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Time Tracking Insights from Jason Calacanis

Harvest customer Jason Calacanis has started companies like Weblogs, Inc. (acquired by AOL), and 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:

Harvest reviewed at nextNY

A comprehensive review complete with video walkthroughs of Harvest has just been published over at the nextNY blog by Jonah Keegan.

Check out my video review if you want a closer look at the program’s features. Having used Harvest myself for a billable project in October, the bottom line is the software is easy to use and efficiently scales to administer multiple users.

Full review

Harvest Testimonials

Over the last few months, we’ve been collecting feedback, comments, and testimonials from all our users. We’ve pulled some of that together into a testimonials page on the Harvest site. We’re especially proud to know that we are helping businesses see their time with more clarity and ease than before.

Have a look and see what businesses small and large are saying about Harvest.

Want to tell us about your Harvest experience? Drop us a line with your thoughts at support (at)

“Someone mentioned Harvest and we have not looked back since.”

“We were using an internally developed time tracking solution which was OK. It was not comprehensive enough and since the developer left the company, we were left with a dilemma of whether to pay that person to continue to maintain it or try to buy something. Someone mentioned Harvest and we have not looked back since. We did a trial – for a very short period, realized it was going to do what we needed and then wiped out our trial db, decided on our list of projects and tasks, then easily entered it in Harvest and presto, we have a new solution that is perfect for us. And our users like it. So does the management team because we can break down our data to look in many ways.”

“Harvest support and development was incredibly responsive and helpful throughout the process and are still awesome when we have an idea or a question.” – Leanne Brekke, Product Manager (Taylor Scheduling Software)

“Harvest is an absolute DREAM.”

“I just wanted to compliment you on a fine product. I’ve been a freelancer for 5 years and I’ve tried every bloated, overpriced, and overly complicated time tracking system there is. Harvest is an absolute DREAM. The stopwatch feature is AWESOME!!! Thanks for helping me and my business.” – Anthony Howard (Bigheaded Geniuses)

“I’ve been looking for something like Harvest for years. “

“As a freelancer I keep track of my time religiously, but the available tools are either bloated desktop-based uber-business apps or worthlessly oversimplified calculators. I didn’t want something that just let me record my time – any piece of paper could do that. I wanted something that would actually calculate my time for me. I just wanted to clock in and clock out and let the computer do the calculations. Harvest does all this and much more with a fun and intuitive interface.

I’ve kissed my desktop applications goodbye. Hello Harvest!” (full review)