Bidsketch is an application that lets you design beautiful proposals, send them to your clients and track them to see when they’re reviewed and accepted. It has great support for things like templates, optional work/fees, and a client workflow to collaborate on, accept and sign-off on proposals.
Now, Bidsketch is integrated with Harvest, allowing you to easily convert accepted proposals in Bidsketch over to an invoice in Harvest. Additionally, you can move client information between systems and create projects in Harvest directly from Bidsketch.
If you’re looking at a way to take your proposals up a notch by simplifying the process and moving approvals online, take some time and check out Bidsketch.
Improvisation as a business strategy has gained more and more traction over the years. The improv theaters in every major city offer consulting and team building exercises. The last two conferences I attended began with an improv session.
The best idea we can borrow from the improvisation world is the concept of “YES, AND.” From “Bossypants” by Tina Fey:
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?
Spending your time disagreeing is often a slow, frustrating path to indecision. Even if your goal is to get to a different place than your colleague is currently occupying, it’s likely faster to get there together. This does not mean suppressing your ideas:
To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.
YES, AND is a powerful way to work as a team. You will come to a discussion with your own ideas. Make statements, but don’t let your ideas drown out the ideas of those around you.
I recently cancelled cable and got Roku. Giving up live programming was not a decision that came easily. My husband is a sports fan and I am a reality tv (don’t judge) and HBO addict. However, the value equation no longer worked for us. The cost of cable is too high, the service lackluster, and when we actually did watch live TV the volume of commercials was irritating.
One of the services I now subscribe to is Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus costs money and serves up network programs with commercials that are impossible to skip. And guess what? I don’t have a problem with the cost or the advertisements. The price is reasonable, the ads are short and sweet, and Hulu Plus displays clearly how many seconds you have until your program returns. The commercials on Hulu are infinitely more watchable because of their brevity. And, countdown clocks seem to make people happy.
The non-irritating ads offer a lesson about paying attention to your customers. In an effort to increase profit, networks sold so much advertising that they made standard TV unwatchable. They focused on their gain while disregarding the needs of both their viewers (entertainment) and their advertisers (captivated viewers). When no alternative existed that equation worked. However, as options for viewing (and advertising) emerged the networks didn’t respond. The old guard lost customer focus. Luckily the new guard was paying attention.
Hulu Plus (ironically a joint venture owned by NBC, Fox & Disney) and its easy-to-watch commercials serve as a reminder that people are willing to pay (with dollars and eyeballs) for a service they deem valuable. But the price needs to be rational. Once it’s out of balance be prepared for reinvention.
Unless you are working from a home office, most of us leave to go to work. You may be surprised by how much time you actually spend in transit to your job – Time Management Ninja created this quick table (which assumes 8 hour workday, 5 day work week, 50 weeks a year), showing the difference between a short and long commute:
Shift your commute to a less travelled time. This means you may come in earlier, but you leave earlier too (avoiding the evening rush!).
Skip the commute. See if it’s possible to occasionally work from home.
On the train or bus, use mobile apps that work offline & sync later, like Evernote.
Take the NYC subway? Walk to the spot on the subway train closest to your exit – there’s even an app for that!
Invest in Yourself
Make a to-do list of all the personal tasks you need to do that day, to help organize your thoughts.
Listen to audiobooks, learn a foreign language, or watch downloaded screencasts on your iPod or mobile device.
Save interesting articles on Instapaper, and read from your smartphone while on the train.
Knit (only on subways or buses, do not attempt while driving!).
Skip work altogether, and unplug – clear your mind to be more efficient during the day.
Combine your exercise routine with your commute: it may make the commute longer, but it may be shorter (and more efficient) than doing both separately.
Many thanks to the Twitter community for sharing your own tips for this article. We’ll announce the winners of our Time Savings Tuesdays contest next Tuesday (along with the new contest theme), and feel free to share your own tips in the comments!
Time is money, and meetings are a notorious time sink. Forbes points out that, “a one-hour meeting of six software engineers costs $1,000 at least. People who don’t have the authority to buy paperclips are allowed to call meetings every day that cost far more than that.”
The only way to run (and participate in) efficient and useful meetings is to invest in certain areas, and reduce in others. Last week, we launched our first Time Saving Tuesday, and we’ve combined our own time saving tips with some excellent Twitter suggestions for making meetings most productive.
Remove from your meetings.
Get rid of chairs, coffee, donuts, and cell phones. Everyone seems focused on not wasting time when they have to stand, and the number of distractions is limited.
Use collaboration tools (like Co-op, IM, or email threads). Quickly solve the questions that don’t need a meeting.
Keep meetings on target by using accurate time estimates. It makes people antsy when meetings run over their time limit, so check previous time reports to effectively gauge typical meeting length.
Downsize your invitee list. Curate your attendance list wisely.
Encourage open (for everyone) and closed (selected participants) portions of meetings, where people who do not have to be at entire meeting can be dismissed. You can share meeting notes with everyone afterwards to review.
Create “meeting-free” days, to allow employees to capitalize on focused, uninterrupted concentration.
Don’t accept every meeting invite. Says Seth Godin, “Don’t bother having a meeting if you’re not there to change or make a decision right now.”
Invest in your meetings.
Define specific goals for the meeting ahead of time, so that you can stay on topic.
Have a clear agenda, w/ time budgets for each item, and then enforce those time limits.
Offer a way for people to submit questions and ideas in advance of the meeting.
Make use of a talk object (a hat, stick, staff, feather, or something else!), so that people can talk freely without having to talk over others.
At the end of the meeting, ask for feedback about its efficiency. Keep improving the process!
Hire a meeting fairy. This magical person can manage and enforce all of the above suggestions, and keep everyone prepared and informed both before and after meetings.
Many thanks to the Twitter community for your great contributions to this article. We’ll announce the winners of our Time Savings Tuesdays contest tomorrow, and feel free to share your own tips in the comments!
Simply put, a big part of my job is to acquire more Harvest Customers. One approach we’ve been discussing lately is marketing our product to different industry verticals. Yesterday, I stumbled across a time tracking software specifically “designed” for lawyers. Naturally, I watched the demo so that I could see how we stack up. Harvest was the clear winner…by a wide margin. If your law firm uses this particular software, you have multiple (more than 5!) steps to go through each time you want to make a time entry. In other words, it costs time to track your time.
I have asked many lawyers about how they manage their billable hours. Several — not all — record time on scraps of paper or put it into an excel sheet. These time entries get passed along to admins who enter the time into the firms’ systems. Most don’t enter time as they work, rather they go through their calendars when timesheets are due and use memory. Firms are spending thousands of dollars on software that the lawyers don’t use because they don’t like it. These firms are wasting time and money, and missing out on countless billable hours.
Believe me, I understand the inertia that keeps inefficient systems in place. At my last job we used many clunky systems; we were on Lotus Notes until 2011. We all complained, but no one took the time to do anything about it.
As I watched the legal time tracking demo, I got to thinking: why don’t people demand better?
I think it’s because they don’t know that better exists. My epiphany of the day is that my job isn’t to sell Harvest — it’s to educate people that better exists.
Many of us at Harvest are fans of Louis CK. We were super impressed with everything about his recent internet special – from the comedy itself (the $5 is well worth it!), to how simple the purchase process is, to this statement below the purchase button:
To those who might wish to “torrent” this video: look, I don’t really get the whole “torrent” thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.
I found myself actually reading every single word on the purchase form (and re-reading it). I did that, not because I was confused, but because I actually enjoy what Louis CK has to say. He’s genuine, saying things that make sense without any buzzwords or corporate language. It wasn’t crafted by an ad agency figuring out the tone and stuffing words in Louis’ mouth. There wasn’t a consultant urging him to be be a certain way in order to boost conversions. I’m sure he wasn’t even thinking about SEO or A/B testing when he was writing for his online store. It was just Louis CK, acting as a (somewhat!) reasonable human being, speaking directly to us.
It is incredibly inspiring and gratifying to see someone follow common sense, do the right thing, and make good money at it. Just in case you need another reason to pay Louis CK $5 for his “Live at the Beacon Theater” special, here’s a hilarious 4-minute outtake:
The following is a guest post by Edward Guttman, Director of User Experience at CodeStreet, LLC and Harvest customer. Ed has been honing his craft as a designer for close to 20 years, and here he shares his thought process behind deciding which projects to take on.
Let’s say your design firm is looking at a healthy sales pipeline and the signs are that you may get more work than you can handle. Everyone should have such problems, right? Should you just hire more people and grab all the work you can? Maybe not. There is a good chance that some of that work isn’t good for your business because it doesn’t align with your goals and your company vision.
Everyone who starts a business does it with some goals in mind and a vision of what kind of company they want to be. Most prospective clients have no idea what these are, so it’s up to you to make sure that you only pursue and take on work that best serves your needs. At my firm, we found that a useful tool was to establish assessment criteria that helped us to filter out work that we didn’t want to take on. These criteria gave us an agreed upon framework for our discussions and allowed us to make decisions efficiently and with confidence. We defined this framework by identifying three key things that an ideal project would provide us:
I’ve been trying to join a gym, and this is how it went down:
Last weekend I walked into the gym and told the front desk that I’d like to try the place out. A person came, shook my hand, led me to his desk, and sat me down. He pulled out a form and asked me questions – what’s my name, what’s my workout routine, what’s my goal (I had none, and he gave me a look), where do I live now and where I moved from? I interrupted him and asked, “can I just get a quick tour?” He told me this is the process and he had to ask these questions.
Ten minutes or so of my life evaporated. He then showed me the price – and this part I never understood – he pulled out a laminated price sheet and told me that even though there’s a number printed there, he was offering me a different number (was it a psychology test? should I have clapped?).
He gave me a 10-minute tour of the facility, even though I’ve just explained that all I want is to come in two to three times a week, run for half an hour, and sweat a little. Then he showed me the pilates and spinning rooms.
I left, head spinning, and forgot to get what I went for: a free trial pass. So I went back this past Saturday. The guy wasn’t there. Another lady helped me, but she did not have access to his forms, and she was going to ask me for all the information again. After my insistant pleading and explaining, she gave in and offered me two business-card size guest passes. I took them and ran.
At Harvest, we make it easy and fast for people to try us out, and we make pricing as simple and straight forward as possible. It’s bewildering to see another business trying their best to confuse potential customers and waste their time.