Ask and ye shall save time, money and the environment.

Last week was Financial Report Week here at DTE (it’s kind of like ‘Shark Week’ on the Discovery Channel, but the role of the sharks are played by accountants and the scuba divers are played by us . . . but with no cages).

Here’s what happens:

During FRW, we lock up another 4-Week Cycle in Quickbooks and the sharks/accountants audit the e-books.  A couple of weeks later a big fat manila envelope filled with five-page certified accounting statements arrives on my desk.

There are enough reports in that envelope for all my investors (and on some shows, that can be a lot), and a few for our files as well.

Each report gets dropped in another manila envelope, gets a personal letter from myself and gets sent out via the USPS to all of the investors for their files.

It’s a time consuming process that costs the shows cash, and kills some trees.

During the process last week one of my Assistants spoke up as she was sealing an envelope . . . “Hey Ken, why don’t we email PDFs of these to all the investors instead of mailing them?”

“Because . . . ummmm . . . because . . . ”

And then my office proceeded to get into a 15 minute debate about why.  Maybe it was a legal requirement that accounting statements be mailed.  Maybe the investors needed “originals”.  Maybe . . . maybe . . .

And then Ryan Lympus, my super-smart Altar Boyz Company Manager, said, “Maybe we should stop wondering and just ask the question.”

He zipped off an email to my accountants, and 4 minutes later had an answer.

That answer?

There was no reason to mail them. It was just the way people had done it, so they were continuing to do it.  Our accountant then said that he would happily send all of our future statements via PDF and we could email them to all of our clients, and I’d attach a personalized email from me.

And in that 15 minutes, with those 2 questions, my Assistant and Company Manager hit a savings trifecta: time, dollars, and trees.

How?  They asked a question.  A simple one.  And one that needed to be asked, but that no one had.

That made me think . . .

Why is it so hard for all of us to ask a question, when the answer can make things so much easier?

If you’re on a show, have your financial reports emailed.  There’s just no reason not to.

And if you’ve got any question, just ask. Don’t even bother raising your hand.

I promise a shark won’t bite your head off if you do.

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  • This is likely because I’m in my last day of studying for my CISSP (Certified Information System Security Professional) exam, but I can think of one reason for the paper: so that there is better proof that they came from you (paper is harder to tamper with, especially large reports that would have to be scanned and reprinted, especially on things with signatures). Thus, if you are going to be distributing PDFs, you might want to ensure they are digitially signed (Acrobat provides that ability), and you might set the security permissions to prevent modification. Lastly, if these reports are not something that could be posted on the Internet (i.e., public information), you might consider encrypting the PDF and distributing the password via an out-of-band mechanism.
    Of course, you might also consider having a authenticated, protected area of your site for the investors, from which they could download the signed reports via HTTPS. That would also eliminate bulk email, and provide you with confirmation that your investors have actually retrieved the report.
    Just my 2c, from someone with security on the brain 🙂

  • Tom Atkins says:

    Good advice on the use of email for ease, and about security above. But I think there may also be a step missed in the question asking. It’s great that your accountant says it’s not a problem to PDF everything. But what do your investors want to receive? Has anyone asked them?
    I suspect that some will say that they still enjoy the postal mailing (I know I certainly get more satisfaction in receiving hard copy correspondence than email now), but also some will prefer email which is great. It would actually be really interesting to see who likes what, their reasons for that, and match that result up with their ages – some little internal market research. I believe there’s a generation who are still suspicious of email, as well as a new generation who get so much email – and so little post – that they would quite like something in their hands with a stamp on it. Almost regardless of the content.
    As you say, “Why is it so hard for all of us to ask a question, when the answer can make things so much easier?”. It’s just important to make sure that you ask the people the answer is going to have an effect on. Particularly the investors who you are dependent on for staying with you and backing the next show.
    This way, you become even more personal with your investors – giving them the option of post or email – but you are still likely to be able to cut down on some time and cost in the process anyway. If you still want to further reduce costs, then you can start to wean your post-preferred investors off that and on to email at their own pace. Happy people all round and no one left feeling unloved.

  • I’m one of those people who receives the AB statements and many others and I think it is genius to send them via email. Bravo, Ryan and Ken!

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