Business Growth

Breaking the unhealthy relationship with paper.

How many times can something let you down before you finally make a commitment and move on? In the case of manual paperwork, it seems like many tradespeople across Australia aren’t quite ready to say goodbye just yet.

Make no mistake, though; forward-thinking trade business owners are jumping ship to digital options in their droves. But the push to digitise isn’t an industry-wide phenomenon, and plenty of professionals are happy keeping physical records and running their business on paper.

But why?

Computers and other digital devices have completely transformed how we record and access information in just a few decades. To the point where on-paper methods we used just a few decades ago feel antiquated by comparison. Nobody doubts the influence of digital business operations anymore, just like nobody called the steam engine or the television a fad once they became an inseparable part of everyday life.

As customers, we interact with paper replacements nearly every day. We pay our rent, phone bills and other utilities online, and then receive a digital invoice as a record of the transaction. We even buy clothing, pet food and other essentials using digital shopping platforms, all backed by an extensive digital paper trail, but without a single A4 sheet ever changing hands.

It’s not a matter of tradespeople being left out either. The digital door is wide open to trade professionals, and there are digital options for every type of trade business administration and record-keeping process, all tailored to the specifics of your industry and available in the marketplace right now. Most industry-standard software options include digital job management, cloud storage, mobile payment methods, and CRMs, which require no physical paperwork once fully enabled across a business.

Yet even in the face of an overwhelmingly superior option, paper persists.

Many tradespeople still choose to keep their business on paper, and to understand why we need to look at how entrenched in our lives paper has been up until very recently. Two thousand years of use has enforced paper as standard practice, and when there’s money involved (namely business profitability), we stick to what we know.

Paper is a simple medium compared to its digital peers, and its simplicity is its ultimate strength. Paper performs the tasks we require without training or further understanding outside of how to read and write. Digital tools, on the other hand, require a deeper level of knowledge to even begin the task at hand and are therefore harder to use out of the box. This is why when you ask a trade business owner why they haven’t moved from manual paperwork to digital, they’ll likely tell you it’s “Because it does the job, everyone understands the processes, and it’s not worth the time learning something new”.

Changing such a mindset can be difficult, and it’s often tricky to put forward the right benefits to convince a stubborn paper user that the opportunities offered by a digital replacement far outweigh the cost of change.

But like most things trade business-related, the battle for digitisation is won by showcasing to a resistant tradesperson the wealth of efficiencies that digital has over paper.

An end to lost or damaged paperwork, a filing system that doesn’t take up half the office, and no more dealing with illegible handwriting. Thousands of years ago, we shifted to paper because the alternatives offered by cave paintings and carving our shopping lists on stone tablets didn’t provide us with the utility we needed at the time. Now it’s time for paper to become the lesser alternative, and resistant trade businesses need to look at what’s replacing paper and adapt to stay competitive in their market. Luckily, the options afforded by digital record keeping have covered virtually every need a trade business once had for paper. If you dream of streamlined workflows, faster payment for services rendered, improved operational efficiency and a clear business strategy, then digital holds far better prospects for your business than paper ever will. But don’t hesitate. The digital shift is happening, and as more trade businesses make the jump, those who remain on paper will risk being left behind.

Need a paperless alternative to run your trade business? AroFlo is an Australian job management software developed for tradies and packed full of all the tools you need to ditch admin on a4 and take advantage of efficient digital workflows. Check us out at and get your operations sorted.

As published in Electrical Connection and Plumbing Connection

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