In 2019, businesses across the globe sent an estimated 550 billion invoices. And according to a recent e-invoicing report, only 10% of those were paperless.
While one in four adults in the United States have a smart speaker device in their home that can tell jokes and turn on the living room light, the digital revolution has been slow to reach things like mail, checks, and invoicing.
They’re one of the last places where data is still trapped on a physical medium — and thus an area that has significant room for increased efficiencies. For many businesses, that digital efficiency leads to improved productivity. In a 2019 working paper from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, researchers found “robust evidence” that digital adoption is associated with productivity gains.
The Productivity Race
In the last decade, the productivity market has exploded with books, podcasts, and youtube channels dedicated to helping individuals and businesses become more productive. We’re all trying to get ahead and recognizing that, particularly for businesses, the ones who figure out productivity first will come out on top.
They’ll have the efficiency and focus to nail their essential product, to get to market faster, to provide more personal customer service.
So what does it take to win the productivity race?
Three things: specialization, automation, and partnership.
Specialization increases efficiency
Thousands of productivity books have topped the charts in the last 10 years. Three of them focus on one central concept: don’t dilute your effectiveness by doing too many things, especially if they’re not your area of expertise.
In The Big Leap, Gary Hendricks calls it your “zone of genius,” that area where you’re not only skilled and inspired but where you can excel beyond all others. Greg McKeown, in Essentialism, and Gary Keller and Jay Papason, in The One Thing, recommends eliminating the things in your life (and business) that are not absolutely essential to your primary purpose.
All three books are New York Times bestsellers — for good reason. Specialization works.
Companies that do what they’re good at and outsource the rest achieve faster growth because they’re not wasting time being inefficient at something that’s not in their zone of genius. They have more time and energy to focus on their core offering.
For instance, at Earth Class Mail, we’re way more efficient at handling mail than any small business could ever be. Mail is what we do. We know how to open and scan it efficiently. We know how to recycle and shred it securely.
Compare our processes to those of a small business. Maybe the mail piles up on someone’s desk. A check gets stuck between two pieces of paper and thrown away. The person who opens the mail is out sick, and a letter doesn’t get to its recipient on time so they miss an important deadline.
Even if everything goes smoothly, someone spends significant time on manual tasks when they could be thinking about growing their core business instead.
Automation drives innovation
Every business has projects on a “someday” list — the tasks that would propel the company forward if anyone could ever get to them. And most businesses also have a list that hasn’t even been made — of projects they can’t conceive of because they simply don’t have the bandwidth to imagine beyond their day-to-day.
This is the power of automation. When businesses can remove manual tasks from their operations infrastructure, they free up both time and creative energy that can be used to come up with innovative solutions.
People thought (and many still think) that sending and receiving mail has to be a physical process, that depositing a check has to involve holding the check in your hand. But through automation, we are challenging the boundaries of what is possible. And we’ve only been able to do that because we’ve had the space to imagine what could be.
Partnerships support growth
When we realized that a large portion of the mail we were processing was invoices, we didn’t decide to build our own accounts receivable platform. We looked to the experts.
We stayed in our zone of genius and partnered with Invoiced so that businesses could benefit from both their expertise and ours. To truly maximize the power of specialization, you have to find the businesses that complement your own. No one is an expert at everything, but through partnership, we have the ability to provide our customers expert-level solutions to many of their business challenges.
Because we have focused on specialization, automation, and partnership, Invoiced and Earth Class Mail customers will be able to accept check payments from their own customers without performing time-wasting manual tasks.
Invoiced customers that have the Earth Class Mail integration will get a virtual address for receiving payments. Earth Class Mail will receive those payments, deposit them on the customer’s behalf, and record that transaction in their Invoiced account — all without any manual steps required by the Invoiced customer.
To the person writing and sending the check, the process looks no different than before.
But they’ve now become part of an efficient, automated, collaborative system — one that will not only provide increased security for their confidential information but will also allow businesses to focus on developing and perfecting the products their customers need.
The companies that come out ahead in the next decade will have three things in common. They’ll lean into their unique areas of expertise. They’ll collaborate with partners that complement their offerings. And they’ll automate tasks so their teams can do the kind of creative, ambitious work that focuses on business growth.