Clichés like, “Dance with the person who brung ya'” or “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” speak to the wisdom of doing that which has worked well in years passed. We have all become eager participants in the digital age and the instant communications it affords us. We are now all tied 24/7 to a smart phone, laptop and a host of other electronic devices, which didn’t exist until say, 2012. We often forget that in business, sometimes the old fashioned way is still the better way. Here are some examples where good old-fashioned paper beats out our modern day electronic conveniences.
* Snail Mail Placing a bill, invoice or confidential note in an old-fashioned paper envelope, affixing a stamp and depositing it with the good folks at the US Postal Service is preferable to sending an instant and “free” e-mail. While e-mails are routinely accessed by hackers, the NSA, your employees and Lord knows who else, envelopes sent via the USPS (or FedEx) are rarely seen by persons other than the intended recipient. It is not unusual to have the names of e-mail authors and recipients (together with subject lines) on view on several screens at a business. Opening someone else’s mail is a federal offense period. That ain’t necessarily so when applied to someone viewing an e-mail to meant for you. While snail mail is slower to be sure, paper envelopes are far more secure. And that friends, is the extent of Ed’s ability to rhyme. Be thankful.
* Faxes They have all the benefits of snail mail, but in addition they are faster and you avoid the cost of stamps. We are constantly surprised at the number of business people who proudly boast that they have buried their fax machines. In an effort to appear as up to date as possible they disposed of a valuable and relatively secure method of instantly transmitting business documents. Many businesses restrict (intentionally or unintentionally) access to fax machines to owners. Employees rely heavily on e-mails and have little use for faxes. Again, that fax machine is an excellent way to prevent a transmission from being seen by unauthorized sets of eyeballs.
* Business Records, model releases, invoices, heck! – all of them. Paper documents are still regarded as superior to electronic documents for trial purposes. Anyone with the barest of knowledge about Photoshop can put Barack Obama’s head on Jay Leno’s body. Altering paper documents and/or forging signatures in ink are far more difficult tasks. Good old-fashioned document manipulation in the days before Photoshop was a true art. Now any 8 year old can manipulate both photos and writings like a pro. The less likely that evidence has been altered, the greater credibility it has.
* Computers are fallible. Computers crash, burn, get stolen or get really, really wet. Even after the devastation wrought by Katrina and Sandy we are amazed at how many people in various industries fail to maintain both a computer back up and paper copies of important documents. Three decades of essential paperwork generated by a busy photo studio can easily fit in say 10-30 file boxes (depending on the type of photography business). You need to keep licenses, model/property releases, invoices and copyright registrations forever. Both the space and the cost involved are minimal compared to the insurance and security it provides. Many photographers have found out that their photos, years later, can prove to be a gold mine if they have the paperwork, or a bust if they don’t.
* Messenger Services. Expensive to be sure but speed, security and a dated, signed receipt are hard to beat when a dispute over who said what to whom, when, and where, arises.
Bottom line – in business, paper is as good as gold.