Managing

Managing

Cloud Collaboration: Using Google Apps to Save Money and Time

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Google’s cloud collaboration platform that includes Google Docs and Google Drive make up the cornerstone of my company’s internal file infrastructure and has been the key to transparent collaboration with my colleagues and clients. Cloud collaboration has allowed me to keep all of my files organized and accessible from anywhere, streamline my project research and notes, and easily share critical information with members of my project teams, both clients and colleagues. In my previous role as a project manager at an IT consulting firm, one of my developers and I experimented with the short-lived Google Wave as a platform for real-time collaboration during review and planning meetings. It was our first introduction to cloud collaboration and we immediately benefitted, eliminating the arduous task of comparing and consolidating meeting notes after the fact. While Google Wave also boasted some other interesting features, real-time document collaboration was our primary use and it worked well. When Wave was discontinued in 2010 we moved to Google Docs to take advantage of similar functionality with the same positive results. The following year, I began planning my own company. I decided to try the business version of Google Apps (now called Google Apps for Work), which […]

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Ask Molly, Managing

Ask Molly: Subcontractor Causing a Budget Overrun

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Subcontractor Causing a Budget Overrun Dear Molly Recently, two of my programmers have spent WAY more time than was estimated for tasks within projects and did not let me know until after the work was performed.  Now the clients are furious because of the budget overrun and we may have to credit a significant amount of money back to two clients. One of the programmers is an employee so he’s already been paid but I still have to pay the subcontractor. What are your thoughts on paying people who repeatedly go over budget without notice? Our contract even states that subcontractors will not be paid for work done without prior approval. Sticker Shock in Chicago Dear Sticker Shock, I feel your pain. One of my biggest challenges in managing a team is just that—managing. Once I’ve made an estimate I expect my developers to avoid a  budget overrun or give me a red hot alert if they even think they may need more time. Most great problem solvers are so focused on the outcome that they lose track of their time. Their focus is great but it requires you to keep an eye on the clock for them. If you’ve […]

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Ask Molly, Managing

Ask Molly: When to Stop Work

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  When to Stop Work Dear Molly, I just started working as a subcontractor for a new client. They are currently overdue on invoices worth more than $10K but are telling me that they can’t pay me until the client pays them. The client is not going to pay them until the work is considered “complete” and at this point it’s unclear how much more work they are expecting from me to complete the project. I feel I can’t continue working for them until they’ve caught up on at least some of my outstanding invoices. Does that sound reasonable? What is your opinion of the best way to handle this? Sincerely, Gotta get paid Dear Gotta, The main reason it is worth it to work as a subcontractor is that someone else has landed the work for you. Sales is a tricky business and if it is not your favorite or not your forte, well then it’s worth subcontracting for example at $75/hour while your client charges you out at $150/hour. The additional benefit of being a subcontractor is that your client assumes the risk of payment and project completion. My typical term with subcontractors is 30 days or when […]

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Elusive Moose Podcast
Managing, Podcast

Episode 12: Benefits of Subcontracting

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In this podcast episode, Molly and Jason discuss subcontracting. Learn more about why you should position yourself as a subcontractor (or be prepared to if other work falls through), how you can build up your network, how to price your services, and other dos and don’ts of subcontracting.

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Ask Molly, Managing

Ask Molly: How To Bill For Junior Time

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How do I bill for junior developer time? Dear Molly, I bill clients hourly. I now have a junior developer. I’m struggling with how to bill that time to the client. With early, easy tasks, I could often pass that along in full, or nearly so, as some simple layout modifications would take me nearly as long. But with more complex tasks, I know I’m going to need to bill only a percentage of that time. How should I determine what to charge? All time at a lower rate or less time at the full rate? Review the work and try to estimate how long it would take me? Sincerely, Wondering What’s Fair   Dear Wondering, I appreciate your overall approach because I think it demonstrates a clear commitment to giving your client great service at a price that is fair. If you stick with this mindset you will make the right choices. Here are a few suggestions to consider as you discount your junior developer’s time. I suggest you estimate the task based on how long it would take you to complete the work and only bill the client for that amount. Be sure to track the actual time […]

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Managing

Share Your Coworking Success: An Elusive Moose Case Study

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Yes, I do talk about coworking frequently, but that’s because I really believe in the concept and I want to make sure that other consultants, freelancers, and remote employees (of any kind) know about it and understand its awesomeness. In a previous post, I explained the benefits that I’ve experienced through coworking at The Candy Factory, a space in my hometown of Lancaster, PA. I wanted to follow-up with a case study that illustrates and reinforces those benefits through real life experience—the story of Elusive Moose. At the beginning of the summer of 2015, Molly and I decided to join forces on this new Elusive Moose project. We were eager to channel decades of experience as independent consultants and owners/managers of consulting firms into an online resource and annual conference to help others like us better enjoy their work and maintain a healthy and fulfilling work life. There were lots of services that we required in order to get our new business off the ground: Branding Design Web Development Web Hosting Legal Accounting Then came the daunting task of finding other professionals who could provide those services. As a member of a vibrant coworking space, I immediately began to tap […]

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Ask Molly, Managing

Ask Molly: How to Manage Millennials

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How do I hire and manage millennials? Dear Molly, I’m a small business owner who has been in business for twenty years. A successful growth model for me has been to hire and train recent college graduates. However, in recent years I have had a real challenge hiring and managing junior employees. Specifically, I feel like this new generation isn’t willing to put the work in before they are asking for raises and promotions. I also feel like they are always challenging my decisions when I really just need them to “get to work.” Any ideas for hiring and managing millennials? Sincerely, Frustrated Dear Frustrated, You’re not alone with this question. More and more managers are finding that they need to adapt their style in order to adjust to the different expectations of a changing workforce. It’s helpful to first understand where these changes are coming from, and then to develop strategies to address them. For example, many millennials have grown up calling adults by their first names, are encouraged to be inquisitive, and place a high value on time and flexibility. This shapes the way they interact with their employers (you). While it may feel like they are challenging […]

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Elusive Moose Podcast
Managing, Podcast

Episode 8: Where To Work

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In podcast episode number eight, Molly and Jason discuss the remote work culture that has been booming for the past few years. Both share particular environments they have worked in along with advantages and disadvantages to working on-site, off-site, from home, and in a coworking environment. Referenced in this episode: Fast Company’s “Balance Is Bunk!”, The Candy Factory, and Kelsey Dixon’s “Work/Life Balance Isn’t Real.”

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Managing

Accounting 101 For Freelancers and Consultants: We Need Your Help

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Like so many of my friends and colleagues, I started my own company so that I could continue doing what I loved (developing software applications) and do it on my own terms. That part was no problem. Understanding the business side of my new company was, by far, the scariest part. If you’ve never started a company or done freelance work before, dealing with your fear of the unknown can be the elusive moose that keeps your new work life from getting off the ground. I think it takes a very special person to get everything right the first time around, or even the second or third time around. Most of us are busy attaching the wings while flying the plane—we’re figuring it all out as we go. In my own work life, accounting was my elusive moose. Even though I spent a lot of time around small businesses and business applications as a software developer, I still “didn’t know what I didn’t know” when it came time for me to do my own bookkeeping. Here are a couple common accounting scenarios that I have either experienced myself or observed others experiencing when they are starting their first company or […]

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Ask Molly, Managing

Ask Molly: How To Schedule A Team

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How do I schedule my team? Dear Molly, I’ve been a web developer for ten years and in the last three years my business has grown immensely. Suddenly, I find myself managing a designer and four other programmers. I’m the bottleneck and things keep slipping through the cracks. What tools and techniques do you use to get a handle on an ever-changing schedule? Sincerely, Overloaded in California Dear Overloaded, You’re not alone in switching between being able to juggle your clients and suddenly having to manage your workload and keep an eye on what your team is doing. As the business owner, it’s also your responsibility to make sure you’re setting realistic expectations for both your clients and your team. First, you need some kind of overview to help you get a snapshot of what’s happening. My answer to this (when I managed a team of 12 developers) was a project-planning tool that came to be known as the “Woobie” because I carried it around like a security blanket. It was a top-level view of projects, assignments, and roles that allowed me to review the workload and communicate with my team. Here’s a simplified version of my project-planning tool: Simply […]

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