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The Deck Guy
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3,126 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As I sit here at my in-laws bored out of my mind, I am taking the moment of calm to reorganize many of my business documents and "systems" for 2010.

My goal is to get as paperless as I can in 2010 and to put as much of my business documents "in the cloud" so I have access to them no matter where I am or what hardware I have on me at the time.

I bought a Netbook this weekend (on it now) to keep with me all the time so I don't have to resort to using my Blackberry to look up contracts and estimates. Heck for $300, it cost the same as my phone!

My primary computer is a MacBook Pro with a 17" screen. It's huge and not something I like to schlep around with me. All of my documents until now have been designed and produced in InDesign which is complete overkill for what I need in a legal document. My background was in graphic design and marketing, so when I began creating documents back in the day, I used InDesign.

Now, I'm dumbing them down to MS Word docs so I have 100% cross platform compatibility. Word lacks many of the slick features I can use in InDesign, but I have been successful in porting over all my documents thus far.

Instead of worrying about file sync, I'm getting the documents "in the cloud" by utilizing DropBox. I was going to manufacturer all the new docs right in GoogleDocs, but I found that software was lacking many of the features I needed to make the documents work properly. Using real MS Word & Excel in tandem with DropBox seems to be a better solution. If there's a better way...let me know.

I'm also desperately trying to figure out a way to get all the receipts I get every day off the floors of my trucks and into an archive. My receipts are a mess and half the time I lose them before I file them. I hate paper!

I'm looking into possibly getting a high-speed paperport scanner, but they seem to get mixed reviews. Is anyone using one successfully? What brand?
 

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Crash Test Dummy
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2,210 Posts
Probably not quite the same thing, but I do 100% of my billing through email. That's paperless.


On the receipt thing, I have a PayPal debit card. I can see my transcations online at any time, even from my phone. I also get 1.5% cash back from it on all purchases.
 

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Design Build
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8,262 Posts
As I sit here at my in-laws bored out of my mind, I am taking the moment of calm to reorganize many of my business documents and "systems" for 2010.

My goal is to get as paperless as I can in 2010 and to put as much of my business documents "in the cloud" so I have access to them no matter where I am or what hardware I have on me at the time.

I bought a Netbook this weekend (on it now) to keep with me all the time so I don't have to resort to using my Blackberry to look up contracts and estimates. Heck for $300, it cost the same as my phone!

My primary computer is a MacBook Pro with a 17" screen. It's huge and not something I like to schlep around with me. All of my documents until now have been designed and produced in InDesign which is complete overkill for what I need in a legal document. My background was in graphic design and marketing, so when I began creating documents back in the day, I used InDesign.

Now, I'm dumbing them down to MS Word docs so I have 100% cross platform compatibility. Word lacks many of the slick features I can use in InDesign, but I have been successful in porting over all my documents thus far.

Instead of worrying about file sync, I'm getting the documents "in the cloud" by utilizing DropBox. I was going to manufacturer all the new docs right in GoogleDocs, but I found that software was lacking many of the features I needed to make the documents work properly. Using real MS Word & Excel in tandem with DropBox seems to be a better solution. If there's a better way...let me know.

I'm also desperately trying to figure out a way to get all the receipts I get every day off the floors of my trucks and into an archive. My receipts are a mess and half the time I lose them before I file them. I hate paper!

I'm looking into possibly getting a high-speed paperport scanner, but they seem to get mixed reviews. Is anyone using one successfully? What brand?
Greg, I like your thought process. I am working through the same. I am kinda haphazard about it right now...but reading this post has renewed my desire to set an outline to accomplish full cloud integration.

Receipts that I receive - I photo them with my phone and save them to the corresponding job at sync time.

I'm on an iPhone...so some files that I use repeatedly, I store on the phone. The rest are in the mobileMe account or drop box. I create job folders in the cloud that are synced from their twins on my iMac.

Some of my head aches come from having to run PC software for my design pgms, then save and transfer the final product to my mac.

I think I will start with creating a list of:
1. Recurring cross-project documents (templates - i.e. invoices, estimates, codes) kept on phone. It still requires a notebook to complete the data entry on a doc. then a printer. Some of this could be at home with the relevant info being gathered at the first meet and greet. Depends on how each person closes the deal.

2. Current active projects - (scanned - plans, permits, quotes, vendor items) kept sync'd in cloud and 'puter.

3. Future pending - Cloud

4. Completed - removed from cloud except for before and after pics....probably best located on a website.

Just some thoughts....I'm looking forward to hearing your ideas. I really want to get 2010 leaning into the wind. Sounds like you do too.

Take care

Mike
 

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The Deck Guy
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3,126 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Mike,

We are on the same page.

I started using Evernote quite a bit this year, but the BB process of viewing your online docs just stinks as it runs through the default BB browser and is clunky as all get out. Not to mention, I can't really see anything in a pic on my BB anyway. I mostly use it to take a snapshot of checks I am depositing so I have a record of them for entry into Quickbooks when I get home.

Now that I have the Netbook online, I can use the internet out on the road a little more efficiently. I am using my BB for data through tethering. It works great, but 3g is not that great via tether compared to good old WiFi.

Administration becomes an issue with any/all of this. We are now creating a LOT of new data daily and you have to make it a point to sort and organize it daily or else you have a mess.

This is where a VERY good document scanner comes into play. They all will scan anything you put in them, but the software is what makes it or breaks it.

You want to feed in a receipt from HD and have it automatically tag it and file it under "Home Depot" and "Building Supplies". If you have to manually do that, it's a major PITA. All the reviews I have read seem to have shortcomings in this area.

As far as proposals and contracts go, I am in pretty good shape. Last year, I built a killer spreadsheet with a database for deck estimating which lets me estimate a standard deck in about 10 minutes provided I have plans or I don't have to design the framing in my head.

I just revamped my standard remodeling estimating spreadsheet during the conversion into the cloud, but the problem with remodeling is that nothing is ever the same or repeatable (with deck building, it is). I don't think I am going to put the lookup database functionality into that spreadsheet because it's not really worth it considering the uniqueness.

One other issue with all these commonly used documents is version control. Inevitably, you create a document on day one that works. Then, next week, you are using it as a template for another job and you add or change something going forward. This is a HUGE PITA for me as the opportunity for errors becomes enormous.

For instance, I have a pretty standard deck proposal, but even that gets customized for every job every time. Take out a line, add a line, put in a clause, customize this, whatever. The problem I've run across is that I usually start my newest proposal by opening the last proposal I did that was similar and do a "save as". That similar proposal may have been MONTHS ago and in that time, I've added things into the document that should be there but weren't present when I wrote the initial one. Catch my drift.

The only option I can think of is to create a "Master Template" proposal that has every line item I'd ever want/need (or as many as I can think of) and then just open that and delete out the inapplicable lines or customize them and save THAT as the job proposal. Seems like a horror show to me though. Any ideas on how to do this efficiently?
 

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Greg, check with your accountant, you shouldn't have to keep hard receipts for anything you paid with by Credit Card. I always argue that's easy to accumulate wonky receipts. When I return $500 worth of material, do they take my original receipt away? No, but it does show a credit on my bank statement.

I use a Macbook 14. Have used Macs for 20 years.

I use Billable for Invoicing, and Illustrator, (kicking it o'school) for preparing proposals and then everything is PDF'd.

I have tried to find an integrated, estimating/invoicing program, but haven't found one I like. Billable is crazy easy to use though.

Also, I don't know if you have this in the U.S., but up hear anyone can transfer money from their bank accounts to you with e-mail. It's very easy to do.
 

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The Deck Guy
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3,126 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Greg, check with your accountant, you shouldn't have to keep hard receipts for anything you paid with by Credit Card. I always argue that's easy to accumulate wonky receipts. When I return $500 worth of material, do they take my original receipt away? No, but it does show a credit on my bank statement.
I use my debit card for 99% of everything which is why I really haven't been giving two shlts about saving and organizing receipts. The digital trail is all right there. I honestly don't know why anyone even bothers with receipts any more.
 

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For instance, I have a pretty standard deck proposal, but even that gets customized for every job every time. Take out a line, add a line, put in a clause, customize this, whatever. The problem I've run across is that I usually start my newest proposal by opening the last proposal I did that was similar and do a "save as". That similar proposal may have been MONTHS ago and in that time, I've added things into the document that should be there but weren't present when I wrote the initial one. Catch my drift.
That's exactly what I do, and run into the same problems. If you are more tech savvy than I, try Express Invoice. It's free for Mac users. I found it a little clunky, but it will do Quotes and changes. Maybe you've already tried it, dunno. I though the templates were a little ugly though.
 

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The Deck Guy
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3,126 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I can't really use accounting software to create the proposals I use to present with. My proposals are report-like documents averaging 8 pages or so. They are not like a QB estimate form at all so I'm forced to use a text editing program for them rather than accounting software.
 

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Greg.
For the scanning software I ran across this http://www.papersaveplus.com/ on the web, I don't use it, I use Paperport and a visioneer RoadWarrior scanner Paperport is great except I can't get it to print to QB's like the papersaver will.

My scanner is slow and I'm looking at the Fujitsu Scansnap it seem to be the best.
Are you looking to cloud based accounting program also?
Bill
 

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The Deck Guy
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3,126 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Greg.
For the scanning software I ran across this http://www.papersaveplus.com/ on the web, I don't use it, I use Paperport and a visioneer RoadWarrior scanner Paperport is great except I can't get it to print to QB's like the papersaver will.

My scanner is slow and I'm looking at the Fujitsu Scansnap it seem to be the best.
Are you looking to cloud based accounting program also?
Bill
The Fujitsu's seem to be the best going. I have to see if their software is as good as the hardware.

Funny you mentioned cloud-based accounting.

I wanted to go full cloud, so I contacted Intuit about moving to their online QB version. The conversation ended when they told me I'd be looking at $400+ PER YEAR PER COMPANY (I have three) to use the system. Frankly, I hate Intuit and think they are criminals, but I have not been able to find an alternative software solution to QB, so I stuck with it.

In lieu of using the QB Online system, I'm making my own and it works just as well and probably BETTER than their system.

Step 1) Buy QB2010 Contractor version for $250
Step 2) Install QB2010 on a beater computer (or I may just build a new thin client type Athlon box) with no monitor.
Step 3) Install DropBox Plug-in for QB data file(s)
Step 4) Install LogMeIn client for remote access to the box from ANY web browser

I have been using LogMeIn to access my current QB app for over a year now since the video card went on the computer it is installed on.

I can do ANYTHING from within the browser that I could do if I was physically sitting at the machine. Best part is that I am splitting this cost with a buddy of mine since we will share RA to the box and QB since QB lets you password protect the company files (and I trust him) it's not an issue.

That's how I am handling accounting and the cloud.
 

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Why do you use a beater computer? is it to keep all of the conflicting files in one place? and do the new files sync to dropbox and your netbook?
 

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The Deck Guy
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Why do you use a beater computer? is it to keep all of the conflicting files in one place? and do the new files sync to dropbox and your netbook?
I am installing it on a beater box only so that it can be up and online 24-7 because I have multiple users RAing to the box at any given time.

Installing QB on my Netbook would severely limit access by others, and quite frankly, I don't want to bog down my Netbook with that POS bloaty application.

I will also set up the document scanner to this box as well so it can process scanned PDFs in the background.

It looks like THE scanner to get is the Fujitsu 1500. It's $450, but it appears to be flawless in both hardware and software.
 

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MyOnlineToolbox cofounder
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1,074 Posts
paperless and mobile are the ways to go

So glad to see you guys talking about this since this is exactly why I created www.MyOnlineToolbox.com. I would like for everyone to even turn it up a notch when it comes to strategizing for 2010 and beyond. Sure, paperless is a good goal but you also have to be as mobile as possible so your business application should be web-based where you can access it from home, the office, at your customer's house or while taking a coffee break at a Dunkin Doughnuts. Also, going paperless implies that you will have to be better at collaborating (sharing) your information with others which impliess your subcontractors and your customers should all be connected with you. Wishing you all a successful 2010 ... you are definetely thinking correctly to compete. Happy New Years all! Brian
 

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I'm on a boat!
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3,178 Posts
Good Thread

I like what keeping everything on the cloud provides, but there are some applications that I run that can't be done on the cloud. I just began using Smartcontractor estimating and PM software. However, once a document is created (estimate, purchase order, invoice, change order, etc...) it gets uploaded to the proper client folder in google docs.

I agree that accessing docs on a phone is cumbersome, almost not worth the effort. I've began taking my laptop around with me with a 3G/4G card from clear wireless.
 

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I'm on a boat!
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3,178 Posts
I also use basecamp project management software (online) for managing projects. I give my clients and lead carpenters (who also have laptops in the field) access to the project and delegate tasks accordingly. Contract documents are uploaded to basecamp as well. There are some to-do lists that we keep private (running punch lists) and there are others that the client has access to and can comment on. If comments are made, all parties are emailed so everyone is kept in the loop.

One other item that I'm messing with is from echosign. You upload a contract (or select a google doc), add email addresses, put where each party has to sign, and it will email them and me and allow us to sign contracts digitally. Once signed, it emails the signed copy to both parties. Good for change orders too.
 

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Greg,

Try FreshBooks or Sage Billing Boss for your accounting and plug-in any mash-ups you think would help. For one or limited user companies, it is free.

For the job description template, I use one main master template with ALL of the phrases and add hand-written versions or highlighted adaptations to it through-out the year and see if I implement them into the master script at each update time.

Yeah, it is a long scriptwith everything on there, but it is easy to delete unneeded lines and make totally custom tailored to each new prospective client.

Ed
 

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Web Dude
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153 Posts
A little off topic, but I just bought an Amazon Kindle, so now even my paperbacks are paperless. :)

On topic though, I'm completely paperless except for thank you cards and referral thank you gifts. That's just good manners.
 

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Mark
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252 Posts
LogMeIn and Quickbooks

Greg ... I second the LogMeIn / Quickbooks scenario. I have been using it this way for almost 2 years. Occasionally I run into situations where my wifi internet connection speed makes working remotely frustrating but it's worth the savings. Our QB data file is on our small business server, when I leave with my laptop the data is still accessible remotely.

My 60-something father-in-law who refuses to learn anything to do with a computer can fax me a document to my TrustFax account that has a 866-number associated with it. He has sent our weekly timesheets while I was away, I then logged into QB via LogMeIn entered the time into QB called and told him how many checks to put in the printer and ran payroll from another state.

I handle our construction business mostly from our office, but I have a seperate business I run predominantly from home. Being able to "log in" remotely has been invaluable.

Greg ... how are you using DropBox and Quickbooks?
 
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