Case Study: How One Easy Change Helped Everbuild Construction Gain More Hours in the Day

Case Study: How One Easy Change Helped Everbuild Construction Gain More Hours in the Day

Construction Case Study Quick Facts

    • Company: Everbuild
    • Years in business: Five
    • Location: Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
    • Company size: 10-person team with 3 crew leaders
    • Industry: Construction
    • Time saved with Hubstaff: 1-2 hours every two weeks

Company overview

Everbuild founder Grayson Whitted grew up around construction. At age 14, he started learning the trade — tiling, carpentry, flooring, and drywall — as he worked part-time for his father who owned Aslan Interiors.

Since then, after graduating college and starting his own company, Grayson is joining with other professionals to form Everbuild: an end-to-end residential builder in the Lehigh Valley area.

And they have big plans for the future.

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A vision to change perceptions and grow the business

Business situation

Grayson Whitted, founder of Everbuild

As Everbuild came together, Grayson created a vision for the company: to stand out by taking care of customers, and earning a reputation for a quality experience.

That meant maintaining a clean and professional workspace, giving clients a custom, personal product, and always being on time.

“There’s a stereotype about contractors not being organized, or being messy and late, and there’s a lot of stress that comes with it,” Grayson explained.

Working to better serve customers — and change the perception of contractors — has a direct benefit to Everbuild’s business.

“Referrals count for about 70% of our work,” Grayson said. “Taking care of customer is one of the most important aspects of residential modeling because people talk. So, if they are excited about you, they’re going to share that with their friends.”

Everbuild’s vision of a customer-centric business is part of its growth plan, as 70% of company revenue comes out from referrals.

When you grow, so do the operational headaches

Challenge

As Grayson grew the company from three to six to ten people over the years, the operational headaches became unavoidable. The administrative tasks of managing schedules and communication to tracking crew members and recording hours was too much.

To put it simply, the way Grayson was tracking his crew and their time was not scalable.

“I would have a mental list in my head of where people were,” Grayson said. “But since everybody handed in time cards individually, there wasn’t one streamlined way to track hours.”

Grayson resorted to any means necessary to get hours in for his crew. “Honestly, sometimes it was a text message. Sometimes it was an email. They say who they’re with and how many hours, and I make sure they match up.”

Time card accuracy quickly became a concern. “If Andrew says he worked eight hours with Sam, and Sam says he worked seven hours with Andrew, that’s where I’d have stop and say okay, there’s an hour missing. Let’s figure this out.”

Once the hours looked right, Grayson would enter them into a spreadsheet. “There was human error on both sides. People trying to remember their hours and me trying to figure it out if they were accurate.”

everbuild construction logo

The time spent managing this process, the mental work of remembering where his crew is, and the risk of inaccuracy all led Grayson to explore time tracking solutions.

 

Construction time tracking software to the rescue

Solution

Having worked in the industry for awhile, Grayson knew there was a better, more efficient way to run his business.

“I had seen the benefits of time tracking as an employee at a previous company, so I started looking for time tracking apps for contractors.”

After initial research and trying out a few different tools, Grayson decided to move forward with Hubstaff.

Why Hubstaff for construction timecards? Three reasons.

  1. The comprehensive 14-day free trial
  2. The user interface (UI) – “I especially loved the sidebar.”
  3. The timesheet reports and scheduling features

These were the features that initially caught Grayson’s attention. However, the real benefit became clear once he started tracking his crew’s time.

“When I sat down to deal with time cards, I saw everything was already in the Hubstaff dashboard. I was like, ‘Oh! Everything’s already imported’,” he said. “That’s huge because I can track each project, and see how much money I’m losing or making at any point based on labor.”

screenshot of hubstaff dashboard

The crews prefer Hubstaff over text messages, too

Sometimes, it’s a challenge to get a crew on board with a new process. But when it’s simple enough to use, they might end up preferring it. That was the case for Everbuild.

“It’s definitely a lot less stressful for them than manual time cards,” Grayson said. “To be able to clock in and kind of forget about it until the end of the day? It’s just one less thing to worry about.”

Better forecasting for the future, less wasted time

Results

Of course, with Hubstaff, Grayson saved time by not having to track down hours. But he founded an added benefit: he could also reduce the time spent manually reviewing profitability at the end of a project.

“Before Hubstaff, I would create a spreadsheet to see how much I paid my crew, where we’re at with budget and pricing. It could take me well over an hour for a single job,” Grayson said.

Using Hubstaff, it’s instant. Grayson just looks at the dashboard or project page, and sees if work is staying on time and on budget. A clear view into projects and crews allows Grayson to spot issues before they arise, and then address them with clients if needed.

With Hubstaff, Grayson can see a project’s profitability in real time, instead of manually calculated at the end of each project.

“Sure, time spent in the office has been cut down. But being able to look out the front windshield with reports? That has changed the company. I can manage my crews based on how profitable we are on a particular job at any time.”

Hubstaff offers robust reports that allows owners and managers to see:

  • Weekly timesheets – Time worked by team member or project
  • Attendance – Late, missed, or abandoned shifts
  • Payments – How much was spent on labor at each job
  • Budget – How much of a project’s budget is used, and what’s still available
  • Invoices – Paid, open, and aging invoices

The cost-benefit factor

Business owners tend to be rightfully cautious about how they spend their operations budget. But for Everbuild, Hubstaff’s ROI was clear right away.

“If I value my own time at $50/hour, and if Hubstaff saves me at least an hour a month, that already pays for it,” Grayson said.

Benefits for the crew

“Tracking a project as it happens is also a way to motivate crews to get jobs done faster. We’ll say, ‘Hey, you’re getting this done way ahead of schedule, and there’s a bonus at the end if we can keep this up’.”

Everbuild construction team

A better customer experience by focusing on what Everbuild does best

Customer success

With time tracking, profitability monitoring, and payments streamlined through Hubstaff, Everbuild can dedicate more time to delivering top notch customer service and building premium products.

“I cannot tell you how many times people will be like, ‘Oh, we’re so thankful you showed up on time. You were trustworthy and honest, you didn’t hide unforeseen issues,” Grayson explained. “That has been huge. Being able to do that, plus the time it saves. It’s been awesome.”

See for yourself.

Try Hubstaff free for 14 days, and discover how it can help you reduce operational headaches and pay for itself.

The Best Tools for Video Conferencing in 2019

The Best Tools for Video Conferencing in 2019

We get it. Meetings are hard enough when you’re all in the same room, let alone when you’re distributed across the globe. It can be a challenge to facilitate the same level of collaboration and communication with virtual meetings. 

But with the help of powerful video conferencing tools, it’s not impossible.

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Types of video conferencing solutions

When talking about video conferencing, webcams, laptops, and conferencing software are the first things that come to mind. However, desktop apps are only one of multiple types of video conferencing tools.

Desktop conferencing solutions

Desktop apps are so popular because nearly everyone owns — or is at least knowledgeable enough to operate — a computer. All the necessary features are included in one software package, and the program handles everything for you.

Desktop solutions make it possible to attend meetings virtually anywhere, as long as you have a reliable Internet connection. They’re especially useful for distributed teams and solo freelancers.

Telepresence systems

As the name implies, telepresence systems are designed to give the impression that everyone is in the same room, despite not actually being physically present in a single location.

Telepresence system setups use multiple displays, usually one for each participant. They’re set up next to each other to make it appear as if the participants are sitting together around the same conference table.

Room-based conferencing

Compared to the previous conferencing setups, room-based conferencing is more suitable for teams in one workspace. Essential equipment like projectors, displays, and speakers are installed in one conference room for smooth presentations with high-definition video and audio output.

What’s more, it’s possible to connect with other meeting rooms with the same setup. Room-based conferencing is ideal for large corporations with teams spread across several offices.

Among all those categories, only desktop apps don’t require precise hardware installations to function properly. This means that if you have a computer, or at least a smart device, you can jump in and start conducting meetings right away.

Here are the top five video conferencing software platforms you should be using to make your online meetings more productive and engaging.

Zoom

Zoom

Zoom has several features built around its superb video capabilities. Its wide range of functionalities and services make it useful not only for remote teams, but also for office teams.

One of Zoom’s main services, Meetings, has neat features like HD video, audio detection, and remote screen control. Zoom also has direct and group messaging as well as screen sharing, making it a good collaboration tool.

All in all, Zoom has a strong set of features that make it a solid video conferencing solution, no matter which industry you’re working in or whatever the size of your team is.

Zoom vs. Skype — how do they compare?

Zoom is not the only software of its kind. There are other tools with good video conferencing services that are often compared to it. In fact, Zoom vs. Skype is one of the most popular comparisons in the software world.

Zoom and Skype have the same core features, and they’re two of the best conferencing tools out there. Skype has been around longer, but Zoom has made significant upgrades over the years and has established itself as a top competitor in its category.

In terms of sheer user count, Skype has the edge, primarily because it was released many years before Zoom. But when comparing each app’s respective features — and how well these features are implemented — Zoom can easily go toe-to-toe with its competitor.

At a glance, both apps have roughly the exact same features:

  • HD video and audio support
  • Instant messaging between individuals or groups
  • Phone calls for non-platform users
  • Screen sharing on both desktops and mobile devices

But Zoom has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that give it an edge over Skype when it comes to video conferencing capabilities.

In Zoom, you can create breakout sessions. These are smaller meetings created within larger meetings that allow you and your colleagues to discuss tasks that don’t involve the rest of the team so you’re not wasting anybody’s time.

Zoom also provides a more immersive conferencing experience. With Zoom, you can control who can speak and who the display is focused on. Any meeting participant can use the “Raise Hand” feature if they have something to add to the discussion.

In short, Skype is a good choice if you’re looking for a single platform to manage team-wide communications and one-to-one video calls. But if you’re looking for a video conferencing solution that can provide you with the best experience, Zoom is the way to go.

Pricing

Both Zoom and Skype have flexible paid options, but Zoom’s pricing plans are more straightforward:

  • Basic – Host up to 100 participants with a 40-minute limit on group meetings. Free to use.
  • Pro – All Basic features, 24-hour meeting duration, user management, and reporting. $14.99/month/host.
  • Business – All Pro features, admin dashboard, company branding, and custom emails. $19.99/month/host with a minimum requirement of 10 hosts.
  • Enterprise – All Business features, host up to 1000 participants, unlimited cloud storage, and executive business reviews. $19.99/month/host with a minimum requirement of 50 hosts.

Skype for Business, on the other hand, is automatically included in Microsoft Office 365 Business plans. If you’re already using the suite, you’re good to go. But if you aren’t, you can’t purchase a subscription for Skype alone.

  • Office 365 Business – $8.25/user/month (annual option)
  • Office 365 Business Premium – $12.50/user/month (annual option)
  • Office 365 Business Essentials – $5.00/user/month (annual option)

Skype for Business in included in any Office 365 Business plan.

G Suite Hangouts Meet – Google video conferencing

G Suite Hangouts Meet

Meet is Google Hangouts’ video conferencing service. Setting up meetings with it is easy—all you need to do is share the meeting URL with your team just like any Google document, and they can quickly join by opening the link.

Hangouts Meet has iOS and Android apps, so you can join meetings even without a laptop. What’s more, it also supports dialing in numbers so anyone can join if an Internet connection isn’t available.

Pricing

Hangouts Meet is included in Google’s G Suite, which has three pricing plans:

  • Basic – $6/user/month
  • Business – $12/user/month
  • Enterprise – $25/user/month

ezTalks Meetings

ezTalks Meetings

ezTalks Meetings is a web conferencing software that simplifies online business meetings. You can start meetings on the fly, or use its scheduled meetings feature so you can include participants in advance and they’ll automatically be added to the meeting once it starts.

ezTalks allows you to create recurring meeting schedules. You can use these an unlimited number of times so you can save time on creating new meetings and inviting the same people over and over again.

Pricing

  • Starter – Up to 100 participants and unlimited meeting duration. Free to use.
  • Standard – Starter features plus 2 GB of online storage per host and 500 recording online views monthly. $13/month/host.
  • Pro – Unlimited meeting duration, 200 participants, 4 GB online storage per host, and 1000 recording online views monthly. $39/month/host.
  • Business – Unlimited meeting duration, 300 participants, 10 GB online storage per host, and 3000 more recording online views per month. $65/month/host.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is an online meeting software designed to help teams smoothly connect and collaborate. Its extremely friendly user interface allows you to create meetings and invite participants with minimal effort.

GoToMeeting has a unique feature called Smart Meeting Assistant. It automatically transcribes meetings so you can focus on the discussion without worrying about taking notes. You can revisit the script afterward to make sure that you didn’t miss anything.

Pricing

GoToMeeting has a 14-day free trial, and four paid pricing plans.

  • Starter – 10 participants, unlimited meetings, and business messaging. $18/month.
  • Pro – 150 participants, meeting lock, and transcripts. $36/month.
  • Plus – 250 participants, personal meeting rooms, and InRoom Link. $47/month.
  • Enterprise – Up to 3,000 participants, volume discounts, and onboarding and training. You’ll need to contact their sales team.

Cisco Webex Meetings

Cisco Webex Meetings

Cisco Webex Meetings is an easy-to-use virtual conferencing platform that lets you start meetings with just a few clicks. Webex has all the essential features you’ll need to conduct great meetings, like screen sharing and high-definition video.

Like most leading conferencing tools, Webex is supported on multiple platforms, so you can join meetings from any device of your choice. Hosts can also record meetings so anyone who isn’t able to make it can stay updated.

Pricing

Cisco Webex Meetings has a 30-day free trial. Get in touch with their sales team for pricing information.

How effective are your meetings?

Track your time more accurately and reach peak productivity with Hubstaff

Other tools for virtual meetings

Having the right video conferencing tool for your team will help in making meetings a more pleasant experience. But there are also other types of apps that can enhance the quality of your discussions even more.

Hubstaff Tasks

Hubstaff Tasks

Hubstaff Tasks is a project management solution that uses Kanban boards and Agile methodologies to help teams get things done. It’s designed to streamline collaboration and task management.

A Kanban card represents a task, and the column it is in represents the current project phase. To move a task from one stage to another, all it takes is a quick drag and drop.

Hubstaff Tasks is perfect for screen sharing in video conferences, when you’re providing updates on projects and explaining tasks. You can label tasks, create checklists, and create custom workflows for each project.

Doodle

Doodle aims to eliminate the hassle of scheduling meetings. Teams often waste hours searching through long email threads, checking who’s available and who’s not. Doodle helps makes sure that never happens again.

With a colorful interface and handy features like automatic reminders and time zone detection, scheduling with Doodle is easy. You can check who’s free and who’s busy with just a quick look at the team calendar, and plan meetings without trouble.

SoapBox

SoapBox is a screen recorder and video editing tool that’s easy to install and learn. All you need is a webcam and a Chrome extension, and you can start creating videos.

SoapBox is useful when you can’t find the time for meetings in your schedule, and there are some urgent things you need to discuss. You can record an explainer video ahead of time, share it with your team, and they can carry on with the meeting even if you are unable to join.

What video conferencing tools do you use?

Meetings can be difficult to prepare for, and can be time-consuming for everyone involved. This is why you should make every second count.

Whatever online meeting tool you choose, it should be able to help you engage in a smooth and clear discussion, as well as present to your team in a manner that’s easy to follow. It’s important that everyone is on the same page, and is able to contribute ideas to the meeting if they have any.

What video conferencing solutions do you use for team meetings? Are there any particular features you think every tool should have, or are there any apps that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

This post was originally published in August, 2018. It was updated by the Hubstaff blog team in September, 2019.


Business Goals for Startups: What You Need to Know [With Examples]

Business Goals for Startups: What You Need to Know [With Examples]

In a startup like Hubstaff, there are thousands of things that need to be done, and thousands more after that.

Part of the battle of running a successful business is spending your valuable time on things that matter.

That starts by determining your goals.

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What are business goals?

The easiest definition of a business goal is the main reason why your business exists. What made you start the company?

Answering this is one of the first and most important steps to business growth.

Of course, there are different types of business goals, and understanding them will make it easier for you to identify your true priorities and accomplish them.

Types of business goals

A good understanding of the different kinds of business goals will help you set objectives and create accurate plans.

Goals can be split into two main categories: short-term and long-term business goals.

Long-term goals are what you aim for your business to achieve typically in one year or more. Short-term goals are the ones that help you get there.

Financial goals

For entrepreneurs, establishing financial goals is often the first course of action when creating plans.

This is especially true for small businesses and startups, as cash flow can fluctuate in the first few months or years.

Finances are one of the most reliable metrics that can help you identify how much your business has grown over a specific period of time. Read our guide on business balance sheet.

Human resource goals

Human resource (HR) goals concern everything about your team.

These include how large you need your team to be, the particular specializations your future employees should have, and the training programs you will provide to them.

Brand goals

The first years of a startup are crucial in establishing a unique brand identity.

The products or services that you offer aren’t the only ways to attract clients and potential customers.

Hubstaff, for example, is a time tracker software but is known to be a company that greatly values freedom as a core value at work.

Considering brand goals is one way to further connect with customers through shared values, and grow your business.

Product goals

Product goals aim to help in the development of your products and services, which serve as your primary business driver.

If you are a SaaS company, a good example of a product goal would be having a list of features your software should have after a year or two.

The different type of business goals mentioned above can help you determine which priorities you want to go after. You can use them as a reference for adjustments and future decisions, and they can aid in creating the right strategies for accomplishing your company goals and objectives.

A proven method of prioritizing goals

At Hubstaff, we use the Theory of Constraints for priority management to be able to reach our goals.

The Theory of Constraints is a business priority matrix that seeks to align all tasks towards goals, eventually compounding to successfully achieve a major goal. This can only be achieved with an understanding of current problems and how to resolve them.

Once you have identified your business goals, you can begin to develop the tasks you need to accomplish them. As shown in the graphic below, each of your tasks must be directly correlated to your goals.

Use the Theory of Constraints to Align Business Goals and Daily Tasks
The key to mastering this process is to identify and complete the tasks that align with your major goal. Below is a quick guide on how to identify the correct tasks to focus on, which will help you accomplish your end goal.

How to identify and achieve business goals and objectives with the Theory of Constraints [Examples]

The traditional application of the Theory of Constraints is for factories and businesses that have complex dependencies. However, a simplified version can easily be applied to startups and small businesses.

This business priority matrix can have large benefits for your business when executed correctly.

The key to utilizing the Theory of Constraints is to identify “blockers” in your business and kill them.

If you can do this, then you can increase the output of your business and eliminate factors that aren’t contributing to reaching your goal.

Free bonus: Download Hubstaff’s actual strategy document.

Eliminate Blockers
Correctly identifying blockers is challenging.

To make things easier, we’re going to share with you a quick exercise you can use to identify blockers and build plans of action to kill them. By the end of this article, you should have much more clarity about what steps you should take to identify and accomplish your business goals.

Step 1 – Define your 12-month goal

There’s a lot of advice out there for goal setting, so this article is just going to touch on a few points.

  1. This goal can apply to anything. Your goal can be to hire a team of 7 superstars, get more leads, bring in more revenue, get more customers, lower stress in the workplace, or anything else that will result in business success.
  2. You need to live, breathe and believe your goals. Manifestation is a good practice. This refers to seeing something as true, so your subconscious drives you to do what you need to in order to make it true. For example, if you believe you’re an entrepreneur, you will act like one, and eventually become one. But don’t forget: you must be able to accurately visualize the goal.
  3. Your organization needs to revisit the goal regularly, whether it’s monthly, daily or hourly. You need to be tied to it, and put everything behind it. Drop the tasks that aren’t directly tied to achieving a goal.
  4. Goals must be:
    1. Achievable = Ambition is a powerful driving force, but it works best when combined with being realistic.
    2. Desirable = You need to be sincere about wanting your goals, and willing to dedicate your time and effort to them.
    3. Believable = You must have the confidence that you can and will get there.

Keep these in mind at all times, and you will be able to focus on your goals much easier.

Step 2 – List your blockers

List out all the obstacles that are currently preventing you from reaching your goal. Think of it as a brainstorming session. Although it’s easy to get caught up and carried away in this step, focus on listing things out.

For this post, let’s use Hubstaff as an example. Our goal was to earn $70,000 in monthly recurring revenue in 12 months.

list your blockers

These are the things that are top-of-mind and blocking you from reaching your goal.

The obstacles above are broad strokes that were blocking Hubstaff from hitting our goal of $70,000 MRR.

Let’s look closer at one of the blockers listed above: we are not converting enough trials into paying subscribers. At this point, we were converting approximately 20 percent, which is acceptable, but we can do a lot better.

Step 3 – Convert blockers into their opposites (90-day goals)

The next step is to take each of your obstacles and reverse them into their ideal counterparts.

So, from the example above:

  • Our obstacle – We were not converting enough trials into paying subscribers
  • Its positive version – We have a trial to paid conversion rate of 35 percent (what we’re aiming for)

These positive statements then become your intermediate objectives. You can consider them as 90-day goals. It takes a little longer to reach these, so give yourself some time.

Here’s what our map for Hubstaff looked like at this point (created using Xmind):

Hubstaff Mindmap

Now we’re getting somewhere.

The map will begin to clarify which areas you need to work on. Read these positive statements out loud, and you can see what needs attention in your business.

But we’re not done yet. Let’s dig deeper.

Step 4 – Uncover the 30-day projects

This is where the majority of the work will take place. It will also be where discoveries will be made and benefits will be identified. In this step, we start to hammer out all the possibilities to solve the problem.

In this example, the positive statement was, “We have a trial to paid conversion rate of 35 percent.”

The next step is to brainstorm the various scenarios that need to happen for the positive statements to become true.

Ask yourself, “How can I make this happen?”

In our case, how do we get a 35 percent conversion rate vs. the 20 percent we are currently at? We could do a few things:

  • Call or Skype each trial user
  • Reach out personally via email
  • Confirm that the correct people are signing up for trials in the first place
  • Help their employees get onboarded

Did you notice how this process naturally drags out the answers?

These become your 30-day projects.

Step 5 – Build the task list

In this step, write down all the things that need to happen to accomplish each project. Consider these the action items that you’ll be working on day-to-day.

There’s a chance that you’ll end up with too many tasks in this step, and that’s okay.

It’s valuable to have these steps documented so you can revisit them later. Prioritize your list and make sure the most important tasks get finished.

How the Theory of Constraints paid off for us

When we revisited this article, as expected, we had a completely new set of goals and constraints based on a higher objective.

Here’s what our goals and constraints looked like for 2016.

Goal = 140k MRR by Dec 31, 2016 across all products:

  • Projects (Now called Hubstaff Tasks)
  • Hubstaff

Constraints

  • No one is using Tasks
  • Price per client is low
    • We are only selling 22% of people on the premium features
    • Pricing is only $5
  • Don’t have a scalable system for generating leads
  • Not truly doubling down on what’s working
  • Don’t have A+ blog
  • Only 18% of trials are converting to paid users
    • Not converting enough trials because there are too many steps, it’s a confusing UI, no simple web-based timer, bad funnel emails, getting employees to agree to use it, etc.
  • The product is too “niched”
    • Lacking features like per-project budgets, invoices, attendance, daily email summary, faster integration sync, etc.
  • Top of the funnel isn’t large enough. Need to improve SEO, content marketing, advertising, sales outreach tactics, loyal audiences, etc.

Then, we took those constraints and create a larger system that looks like this:

2016 theory of constraints business goals map hubstaff

As we approached this new set of goals and tasks, we also looked at our process for areas to improve.

In the past, we used to start with the channel, such as “Social Media”, and create projects for each channel. We would have projects for SEO, social, email and so on, but we realized that we ended up creating projects simply because we had the people to do them, not because they would grow the company.

In other words, we created a lot of busy work.

Now, we don’t think about the people or channels up front. Instead, we examine what projects would have the highest impact on the company, then we assign people to the projects.

We use our own agile project management software, Hubstaff Tasks, to prioritize quarterly projects and then assign weekly sprint tasks.

This process ensures that everything rolls up to the highest priority goals and that we’re all doing our part to reach them.

Looking ahead using goals and constraints

While updating this post in 2019, we decided to add some of our most recent milestones so you can see how this approach continue to pay off.

Here are some statistics that showcase the growth we experienced in 2018 — thanks to continuing to look at goals on a quarterly basis.

  • Our MRR grew by 60.4% from 2017 to 2018.
  • It continues to grow steadily and is currently sitting at $440K.
  • Net revenue is at $4.14M, 77.2% higher than the previous year.
  • The average revenue per user is $45.22, which is a 7.7% increase from 2017.
  • 8,672 users are tracking their time with Hubstaff.

Our goals for 2019 and beyond

One of our main focuses for 2019 will be helping our customers work more efficiently by adding new useful features to Hubstaff.

Here’s what we plan to deliver to customers in terms of product goals:

  • Added functionalities to the mobile app such as timesheets, schedules, and reports.
  • Geofencing will be a mobile feature as well, which is useful for field teams that work at different sites.
  • More Hubstaff integrations to streamline your work even further.
  • The full release of Hubstaff Tasks, an agile project management tool that lets you organize tasks and projects. You can seamlessly track the time you spend on each task with Hubstaff.

With all the upcoming functionalities for Hubstaff and Hubstaff Tasks, teams can look forward to a more effective way of getting things done and staying productive.

Free bonus: Download Hubstaff’s actual strategy document.

Useful tools

We use task boards and mind maps to help us organize content and documentation to teams.

  • Hubstaff Tasks – We use this software to keep our tasks organized and track who is doing what. Tasks is a kanban board workflow that integrates with Hubstaff so you can streamline your work further. Its built for agile teams who want to prioritize work in sprints, and accomplish goals faster. Best of all, it’s completely free for teams of up to five people.
  • Xmind – The maps in this post were designed using Xmind. This software is free and has most of the mind mapping tools we need.
  • Mindjet – Mindjet is one of the most useful mind mapping software available, with a well-rounded set of features. However, it’s quite expensive.
  • Google Draw – This is a free web-based flowcharting program. It has less support than Google Docs and Sheets, but should accomplish your flowcharting needs.
  • SmartDraw – This is a desktop-based program, and a good tool for more complex flowcharts.

Tying it all together

The Theory of Constraints is an effective priority management system that can help you accomplish your business goals.

It certainly helped us at Hubstaff.

When priorities change, we can also revisit our mind maps to determine how it should affect our tasks.

This process helps confirm that our daily tasks are perfectly aligned with our business goals, and that alignment is key for our sanity when things are moving a million miles an hour.

We have more peace of mind because we are confident that we have the “what” figured out, which is more than half the battle. Execution is sometimes the easy part. This process has also helped us communicate our goals to the whole company. Everyone knows exactly what the end goal is.

Do you have your own approaches to setting company objectives and goals?

Are there any tools that you use to manage your tasks effectively, or is there anything we missed? We’d like to know in the comments.

This post was originally published February 17, 2015, and updated April 2019. 


How to Find the Right Construction Time Clock System for You [Toolkit]

How to Find the Right Construction Time Clock System for You [Toolkit]

According to ConstructConnect, the U.S. may see nearly a 5% increase in construction spending in 2018. Are you ready for it?

As your schedule fills up, you’ll need to focus more on growing your business instead of managing day-to-day tasks. Especially if some of those routine tasks can be automated.

For a helpful list of software that automates and simplifies construction management, check out our toolkit: the 10 best tools to mitigate risks and successfully manage projects.

Many contractors have already started looking for ways to make team and business management easier. They’re seeking out and implementing new tools so that they’re in a better position to serve more customers.

One time-saving tool you can start using right away? Construction time clock with GPS.

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Why GPS time cards are stress-free solutions for contractors

If there’s one thing that should be easy about running a construction business, it’s tracking time. Really, managing time cards for an entire crew shouldn’t take up any time at all. If you’re using confusing or manual processes to know where and when your crew is working, it’s time to consider a construction time tracking software solution.

Why? First and foremost, because mobile time tracking can help contractors run a more productive, profitable operation. Here’s how.

construction business tool

A construction time clock system saves you time

When you’re managing your own crew, working with subcontractors, and providing top-notch customer service, you don’t have a ton of spare time to spend on administrative tasks. You probably wish some things could be taken off your plate. With time clock software, it can.

Mobile-based timekeeping for construction workers means that clocking in and out is as simple as pressing start and stop in a helpful app. From there, a timesheet is generated that you or a manager can review, and use to pay crews and invoice customers.

There’s no question about accuracy

If your construction time cards aren’t automated, there’s no way to be sure the time reported is completely accurate. When two members of a crew work together all day but report different hours, how do you know which one is right?

With a construction time clock, your work time is accurate down to the second. No rounding up or guessing at time; just check the online timesheets and get an immediate answer.

Add in GPS tracking and geofencing, and your accuracy will reach new heights. Geofence time tracking allows you to set job sites where tracking work hours will start automatically. Or, you can use geofencing in a less automated fashion and get alerts to start or stop tracking instead of having the timer start on its own.

If for some reason a member of your crew forgot to track their time, which is less likely thanks to geofencing, manual time entries can be added after the fact. A manager or owner can then review and approve, or deny.

A better customer service experience

When a worried customer calls to see when the crew will arrive, do you simply open an app? Or do you initiate a series of texts and calls to locate everyone? If it’s the second option, it’s time to try construction time tracking in real time.

You can see if your crew is still working at another location, is on the way, or has yet to clock in for the day. Some time tracking apps even have reminders you can set based on schedules, which reduces the chance of missing a shift. If your crew hasn’t started by the time they’re scheduled to work, they’ll get a reminder on the mobile device they use. Scheduling your construction crew has never been easier.

With the right tools and communication in place, your customer won’t just be thrilled with the outcome of your work. They’ll love how great the process was from start to finish.

GPS time tracking for construction business

GPS time tracking is mobile — like your crew

Instead of having to report back or check in, your crew can keep working and moving as needed. GPS-based time cards can help construction crews by having the clocking in and out process happen behind-the-scenes.

Reminders, as mentioned before, also help crews start on time if they have a set schedule. The same goes for clocking out. Should someone forget to clock out at the end of the day, they’ll get an alert that the day is over. They can either choose to keep working or stop the timer from there.

Analyze and optimize productivity

There’s an even bigger reason to start time tracking than just saving time and increasing timesheet accuracy: optimizing the way your business works.

Without having accurate records of how, when, and where jobs get done, you won’t know where time (and money) is lost. GPS time tracking allows you to see how much time is spent on a job site vs. time spent traveling vs. running other job-related errands.

You can uncover ways to work smarter over time. That also means more accurate estimates and invoices, because you’ll know exactly how much time a job really takes. The ultimate goal? Not leaving money on the table, or overpromising on a timeline. You’ll know with certainty how much time and money a job costs.

Why guess at numbers when you can accurately estimate projects?

What to consider when looking for a construction business software

Implementing a new system can be tough, especially after a crew has worked together for awhile and prefers way the way things are. But, some apps are so easy to use that crews are happy to ditch paper timesheets or calling in.

The key is to make sure the app is simple, that your team is trained on how to use it, and that you or the company you choose is available for questions along the way.

For this reason, choosing a company that offers support or personal demos can make a big difference.

Time card features designed for construction companies

Any good time tracking software allows you to try it out first. Make sure you at least have a two week trial period so you can get a full glimpse of how the product works. Two week trials tend to line up with a pay period so you can try out payroll features, as well.

Here are some of the important features to look for:

  • GPS functionality: can you track location through a mobile app?
  • Geofencing: does the app include automated features that make time tracking more accurate and streamlined for your crew?
  • Flexibility: does it allow you to use it in a way that’s most helpful for you? Or is the app too rigid?
  • Automation: does the time track get compiled in a useful report or timesheet? Can you connect it to other tools you use for billing or invoicing?
  • Scheduling: can you schedule your team through the software, and does it connect to time tracking?
  • Ease of use: will your team be able to use it on their mobile device and find it valuable?

Here are some red flags to avoid:

  • Anything with too much setup time
    • Overly complicated mobile apps can add more headaches for your team
  • Clunky or messy processes
    • Make sure you’re not taking on more responsibilities as the whole point is for your time tracking software to make life easier

construction business software solutions

Why Hubstaff makes a great construction business tool

For all these reasons and more, Hubstaff’s GPS time tracking works for construction crews and managers alike. It has the simplicity that teams love, with the reporting and integration capability that make managers and owners’ work easier.

Here are all the ways Hubstaff can help construction companies streamline processes and grow the way they want to.

  1. Set project budgets – Set a limit for total cost, total hours, bill rate or pay rate. Once your team or a project approaches any of the limits you’ve set, you’ll get notified. You can then either increase the hours or budget, consider bringing on more team members, or assess the status of the project and talk to the customer.No need to keep checking in on budgets, Hubstaff keeps an eye on it for you.
  2. Geofencing — Add any relevant job sites to Hubstaff, and set time tracking to start as a team member arrives. You can also get reminders to start or stop tracking time instead of automatically starting and stopping the timer upon arrival or departure. It’s an even easier way to track time and location for each person on your team, which you can then look at through in-depth reports.
  3. Payroll – For hourly crews, the ability to automate payroll is a huge time saver. You can set bill rate or pay rate for each person involved in a project. As they track time, you can either review weekly or set up payments based on hours worked. Pay rates can also vary by project, too.
  4. Timesheets – Once your crew has tracked time to projects or tasks via the mobile app, you can review through one comprehensive dashboard. Offline time tracking is permitted so a crew doesn’t need a wireless connection — which is great for job sites.
  5. Schedules – Schedule shifts for your crew based on days and times. Both you and the crew member will get alerts when shifts are started late, left early or missed altogether. Catching it right away can prevent lost time. As an owner, you can review reports on schedules and attendance for your entire time or individuals.
  6. In-depth reporting – Better understand profitability and productivity with Hubstaff’s reporting features. You can dive into reports for your business based on time tracked, locations visited, invoices sent and received, payroll submitted and so on. All of which can be used to make better decisions around staffing, estimating, timelines and more.

Best of all, Hubstaff is free for 14 days so you’ll get a complete picture of how it can help your construction business. Ready to get started?

This post was published May 2018, and updated February 2019. 


The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Remote Agency

The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Remote Agency

Nine years ago, 99u founder Scott Belsky made the following prediction:

“The advertising agency of the future will consist of account managers, administrative staff, and a tiny leadership team that provides creative direction […] The creative production itself will be distributed to individuals and small teams around the globe who are at the top of their game. The same applies to corporate marketing departments and other creative firms.”

And now, transitioning from an office-based agency to a virtual one isn’t really such a radical move. After all, if you choose to make the switch, you’ll be joining successful companies like Help Scout, Zapier, Buffer, and many more.

If you’re wondering whether your agency should go remote, here’s what you need to consider.

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The ROI of a remote agency team

Virtualizing your workforce has a clear impact on your bottom line. As Buffer discovered, having a completely distributed team is usually much cheaper:

“Large firms see hiring remote workers as a way to save on overhead costs and maintain a healthy bottom line,” says Mashable writer Brian Casel. “On the other hand, small shops and freelancers see the distributed agency model as a viable path to scale up and grow their business without investing too much or incurring debt. For a solo studio owner looking to grow, it’s more practical to partner with or hire remote workers than to invest in an in-house staff.”

The monetary benefits

  • Office space, furniture, and equipment are often the biggest line items in most teams’ budgets, and you’ll get to cross it out.
  • You only have to pay for the hours spent by employees on work-related tasks.
  • Remote workers are less likely to call in sick. This can save you up to $1,800 per employee annually.
  • You can hire people as-needed or on a per-project basis.

Furthermore, if you’re currently based in a city with a higher-than-average cost of living, going remote will allow you to find equally talented employees with lower market salaries. 

For example, a Boston agency might pay a junior developer $50,000. However, if that company went remote, it could hire a junior developer from South Dakota, and pay them $30,000.

Alternatively, you can use the money you’re saving on overhead and other expenses to pay your employees and freelancers more. Paying higher-than-standard rates gives you better chances to hire the best of the best.

“[In the traditional agency] twenty percent of the shop are rock stars and then there’s a tired middle and of course the dead weight. Those are the employees that wish they were somewhere else,” notes Greg Henderson, founder of Red Rocket Connect. “In our virtual firm, everyone self-selected OUT of the cubicle. We have no dead weight, no slackers or coasters—it’s an A-team across the board.”

And don’t forget how much money working remotely saves workers, too. Simply cutting out commuting costs is huge: not only do they not have to pay for gas or public transport, they also save hours each week.

“No one likes commuting, and we value work/life balance quite a bit,” explains Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni, founder and CEO of Balsamiq.

The costs

While going remote generally saves agencies a huge chunk of change, it’s good to be aware of the unique costs as well.

Retreats don’t necessarily have to be extravagant, but having a bonding experience once or twice a year is essential for a healthy distributed team.

Most remote companies also provide their employees with gear, as in a traditional office. Buying your team up-to-date equipment is especially important — they need it to do their job well, and they will greatly appreciate the gesture.

Since too much isolation can make telecommuters miserable, some companies offer coworking budgets to their team members. According to this iDoneThis blog post, others sweeten the deal with subsidized gym memberships, paid sabbaticals, and even maid service.

Save your agency’s time and money with time tracking

Hubstaff does everything from timesheets to payroll

The challenges of remote communication

The way your team collaborates with each other will change dramatically after going remote. If you don’t put a lot of thought and energy into setting up proper team communication processes, your team will struggle to stay in-sync.

Challenge #1: Different time zones

Different time zones

Being able to hire people from around the world is fantastic, but you’ll have to adjust to working with people spread across multiple time zones.

The Zapier marketing team, for example, has people in Bangkok, Maine, Omaha, Nashville, and San Francisco.

Scheduling meetings can be challenging. Plus, employees in opposite time zones rarely get the chance to bond like they would in a traditional office.

The fix: Use apps like Google Calendar and Every Time Zone to make sure you’ve got the right local time. To facilitate socializing between far-apart coworkers, you can set up a weekly bonding call like Help Scout does.

Challenge #2: Nonverbal communication

Since most remote communication happens in chat platforms and via email, miscommunications can crop up more frequently. It’s much harder to read someone’s emotions over IM than when you’re sitting next to them in a meeting.

The fix: Like Todoist, encourage your team to use emojis and GIFs; these can soften potentially harsh-sounding messages and let people show some personality.

For face-to-face communication, you can check out this list of video conferencing solutions.

Challenge #3: Isolated work

Isolated work

Since everyone’s spread out, it’s easy for people to lose track of the common goals and get caught up in their own priorities. For example, one of your engineers might think updating the homepage is the most pressing task, while another is convinced fixing the site’s accessibility issues should be handled before anything else.

The fix: Ask everyone to check in with their teammates at the beginning and end of their work day—if not more often. A project management tool like Hubstaff Tasks is incredibly helpful for collaboration and task organization. managers can see what their reports are working on at all times (down to the URLs and apps they’ve got open!).

But remote communication doesn’t just come with challenges: it also has many pros. First, having employees in multiple time zones means there’s always at least one team member who can respond to a crisis. Many remote marketing agencies, for example, hire globally for their customer service and support teams so they can attend to customer concerns 24/7.

In addition, having conversations occur online (rather than in the office) means you’ve got a record of every decision made, question answered, and idea proposed. Let’s say a new employee has a question about a specific feature of your product. Instead of having to ask their manager, they can search the team’s chat room to see what you’ve already discussed.

What your clients will think

Your clients are probably — and understandably — your top priority when you’re considering going remote. First, let’s lay out some of the reasons why your present clients could be worried by the switch—and why it might make future clients think twice.

Quality

When some people hear “remote team,” they immediately think of overseas workers. And unfortunately, as this Toptal blog post explains, there’s a negative stigma around outsourcing your engineering and design work.

There shouldn’t be — because as chief executive of Posse Rebekah Campbell discovered, there’s absolutely no difference in the quality of work you receive, as long as you pay fairly and treat all of your employees like members of the team.

Other clients may be worried that your work is somehow inferior because it’s not produced in one office. Address this by pointing out how mainstream remote work has become.

And according to Bonnie Morris, founder of virtual PR and social media agency, being remote actually improves work quality.

“Virtual brainstorms tend to flourish because everyone has to have some skin in the game,” she says. “We generally send out briefs a few days in advance, and typically use the web during brainstorms to research on the go and use Skype to share assets and such.”

Finally, quell your clients’ fears over quality by describing how remote work lets you hire the best of the best. Today’s most talented employees view the ability to work from anywhere as a massive perk, so you can hire competitively.

And as remote agency leader Kate Swanberg explains, “Remote work helps modern web agencies access unlimited talents beyond the 50 miles radius of their location.”

Responsiveness

A lot of clients might worry that a remote digital agency will be less responsive. But on the contrary, distributed teams will be even quicker to respond to emails, address concerns, and solve problems.

The Balsamiq team specifically hires across time zones so that its sales and tech support units are always available.

“Being geographically dispersed also gives us the advantage of moving faster, “ the company explains. “The software gets tested while the developers sleep, for instance.”

Alignment

As previously discussed, keeping everyone informed and in-sync is a bigger challenge when your team is remote — so it’s fair for clients to wonder if this will impact your work.

Once you’ve built up a solid track record, these reservations will likely dissipate. But what about when you’re just starting out?

Consider including your communication strategy in your announcement to clients. For example, you might say, “We’ve put a lot of thought into planning our remote set-up. Our team will be using a daily and weekly goal-tracking tool so there’s always total clarity on everyone’s position. And to make sure we’re giving you the most accurate rates possible, we’re using Hubstaff to track our freelancers’ productivity.”

Here’s how Henderson handles idea generation at Red Rocket Connect: “A creative lead will brainstorm out some directions and then float them to their creative partner. They narrow it to one or two ideas that they share with me. I provide focusing guidance, and then we socialize it across the client team and solicit feedback.”

Culture

Some clients just care about getting the job done. Others, who are looking for a long-term relationship with their agency or provider, want to work with a tight-knit team.

Fortunately, creating a strong culture within a remote agency is completely doable. First, find ways to encourage non-work communication among your employees. 

Random Slack or Basecamp channels work well; however, you can take things one step further by hosting weekly “lunch and learns” (give everyone a gift card for a food delivery service and have a speaker or team member give a presentation), running a mentorship program, or sponsoring a couple employees to go to the same conference.

Web agency tools you should check out

Transitioning to a remote team is a big move for any company, but the great thing about it is that there are several tools that can help smooth the process out.

Hubstaff

Hubstaff

Hubstaff is a time tracking solution that’s designed to help remote teams make the most out of their time. In fact, the app itself is built by a fully remote team.

Hubstaff lets remote teams track every second they spend working on every task. All the recorded time goes straight to their online timesheets, along with timely screenshots that you can view to get a quick idea of what they have accomplished over a span of time. With Hubstaff, you can monitor your team closely without having to ask them for updates, and they can focus on their work much better.

What’s more, Hubstaff has a powerful invoicing feature that takes the hassle away from billing clients. Based on the hours worked by your team, Hubstaff will automatically generate accurate invoices that you can send straight to your clients. No manual computations needed.

Hubstaff Tasks

Hubstaff Tasks

Keeping track of all your projects is one of the most challenging parts of working as a remote agency. Hubstaff Tasks helps make sure that nobody misses out on anything and that collaboration is as seamless as possible.

Hubstaff Tasks uses a Kanban interface. Tasks and project stages are represented by cards and columns. Moving tasks to different stages is done by dragging cards and dropping them to the respective column. This will send a notification to everyone involved in the task so they can easily stay updated.

Hubstaff Tasks’ Agile Sprints feature is designed to help teams finish projects efficiently. Teams can focus their efforts on the right tasks, so no time is wasted and project delays are avoided. You can also create custom workflows that let you move projects forward and assign tasks to the right people with just one click.

Officevibe

Officevibe

How do you make sure that everyone in your team — some of which could be thousands of miles away — is happy? Simple: use Officevibe. Officevibe, an app designed to improve employee engagement, uses quick forms to help you understand your employees better.

Officevibe regularly sends out pulse surveys to your team. These surveys are tailored to determine how your team feels about work and gather opinions that could be helpful to your agency’s growth. They also have the option to answer anonymously, making it easier for them to be completely honest.

Slack

Slack

Slack is a popular communication platform with several features that are useful for distributed teams. The app lets you send messages to people in your team, create channels for various purposes, and share files across the company.

With Slack, you can make calls directly to teammates, or start a video conference inside channels. It also integrates with popular apps like Dropbox, Gmail, and Zendesk.

Xero

Xero

Xero is an accounting software that aims to provide small businesses a trouble-free financing experience. Setting up Xero is quick and easy, making it a great addition to any remote agency’s arsenal.

Xero’s dashboard provides a quick snapshot of your business’ financial performance.You can make purchases on the platform, set up employee payroll, handle taxes, and more.

Are you ready to become a remote agency?

Many companies begin as virtual teams — remote work is in their DNA. Others, such as Toggl, Sticker Mule, and Inspired HR, started with physical offices and then transitioned to a virtual model when they realized the benefits.

In either case, the leadership team has to think long and hard about how they’ll deal with the various challenges and unique situations that come with a dispersed staff. But once you’ve figured out those challenges and started reaping the many benefits, you’ll probably find being remote is one of the best things you could ever do for your company.

What is your experience with running a remote agency? What’s stopping you from building/joining one? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The post was originally published in June, 2016. It was updated by the Hubstaff Blog Team in December, 2019. 

 

 

 

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