“Paperless” and “accounting” are seldom uttered in the same sentence, so when a Green Business Matters reader told me about a Columbia, Maryland, CPA who runs her practice 100 percent paper-free, I was immediately intrigued.
“I cringe if I hear that printer run,” said Cheryl Jefferson Cooke, president of Cheryl Jefferson and Associates, LLC.
Cooke (pictured) has operated her firm in a paperless mode since founding it 10 years ago. She now has eight employees who share her commitment to reducing the company’s impact on the environment.
Employees are one thing, but what about clients?
“We are a paperless firm,” explained Cooke. “We utilize a secured client portal for the transfer of client files and information. While we do get faxes and mail from time to time, our response is to quickly convert paper to an electronic format and either shred or return the documents to the client.”
“We seek out clients that are technologically savvy and find them by doing most of our advertising on the internet,” said Cooke.
Cooke does admit that some clients are resistant. “If we have to come to your site and pick up paper, you’re going to be charged for that.”
Cooke’s employees take electronic tablets to meetings and communicate with clients exclusively by email. “I have a stack of letterhead that I don’t use it anymore.”
One of CJA’s newest employees shared with Cooke that she thought she had worked in a paperless firm before coming to CJA; “Now she really knows what paperless is,” said Cooke.
The sustainability derived from a paperless environment goes beyond conserving natural resources, according to Cooke. “We save money and are more productive because it’s far easier to find information. Plus, my people stay in the office because there is no need to go to clients’ offices to pick up stuff. We save even more because we don’t buy file cabinets or pay rent to house them.”
“Most importantly,” said Cooke, “if we were paper based and one of my employees called in sick and a client’s information was locked in a desk, no one could jump in and help out, but when you have it stored on a shared drive, others can step in.”
What about security?
“Security is always a concern. We are very careful to back up everything. We even take a backup drive home every other evening,” said Cooke.
In addition to being a paperless firm, Cooke says CJA is big on recycling even though the business park where its offices are located does not offer recycling pickup. “Employees take turns taking home mail, boxes, and beverage and food containers. I just can’t stand to see things thrown away.”