The Simple Way This Super-Efficient Florist Saved Itself Even More Time

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Farmgirl Flowers is designed for minimal fuss. It offers just one floral arrangement per day -- as opposed to, say, selling single roses or carnations -- which keeps flower waste at less than 1 percent, rather than the industry norm of 40 percent. And founder Christina Stembel handles, well, almost everything. “The C-suite -- that’s all me,” she says. “I’m the CEO, the COO and the CIO here, managing an $11 million operation, so time is precious.” That’s why, as she’s been working to grow her 6-year-old San Francisco-based company, she wanted to escape time-consuming paperwork. Her 77 employees’ benefits forms had to be filled out by hand, and vendor agreements were sent back and forth with messengers. Isn’t there a better way?

The Fix

In 2014, Stembel began using DocuSign, a cloud-based platform that makes online forms easier to use than paper. You can fill out and sign a contract without ever printing it out, and then send it to whoever needs it -- making transactions so fast that 84 percent are completed within a day, and 62 percent wrap in less than an hour. The system saves and organizes your files, and works with software platforms from the likes of Salesforce, NetSuite, Google, Apple and Microsoft. The vast majority of its users are small to medium-size businesses, says DocuSign founder Tom Gonser, because “there’s no investment in software and very little setup involved.”

The Results

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“It is so worth it,” Stembel says of DocuSign. She figures having a digital service for filling out and processing employee hiring and benefits forms, and for signing legal documents and executing transactions with vendors, saves her at least 10 hours a month, all for a fee of less than $50 a month. (Monthly fees start at $10.) Stembel has also eliminated hours spent “sifting through bank boxes full of paperwork,” and now she doesn’t have to worry about losing any of those important documents. And the DocuSign mobile app allows her to sign contracts “while on the farm” meeting with growers.

Read This: Start Your Own Florist Shop and Other Floral Businesses by Entrepreneur Press and Cheryl Kimball | Amazon | | Barnes & Noble

A Second Opinion

Some transactions still need to be done by paper, either by law or because you’re dealing with an old-school partner. But digital signatures and PDF-only documents are now widely accepted in business, and companies that still print, sign and scan (or fax!) are officially behind the times, says Andrew Hoang, managing director of Pivotal Consulting in Seattle. He prefers DocuSign to its main competitor, Adobe Sign, because the former has more robust features. The service “is secure, and it’s not going to cost you a lot or require any new hardware or training. It’s a no-brainer.”