Miles Burke

Thoughts on startups, small business, marketing & more.

Category: Business (Page 2 of 17)

Writing in March & April 2015

This blog may have been left dormant for quite some time, however that certainly doesn’t mean that I wasn’t stringing any (sometimes logical) sentences together. Here are the articles I wrote for my employee survey start-up, 6Q, during March and April 2015.

You asked and we agreed
One of the great things in building a start up is the ability to listen to our users. We’ve got 100 organisations in 25 countries trialing 6Q before our public launch, which is very soon, and we’ve been busy collating feedback.

Now open for business
On 8 August 2014, only 228 days ago, we built the first prototype of what 6Q would become. Some 135 deployments later (more than one update every second day), and our beloved startup has officially opened to the public, today, 24 March 2015.

The short (& long) history of our start-up
For many, our little start-up, 6Q, started 228 days before our 24 March launch, in mid-August 2014, when we ran our first ‘startup sprint’ (more on that shortly).

In fact, 6Q started back when I first founded Bam Creative, the digital agency that built, and is a shareholder, in 6Q. Since the start of our journey as Bam Creative, I’ve been working on the theory that employment doesn’t need to suck.

10 secrets to employee happiness
Want to ensure you do your best to retain employees, and build a strong culture of employee engagement? We list the 10 most important factors in employee happiness.

A survey of a whopping 203,756 people from 189 countries by Boston Consulting Group last year reveals some interesting factors in employee happiness and it’s a fascinating read (you can take a look over here). In this article, we’ll cover the ten most important factors, and how you can easily contribute to them.

You can catch up on all the articles that I and the 6Q team have written on the 6Q blog.

Ethics in the Web Industry

Last Friday, I had the honour to speak at Western Australia’s premier web conference, Edge of the Web.

My talk, titled ‘Services, Sites & Snakeoil’ was a 45 minute run down on the state of the web industry, examples of possibly unsavory behavior amongst the industry, and suggested actions to put into place to encourage better ethical decisions in the future.

I also handed out paper, and requested people jot down some of their own thoughts, which I’ll be sharing here in the near future. Right near the end of the talk, I dropped mention of the wiki environment that a bunch of us have started, in order to work through the concept of a ‘Code of Conduct’ or some-such. I’d love to see you join us there, at www.webindustrycode.org

Please enjoy the presentation above, and if you like it, share it with your colleagues. Thanks to Matt Didcoe, Ashul Shah, Helen Burgess and the team at Partner and Prosper for the great conference – it really was a fantastic event.

Feedback on my talk, or the slides above? Hit me up in the comments.

Control that Inbox!

Sun Pictures, Broome

Does it feel like email is controlling your life? Find yourself checking your email every 10 minutes during your waking hours? We all lead busy lives, and with increased pressure on productivity, we’re all looking at ways to save time. If you’re like me, you probably receive more than your fair share of email — I receive more than 100 emails a day on average — so how do you cope with increasing email loads?

I have a simple system that has worked for some time, and I’d like to share it. Basically, I tend to use my inbox as an email task list, with the majority of my day-to-day activities found here. I check my email every hour or so, depending on my schedule. I read new emails, then sort through older ones that still remain in my inbox.

“The five Ds” is what I call my approach. As I traverse my inbox, I complete one of five actions with every email:

Do
If the email requires a response or an action, and it will take me less than a minute or two, I’ll do it straight away. Otherwise, I leave it in the inbox for a second perusal.

Delegate
Many of the emails I receive are related to tasks that my business is undertaking. If the email can be handled by a team member closer to the project or topic at hand, I’ll delegate the response to that person.

Defer
If the action or response is going to take longer than the time I have right now, I’ll defer processing it and leave it in my inbox for later. Typically I set aside at least 20-30 minutes per day for those larger responses or tasks.

Drop
If I’ve dealt with the email or there’s no further action required other than me reading it, I’ll drop it into the appropriate subfolder. I typically keep my folder structure minimalist, with just about all email ending up in my “year” folder — for example, “2009” for this year’s emails. That way, your inbox is compact and tidy.

Delete
If the email is spam or holds no future value for archiving, I’ll delete it. I do hoard emails though; the many gigabytes of email I’ve sent and received over the last decade — and still have — proves this. I tend to keep all emails relating to projects or clients indefinitely.

If you’re nodding your head and thinking, “That sounds a lot like Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done system,” you’d be correct. I haven’t read the book personally, and the approach is my own, but if you’re interested in learning getting, I’ve heard it’s a worthwhile read.

If you find that you treat your inbox like a task list, I’d encourage you to trial this method. Let me know what you think.

This post first appeared as part of Issue 450 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

Do You Have Five Minutes?

Amateur Radio camp shack at night

You’ve started tracking your time, and are increasingly aware of the amount of five minute freebies you are currently giving away in support requests and tiny content fixes.

What you need is a way to keep the administration of invoicing those small blocks of time to a minimum — for you, and the person receiving the invoice at your client’s end.

A few years ago, we embraced the idea of prepaid block hours. These have been a savior for us, and we’ve managed to claw back many of the minutes and hours we previously wiped off.

To make things even sweeter for our clients, we offer a discount rate to those who prepay their time, and then we charge those 10 minute fixes to these blocks. At the end of the prepaid block, we send a detailed time sheet for the work we did.

We offer a small discount on our five-hour block, then increase it according to the size of the block; we also have 10-hour, 20-hour, and 50-hour plans. We’ve allowed clients to choose which plan they want and then pay for it up-front, saving everyone the pain of multiple invoices for tiny amounts.

Now, when we’re asked by a client to spend 15 minutes tweaking some content, we simply charge it to this block and then send a report at the end.

Try it out; your clients and, importantly, your bank balance will appreciate the move!

This post first appeared as part of Issue 446 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

The Best Kept Secret

Ham Radio contesting in the Australian bush

A common complaint when speaking to managers of web teams, is the often large disconnect between being busy, and the goal of all business, being profitable.

I had the same dilemma years ago. We’d start on projects, feel like we’re doing the hours expected and a few small jobs in between — but we never seemed to make the money we’d calculated.

Where was the profit going? The answer — and one of the best kept secrets — is time. Without an indication of how long it actually took to complete a job, you’ll be unaware if you charged enough for the current job. And when a similar job comes long, you risk underquoting the work, if that’s what has happened.

The first golden rule here is track time on large projects.

Secondly, we’re all bombarded every week with those small “it should only take 15 minutes” jobs. Five of those, and we’re talking about an hour and a quarter a week, perhaps more. How are you tracking those? Gut feel? Stop it!

So you can see why I say that the second golden rule here is track time on the smaller tasks as well.

Ideally, every member of your team (or you, if you’re a freelancer) should clock every minute of the day into a system which allows you to quickly grab some useful details:

How many hours spent on this project this week?
How many hours available for this project before reaching budget?
How many interruptions this week, and what did they cost in time?
How long do those frequently repeated tasks actually take to do?
Once you’ve recorded weeks and months worth of this data, it allows you to accurately predict how similar tasks and projects will take in the future. You may now know that it takes four hours to build a widget. Instead of quoting that “gut feel” of two hours like you’ve done previously, you’ll be able to quote the right amount and win back those losses.

Say you charge $100 an hour, and build five of these widgets every month. That’s 60 a year, and if you’re short-changing yourself two hours every time, that’s a whopping $12,000 a year in losses. Find other repetitive tasks that you’ve been under-quoting (and if you’re only now starting to instigate time tracking, I guarantee you will!) — you’ll start kicking yourself you didn’t do this before now.

You can use any number of methods to record the time: paper time sheets, local computer-based software, or web-based tools. There’s a plethora of different tools available to you, and I’ll list a few of them below for your perusal.

Best of luck, and enjoy the challenges of increasing your billable hours per week!

This post first appeared as part of Issue 446 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

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