Too Much Paperwork? Embrace the Build-It-Yourself Online Form.

Too Much Paperwork? Embrace the Build-It-Yourself Online Form.
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This story appears in the June 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Karen Allbright was worn out from dealing with the details of her professional organizing and personal concierge service, Calm Order. The Calgary, Alberta-based entrepreneur was looking for a smarter way to deal with the minutia of maintaining high-end, live-in-ready homes and offices for her growing global clientele. 

“For anybody who is chronically disorganized or is so busy that they can’t manage all the details, they call us,” says Allbright, who started her business in 2012 and works with six to eight contract employees to help bring sanity to clients’ lives. 

But as the company grew, so did the amount of paperwork her clients and contractors demanded. From invoices to contracts to purchase orders, “I was handling lots and lots of paper and more and more of it every month,” she says.

The fix

Allbright decided that what she needed was a single online form—one that could be updated on any mobile device. She aimed to list every detail for every job and have it automatically share status reports with clients and contractors. “I needed something very easy that I could set up myself,” she says.

In 2013 Allbright began testing interactive form apps such as Adobe FormsCentral and Google Docs. But with San Francisco-based JotForm, she found the right mix of interactive features, mobile support and ease of use. She estimates she spent 15 to 20 hours to create a custom job-management form that would do everything she wanted. 

The results

Allbright’s JotForm solution, which costs her less than $100 per year, easily saves her and her contractors several hours per day. “No more paper,” she says. “Everything that needs to get done gets done with one click.” 

She also believes JotForm has dramatically improved client retention. “I charge a premium for my services,” she says. “When my clients see what I go through to keep everybody up to date, it really seals the deal with them.” 

A second opinion

JotForm and other form builders can be powerful small-business tools, notes Caroline Jarrett, a U.K.-based consultant and online form specialist who owns Effortmark Ltd. But she cautions that using them properly can be tricky. “Not just small firms, but all firms make the mistake of believing that because they have been using a form for a while, that means it’s a good form,” she says.

Jarrett, like many experts, believes that automated form builders, while convenient, may not solve problems in the best possible way. “These tools make it relatively easy to reproduce the form you currently have,” she says. “They don’t help you figure out if that is the form you ought to have.” 

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