paper, because they represent a claim on actual money. And you have no idea when that claim will come in. If you put a $2000 check in the mail you need to keep $2000 in your account indefinitely, just waiting for the payee to deposit it and pull out the funds.
Worst of all, if you lose a check you have to alert the payer, who in turn will have to cancel the check and send you a new one, for a fee of course. It's all horribly antiquated and inefficient. And there is a massive amount of check fraud in the US, which means this silly ink-and-paper system of transferring funds can’t die soon enough.
We prefer to use an online ACH (sometimes called e-check) payment platform like Dwolla to push money directly between our company account and the accounts of our vendors and partners. You may be lucky enough to have a bank that offers this online service for free, so be sure to ask. In any case Dwolla is cheap, and the fees are a minimal price to pay for not needing to balance a corporate checkbook.
It's increasingly rare but still likely that at some point in the life of your business you'll need to send a fax. For Bolt that point was at the absolute beginning. We used HelloFax to send our corporate formation documents to the Delaware Secretary of State's office without a fax machine.
We haven't used it since simply because we haven't needed to send a fax, but that one experience was so smooth that HelloFax is the first place we'll turn if we ever need to send a fax again.
4. Google Drive
Just because we don't use paper doesn't mean we don't have documents to store, and Google Drive is our virtual filing cabinet of choice. While Dropbox is also obviously an option, the integration with Google Docs and Sheets makes Drive a better choice for us. Everything's in one place, and it's all linked to our @bolt.co Google accounts.
Project planning and task management is essential to any company in the business of software development, and Bolt is no exception. In the past we’ve worked at companies where sprint planning consists of a physical kanban board and removable sticky notes. Lots and lots and lots of sticky notes.
And while we love the practice of dividing work into tasks and planning accordingly, we do not love the thought of transcribing tasks onto sticky notes and managing their progress in multiple places. Asana gives us the perfect mix of simplicity and power when planning and saves us from sticky note hell.
To be sure, these are only a few of the tools available to any modern business that wants to rid itself of the paper plague. Let us know if we've overlooked one of your favorite paper-saving services.