#215 DIGTECH Turns One

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The day passed virtually unnoticed for me, but, yesterday, my company officially turned one. I’m basing that on when I got my Nevada State Business license. There are other ways to measure it, but this seemed appropriate. So, what did I do over the last year?

Well, I

  • Filed my state business license
  • Filed my county business license
  • Filed my city business license (for Sparks and Reno)
  • Obtained an antiquities permit from the Nevada State Museum
  • Obtained a Cultural Resource Use Permit from the NV BLM
  • Researched and cold called 20 companies
  • Bought a domain name
  • Started a website
  • Got a PO box
  • Joined ACRA
  • Joined the Geological Society of Nevada
  • Joined the Nevada Mining Association
  • Called 20 more companies
  • Stole my first job from my last company
  • Started a business bank account
  • Set up Quickbooks for accounting
  • Bought Dropbox space for total cloud storage
  • Called 20 more companies
  • Started the CRM Archaeology Podcast
  • Connected with others on Linked In and got two more jobs
  • Got a small job from a big company
  • Wrote the report for my second project from a campsite at Yellowstone
  • Set my company up in Dun and Bradstreet for my DUNS number
  • Set DIGTECH up in SAMs
  • Connected with BLM contracting officers
  • Connected with a few companies for teaming
  • Helped develop an archaeology recording application (still in progress!)
  • Did about $10,000 in business
  • Spent about $17,000 (you do the math)
  • Bought a chair from Ikea (hello Markus)
  • Set up professional liability insurance 
  • Set up worker’s comp insurance
  • Set up general business insurance
  • Called 20 more companies
  • Optimized Linked In and Website for best search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Received a random call from a company looking for cell tower work because my SEO was effective!
  • Wrote a book
  • Published a book (out this April from Left Coast Press)

And most importantly,

  • Never lost focus
  • Remained optimistic
  • And I’m looking forward to Year Two.


Thanks for reading and I’ll hopefully be hiring you soon!

#205 Why NOT to Start A Business

Historic site southeast of Eureka, Nevada.

Over the last year I've heard, and seen, a few comments on reasons to start a business. Usually, people are envious and say that they'd like to start a business because they don't want to work for someone else, or, because they are tired of looking for a job, or, because they can't get hired by anyone. Only one of these is a good reason. I'll let you work out which one. Of course, it's not the only reason you should do it.

Don't start a CRM firm if you don't want to do something different. If you're going to start up a firm just like the ones you've worked for then you'll just be more of the same. Don't do that. If you have a novel new idea, or a great management style, or something that is different, will foster good will and friendship among employees, and will make people want to work with you then go for it! 

Now I'll just talk about one reason listed above for why not to start a company: because no one else will hire you.

First, I'll talk about my last job and why I didn't immediately seek out further employment. My last company was, and is, going through some tough times. I can't really put a finger on exactly why they were going downhill, but, it certainly stemmed from management issues and a project manager or two that didn't know how to actually manage projects or people. Those things alone will sink a company. I'm not sure why I was laid off first, but I was. The reason given was that I didn't fit the direction the company was going. That must have been because they were going down, apparently. I couldn't agree more. I wasn't happy with the massive ethics violations that I was trying to fix from within anyway, so, I wasn't too upset. Within the next four months they laid off much of the rest of the staff.

At that point, I'd been in CRM for about eight years and had seen the good and the bad in a number of companies. I've always thought that there could be a better way. I'm also 38 - well 37 at the time - and I'm not getting any younger. So, I decided to finally take the plunge and start my own company. I never did look for work or send out a single CV or resume. I simply wasn't interested in working for anyone else.

My company is, and will never be, like all the rest out there. Browse my blog for the numerous posts about the type of company I have.

No one in their right mind would start a company just to give themselves a job!

Starting a company is a long, involved, stressful process. I'm still finding out things I should be doing that I'm not. No one tells you what organizations you should belong to, what licenses you actually need, where to find projects, how to get paid for those projects, and how to just make sure everything is running smoothly. I've made a ton of mistakes over the past year. Through this blog I've tried to relay my mistakes so someone else wishing to do this can save a few headaches.

Also, if I started this company just to give myself a paycheck then I'm a pretty crapy employer. I've paid myself a total of about $5,000 this year. That equates to approximately $2.84 an hour over the past 11 months. What a dick. I did all this because I believe in what I'm doing, not because I needed a job.

I wanted to write this post to start a conversation about the business of archaeology. If you started a business, why did you do it? If you started, then stopped, why? What about archaeology as a business in the first place? Have we cheapened the science by taking it out of the hands of universities and commercializing it? Should all arch firms be non-profit so they don't succumb to the "constantly grow" philosophy of modern capitalism? If you have an answer to one of these questions, please comment on the actual blog post. That way we can have the conversation in one place, rather than on five different social media sites. If writing a comment on the blog is too tedious, let me know and I'll try to fix it.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!

#185 Small Business Issues

A small business is defined by the amount of “receipts” a year the business does and by the number of employees the business has. By these definitions all but the largest engineering firms in archaeology are small businesses. That being said, I’m truly running a small business. Not just one that’s small on paper.

Here are some of the lessons I learned last week and some of the things I had to deal with. I’m not complaining or making excuses, in case anyone thought I was. What I’m doing is just documenting my process so others can learn from my mistakes and successes.

Car Rentals

Unless you own a truck already then you’re likely going to have to rent one. That’s not as bad as it sounds since the cost of the rental is included in the contract so the client is paying for it. From what I’ve seen companies charge the client similar daily rates for vehicles they own and that are paid for. My philosophy is that if the client is paying for it, whether it's owned or rented, why should I worry about upkeep and maintenance? Might as well just let the rental company pay for the upkeep and I can take out a new vehicle every time. That ensures that your client is not going to be paying for your crew to stand around while you try to fix your 20 yo truck that you got a "really good deal" on. Sounds like a good plan to me. 

Four Wheel Drive

When getting a rental, make sure you are very specific as to what kind of vehicle you need. If it’s a pedestrian survey off a busy highway you might only need a sedan or an SUV. Save your money and get a fuel efficient car. Most of the time in the West we need 4WD vehicles because we’re always driving on back country gravel roads. I always turn on the 4WD when I’m on a gravel road because I feel the vehicle is more responsive and more stable with it turned on. Some people don’t do that because they feel that if they get stuck while the 4WD is on then they have nothing to turn on to get out of it. I feel that if you’re a good driver you won’t get stuck. Well, you're less likely to get stuck. I never have and I’ve driven thousands of miles of sketchy roads.

On my last project I asked for a 4WD vehicle just in case we needed it. The company asked if I’d take an SUV. I told them, sure, as long as it has 4WD. When I got there they had a Jeep Patriot waiting for me. It was a 2014 with 1,400 miles on it. Pretty nice. Well, the vehicle was not a 4WD. I was in a hurry, though, and I didn’t check. It almost got us in trouble on a couple of steep hills. Luckily, I know how to drive and we made it up. It was touch and go for a while, though.


Yeah. Reports. As a “small business” I’m responsible for the report template, the report content, the background information, the research design, NRHP recommendations, the management summary, the recommendations, the references cited, the graphics, and the printing. So, everything. I don’t mind, for sure, I just have to plan for that. If I get a couple projects in a row it can quickly get out of hand and I won’t have time to finish. Time management is very important.


So far I haven’t had to use a GIS consultant. I have access to at least 40 companies and people that just do GIS. Since I’ve only had small projects, though, I’ve tried to do the GIS myself. It’s only bit me in the ass once. The Lit Search project I did had way more GIS than I’d planned. Most of the time for that project was taken up creating maps. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get a map saved in QGIS and when I had to change one little thing I had to go back and recreate the entire map. It would have helped if I’d not made the mistakes in the first place, obviously, and if I’d learned how to save a completed map within the program.

An Army of One

What I’m getting at here is that I’m currently doing everything myself. In a way it’s very liberating. I have no bosses and no one to be responsible to except myself. That’s an amazing feeling. It’s also incredible terrifying. I have no one to help me and no one to bounce ideas off of. Well, that’s not true. Linked In has proven very helpful for asking questions. 

I’m not above asking questions either. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know everything, despite what my over confident demeanor might suggest. In the words of the douche bag real estate agent in the movie American Beauty, “In order to be successful, one must project an image of success”. True story. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions from people that are willing to answer them.

Tell me about your small business mistakes and successes. We can all learn from each other.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

#184 DIGTECH’s First Field Project

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The first field project for DIGTECH was only a couple days and my only crew member was my wife. It was fun and efficient, nonetheless. This was also the first time using the Samsung Galaxy Camera in the field.

The Project

This was a unique project. It’s an annual project and I’ve actually done it before. In fact, I was the last one to do it. It was the last project I did for my last company before they laid me off. Actually, they laid me off within 15 minutes of getting back to the office. I hadn't even unpacked my field gear yet. Luckily for them I’m supper efficient and had already completed the letter report. So, what is the project?

Figure: Arborglyph on one of the sites. Common amongst Basque sheepherders. 

There are three historic sites located on a mine’s property in northern Nevada. The sites are under the jurisdiction of one of the Forest Service offices here in Nevada. The Forest Service doesn’t want the sites damaged by mining activity or any other activity. So, to keep the mine honest they require an archaeologist to go out and take pictures of the sites on an annual basis.

When I did the project last year I was given a three-ring binder with the previous year’s letter report, the site records for the three sites, a map showing where the spots to take pictures were, and the photos from the year before. We walked around to each point, which were also on the GPS, matched up the photo orientation with the previous year’s photo, and took a picture. We also recorded the current GPS point coordinates.

It was somewhat frustrating trying to carry around that binder and having to flip through it and find the photos. It didn’t help that my company didn’t put the photos in order either. I’m not sure what order they decided to put them in but the photos, which were numbered P-1 through P-38, were in some sort of random order. That’s what happens when you have the office secretary do your photo pages. She doesn’t know what went on out there and just put them in in the order they are listed on the photo log. That was an on going problem at that company and no one seemed to care. I’d better not get off on that tangent or we’ll be here forever.

The Project - Digitally

This time out I had the information from last year and the year before, since they never bothered to check my personal computer where I had it stored. I created maps with the photo points in QGIS and then PDF’d them. I also had the previous photos as PDFs and the site records as PDFs.

As we approached each point on the GPS I would look at the photo on my iPad (caution: corporation being mentioned) and get the orientation just right. While I was doing that my wife was starting a new record in the photolog using the Momento App on the Samsung Galaxy Camera. She had already updated the form to reflect her initials and the site number so those were already entered. She didn’t have to do the date either because I had that set to automatically enter when you open a new record. After taking the picture right in the app she entered the description, orientation, coordinates, and photo number. It was easy to type on the back of the camera with her thumbs and she said that utilizing the words that the Android operating system automatically generates greatly increased her efficiency.

As we took photos I used iAnnotate on the iPad to check off the photos that we took both on the photo pages from last year and on the maps of the photo points for this year. It was a windy day but we didn’t have a single scrap of paper blow away, get dirty, or get ripped up in a binder. Awesome. Welcome to archaeology 2.0!

Importing Information

There are a number of ways to get the database out of the Momento App on the camera. You can export the database as a CSV file and then access that using a file manager app and by plugging the camera into the computer. You can also transfer that file to a micro SD card in the camera, pull out the card, and insert it into your computer. If you have an internet connection you can send the file and the photos to a Dropbox account, email, Evernote, an FTP server, or a variety of other services.

Figure: The merge form for photo pages. The page is a table and the lines are only there so you can see that. For the final form the lines are removed. Using a table ensures that everything is uniform and in its place.

Figure: The merge form for photo pages. The page is a table and the lines are only there so you can see that. For the final form the lines are removed. Using a table ensures that everything is uniform and in its place.

One problem with the Momento export is that it doesn’t export the photographs with the file. It just exports the file name it assigned to the photograph. The file name Momento asigns has nothing to do with the camera and includes the date and time. I had to get creative with my text import into the photopage word document I had set up.

I was using MS Word for the photopage. My template is essentially a table with a placeholder for the picture and cells down the right side with merge fields for the mail merge from the CSV file. In order to be able to insert the right picture I insert the photo name from the Momento database as well. I delete that after putting in the photo.

Since I use placeholders for the photos all I have to do is drag the photo in from the directory. The photos are already sized and have the appropriate outline. That’s the benefit of using a placeholder.

Lessons Learned

It looks like this method is going to work and saves a lot of time in the office. One advantage to merging from a CSV file is you can sort by any column first, then import. For example, you can sort by site number and move only one site at a time.

The camera is going to work out too. Probably any camera running the Android operating system will work. I chose the Samsung Galaxy Camera because of the large, easy to type on, screen on the back. Also, it takes amazing pictures.

Well, that’s it. If you use mail merge or have tried other Android cameras, let me know in the comments. If you think I’m an overstuffed jackass, let me know that too.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!


#179 DIGTECH Benefits

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I've been writing and revising my employee handbook. Here's what I'm thinking for year-end bonuses, assuming I ever make any money. Ideally I'll be able to make enough to pay my bills and be happy. The rest goes to the employees and the company. I'll let you know how it goes. For now assume two things: that the company has lots of money, and that we have lots of employees! 

Also - I don't want to hear anything about how you can't make money in CRM. That's not the point of this exercise. Plenty of firms give bonuses. They might not be too generous but that's only because their business model is 30 years old.

I would appreciate any feedback or comments.

The DIGTECH Proposed Bonus Structure

We at DIGTECH think about bonuses as more of a reward than a right. Bonuses will be paid annually on November 1st and will be based on company profits for the calendar year ending September 30. Ideally, the bonuses will be handed out at a company party in November. This is in lieu of a “holiday” party held at other companies. We have no wish to slight people’s religions or faiths so we choose to have a company party in November. That way employees can spend their bonuses on holiday presents if they choose or they can do something else with it. It’s your choice.

Bonuses will be based on a 1,000 point system. Earning 1,000 points means that you’ll get 100% of the available bonus. This bonus is open to employees that have worked for DIGTECH for one day or ten years. It doesn’t matter. We feel that all employees should have the opportunity to earn a bonus based on hard work, dedication, and love of archaeology. 

The 1,000 points can be earned in a number of ways but is mostly based on performance and self-education. A general breakdown of the points available is detailed in the list below.

Bonus Points

Performance Evaluation.............................................................250

Annual Attendance (based on 2080 hrs/year).....................250

Contribute to Company Education and Social Media.........250

Educational Activities (Be creative!)........................................250

Performance Evaluation. For employees that have at least 1,040 hours by the time evaluations are performed (that’s half a year of employment) they will get a performance evaluation by the senior Principal Investigator or the company President. During this evaluation, observations from the employee’s peers will be taken into consideration and the employee’s work performance and efficiency will be evaluated. Also under consideration will be the employee’s contributions to the success of the company, contributions and ideas for the company’s education program, and contributions to social media projects. The reviewer will determine the amount of points awarded.

Annual Attendance. Calculated by multiplying 40 hours per week by 52 weeks per year, there are a minimum of 2,080 hours available to work throughout the year. Employees that work at least half of the year (1,040 hours) and are still employed at the time of evaluations will be eligible for the 250 points evaluation bonus.

Temporary employees are eligible for bonuses and for a portion of the attendance bonus via this policy. The attendance bonus will be calculated based on the total number of hours worked. For example, if an employee only works one 8-day session they will have accrued 80 hours. That 80 hours represents 3.85% of the year. That would result in 9.65 points. If the employee received 250 points in both the “Contribute” and “Education” categories they would have a total of 509.65 points. If there were, hypothetically, $1000 dollars available for a bonus then the employee would receive $509.65 at the end of the year, even if they only worked one session back in January. Read that again. It’s true.

Contribute to Company Education and Social Media. This category refers to anything stamped with the DIGTECH logo. DIGTECH publishes and produces a blog, a podcast, and a video series. The points awarded as a result of contributions to these projects will be at the discretion of the senior management. Teaching educational topics and providing training on relevant subjects to DIGTECH employees will also be considered.

Educational Activities. This is where you really have the freedom to do whatever you want to improve yourself. Activities include conference presentations, personal archaeology blog contributions, book and paper reviews, published papers, published books, participation in the Day of Archaeology project and any number of activities. Employees should document their activities for evaluation by the senior staff at the performance evaluation. Points will be awarded at that time.

Points and Bonus Money. Points to not roll over past October 31st. Every employee resets to zero points on November 1st. Bonuses will not be paid out prior to November 1st. Unclaimed bonus money (not everyone will earn 1,000 points) will be placed in a fund for employee health and welfare programs to be used at the discretion of the senior staff.

Again, this is a best case scenario for a bonus structure. I've blogged about this before but it was unformed and hypothetical. Now, it is going in to the official employee handbook. Feedback is appreciated.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!