new company

#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!

#139 Merit-Based CRM Bonus Structure

As readers of this blog know, I’m in the process of forming my own CRM firm in the Great Basin. While I plan to start small so I can iron out the wrinkles in owning a business, eventually, I imagine I’ll have a small number of full-time and temporary employees. One of the things I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years is the company bonus structure.

The first bonus I ever received in archaeology was on my second project ever. I was a few days into working for a non-profit firm (aren’t they all?) and it was the end of the calendar year. At the Christmas party the PI gave everyone a card that had a $100 bill inside. He said that as a non-profit they were authorized to have only a certain amount of money at the end of the year. Usually they spend it on gear and other necessities but that year was particularly lucrative so they gave out bonuses. Not a bad first week for me.

At another company, I received a bonus that was based on a very private company algorithm. I had no idea what it was based on, besides a performance review and the company’s profits that year. I wasn’t sure how much was based on input from the PI or other people in the company. It certainly wasn’t based on continuing education, research, or anything else not tied to the bottom line.

Most of the time there are no bonuses for temporary or seasonal employees. The profit-based bonuses are shared by the salaried employees at the end of the year when all the temp help has been dismissed. Doesn’t seem too fair to me.

My idea for a bonus structure is based on a points system. You start with a maximum of, say, 1,000 points for the year. If you get 1,000 points then you get 100% of the bonus. It’s not tied to a dollar figure because the bonuses, of course, are tied into the amount of money available to give out.

I figure that about 25% of the points will be based on a performance review. The entire point structure should also be altered based on the amount of time the employee was there that year. It wouldn’t be fair to get hired in August, reach max points, and get the full bonus in December. Just doesn’t seem right. Maybe the max bonus could be reduced according to the time at the company that year. Start in August and your get a third of the max bonus for the year. Start in June and you get half.

So, after the 250 points for performance review there are 750 remaining points. I’d like there to be many ways the points can be acquired. People have different responsibilities and should be able to earn points according to those responsibilities.

For example, a project manager should be able to earn points for bringing a project to completion under budget, or putting out a research paper based on a company project. They could get points for putting together a poster or paper for a presentation. Things like that.

Field technicians, even temporary ones, could earn points for attending conferences, writing blog posts about archaeology or CRM related topics, contributing to the company podcast, or for presenting on a topic at monthly company training sessions.

I don’t want the ways you can get points to be set in stone. Think Harry Potter. I’d like to be able to see someone really making a great contribution or doing something really noteworthy and have the ability to give them points for that.

At the company holiday party, where these things are usually awarded, it would be great to see people getting their bonuses that they know they earned. Maybe there could even be a video presentation highlighting the things people did throughout the year.

Trying to avoid this attitude!!To me, owning a company means a lot more than earning money. It means having the ability to create a family of trusted people that all enjoy what they do and that enjoy being with the people they spend most of their days with. We need to take the corporate attitude out of archaeology and start treating it like the passion it is. Not just anyone can get these jobs. You have to decide on a major, stick it out, pay your dues, and hopefully land a good job. Nothing stings more than finally getting that job with security and a decent paycheck and finding out that everyone hates everyone else and that they are all just trying to claw over each other on the way to the top of the pile. That’s the attitude in a number of firms and it’s a real shame.

I may not end up running the most successful CRM firm out there but if my employees come to work with smiles on their faces and are willing to put in the hard work and tough days when it’s required then I think I’ll have accomplished my goal.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on one of my projects some day!

#135 The Status of DIGTECH

That’s right. DIGTECH. I asked for name suggestions based on certain criteria on a recent blog post. There were some great suggestions in the blog comments and in some LinkedIn groups. The best one, however, came from Dona in one of the comments on the blog. She suggested, “Digital Technologies in Archaeological Research”. I’m changing that only slightly to:

Digital Technologies in Archaeological Consultation


I like it. Now I just have to build a company around it. Anyone want to design a logo?

The first thing I did was get the paperwork started for my permits. To operate in Nevada a company needs at a minimum a Nevada State Museum Antiquities Permit (to work on state and some private land) and a Cultural Resource Use Permit (To work on the rest of the land in this state).

To get the CRUP you need a curation agreement from a curatorial facility. It can be any facility legally able to curate artifacts. Now, I don’t plan to collect artifacts right off the bat. It’s going to be strictly a survey and recording operation. That’s what most archaeology in Nevada is anyway. Conveniently, you can get a curation agreement from the Nevada State Museum. I sent my request in with my request for a permit.

Now, I have to wait for the NSM Curation Agreement to come through. I have to send that in with the CRUP application. In the mean time I’ve been getting other documents in order.

Nevada State Museum DocumentsI also need to officially form the company and get a business license. A business license is a pretty simple thing in Nevada and costs $200 annually. Officially naming the company and creating something like an LLC or incorporating, or something, is another matter. I’m still looking into it. To start looking for clients I’m going to need a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ). It’s basically a document that says I’m awesome, here’s what I’ve done, hire me. Oh, and I need insurance. Probably several million dollars worth. It’s required by most clients and is just a good idea.

The more I think about working for myself the more I realize that there is nothing simple about a “simple survey”. First, I’m going to have to rent a Trimble sub-meter GPS. They cost about $5,000 new and I can’t afford that right now. I can get a cheaper Magellan Mobile Mapper or something similar for as little as $1,000 but I’d rather use a Trimble. Fortunately I found someone in Reno that rents them by the day for about $70.

Next, I’m going to need GIS support. Sure, I can use the free Quantum GIS program in the short term. However, I’m not a GIS guy. I can do the basics but if I do a bigger job it’s just going to be way more efficient if I have someone else do it. That goes along with my philosophy for operating a company. I don’t plan to have formal offices. I plan to have people work from home, or the beach, for that matter, which will greatly reduce costs. The GIS person almost never goes in the field so can really work from anywhere. With a secure DropBox account all I need to do upload the files (which is as simple as dragging them to the shared DropBox folder on my desktop) and they will almost instantly be available to my GIS person. They do the work, save the files in DropBox, and I pay them. Sweet and simple. I put out a request on LinkedIn and received a number of response from exactly they type of people I want: those that can work from home and have the software to do so.

I’ll also need a truck. Eventually I’d like to have a few hybrid SUVs with 10-ply tires. Not yet, though. In the interim I’ll have to rent from Enterprise. They have offices across the state and will do business accounts. I’ve worked for a few companies that used rental trucks and it seems to work out. The cost is passed on to the client but I hope that my digital recording techniques defray that a bit.

Most of the things I’ll need to survey as far as gear goes I already have. I have a digital camera (minimum 10 MP in Nevada), flagging tape, and the other usual supplies. I need to pick up some pin flags, though. I can get those at Home Depot at a good cost.

Even when I have all that together it won’t mean a whole lot if I don’t have any clients. Well, I’m working on that too. That’ll probably go in another post, though.

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

#132 What's in a Name?

(c) 2012 Chris Webster Miner's Tent House, Central Nevada Museum, Tonapah, NVMy new-found freedom has inspired me to pursue a dream I’ve had for a while now. I’ve always wanted to own my own business. Maybe it’s part of the American dream but I really just want to be able to call the shots, make my own mistakes, and be responsible for my own success. I think everyone does, really.

Ever since I got into archaeology I’ve worked for numerous people that had no business being in a leadership position. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked for some really great people too. The main problem is that I have standards that are way too high. I always expect more out of people, and companies, and I’m disappointed when they don’t live up to those standards. I just feel that the archaeology deserves only the best treatment. 

We are responsible for the heritage and history of the people of the world. It’s an intense responsibility and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. When I see people mistreating an archaeological site and being disrespectful it really pisses me off. We don’t have a nine to five job where we punch a clock and look forward to Friday. No. We have a great responsibility and we should respect that. I may have swerved off track.

My point is that the only way I can ensure that my standards are met are if I’m the one setting the standards. So, I started the paperwork required here in Nevada to pursue contracts on my own. It’s actually a simple process as long as you’re qualified. I just need to come up with a name.

I have three basic requirements for a name. I also need a catchy slogan but I can come up with that later. But first, the name.

(c) 2012 Chris Webster - Using an iPhone as a Line Level. Not having much success.I’ve always wanted to have a business with my name on it. I’m not sure archaeology is the place for it, though. I’d like to build a business that can grow and expand to include other principle players. I’d rather they felt welcome to put forth ideas at will and that might not be the case for some if my name was on the stationary. So, the first requirement for a name is one that does not include my last name and is inclusive of others in the company. I’d also like to keep regional titles out of the name. I don’t want to take “Reno Archaeological Services” to Colorado. You get the idea.

The second requirement concerns my commitment to technology. I’d really like to see the word “digital” in the name. This company will not be like other companies in that we would do as much without paper and offices as possible. I think it can be done. I’d like the name to convey that principle as much as possible.

The final requirement is that the name have a good acronym. Companies, archaeology and otherwise, are more memorable when they either have one word titles or catchy acronyms. Prove me wrong! Look at some of the successful companies in this country: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Walmart (I hate them but they’re still successful), Walgreens, and others. You get the point. Alliteration aside “Hank’s House of Hammers” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve had:


  • Digital Archaeological Research
  • Next Generation Archaeology: Bringing Consulting into the 21st Century
  • Digital Archaeological Consulting
  • We Do Archaeology Good; even Gooder than the Other Guys!


I’m not too sure about one of those. It would be great to have a name with an acronym of “DIG” or something like that. I can’t come up with anything, though.

OK. So, if you have any ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments. Also, if you feel that I have no business doing archaeology and that I should just go get a job a Starbucks, you can leave those comments at the Chambers Group, Inc., Facebook page.

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