August 31, 2005

Not Always an Early Adopter

As someone who runs a technology startup company, I find that sometimes technology sucks, and it's better to avoid some snazzy technical solution and stick with something tried and true. If your time is precious, you go with what works and what takes the least amount of time.

For instance, for me, I cannot stand paying bills online. Often, the online solution requires Microsoft Internet Explorer, which I refuse to use. Or, it won't support any Macintosh browsers at all.

I don't want an online solution from the utility companies or employee benefits companies or financial services companies or other services that my company is a customer of. I want a bill to arrive in the mail. I'll sign a physical check, pop it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it. The paper-based system works for me, but if for some reason it breaks (very, very rarely in my experience), I have a nice paper trail and it's straightforward to resolve the problem. Some companies are trying to force you to use their online "solution", and make you go out of your way to request the "paper" way. At some point they're gonna cut off the paper way, and I will not be a happy camper.

I've found bill-paying user experiences for phone companies, banks, ISPs, etc., to be wildly uneven, sometimes very unreliable or slow, or they crash with Microsoft SQL Server errors spewing out on screen. These sites are generally a pain to deal with. My company's bank offers automated bill paying. In theory I could have it pay the rent, the phone bill, all the usual stuff. In theory it would save me a lot of time. No way am I gonna ever use it. I just don't want the hassle when it breaks, and I am not informed. I have a certainty that that would happen, and I'd be stuck.

Bottom line: on average, it takes me more time to deal with an automated solution day after day than it does a paper-based one.

I think part of my reluctance to go completely online with bill paying has to do with when you're running a startup, you need to be very aware of how much money you're spending. My system makes me extremely aware: I write all the checks, I put the stamps on the evelopes, I walk down to the mailbox and mail the payments. If I go online, it's all out of sight, out of mind, and there's no physical, tangible reality to the spending.

I vote for sticking to something tangible, a paper-based routine, with Excel spreadsheets and file folders to keep records. It works for me.

What works for you? Posted by brian at August 31, 2005 06:46 PM


You mort :-)

Posted by: Paul at September 1, 2005 10:36 AM

Ashamed to say it, but I'm running virtual PC solely so I can use Quickbooks Online on the Mac. A single web app operating system?

Posted by: Ross Mayfield at September 1, 2005 11:27 AM

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