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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
Do you want to acquire the tools necessary to avoid issues and help you get the most in Microsoft Dynamics? Sometimes there are bottlenecks and data errors that stem from weak processes and human error. Following are five steps that will help you maximize the value of Microsoft Dynamics no matter what size company you are in.
First, you’ll need an implementation strategy that starts with a backlog of project data. Without this step, you’re allowing for misinformation, disorganization and increased possibility of failure of projects. Tip: This important process of looking into the past and importing that data can be smoothed out and managed by a Microsoft approved partner or VAR.
After implementation, you must provide direction for the new system. Don’t just expect new behavior simply because you’ve installed new software. Have your team attend management-led seminars or hire outside tutors.
All necessary data relating to project accounting must be accessible from within Dynamics. If your team finds it difficult to get that information, they may circumvent the system resulting in inaccuracies. Fortunately, Microsoft has a plug-in strategy for more advanced third-party software options.
Create tiered and targeted visibility protocols within your system to guarantee the right people have access to the right information at all times. Too often, management will attempt to access data within Dynamics, only to discover that the information they need is buried. Creating role-based views makes it easier to make informed decisions from clear, coherent data.
Your project accounting system should incorporate an accountability structure to promote adherence to goals and assigned processes. To help with sticking with goals, management should set forth defined key performance indicators that can be measured with data-driven metrics. Pick on or two KPI’s, assign them to employees that have direct influence over them, and check in often to see how they’re coming along.
In this modern business climate, every company has access to tools that will promote long-term success. Use them wisely and you will be able to gain and maintain a strategic advantage that will last for the lifetime of your company.
The Internet has exploded with backlash over Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's choice to end telecommuting privileges for employees. Even high profile executives such as Richard Branson have weighed in on the announcement, resulting in a response that has been overwhelmingly negative. Although it is almost certain that Mayer and the rest of the Yahoo! higher-ups expected some grumbling from the announcement, I doubt very much that she anticipated the current wave of bad press. What’s the deal? Yahoo! is certainly not the only company to put limits on employee time away from the office. No, Mayer's primary problem was her betrayal of employee trust during a time when technology is removing excuses for suspicion.
Mobile strategy is not a buzz term, but rather the trend towards which most companies are headed. In the past, it was logistically impossible to organize and track a team without the cohesion that came from a physical office space. Now, with advanced meeting and time tracking tools, remote work is not only possible but in some cases even more efficient than traditional in-office policies. A mobile workforce increases opportunities and frees up resources while allowing employees a greater degree of control over their work-life balance. So, when a company has made the strides necessary to facilitate a mobile workforce, revoking the policy communicates a lack of trust.
Make no mistake, Yahoo! needs to make bold changes to keep up with their vastly more popular rivals online. However, for a company that is already seen as being "behind the curve", instituting backwards-looking policies is just poor form. If employees cannot be trusted under the current climate without tightening the leash, then perhaps the problem runs deeper than simply not having enough butts in seats at a physical office. In any case, the larger lesson here is simply this: looking backwards will very rarely put you in a position to move forward.
The increasing rise in popularity of various web-based images and videos (often referred to as “memes”) has led many companies to wonder how they can capitalize on that virality. What were once underground jokes have become fodder for corporate marketing on an enormous scale. One need only turn to the latest craze, the "Harlem Shake", to get a good idea of the scale of meme-based corporate cash-in.
Regarding the popularity of the Harlem Shake, TechCrunch recently released an article attempting to explore the various elements that make the meme so popular. Looking at such elements as length of time and number of performers, they concluded that the Shake, specifically, matches the criteria for viral sharing. However, a quick glance at YouTube proves that simply matching that formula isn't enough. Nearly every Harlem Shake video follows it exactly, yet only a few have reached true viral status.
What is the missing element? As far as companies are concerned, it's the old standby: time to market. When one company embraces a meme, it's original, exciting and risky. When the rest hop on board, it quickly becomes stale. To capitalize on these trends, you need to keep a pulse on social channels and other sharing platforms, but more importantly you must be quick to act. Keeping time available for these open-ended endeavors, and giving employees the autonomy to pursue them without wading through bureaucratic red tape, will put you in a position to embrace the viral marketing formula.
W Squared provides business process outsourcing solutions including finance and accounting, technology, human resources and payroll, healthcare, and more. They are an affordable solution for companies that desire a more sophisticated corporate back-office support system that will scale alongside the expansion of their operations.
W Squared trusts Microsoft Dynamics GP for accounting and ADP for payroll, but needed a time tracking system that not only integrated with the two but also allowed W Squared to make customizations for complex business processes. This is where Journyx shines.
“We needed time tracking data to be used for billing clients, and also wanted this information to show which projects are profitable and which aren’t,” said Moreen Logsdon, Vice President of Enterprise Business Solutions for W Squared.
Prior to Journyx, W Squared used Deltek for time tracking but found that employees had way too much freedom in the system to, for example, mark regular hours as overtime, add receipts to six-month-old expense reports and the like. With Journyx, they were able to do this and capture payroll and project data, all in one.
To learn more about how the trio of Microsoft Dynamics, ADP and Journyx offers a complete and unbeatable solution for W Squared's customers, take a look at the success story.
We’ve all experienced the excitement that comes from a new product announcement from a company we really like. It is often associated with a generous portion of marketing glitz and glam that get our mouths watering for the next great piece of tech, software or whatever. When the company delivers on that promise in an expected timeframe, we as consumers are satisfied. However, when a business continually delays a release, we are left feeling angry, as if the business has been dishonest in some way. We know rationally that there are a number of factors that can result in product delay, but when we were really looking forward to a release, we just don’t care.
Some setbacks have been so disheartening, so lengthy, that they actually become a running joke. In the video game industry, the game Duke Nukem Forever was intended to be released as a sequel to its 1996 predecessor. Then the delays began and they continued to occur for years. People joked about getting things done “when Duke Nukem comes out” (i.e., never). Then, against all odds, the game finally did get released...in 2011, a full fifteen years after it was slated for distribution. Unsurprisingly, people felt it had missed its window and that the constantly changing scope of the game made it a disappointment.
So, what does this mean for your business? While failure on that level is quite rare, scope creep is not. If you do not accurately forecast project budgets, personnel availability and resource usage, your project can very easily get delayed past the point of no return. When customers or stakeholders inevitably lose interest, you are left with nothing more than lost time and missed opportunities. It is frustrating when projects miss deadlines, but it is even worse when a business continues to sink money into a lost cause. Accurately tracking time and resources can often curtail scope creep, but it will also allow you to cut your losses if a project is drastically off the mark.
One of the biggest events Journyx is planning to attend this year is Microsoft Convergence 2013. This year the conference is being held in New Orleans. It’s four days where Microsoft Dynamics customers learn about all the opportunities and innovations that come together to create business value. Partners like us get to showcase how they deliver that value and help users get the most out of those products.
We learned some valuable things last year and we are looking forward to the conference this year. Journyx has worked with companies like business process outsourcing solutions company, W Squared, and business accounting software company, Kissimmee Utility Authority. Our solutions can also help other companies fill in the gaps or build on the Dyanamics solution to improve time tracking and project management processes.
We’ll be at booth #1655, so come stop by and say hi. We’ll have great prizes such as a $500 gift card to Best Buy and a chance to win an Xbox Kinect! See you there!
Dave Brown, Partner at Foundation Finance, excels at helping clients get beyond the limitations of current financial conventional wisdom and take control of their own economic future. Today, Dave has written a guest blog for us about the financing options for SMBs:
Any small business owner who took the time to research the outlook for obtaining financing in 2013 would most likely get opinions as varied as the sources consulted. Such a forecast depends on many variables – the state of the overall economy; the state of the local economy; the potential sources of financing; and, the overall credit-worthiness of the applicant, to highlight just a few. While these are clear starting points, things can start to get somewhat murky once we begin to drill down on the subject of potential sources of financing.
As we continue to deal with the impact of the 2008 financial meltdown, it's impossible for anyone to not still feel ramifications of it. So even though you might not have had a need for financing in 2010 or 2012, just know changes that were set in motion during the backlash of the last few years might very well have an impact on your efforts to obtain financing in 2013. This goes beyond the obvious truth that applicants should expect to spend more time and manpower jumping through the lender’s hoops in order to prove they are worthy of the financing help. We must also be aware of any potential impact on the actual pool of lendable capital in the marketplace.
As part of the Journyx webinar series, in How To Shield Your Business from the Next Financial Downturn , we discuss just how critical the availability of financing is to the entire global economy, along with how the traditional sources of financing have been impacted and the resulting rise of “alternative” financing. We also discuss the impact of government regulation, how one government action can contradict another, and how the influence is felt at the local level. Finally, we explore the possibility of being less dependent on external sources of capital in order to maintain greater flexibility and control in any economic environment.
This webinar will next be presented on Thursday, Feb 21, at 2 p.m. CST. I hope you'll join us. Please write down any questions now that you have on this topic and I'll do my best to answer it during the webinar's Q&A section.
Companies large and small engage in projects and tasks during the fiscal year that are outside the realm of their daily routine. Because these projects run concurrently with many other tasks, they require a tactical approach to ensure that your company has the time and resources to tackle these initiatives and keep all the balls in the air.
First and foremost, you have to reduce the odds that an initiative will fail due to internal time conflicts or personnel absences. An automated time and project tracking system like Journyx gives you the tools to study and plan the use of employee time so that team members don’t become double-booked or overworked.
Similarly, a system like this lets you determine if employees will be available for the duration of the project. Many an initiative has come to a grinding halt because of an unexpected vacation during a critical time period. Such insight will allow you and your employees to mitigate these circumstances without neglecting the needs of anyone.
Finally, you should look to your backlog of projects for any similar initiatives. That will help you determine the optimum time to begin an important project in your timeline. It will also allow you to accurately set expectations for key stakeholders both internally and externally. You can reduce the chances that a project gets put on hold due to delays in previous projects that overextend their time or budget requirements.
These techniques will allow you to avoid an unproductive piecemeal approach to projects that can quickly lead to angry stakeholders and burnt out employees. They will also allow you to take on more impressive initiatives, leading to an excited customer base and ultimately greater profits for you.
Well, it finally happened. The mighty Apple has fallen from grace as their stocks dry up into nothing and they are left with naught but a dusty iPod in the sand.
Yet, Apple recently reported its best quarter ever, with profits actually climbing steadily higher and continuing to break records for industry growth. How can this be? As Mashable reports, “investors wanted to see Apple beat estimates by a convincing margin in order to set aside lingering concerns about the stock.” So then, what might appear by one standard to be the ultimate measure of success is seen by another as failure.
That is specifically why, in any company, you must curtail the key performance indicators on which you focus, limiting them to two or three at most. While it is likely the case that stock performance is a KPI for Apple, this example shows how differing conclusions can be drawn from the same data.
Growth is dictated by a number of factors including percentage of projects profitable, overall profitability, and, of course, stock price if you are publicly traded. Regardless, it is important to pick a metric that you are comfortable with and stick to it. Becoming and remaining successful requires a clear focus on achievement of goals, and too may KPIs will leave you confused, much like too many gauges on the dashboard of a car.
In short, Apple isn’t going anywhere regardless of their “failure” to appease Wall Street, but that doesn’t mean their numbers won’t be colored differently by various groups. The smart choice is to choose your own metrics carefully and refuse to be dissuaded by external influence. Attempting to meet everyone’s metrics of success has the potential to negatively affect the real value of your company.
“We the People” is an online petition website set up to allow citizens to get responses on popular issues. However, it has largely been exploited to serve as both a humor device and a form of popular protest. For instance, it has been used to petition for the creation of a “Death Star” and even to propose secession. Clearly, these types of issues were not the intended purpose of the site, causing the site to raise its threshold from 5,000 petitions to 100,000 petitions. While many may condemn the site for bending to these unintended uses and making it more difficult for others to use the site according to the original purpose, there are some valuable lessons to be learned here about customer service.
One thing that the White House has done well in light of the more frivolous uses of the site has been to counter with humor. The “Death Star” petition was answered with a response which was chock full of Star Wars references. By responding in this way, The White House was able to get in on the joke (rather than being the target) and also humanized itself. Businesses often take themselves too seriously in customer communication settings. While maintaining professionalism is always key, it doesn’t hurt to be a little silly and joke around to let people know that, yes, you are a group of people and not a mindless machine.
The White House has also been good about responding to even highly negative petitions on the site with regularity. Although there is no requirement to answer a question at any specific time even once the petition threshold is reached, the decision to address inflammatory comments shows strength and confidence. As a business, it is important to remember that even negative responses on customer-facing channels can be positive if you can address them and get a conversation going. Often, if your responses are well reasoned and effective, you can even recruit other customers who will defend you, serving as brand advocates and lending credibility to your business. Staying silent, which might be the safest choice in some damage control scenarios, gives all the power to your attackers.
It is dangerous to create divisions between “us” and “them” in your communication channels. By establishing an open dialogue, you will maintain the respect of your client base. In that sense, “We The People” may be making some missteps by raising their petition requirements to greater and greater heights, showing a lack of confidence in their transparency channels. Still, the fact that such a channel exists with White House officials is a great idea, and businesses should consider taking some lessons regarding direct communication, and mitigating unintended consequences, from this oft-inaccessible government entity.
Trick question: how many stakeholders does it take to get things done? It’s always more than you think. One client counted up 50 stakeholder groups and more than 100 people.
If you’re like most organizations, you work very hard to get everyone lined up and saying “yes”. Then somehow they vanish. It can be really discouraging. This is just as true when you’re trying to get a sale as it is for getting things done internally or with allies and influencers.
You ask them, “What happened?” “You were on board yesterday (an hour ago, last month, etc.).” What you hear (if you hear anything) is “I re-thought about it” or “I’m just not so sure this is a good idea anymore.” All your hard work is down the drain. The sale, issue, decision or activity is postponed or gone forever.
What went wrong? One of three possibilities has occurred. Two of them are fixable; one of them isn’t. The unfixable one is caused by “ghost competitors”™ to your idea. One fixable problem is caused by rushing the stakeholders. The other is due to not letting them go completely through their “buy-in” process. It’s what we call the “Buying Continuum”™.
Just as you have a process to get their sale, agreement, participation, etc., they have a process to reduce or take the risk out of doing what you ask. There are different kinds of risk takers and to “catch” them, you need to use that information in the process you use in your particular Buying Continuum™.
There are seven steps to the Buying Continuum™ that all these risk takers must go through to do what you want. They won’t match up exactly with what you do on your behalf. Some of their steps may happen simultaneously but they must happen. If you know how it works, you can mentor them through any steps that they try to circumvent or delay.
The result of doing this is staggering. You can reduce your time, effort, and maybe even money to get them all the way to the finish line. You can also see the writing on the wall a lot faster and not even bother or find a way around that particular stakeholder.
In my free Journyx webinar, "Catching the Wild Stakeholder”, I talk about the risk takers and the Buying Continuum™ process. Register here. Please feel free to email me your questions at email@example.com.
By Jan F. Triplett, Ph.D., CEO, Business Success Center
Companies have been looking for productivity boosters for as long as they have been in business. Often these boosters take the form of direct efforts, such as team outings or the dreaded “team-building exercise”. While these approaches may have an immediate positive impact, oftentimes lessons learned or motivation gained diminish over time. Ultimately, the reason for this drop-off is lack of consistency on following through on the positive lessons. A similar effect occurs outside the business world. For instance, when one is attempting to learn a foreign language, it does no good to engage in a weeklong “cram” and then ignore the language until the need arises.
Once a company decides to employ productivity strategies, the question becomes, what should these strategies entail? Most of the time, it makes sense to align strategies with existing company culture. Technology companies may benefit from allowing employees to bring their own mobile devices to work, for instance. Regardless of the direction you choose, some change is going to be necessary.
The word “ambience” elicits images of colored lighting and modern architecture, but in reality, the most effective ambient strategies are personality-based and usually originate from the top. Particularly in a corporate setting, the trickle-down effect is significant due to structured hierarchy. While it may seem cliché, the idea that management should “lead from the front” is a highly effective ambient strategy, and not just because of the feel-good nature such efforts inspire in employees.
Rather, when an employee sees someone in a position of success that regularly dives right into projects and is not afraid to get their hands dirty, they get the idea that, if they want to reach the same level of success, they must be similarly willing to take on a challenge. Remember, the reverse is true as well, and if an employee feels the only way to get ahead is through personal relationships and backstabbing, they will do that as well.
Ambient strategies must be consistent and long-lasting to realize significant benefit, but they can revitalize a business due to their integration in the daily experiences of employees. Further, because the benefits of ambient strategies are productivity based, you can measure the value of such efforts as a function of time. While ambient strategies do take time to mature, they can certainly adhere to the S.M.A.R.T. goal structure more so than direct productivity boosters. In addition, they can be far more cost effective. Besides, does anyone really want to play tug-of-war in business casual?
Congratulations to Uwa Oduwa, graduate student at Georgetown University, for being selected as the 2012 Journyx Scholarship recipient. As the winner, Oduwa receives $500 toward tuition and fees. Oduwa is pursuing a Master of Arts, Communication, Culture & Technology degree and expects to graduate from Georgetown in May 2014.
Below is Oduwa's winning scholarship essay, titled:
Get Your Mind Out of The Clutter: Productivity and The Workspace
A critical component of having a fulfilled career is maintaining and enhancing our time-management skills. Of course, finding the right balance begins at the office - but what if the stacks of papers, files, and other objects are a bit overwhelming? In fact, there is a direct link between a clutter-free workplace and increased productivity. This goes hand-in-hand with the need to manage time effectively and consistently to enhance a business’ creativity and achieve personal satisfaction from within.
First Impressions Are Critical
As the old adage states, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” When a future business opportunity is on the line, first impressions really do count. The last thing a business would want their client to think is: “If they can’t even keep their offices organized, how are they supposed to keep track of my critical documents?!”
What businesses can do to mitigate this problem is to have each employee approach time management step by step: First, there should be open communication if an employee is slightly overwhelmed at work. Allow them to spare a few extra minutes before or after work to de-clutter their environment. Next, seek the expertise of other co-workers, since they might have gone through the same thing. They may have useful time-management skills that you never thought of and would be eager to share with others. It never hurts to ask. Lastly, do your own research. Whether it’s a brand new self-help book or popular website, check out unique ways to gain new time-management skills that can span both your professional and personal life.
It has been shown that the “working environment has a fundamental impact on recruitment, retention, productivity and ultimately on the organization’s ability to achieve its business strategy,” according to Barry Hanes in the Journal of Facilities Management. It makes sense that a sound environment leads to happier, stress-free employees. Although our society pairs the term “stress” with “work” quite often, that does not have to be the case.
De-Clutter to De-Stress
Few people would wish for more stress in their lives. Nearly 75 percent of doctor visits are related to stress, based on Pat Heydlauff’s book Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. This book reveals that “the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers,” only adding to more frustration, stress, and diminished creative thinking. In an era where time is extremely limited, 4.3 extra hours could mean the difference between thousands of dollars in potential business leads. What CEO or business leader doesn’t love to hear the words “reduced” and “costs” in the same sentence?
It’s Never Too Late
Businesses need to realize that to increase their productivity they first must reduce the clutter that surrounds their space. In addition, having a supportive group, especially family and people from outside the core business, is a huge plus. If you or someone you know needs a massive overhaul in their time-management skills, remember that it is never too late to make the first step. Experts suggest establishing a strategy to maintain a clutter-free and time-productive workspace, and then start a reward system where you can show-off your accomplishments. Remember, prizes can be fun at any age.
Better yet, once you accomplish your successes, share your newfound skills with co-workers, family and friends who might need help with managing their time. Then, you can finally reap the benefits of a more productive life in and outside of the workspace!
Customer engagement can be a key differentiator for companies, particularly small-medium sized businesses for whom “personalized service” helps to lure customers away from the bigger fish. But companies must have a smart strategy in place for engaging with customers. Inefficient communication tactics bleed resources. It is important to implement a customer communication strategy that is both time-bound and keeps customers happy in the long run.
First, determine whom customer communication channels affect. Often businesses view customer service as a standalone role, but that is rarely the case. Customer communication processes affect developers, sales staff and even designers. So, take the time to review recorded employee activities to get an accurate view into which staff members will be affected by customer communication activities.
You should also consider how much time needs to be spent on direct communications each day. In terms of customer service, many businesses feature “always on” communication avenues, but this is not always the most efficient means of cataloging and addressing customer issues. For instance, if you have only a few customer service representatives, or if other employees have a dual customer service role, then boasting immediate, direct access will quickly result in a buildup of complaints. It is far better to implement an organized system for addressing customer complaints. Perhaps the primary communication channel should be email or web-forms that allow you to prioritize or even batch similar problems together to service multiple complaints at once.
Finally, and regardless of which strategy you choose, customers need to be assured that their voices are heard. Even if you simply schedule time at the end of the day to send response emails, there should be some level of customer acknowledgement. The key is order, not ignorance, so be sure that your well-organized backlog doesn’t become a pileup. You can also treat many customer issues as projects in their own right, and track employee time and resources to specific complaints (and customers) to determine how much time each customer is costing you.
In the end, communication should always be a priority for businesses that want to keep customers happy. That being said, you need to communicate on your terms both for the sake of your company and to ensure customer needs are addressed in the most efficient manner possible.
2012 was an important year for business. We saw the emergence of new social networks that allow companies to connect with customers in innovative ways. Online businesses united in the face of SOPA legislation, demonstrating the value placed on freedom of communication. And, of course, industry continues to expand in the wake of the global financial crisis. All that said, 2013 is set to be a defining year for companies worldwide. Your success this year, or lack thereof, will depend on how quickly you can institute profitable strategies right off the bat. To help you out, here are three New Years resolutions you should implement to get the year off to a great start!
1. Diversify Communication Channels
Business presence on Facebook and Twitter has become incredibly commonplace, where businesses can connect with customers more often and more conveniently. However, new social networks such as Pinterest allow for creative discussions and out-of-the box business strategies. Image-based communication is becoming quite popular, so if you can incorporate that into your marketing and customer service efforts, it is worthwhile to do so. In addition, internal social networks such as Yammer give management and employees a direct, casual means of discussion that allows for seamless collaboration.
2. Cut Down On Software Clutter
Bloatware causes inefficient business operations and confusing data manipulation. Whereas in the past, software existed in a vacuum, today software offers integrations that ensure each individual component serves its purpose in a larger network. If you haven’t done so recently, 2013 is the year to explore new software options to ensure that your business has the ability to operate at optimal efficiency for the foreseeable future.
3. Get Complete Visibility Into Projects and Resources
While it does require some time to implement and monitor, organization-wide accountability is a goal that every business should strive to achieve in 2013. Whether you are assigning people to projects or determining the profitability of an individual employee’s activities, a resource management system based on solid time-data will allow you to pursue value with minimal risk. Failure to maintain awareness of all of your operations can result in wasted time or failed projects, an unnecessary risk given the availability of robust time management options.
Follow these resolutions, and your company will be set to take the business world by storm in 2013. The opportunity is there this year, so waste no time in seizing it right away!
Well, it turns out that the fire, brimstone, and other catastrophes slated for December 21st were somewhat underwhelming. Whether that was because the Mayans messed up their calendar somewhere or because JELL-O truly is the snack of the gods, you can finally breathe easy and part with that bunker you bought. However, that doesn’t mean that now is the time to relax where your company is concerned – far from it! Now is the time to capitalize on the preparations you have made to ensure increased profitability so you can get a leg up on the competition in the New Year.
To begin, consider the overall climate of your industry. For many, the past few years have been pretty bleak. Fortunately, things are beginning to look up and new business ventures have a better chance to succeed since many big players are hesitant to take risks. That being said, you cannot simply take major risks while relying on luck to succeed. Doing so can lead to a business apocalypse of your very own. Move forward in a way that maximizes your odds while still including a margin of safety in case your initiative isn’t successful.
We’ve discussed the idea of cutting costs intelligently, so how do you reintroduce or expand upon business operations with the same level of strategy? To begin, examine your backlog of project data to determine which activities were most profitable, and what best practices can be applied to future endeavors. Barring one-off or highly specialized projects, the odds are that you can reuse many processes that led you to success in the past. This way, you can structure innovative new activities with a minimal amount of risk.
Once you have determined which activities were most successful, and what strategies you can apply to future projects, you can determine new projects. Consider this: when you speak with customers, what do you hear as recurring pain points? It is always better to create a product with a market already identified, and even more so when you already have the trust of a customer base.
Finally, build your team. While the holiday season will soon be over, employees may still take time off in the New Year, or may be swamped when they get back to work. That means that you will need to carefully review time data, as well as scheduled PTO and other activities, to put together a team that can deliver your new initiative. An effective resource management system will aid you greatly in this effort.
Obviously, the paranoia of the business world over the past few years had little to do with the fictional 2012 doomsday scenario, yet now is as good a time as any to push forward and prove once and for all that your business can do more than survive: it can thrive.
Even if you technically have the ability to be a government contractor, you should consider the fact that government agencies place a lot of value on experience when selecting contractors. For the same reason you look for new hires with a proven track record of work history, the government wants contractors to be as close to a “sure thing” as possible. So how do you gain experience if the government is hesitant to hand out contracts to inexperienced contractors?
One way to get your feet wet is to serve as a subcontractor for an existing government contractor. Subcontractors work under the primary contracting agent, and actually do not have direct contact with the government at all. This is actually a blessing in disguise for several reasons. First, it means that a business does not have to jump through the hoops that it takes to actually win a government contract. And second, it requires less bureaucratic navigation than the prime contractor will face.
In other words, your business can focus on delivering a quality product while still gaining exposure to the process of government contracting. If you can get some experience as a subcontractor then you will be a much more attractive choice for government agencies, increasing the odds that you will win the contract. In addition, you can assess any deficiencies your business might experience as a prime contractor and address them before the “real deal”. Finally, you can forge a valuable partnership with an experienced contractor who can help you when you make the leap to prime contractor. It is a win-win situation that any aspiring contractor should consider.
It’s that time of year again, with Christmas songs on the radio, corporate holiday parties planned, and twinkling lights decorating every nook and cranny of the office. It’s also the time of year when employees are most likely to use up those saved vacation days, often taking off several days to spend time with friends and family during the holiday season. For many businesses, this means that operations will nearly grind to a halt for almost the entire month of December. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right technology and effort, you can continue to grow your business and hit the ground running in the New Year while other companies are still sluggishly recovering from their holiday feasts.
The most efficient way to maintain momentum over the holidays is to know who is available at all times. To do this, you will need to implement a time management system that allows you to track employee activities including vacation time. Once you know the availability of all of your employees in advance, you can structure projects around those who will be available. While you may not be able to complete the large projects that you tackle during your busiest seasons, this is a great time to bundle and complete those smaller, nagging projects that constantly take a backseat to your more grandiose initiatives.
But what if you have a large number of employees who all take off at the same time, creating periods of time where there will be absolutely no one at the office? If you know well in advance this will happen, or if there is a proven history of such large-scale absences at your office, consider giving everyone that time off. You can reconfigure your paid company holidays away from those less consistent, one-day company holidays that are not universally recognized, and give a larger chunk of time during the holidays, when most businesses shut down. Your employees will appreciate the ability to keep their PTO, and you will be able to decrease the number of “dead days” you experience over the year.
Government contracting can be highly rewarding. However, the competition is often fierce. To become and remain competitive, businesses need to focus on tangible benefits for the government. If you cannot compete on product, price or performance, you will quickly be left behind. Similarly, you must be able to work within the government bureaucracy and adhere to necessary regulations. However, there are certain intangible elements that, while not strictly necessary, greatly improve your chances of becoming a successful government contractor. Of these elements, one of the most important is to build a network specifically geared toward contracting.
One of the best places to start your networking approach is inside a government agency itself. Get in touch with the liaison officers at your agency of choice. These individuals can help put you in touch with decision-makers and can serve as a great introduction point into the organization. Similarly, working with procurement officers can be useful, particularly if you have an innovative product to offer. You can encounter them at procurement conferences and other events sponsored by government agencies. If you manage to get your product into a procurement officer’s hands and build a relationship based on the quality of your offering, they may become a strong advocate to higher-ups.
You can also look to your professional network, especially among people who offer products or services that complement your own. If they have worked with the government before, all the better. One of the best ways to break into government contracting is by entering as a co-contractor or sub-contractor. If you have managed to forge and maintain a quality professional relationship with someone who can enter contracting with you, or whom you can serve under as a sub-contractor, you can gain a quick boost on the road to becoming an established contracting entity.
There are numerous ways to get side-tracked before you find success as a contractor, so before you begin building a network make sure your house is in order and that you have the ability to enter into the field. Once you are sure that you have the manpower, time and resources to dedicate to contracting, you should determine who is best positioned to help you break into the field, and pursue those relationships diligently. Even if it is only to get advice regarding a certain agency’s preferences, in a field as competitive as government contracting, you should accept any advantage you can get.
Businesses often (smartly) leverage partnerships to increase their offerings for customers. These partnerships can be informal relationships with minimal offerings or they can be more substantial with services offered in conjunction with a company’s core product. Whatever form your partnerships take, it is important to make sure that the give-and-take is profitable for both parties.
For starters, it is necessary to manage expectations with partners. For instance, you might have a partner scheduled to lead a hangout for your Google+ followers, offering them exposure in return for their expertise. However, there are certain expectations that they need to meet: preparing beforehand and presenting relevant, interesting material, beginning and ending on time, offering a compelling discussion, etc. You need to be able to rely on these individuals or risk losing face in front of the fan base you’ve built for your company. Thus, if that partner has a history of being flaky or unprepared, you should think twice before scheduling this type of activity with them.
Indeed, you should not be afraid to fire problem partners just as quickly as you would problem customers. In fact, it is even more important to cultivate a high-quality partner network, since they are a facet of the face of your company even if they are not actually employed there. Fortunately, you can incorporate partner activities into your project management system with relative ease. You will need to assign someone within your company to enter time and ROI of projects completed with partners, in addition to any budgeted costs and percentage of project complete.
It is also a good idea to factor in partnership management responsibilities of your employees, because time wasted on inattentive or ineffectual partners negatively impacts your bottom line. Remember, the opportunity costs for negative partnerships can keep your employees from performing truly productive tasks, and will subvert time from creating lasting relationships with genuinely fantastic partners. Be flexible, particularly when partners are helping you without financial requirements. But, when it is clear that they are underperforming for you, drop them and do not look back. A moment of hurt feelings is not worth a long-term drain on time and resources.