One fallacy that a lot of management companies absolutely believe is that their mailroom is a revenue generation machine for their business. But if you calculate the true costs of your mailroom, you will find that it simply isn’t.
Management companies routinely underestimate the amount that is spent on mailroom activities, which needs to include the hard costs of equipment, supplies and postage, but also the soft costs of employee time and storage. When you add it all up, the amount you are charging in your Schedule A may not be enough to cover your true costs, let alone turn a profit for you.
So why does this idea persist?
When the concept of going paperless was first introduced, it was all about the environment. Look at all the trees we are killing to make paper! Look at all the landfills we are filling with waste! Look what we are doing to our planet! Despite the warnings, by 2015, only 17% of all companies in the world had started the journey to go paperless, more than 30 years after the concept of a paperless office had been introduced.
The environmental arguments haven’t gone away (they are more true now than ever before), we’ve just become desensitized to them. It’s like trying to convince a smoker to quit by telling them the health risks. They know the risks. But they’re addicted.
In much the same way, we as an industry, have been addicted to paper. It seems so much easier, so much cheaper, so much less of a hassle to just print all the things we need. Whether it’s board reports, monthly payment coupons or even printed emails, we as an industry, have generated a LOT of paper over the years. So much so, in fact, that the average management company office devotes as much as 45% of available floor space to filing cabinets, printers, and other paper management equipment.
Industry experts have been saying for years that it doesn’t have to be this way. And perhaps you always intended to do it, some day. But change is hard, and it may have seemed like too much hassle to put in the work to go paperless.
The global pandemic and year-long lockdowns have caused a lot of changes for every industry. But none more so than the community association management industry, which has been dragged (kicking and screaming for some) into the modern digital age.
With employees and board members working from home, one benefit you may not have noticed is the significant decrease in the amount of paper your business is generating. Where once you needed a small forest worth of paper just to generate monthly board reports for the community associations you manage, now your board members are happily accepting PDF packages of board reports delivered via email. The same phenomenon has likely spread across your whole organization.
But what you may not have put together quite yet, but you will (numbers don’t lie) is that this change is actually saving your business money in the long term. In fact, when you get down to the bottom line, paperless community management saves your management company in a number of surprising ways:
A lot goes into printing: purchasing all of the paper supplies, ink and toner you need to print, purchasing or renting the actual equipment, from your printers to all of the other complicated machinery in your mailroom, to the actual time in employee costs it takes to manage all of the paper that your office generates. All of these are hard costs that can go away or be drastically reduced when you embrace a paperless office.
Are your records taking up the bulk of the floor space in your office? For many management companies, the biggest cost factor in their budget is their physical office space, and much of the need for that space is accounted to mailroom machines, printers and file cabinet storage for all the community records they are maintaining. And that doesn’t even take into account the amount of time you are paying employees for the physical act of managing storage (filing).
Postage costs are just one part of the distribution costs of paper. How much are you paying for your managers to schlep reams of paper in monthly financial reports to board meetings each month? Or the cost to file that paper in the office?
When you add it all up, the costs far outweigh the convenience of paper in your office, and the pandemic has proven that you really don’t need it. Especially if you are a CINC user:
Looking at the functional categories of where your paper goes is helpful in determining a strategy to stay paperless after the pandemic is over. Of course, there are still going to be areas where you will need to retain paper records. But now you have an excuse to draw a line in the sand and say, the paper stops here.