The internet has changed the way businesses communicate with each other in ways we didn’t even think were possible. Business proposals, presentations, contracts can fly back and forth among businesses with the speed of light (well, almost), making it easier for us to communicate with each other through the airwaves. But the huge possibilities of this newly found medium also have the potential to make a mess out of communications, making us waste more time than we though possible. So how can we overcome these issues?
The answer is simple: use universal formats.
When I worked at a computer wholesale company, I was often sending out contracts to my customers, which they needed to print out, fill out with their data and send back to me in an envelope, signed and stamped. It was company policy at that time. I took care of always sending the documents out in a PDF format, which can be read by any device, running any operating system, and look the exact same way due to its embedded fonts (I always took care of this).
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The problem was that I routinely received similar documents from my customers and supplies, but with no such attention to detail. This meant that I often received documents and contracts in Word (from 97 to 365 format), Excel (just the same), ODF (Open Document Format) and even ODT (Open Document Template format), and many others that I can’t even remember. Which made my life miserable.
I spent hours installing all the programs needed to open the variety of file formats I received from all over the world. Although converting a document into a PDF takes seconds, less than the time needed to access the royal vegas mobile on a 4G network, my partners were ignorant or lazy enough to leave the job to me. And I hated them for that.
To be able to easily communicate in writing with your business partners first of all make sure you don’t over-complicate things. If you want to send a simple message, keep it simple – a few lines in a plain text format with a simple email signature will do. No need for anything fancy – no need to create a document with a letterhead, print it, sign and stamp it, scan it, convert it to a PDF and send it as an attachment – if all you have to say is that the order is confirmed. Keep it simple and efficient.
And when it comes to important documents, it is always preferable to print them out, put them in an envelope and send them via courier, no matter the expenses.