It’s difficult to read any business related publication without finding something about the benefits of “going green”. Any industry associated with the court system, or one that depends heavily upon public records like the PI industry does, is going to have to deal with large volumes of paper in the form of case reports, deposition transcripts, court room testimony transcripts, database search reports and our own work product, the investigation report. Despite this, there are many things a modern PI agency, making smart use of today’s technological advancements can do to go lean and green by limiting the use of paper, reducing the cost of doing business and helping the environment at the same time. Here are a few things we have done to go lean and green:
On-Line Case Files
When I launched my PI agency almost five years ago, it became obvious that storage of case documents and business records could quickly become a problem. For most of the first four years I was in business, I sub-leased an office limiting the storage space available to me. Even now with my own office suite, I have a limited storage space available. I know many long time PIs that literally have boxes and boxes of old cases stuffed in storage somewhere, making it inconvenient to locate old case files and expensive to warehouse them. From the beginning, we have scanned all relevant case documents for all our cases, from retainer agreements, case reports and investigation reports, to media files such as photographs and video files into an on-line database that are stored on an external hard drive connected to my office computer network. This allows us to purge the paper copies after the case has been closed because anything needed beyond that can be quickly located and easily accessed in our on-line files.
E-mail whenever possible
We are blessed to live in an age where virtually everyone has an e-mail account. Most of the written communication with our clients is done by this medium. Final investigation reports that are delivered to our clients are sent via e-mail whenever possible, along with the final invoice or sales receipt, creating a permanent searchable record delivered if it ever becomes an issue. Most e-mail providers have a search feature that allows you to search your e-mail history by e-mail address, name of recipient, subject, etc., making it easy and efficient to locate, review and re-send messages without having to pull old case files and mail or fax documents the old fashioned way. We use Gmail from Google as our e-mail service provider. Gmail accounts have a feature called “Google Documents” that allows us to upload and share large digital media files like photographs and surveillance video without having to download them to a disc or zip drive and mail them to our clients.
We use a service called E-fax for our business faxing needs. Any faxes we receive come as PDF files that can be quickly stored in our on-line case file without ever having to be printed. Outgoing fax documents can be scanned and faxed if the document is not yet in our data base, killing two birds with one stone. Or they can be attached as a PDF file if it is already in the database.
Going green can put you in the black!
The smart incorporation of todays technology allows us to improve our business systems to help us keep better track of records, decrease redundancy of effort and increase accountability, while providing the added benefit of reducing the cost of doing business. In a tough economy, even small monthly deceases in the cost of paper, stamps and storage fees can add to your profit margin at the end of the year. Going green can make the difference between being in the red or in the black for the smart PI.