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Time Management & Productivity Blocks

Time Management & Productivity Blocks

We’ve talked before about how we are tracking our time in order to better understand how this business works.  If you haven’t read that piece, it may be a good place to start before reading further. You can read it here.

Today, we want to expand on that and show how we are tracking our individual days and share what insights we are pulling from that data.

TimeTrackerWe’ve gone ahead and blurred all the text to protect client privacy.

Each colored block represents an hour. We try to keep tasks within 1/2 hour increments to a.) make our data collection easier and more consistent and b.) keep us focused on the tasks at hand. The white rivers between each block is a weekend. You can see that we occasionally put in time over the weekend, but we do our best to avoid that.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.54.57 AMOur secret color code!

You can already start to see patterns. There are days that are primarily client time. There are also times where we are going on a sales push and other times that we are working on brand development. These are all productive tasks that help increase our revenue, brand recognition, and customer satisfaction.

The purple blocks of personal time are indeed personal activities during the work day (getting lunch with a friend, walking to and from downtown, or tinkering on a side project), but they can also represent productivity blocks. A productivity block is either when work just simply isn’t getting done or busy work is occupying our time instead of other activities that can help add value to our operation.

productivityblockThese two days sucked.

As you can see, two days were plagued with two hour productivity blocks. We attempt to manage all of our work within an eight hour work day, which means that this was a loss of 25% of our productive time that day.

What happened? 

a.) We were experiencing a sales slump. All of our client work was done, our previous sales efforts were not working as well as they previously had been, and it was hard to come up with productive tasks that would increase revenue rather than incur additional expenses.

b.) Both of these productivity blocks came from previous days of being very productive. Having a slow day threw us off and we had a hard time managing the lull in business.

c.) Both activities occurred after lunch. We had spent the morning on both days doing brand development and sales efforts, and by the time the afternoon rolled around we were a bit fatigued with those activities.

How did we correct this? 

todaywasagoodday

These two days were better.

We continued with our sales efforts by literally driving further to meet with clients we weren’t reaching previously. We did some pro bono work to help individuals out and sharpen our skills. We built a simple app just to see if we could and to see if that would be a valuable service for our clients. We woke up earlier, chased more leads, and drank more coffee.

The Firedove team implements a simple idea when facing a productivity block.

What is the most expensive, dangerous, and illegal way we can solve a problem we are facing?

Our problem was that we didn’t have any client work at the moment. After you run through the most absurd of solutions and the creativity starts flowing again, it’s easier to come up with reasonable solutions to the problem.

Ultimately, somedays are not going to be as productive as others. That’s just a fact of life and business. What we can do is try to come up with more efficient and meaningful ways to break those productivity barriers.

Next time you are faced with a creative dilemma, try thinking about the most expensive, dangerous, and illegal solution. It might just jumpstart some new ideas.

Posted by Firedove on

Watching The Wheel

Watching The Wheel

Firedove Technology is made by some of the same folks who made Vitreous.

Vitreous as described by the Spokane Journal of Business is “a digital mirror display that can access the Internet or content from a user’s smartphone.” The product promises to make getting ready in the morning a unique, entertaining, and informative process by brining information to you in a more seamless and transparent way.

Building a product is difficult. After many other inventions made by the team that works on Vitreous (and part of the Firedove team), we have learned how to effectively address the problems and challenges that come with putting together a hardware or software solution.

https://youtu.be/yiVxCK-eK3U

Perhaps the best lessons we’ve gained from experiences like these is that to create something amazing you need to start with bare-bones functionality (otherwise known as a Minimum Viable Product, a.k.a. a MVP) and increase functionality after the initial set of features are working flawlessly. Starting small and then expanding as new features become necessary saves us from trying to create a product that is unnecessarily complicated, unmanageable, and potentially even undesirable for our customers.

We don’t assume that the final product is going to be a creation of something entirely from our own imagination. The product will be refined by our customers using the device, explaining how they use it, and providing feedback.

We could arbitrarily add a toaster slot to the Vitreous to allow you to make part of your breakfast in the a mirror, but that idea isn’t supported by any compelling customer narrative. Maybe customers will want something that is capable of helping make their breakfast and we will implement that feature, but until we have the hard data to support that notion we will focus on improving our existing feature set.

At times, designers of all industries will attempt to build a project that simply outstrips the needs of the clients. Sure, a website that works with Google Cardboard is exciting, for example, but it may entirely miss the majority of visitors because they only use desktop computers to visit the website.

Ignoring the customer narrative can hurt and even kill a business. Instead of focusing on making one product, service, or offering really great, a business might overextend itself and make a product that’s only accolade is that it does a lot of things poorly.

Steve Jobs has been famously quoted saying ““It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And this is true. A dash of innovation and imagination is required to initially build a business or product, but how people use that product or business is something you cannot entirely control. Even the best UX may result in customers utilizing the service or product in ways that were not originally planned.

Your business is a product of innovation, observation, and instinct. By incrementally adding in hardware and software solutions that address real customer needs, you’ll spend less cash and time trying to reinvent the wheel, and instead spend time predicting, watching, and adjusting to how the wheel rolls.

We build thoughtful and innovative products. We watch how the wheel moves and create pathways to accelerate its speed, ramps to give it a boost into the air, and even an axle to help pivot.

Customers are the wheel. They ultimately decide where the market is going and what they want to support. Instead of trying to reshape their expectations as to what a wheel is, we try to make pathways that support the motion of the already rolling wheel. Firedove can bring this level of thoughtfulness to your next project.

P.S. Vitreous is live and well. We are still working on it and hope to bring it to customers soon. Keep up on all Vitreous developments @ www.DCIASM.com 

Posted by Firedove on

True Cost of a Sweatshirt

True Cost of a Sweatshirt

Today, you can buy a sweatshirt with the Firedove logo for $39.99.

We wanted to discuss the true costs of the way we are selling this sweatshirt. Since we are a small technology firm, we really don’t have time to be screen-printing sweatshirts, managing inventory, shipping out product, and all the other expenses and time commitments that come with selling a physical product. So we decided that we would use a company that does DTG (direct to garment) printing, packaging, and shipping for us. These are one-off production runs, so we didn’t need to buy any inventory and all of the management is taken care of.

Firedove Sweatshirt

 The most beautiful sweatshirt ever made.

As you can imagine, having a company do the printing, processing, and shipping is expensive. The total cost comes out to $37.12 ($30 for the garment and printing, and $7.12 for shipping).

A $2.87 profit per shirt isn’t bad for being able to indefinitely ship out sweatshirts that we don’t have to manage. But alas, there are more costs hidden here.

We need a payment portal. Simply having a form online to have people enter in their credit card information isn’t PCI complaint, and even if we did that (which would be borderline insane) we would still need to process the transactions using a credit card reader. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of taking credit cared payments over the internet, we decided to use a payment portal. The portal we selected takes a 5% cut and $0.25 from every order.  The math works out to this:

Payment Portal Cut

($39.99*.05)+$0.25 = $2.2495

Final Profit

$2.87 – $2.25 = $0.62

We are currently selling our sweatshirt (and future products) effectively at cost. Since there isn’t any management required to sell, print, and ship, it really doesn’t bother us.

So what’s the upshot for Firedove Technology?

a.) We wanted sweatshirts for ourselves. This was a great way to get them and make them available for others at the same time.

b.) We’d consider this a brand development effort to help get our name and logo out into the public.

Selling goods online requires a really thoughtful approach to do it successfully. We can help outline the true costs for your company and implement a system that works best for your goals.

Posted by Firedove on

Put Your Data Where Your Mouth Is

Put Your Data Where Your Mouth Is

Data Analysis is one of our core offerings. Most small businesses aren’t aware of how easily they can start collecting data, and how they they can turn it into meaningful results. It would be dreadfully ironic if we didn’t use those some data collection and analysis practices on our own company and with that said we’d like to share with you some of our insights.

At Firedove we quantify the time we spent working into six distinct categories.

  • Brand Development This is time spent blogging, making social media posts, updating our website, and doing other functions that help our brand.
  • Sales Efforts – Any effort spent trying to secure new business. This includes lead generation, consults, or anything else that helps us sign new clients.
  • Enrichment – We designate a portion of our hours to learning a new skill or pro-bono work. When we get to help a client with enrichment hours, we consider it an opportunity to sharpen our skills while providing them with high quality service. If we aren’t providing pro-bono work, we are researching new technologies, practicing new techniques, and doing things that otherwise make us more capable at our jobs.
  • Administrative – Paying bills, filing taxes, incorporating, ordering supplies, checking out office space, budgeting, internal data analysis, and anything else that is helps the company operate that isn’t related to client services.
  • Client Time – Time spent working on a project or with a client.
  • Personal – One of the perks of running your own company is that you can sprint out in the middle of the day to take care of a pressing matter. We usually offset this by putting in longer days or working on weekends.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 4.49.43 PM

Cumulative Hours To Projected Income

The chart above illustrates the cumulative amount of hours allocated to each category with respect to total projected income. The six color bars represent cumulative hours and the pink line illustrates revenue. We will not be disclosing our exact revenue figures here.

So what does this data mean? 

Honestly, not a lot at this stage. We are a young company and we don’t have much data to work with. But let’s look at a chart that highlights brand development, sales efforts, and client time to make some predictions. Brand development should help bring in more business by way of referrals and allowing clients to seek our services out better. Sales efforts are direct marketing or sales efforts.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 5.10.28 PM

Cumulative Hours in Brand Development, Sales Efforts, and Client Time To Projected Income

As we consistently increased our sales efforts we saw a significant spike in our revenue. At this moment we really don’t have a brand name, reputation, or anything else that could help bring in new clients based on us being Firedove Technology, rather than us knocking on doors and cold calling to solicit our services.

Our theory is that as we increase our sales efforts and gain more clients, our brand will strengthen. As our brand strengthens (which will require more time to management), we anticipate that being a stronger way to generate revenue.

We will be able to track as time goes by if this theory holds up. Perhaps we will be required to spend more time increasing the green-bar once our sales efforts have diminishing returns on your projected income. Perhaps we will always see a direct positive correlation between our sales efforts and projected income.

It’s too early to call anything, but we’ve set up the foundational work to really understand what will help and move our company.

We will periodically show other ways we are analyzing our efforts and reviewing charts like this one on the blog. If you feel like you could use this type of analysis and data collection for your company, give us a call and let’s get a consult set up.

This is Robbi Anthony from Spokane, Washington, signing off for now.

Posted by Firedove on

You don’t want to see your wedding dress in the window

You don’t want to see your wedding dress in the window

We don’t show client work on our website. Just about every other firm like us will show their technical prowess and design capabilities by showing off their work online. We don’t want to do that.

It’s like this.

You just bought a wedding dress. It’s beautiful. It’s everything you wanted. And now it’s yours. This dress is uniquely you. Its design reflects your personality and it hugs your body in all the right ways. This is not just a dress. This is your dress.

Imagine walking down the street the next day. Maybe you are on your way to work, on your way to grab a coffee, or it’s another wedding planning appointment. You look up and there it is, your wedding dress, being proudly displayed in the window. Sure, you still have the dress you just got at home, but this exact copy is now hanging in the window.

Suddenly, something so incredible personal feels a bit less special.

Whether it’s graphic design, a new website, fascinating data analysis, or superb IT support, we believe that the end result is yours and only yours to share. Our name will not show up when people are searching online for your business. There will be no watermarks on your graphics. And the only people who know we worked on your project will be us.

This is Firedove Technology. We are located in Downtown Spokane, and we are ready to shake things up.

 

Posted by Firedove on

Hello Spokane!

Hello Spokane!

Hello Spokane! We are Firedove Technology and we are hoping to be the home and small business solution for all your technology needs. Firedove is currently a one person operation lead by Robbi Anthony.

“I’m tired of seeing people being ripped off for IT and computer services in this city. I want to provide high quality service at reasonable prices. After years of freelance graphic design, experience at an advertising agency, and a decade of being the default IT support for friends and family, I’ve decided to bring those services to home and small business clients in Spokane.”

-Robbi

If we cannot provide a solution for your technology needs, we will happily refer you to a different firm that can better serve you. We cannot do everything, and we are not shy about admitting that. But, if it so happens that your needs align with our skill set, we will give you the best finished product that we can.

We build solutions that can be managed by the client after completing the project. As much as you don’t want to pay us for annual contracts, we don’t want to be a substitute for in-house IT support.

We also would like to thank our initial patrons who’ve helped get this fledgling business off the ground. Thank you Ken Warto, Stephen Anthony, Lily Warto, and Sheryl Anthony!

Hello Spokane. We are Firedove and we cannot wait to get to know you.

Posted by Firedove on

Hardware & Software Solutions

Hardware & Software Solutions

With the right hardware and software your business can run faster and more efficiently. Whether it’s having software that can track all of our incoming and outgoing packages, better employee time tracking, or accepting contactless payments, Firedove can help implement solutions that are reliable, affordable, and that can integrate easily with your existing business.

With the right hardware and software your business can run faster and more efficiently. Whether it’s having software that can track all of our incoming and outgoing packages, better employee time tracking, or accepting contactless payments, Firedove can help implement solutions that are reliable, affordable, and that can integrate easily with your existing business.

Technology should be easy and seamless. Firedove provides solutions that can easily be managed and troubleshooted by the business. We can create a geofence around your business to notify nearby customers who have coupons or we can enable your customers to make music requests directly from their cell phones. With simple hardware and software solutions we can create better experiences for your customers and more efficient businesses.

With a project like this, we would need to sit down first and discuss what you are looking to have accomplished before we could provide an accurate quote. With bigger projects we usually do a fixed-fee rate. This means that no matter how many hours it takes us to complete the project, you pay one flat price.