I’m currently about to participate in a three week testing project where DIGTECH was hired basically as the excavation crew. For this project, I had to hire my first temporary employee. I’m going to present the challenges this entire operation presents. Keep in mind, I’m one person hiring one other person. The challenges I’m going to present are magnified many times with larger companies, but, they are still pretty much the same.
Since I’m not in total control of this project and was subcontracted by another CRM firm to do the fieldwork, I have very little control over the flow of information. The client for the project is actually a county in California. One challenge that presents is that they have a lot of bureaucracy to get through before they can approve the project.
First, the county asked for a proposal from my client. My client then asked for a proposal from me. Once they had the complete proposal the CRM firm sent it to the county. The county had some changes and sent it back. The firm signed it and sent it back up to the county. Now, the county has to send it to a “Consent Meeting” where it is voted on. When it’s accepted we have five days to get in the field.
The employee I wanted to hire is a long-time friend who was on a project in the upper midwest. He was looking to come back this direction so was a perfect fit. Of course, he had to give notice at that company and then make the drive back to Nevada. I got a start date of July 14 from my client. What I didn’t know was that was on the assumption that the consent meeting would have taken place by then. Well, it didn’t happen.
So, I pushed the start date back one week. Luckily, the meeting happened the following week and we’re slated to start now.
A big complaint I often hear from field techs is that companies jerk them around on start times for projects. I’d say that most of the time the firm would like to start as soon as possible because they don’t get paid until many months after the start of the fieldwork, typically. Some projects invoice monthly and some are based on passing milestones (like finishing fieldwork, etc.). Either way, the company has to have a date in mind so people can make arrangements to get there on time. This doesn’t always work out and start dates have to move.
My advice to the field tech would be to understand this problem. Be flexible and responsible by having some money in the bank that you can live on for a few weeks without pay. If you don’t you’ll just end up getting frustrated and working at the Gap. Nobody wants that.
If you’re running a small business then you’re worried about payroll. Period. The tough thing about payroll in CRM is that the company might have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars before the contract’s client ever pays out. So, they either need to have a bunch of money in the bank, a line of credit, or a loan.
In my case, I haven’t done much work on the CRM side of the company lately because I’ve been focused on other projects. As a consequence I don’t currently have the money to cover payroll. What will this three-week project cost me?
The county set per diem at $165. I’ve set wages for myself at $25 and for my tech at $20. For 15 days thats a total of $2475 in per diem, EACH, in cash, and up front. For pay that will be, before taxes, $3000 for me and $2400 for my tech. The total payroll is up to $10,350. That’s just for two people for three weeks! So, assuming I don’t pay myself a dime right away, which is common, I’m now responsible for $4875. I have to get the per diem before we start. They pay can wait a couple weeks after the end of the project. That’s fairly typical.
Where is this money going to come from? I have a few sources that I’m going to tap. Either way, it’s stressful. I’d love to just have the money on hand, but, I don’t. I’d love it if my tech would take the pay portion when I get paid for the project, but, that’s not fair to ask and I wouldn’t want to put that financial burden on him anyway. So, a loan it is.
I haven’t even talked about the actual process of running payroll yet: taxes, W-2s, etc. That’s because I haven’t figured it out yet.
I have two logistical concerns: lodging and travel. For lodging we’re staying at a nice RV resort and campground on a lake. It’s reasonably priced, has Wifi, showers, and power at the sites, and is only a few miles from the project area. The problem is that they need seven days lead time for cancelations. Since it’s summertime camping I wanted to get a reservation in early to ensure a spot. Of course, I had to move the reservation a couple times and luckily they let me. It’s apparently only cancelations that they have a problem with.
My other concern is travel. My wife and I have one vehicle. We’re working on getting a second, but for now that’s off the table. So, I rent vehicles for projects. It doesn’t really matter since you bill the cost of a vehicle into the project anyway. I still have to deal with vehicle availability and canceling or changing reservations. All of these little details just pile on the stress.
So, the next time you’re criticizing a firm for playing with the start date and other logistics, keep in mind that there are factors at play that you are not privy to. There is always a strong chance that the person in charge is just a terrible manager, but, that doesn’t take away the challenges I’ve mentioned. It just changes the way they handle them.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field; if this damn project ever starts!