Top 10 Ways to Go Paperless in 2016

Small business innovators and environmental activists are predicting 2016 to be the greenest year ever. That’s because it’s never been easier to go paperless, and save time, money, and trees while you’re at it. Here are quick, easy, cost-effective changes you can make to eliminate paper clutter and positively impact the planet in 2016.

Small business innovators and environmental activists are predicting 2016 to be the greenest year ever. That’s because it’s never been easier to go paperless, and save time, money, and trees while you’re at it.

Here are quick, easy, cost-effective changes you can make to eliminate paper clutter and positively impact the planet in 2016.

1. Just Say No to Shopping Bags
Bring your own reusable shopping bags everywhere you go – from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to CVS and Target. If you have paper bags at home, you can use them again or donate them back to the store.

2. Scan Your Receipts
Remove receipt clutter from your home and office by scanning your receipts to your Shoeboxed account. It’s easy to digitize stacks of receipts using a desktop scanner, or individual receipts using your smartphone. (See #7 if the mere thought of scanning all of your paper clutter makes you feel like crying).

3. Sign up for Paperless Billing
Make sure you select the paperless billing option for every bill you pay, and consider going paperless for your company payroll too.

4. Send Paperless Faxes
In 2016, sending faxes no longer requires a fax machine. Use a service like HelloFax to send and receive faxes right from your computer – no printing, no paper, and no annoying dial tone!

5. Save to PDF
Wait – there’s no need to print that PDF, even if it needs to be edited by multiple team members. Save a tree and use an app like Nitro instead, which allows you to edit PDFs and convert them to other document types.

6. Trade Post-Its for Whiteboards
Sticky notes are one of the most annoying forms of paper clutter. They’re easily lost and make your office look like a kindergartener’s (not to mention the wasted environmental resources). Try erasable whiteboards instead to jot down ideas, to-do’s, and meetings.

7. Use the Magic Envelope
If the thought of scanning your receipts makes you weepy, let us do the heavy lifting for you. Just dump your paper receipts and other documents into the Shoeboxed Magic Envelope, and drop the envelope in the mail. When your docs arrive at Shoeboxed headquarters, we’ll scan and upload everything to your Shoeboxed account, giving you a completely fresh, paperless start to 2016.

8. Work in Google Drive
Enjoy paperless collaboration with team members by working in Google Drive. Easily add comments, make edits, view all saved versions of the document, and work together in real time.

9. eSign your Documents
Rare is the occasion nowadays where you need to “print, sign, and scan” anything. Since your electronic signature is legally binding, it’s far more eco-friendly and cost- effective to eSign all documents using a service like HelloSign.

10. Use Email Marketing Campaigns
Direct mail campaigns are expensive and time-consuming, and the results can be difficult to track. Send a paperless email campaign instead and get instant marketing data. You can also reward customers with virtual coupons and electronic discounts, both of which can be redeemed sans paper via the user’s smartphone.

How will you go paperless this year?

The #1 Secret to a Successful Small Business

When starting a small business, many entrepreneurs focus on creating a great product or an eye-catching business plan. They work to build something their target market can’t possibly resist, and that investors can’t wait to throw money at. While building your product can certainly seem paramount, the real number one secret to small business success lies in who you hire to be a part of your team.

When starting a small business, many entrepreneurs focus on creating a great product or an eye-catching business plan. They work to build something their target market can’t possibly resist, and that investors can’t wait to throw money at.

While solving a specific problem in a specific niche is a key element to establishing a small business, the number one secret to small business success lies in who you hire to be a part of your team.

That’s right – it’s really all about people. Whether you run a service-based business or sell products online, the people you hire to join your small business team are the same people who can make or break your business long-term.

Gigantic companies like Google, Facebook and Apple all say the same thing: hire amazing people and get the heck out of their way. That means investing in top talent who are ready to hit the ground running to make your business a success. This has been a key principle in growing Shoeboxed from an idea to a thriving business, and we’re immensely proud of the awesome team we have.

When hiring a startup team to support your small business, it’s important to keep your current and future needs in mind. Right now, you may need someone to do your books and manage your social media accounts. But what about five years from now?

When you hire based on the projected growth of your company, you’re far more likely to make that growth a reality. Building a team based on where you want to go, as opposed to where you are now, will allow the people you hire to directly participate in your company’s success. Retention rates will remain high because each and every team member will feel personally invested in the company, and personally rewarded as it grows.

Choosing complementary personality types is also key to building a successful small business team. Just as a winning football team can’t be comprised of all quarterbacks, your startup team can’t be made up of all gregarious leaders, or all stoic followers. Look for a mix of different talents and abilities that will be able to solve a variety of problems and think creatively in group settings.

In order to ascertain how a potential candidate functions in a group, be sure to hold a round of group interviews late in the hiring process. Once you’ve determined those candidates that you’re highly interested in, bring them together in a dynamic group setting and observe their interactions as a team. You can even bring in multiple candidates for the same position and swap them out accordingly to see how each interacts with the group.

While having a stellar product or service to sell is certainly important, it’s nowhere near as important as hiring a great startup team. According to Devin Mathews, Managing Partner at Chicago Growth Partners, small business owners are “better off working with a great team and a mediocre product, than a great product and mediocre people.”

What is the most important quality you look for when hiring top talent?

5 Apps for a Better Work-Life Balance

Solopreneurs, freelancers and small business owners know all too well how difficult it can be to find time for friends, family and other activities they enjoy in their hectic schedules. Here are five helpful apps to keep both your work and personal lives thriving.

Solopreneurs, freelancers and small business owners know all too well how difficult it can be to find time for friends, family and other activities they enjoy in their hectic schedules. We all know that we should budget time wisely and say no when things overlap with our personal agendas, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

Most of us need a little extra guidance to ensure a healthy work-life balance, and luckily there are plenty of apps out there to help us keep our priorities in check. Here are few highly-rated apps to keep you sane, active and happy despite a full calendar:

iplaniPlanSuccess (iOS iPad only; $6.99)

iPlanSuccess is much more than your average task-management application. It actually forces you to spread your goals between work life, personal life and social & family life. It asks you to define your values, strengths, and ways you deal with being busy in order to help you set realistic goals. While the $6.99 price tag might seem a little steep, it makes sense since you’re less likely to stop using an app that wasn’t free. A smartphone version would be a nice addition to the app, so that you can keep your progress updated while you’re on the go. Overall, it’s a helpful app that gives you a detailed visual outline of where to direct your focus.

workoutsDaily Workouts (iOS, Android; FREE and $3.99 version)

Daily Workouts is a great app for those of us who don’t have (or make) the time to hit the gym everyday. The app allows you to set your exercise time (10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 minutes) and which area of the body you want to focus on. It shows you exactly how to do each of the exercises and also includes a timer and repetition counter. If you have your own office or don’t mind breaking out a yoga mat in front of your colleagues, this is a great tool to use if you’ve got a spare 15 minutes in between meetings. If you’re an active yogi, check out the Simply Yoga app which substitutes the workouts for yoga positions.

cozi1Cozi Family Organizer (iOS, Android; FREE)

Cozi is the perfect app for to manage family members’ schedules– and to set time aside to spend only with family. You can use Cozi as your main calendar, or link it with your Google calendar so that you can schedule around work and other commitments. It also features to-do lists and shopping lists, which can be split up amongst family members. Cozi is helpful in establishing your work-life balance because it shares your schedule with your family and therefore makes you more accountable for getting things done.

graphWay of Life (iOS; FREE)

One major reason we even start thinking about our work-life balance in the first place is probably because we have gotten into the habit of prioritizing one activity over another. Way of Life is a free app that helps you break bad habits and start forming good ones. The app allows you to plot goals and track whether or not you are meeting them on a daily or weekly basis. Some examples of habits you could implement  range from not staying in the office for longer than nine hours a day to having a family movie night every two weeks.

Self-Control (For Macs Only; FREE)

Self-Control is a free app for Mac that allows you to block access to the internet or certain websites for a specified period of time. In addition to being an effective productivity app, it will help you in your quest to achieve work-life balance by enabling you to block your work email and other work-related sites while you are at home. That’s right– no tracking receipts or managing expense reports at home! Just make sure you are committed to staying off of the restricted sites you choose– once you blacklist them, there is no going back! But, we promise not to tell anyone if you pull out your phone and check email.

What apps or methods do you use to maintain a healthy work-life balance? Share your tips in the comments!