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Time Tracking Insights from Jason Calacanis

Harvest customer Jason Calacanis has started companies like Weblogs, Inc. (acquired by AOL), Mahalo.com and ThisWeekIn.com. Jason recently wrote about why his businesses track time and how that has helped them make better decisions.

Time tracking is a very touchy subject in the employment space, and you have to be very, very careful implementing it if you’re not in advertising, legal or consulting (where it’s standard). Time tracking asks team members to report on which projects and tasks they are working on down to the quarter hour.

It seems annoying, but it actually isn’t a big deal. It adds about five minutes to each person’s day—max —since most folks work on fewer than 10 tasks a day. The information you can get from it can be unexpected. For example, we realized that one of our video shows was costing eight times another, with two more sitting squarely in between. When drilled down, we figured out what the more efficient shows were doing, and applied those best practices to all the other shows.

Additionally, we went to our distribution partner and said, “Look, this is costing us more and here are the numbers—we need a better deal.” We got it!

If you’re having trouble motivating your team to adopt time tracking, Jason offers some sound advice:

Now, you will get standard objections like “I’m too busy to do this” and “You don’t trust me?” The first objection tends to come from high performers, who will respond properly to “I understand you’re slammed, but if you do this, it’s a short-term cost for a long-term benefit, because we’re going to show exactly how much more effective you are than everyone else—and you can use that in your next review!”

The “You don’t trust me?” protest tends to come from “eeyores” or low performers. When they respond this way, you should look them in the eye and say, “We wouldn’t have hired you if we didn’t trust you. This is for the good of the team.” Then say nothing. If they whine some more, you can use the metaphor of athletes who track every metric under the wisdom of “If you can measure it, you can manage it.” If they still complain? Well, it might just be time to hit the eject button on that employee.

Read more about the tools Jason uses for his business in this OPEN Forum article.

Harvest in the Wall Street Journal

When you are a small business, getting your clients to pay you on time isn’t always straight-forward. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a piece on how entrepreneurs are using online services to help with this challenge.

They asked us how we help our customers get paid. Here’s the excerpt:

Marian Phelan, president of Hashrocket Inc., a Jacksonville, Fla., software developer, says her firm started using Harvest in 2009 because it made it easy for company programmers to click a button on their computers whenever they were doing work for a particular client.

The system then compiles that billable time into an invoice, and users can enter additional items such as expenses.

Harvest also offers a less stressful option for managers who hate dunning their customers. “You can set up automated reminders to remind clients if an invoice is past due,” says Danny Wen, co-founder of the New York-based site, whose services start at $12 a month. “Then it’s the application doing the reminder—not the person. It makes things less awkward.”

Check out the full article for all the tips:

Harvest From Your Inbox with Google Apps

Back in June we launched Harvest for Google Apps. One of the most interesting things about this integration is our contextual gadget for Gmail. Contextual gadgets provide a powerful way for applications to display relevant functionality to an email recipient based on the subject or content of the email.

In our case, a timesheet reminder email triggers a timesheet to be displayed right below the email. Recipients can then quickly enter and submit their timesheet without leaving Gmail.

Today we’re delighted to mention that Google is featuring this integration on their Enterprise Blog as part of their effort in spreading awareness about the powers of contextual gadgets. Check out the post to learn more about this and other contextual gadget integrations. Google is also hosting a webinar on these types of integrations on Wednesday, September 8th.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap on how Harvest works with Google Apps:

1) Enter and submit your timesheets directly in Gmail
2) Export timesheet reports from Harvest into Google Docs
3) Sign in to your Harvest account automatically with Google Apps

It’s been a successful launch and we look forward to working with Google to make it even better in the future!

SXSW Bingo: It’s About Fun.

The Harvest team recently spent a few days at the SXSWi Festival in Austin, Texas to say hello to old friends, meet new ones, talk to Harvest users from around the world, and orchestrate something called SXSW Bingo. SXSW Bingo was a game we created to encourage SXSW attendees to take photos, interact with each other and spend hopelessly more time on Twitter in the name of fun. The SXSW Bingo board has 25 squares, and there were several ways to win, including the most difficult: filling in every square on the board.

Laura Hall, from Dallas, TX managed to snap a photo of every square, including the elusive Zune, Guy Kawasaki and someone in a Harvest t-shirt. Here’s a photo of Laura’s winning SXSW Bingo board. Laura was recently interviewed about her experiences over on the Underwire Blog. For her Herculean efforts, Laura walked away with a brand new Kindle 2 courtesy of Harvest.

Harvest SXSW Bingo winning card

A big THANKS to everyone who played, participated, and laughed with us at SXSW!  We had a brilliant time and we’re already looking forward to the next one.

See also: SXSWBingo.com