Business Time Tracking: The Basics

by Taryn Shaw

Do you have a hard time keeping track of your weekly tasks and how long they take? Do you need to hire but can’t figure out what to effectively take off your plate? Do you need help determining where your operations aren’t as efficient? 

Time tracking allows you to improve your operational efficiency, especially in a service-based business. Gathering reliable data on how long different types of jobs take, how much time you’re spending driving to and from work sites, and how much time you are spending on administrative tasks can help you make better decisions about your pricing structure and time management. 

Let’s take a look at a few of our favorite time tracking apps that not only improve your productivity, but can also be integrated with larger task management platforms such as Trello and Asana. 

Toggl Track

Toggl Track is a user-friendly time tracking platform that helps freelancers, microbusinesses, and larger teams track where the time goes. Each timesheet is tracked in real time with one click, and you can tag specific projects or client names to each task. When you have a clear report of what was done, when it was done, and the time it took, it makes it easy to accurately bill your clients. Toggl Track has a 30 day free trial to determine if it’s the right platform for you and your business. After 30 days, you can choose between several different plans. (Available as an app for iPhone and Android. It works offline by saving the time offline and when you return online, the times will be synchronized automatically. It also has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox).

Pros: 

  • User friendly
  • Free plan is a great option for startups with less than 5 employees
  • 100+ integrations (meaning it is compatible with over 100 apps and browser extensions such as Asana, Evernote, Google Calendar, Outlook email, Slack, Xero, etc.)

Cons: 

  • Can be pricey for small businesses
  • No invoicing or scheduling features

Hubstaff

Hubstaff is a seamless time tracking app that uses GPS location to automatically clock you in and out of geofenced job sites, which are virtual geographic boundaries defined by GPS or RFID technology that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area. This app works from anywhere with the push of a button to start and stop tasks. Hubstaff understands the problems that service-based industries face with employees forgetting to clock in and out of job sites, determining how much time in a day is spent driving, and it has the ability to accurately pay employees and invoice clients. Hubstaff offers a free 14 day trial, and there are many plans to choose from once your trial period is up.

(Available as an app for iPhone and Android. Hubstaff works without internet connection – it will store your time and activity data locally while you’re offline and then upload it to the server once a connection is available. It also has a browser extension for Chrome).

Pros:

  • Saves time with mobile reports and automatic employee clock in/out times
  • Alerts you if you’re about to go over budget for a project
  • Over 30 integrations
  • Accessible anywhere

Cons:

  • Continuously using GPS location will dramatically decrease phone battery life
  • Poses an ethical concern of tracking employees
  • Need to purchase the most expensive plan to receive deluxe benefits, such as geofenced time tracking, having more than one user, expense & budget tracking, or the ability to generate invoices and payroll via the app

Forest

Forest is an intuitive timer app that boosts productivity by keeping you on track at the office, studying, or while hanging with friends. The way this app works is by “planting a seed” in the Forest whenever you need to get work done. You choose the amount of time you want to set aside for said task, and the seed will gradually grow into a tree during the timer period. 

In a world where we have become addicted to scrolling without even realizing we are doing it, it’s easy to procrastinate or allow the distractions of social media to interrupt your work flow. If you find yourself using your phone for non-focus related purposes, the app will notify you that your tree will wither away and die – an incentive to return to the timer app to get back on track with your tasks. 

Forest partners with tree-planting organization Trees for the Future, so the more trees you successfully grow in your forest, the more coins you earn to spend in the real world to plant trees! When you spend these virtual coins in the app, the Forest team donates to Trees for the Future and creates planting orders. To this day, Forest has planted 1,386,261 trees around the globe. 

The app is a one-time purchase of $3.99, but that seems like a small price to pay for a fun way to stay focused, improve yourself, and help our planet at the same time! (Available as an app for iPhone and Android. Forest works offline and has a browser extension for Chrome). 

Pros:

  • Builds healthy time management habits while breaking the aimless scrolling habit
  • Plants real trees

Cons:

  • Due to budget constraints, the number of real trees each user can plant is limited to 5, though they are introducing limited time events that will allow users to plant more real trees.
  • May not be as effective for large companies who need to integrate payroll and scheduling

Every business will have different priorities. Take into account what you need out of a time tracking software, as well as what your budget will allow. The free versions of certain platforms are often more than enough for new businesses, but as you grow you will need your time tracking app to expand with you. Remember, it is your business, and you get to make the decisions.

Women in the Spotlight: Heather Van Gilder

by Jessi Burg

Today’s blog brings the spotlight onto Heather Van Gilder, master boot fitter at Boulder Orthotics. Her mission? Helping people with their feet by getting them properly aligned, so that they can continue to enjoy the activities they love. For those of you who are very active, or work in the trades and spend all day on your feet, keep reading – it is important to pay more attention to your feet, and know that it’s something worth spending the money on!

JB: Why feet? 

HVG: My background is in ski boot fitting, but I am also a board certified pedorthist – which is someone who gets referrals from doctors about people who need help with foot support/are tired of their feet hurting. 

JB: What is the process like?

HVG: The process goes something like this:

First, we need to figure out what kind of appointment is necessary. I have them fill out an intake form before they come in, and have them bring their footwear so that I can see what needs to be replaced and why. I recommend a brand of shoe, and then mold their feet in a seated position to ensure a perfect fit. I have a lab in the back of the store where I can make the orthotics on the spot, so at the end of a two hour appointment, the customer leaves with custom orthotics. The goal is 90% comfort, and I recommend that they come back in two weeks for a recheck to see how things are settling in. I also sell slippers, because some people need foot support all the time, even when they are walking around the house.

There is a break-in process for orthotics, so I recommend a set schedule for getting used to them to avoid blisters and achiness in the feet or joints as the body gets used to the support. Your bones aren’t used to being supported in those positions, so they need time to adjust. I know that it can be tough for people with certain jobs, like servers or construction workers, to switch out their insoles midday, but breaking them in is crucial.

JB: What other kinds of orthotics do you offer?

HVG: I can build accommodative and functional orthotics. Accommodative orthotics require molding the orthotic to the foot as is, whereas functional orthotics focus on getting the foot and the ankle into alignment so that your ankle bone is sitting right on top of the heel bone. Most retail stores only offer accommodative orthotics.

When I take a footprint I can tell a lot from that, like if one leg is longer than the other. You’re printed barefoot, so the width under the center of your foot should be the same on both sides. If one is significantly wider than the other, you can guesstimate a difference – a true measurement would come from an x-ray, but there are some alignment markers that help with that. If there’s a big discrepancy, you have to build that into the shoe. It’s really fun to help people with chronic pain or lingering issues from polio or childhood illness. I really like being able to help someone who was in pain leave with a smile. Teenage boys are especially fun to work with because they like to act cool, but then I can get a smile out of them. 

JB: What got you into orthotics?

HVG: I was a skier, and I went to school for archeology and was really into the bone structure and physical archeology pieces. I took a job fitting boots, and then I branched out into hiking boots and other types of boots. I ended up buying Boulder Orthotics when the previous owner retired. It’s a weird thing to admit that you like working with feet, but I really do love it, and I was required to do a thousand hour internship before I could go to school for it.

JB: What are your top tips for people who are just starting out in the field?

HVG: Spend the money and the time to address your feet. Steel toed boots and concrete floors wreak havoc on the body if you’re not supported, but a properly fitting shoe of good quality makes all the difference. Spending extra money on a good shoe will make a lot of things better – and no one even has to know you have a fancy orthotic in there. The sooner people pay attention to their feet, the happier they will be. If we were hunter gatherer people who walk through the forest all day, barefoot shoes/five fingered shoes would be fine. But pavement is much harder on your feet than a forest floor. 

JB: Tell us about running your own business.

HVG: As a business owner, I have more freedom to provide services that I think are beneficial. Other retailers may not want to offer those services, and I wanted to find my own way to help people. As a retail space, your customers come in and expect that they will get whatever they want, but when people seek me out, they want to listen to my expertise because they really just need my help. My customer service is always on point, because there isn’t anyone else there. I think about business growth all the time, and I am always trying to learn new things and continue my education. 

JB: What do you wish people knew about your business or your industry?

HVG: Although I’m technically in the healthcare field, it doesn’t feel like a doctors office. It’s very relaxed, and I wear a dirty ski apron and not a lab coat. There is still professionalism and expertise, but it doesn’t feel sterile, if you will.

Want to know more? Find Boulder Orthotics online or through Facebook here:

How Legal Marijuana is Affecting Commercial Driver’s Licenses

by Outgrow Your Garage

Legal marijuana is sweeping the nation. As of 2022, 27 states have decriminalized marijuana in small amounts, and 18 states have legalized it for recreational use in adults aged 21 and over.

The states’ legalization of weed continues to see positive results. It generates billions of dollars in tax revenue each year that benefits much needed programs for things like public education and healthcare, and it has opened up loads of employment opportunities.  

For those individuals that operate CMV’s (Commercial Motor Vehicles) though, marijuana poses a problem for getting and holding a job. Since marijuana is illegal on a federal level, CMV operators are prohibited from using the drug due to federal drug testing regulations. A person is not physically qualified to drive a CMV if he or she uses any Schedule I controlled substance.

With state laws changing regularly, organizations are getting confused about the use of marijuana for CMV drivers. Since THC can remain in your system for up to 30 days after use, you can still get arrested for low levels of THC detected in your system. For CMV drivers who are required to pass drug tests on a regular basis, marijuana use outside of work can lead to losing your Commercial Driver’s License, and in the worst cases, fines or jail time.

Hiring for these positions is becoming increasingly more difficult in states with legal marijuana. Earlier this year, our founder, Jessi Burg, gave a presentation on hiring for the National Association for Landscape Providers. She spoke with a Colorado landscaping company about how problematic it is to find employees since weed became legalized. They are having a hard time finding anyone who can pass a drug test, and as a result, they have an even greater labor shortage, which means that the streets are less safe in the winter after a storm.

If companies that provide necessities such as public transportation, snow plowing services, and long haul trucking of goods are unable to hire, this affects the general public and the supply chain as a whole. Requiring regular drug tests for CMV drivers, even for those states with legal weed, is creating an unnecessary burden on small businesses everywhere.

Other types of hemp products add to the confusion. Many people use products containing CBD, which is different from marijuana. THC, also known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes you feel high. CBD is unlike THC in the sense that it does not get you high, and is instead widely used in salves, lotions, tinctures, and other forms to treat things like muscle relief, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia, just to name a few.

Even those products listed as being strictly CBD/having no active THC can still result in a positive drug test, as they often contain large enough quantities of the compound to trigger a positive result. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has cautioned that CBD products may contain higher levels of THC than DOT allows in a controlled substance, and that CBD use is not a “legitimate medical explanation” for an employee who tests positive for marijuana.

Despite these regulations, marijuana is still the most common substance found in positive drug and alcohol tests amongst CMV drivers. If drivers choose to partake in legal marijuana when not behind the wheel, they are still unable to get hired and can face consequences for failing a drug test.

Safety is extremely important for driving large vehicles, and drug tests are one component of that. Logistically though, including marijuana in those drug tests doesn’t really make sense anymore. In the same way that workers can go home after a long day of work and enjoy a legal beer (or unlimited beers, for that matter), shouldn’t they be afforded the same right to smoke a legal, after work joint? And, if your state and local laws agree that weed is legal and can be ingested safely (not while operating a vehicle), should CMV operators still be required to pass drug tests for marijuana? 

A main argument for many seems to be that marijuana should be federally legalized. If individual states are thriving under legal weed sales, then there’s no reason why it should still be illegal on a federal level. Many view marijuana use as a victimless crime, so as long as drivers aren’t operating CMV’s under the influence, it shouldn’t matter if they legally consume marijuana in their free time. We’d love to hear your opinions on the subject, so tell us what you think in the comments below!

Marketing Trends You Don’t Want to Miss for 2022

The pandemic has had a lasting effect on the way we drum up customer interest in our products and services, and depending on your business and its goals, marketing and advertising look different for everyone. 

Now more than ever, the success of your business demands that you figure out how to fit into the evolving marketing trends that pop up every year. If you decide to hire a marketing firm, or want to take on the responsibility yourself, you need to figure out how best to reach your audience – which also determines what kind of content is going to bring you the best results for your time and your money. 

Whether you are a marketing expert of many years, a total newbie, or fall somewhere in between, these marketing trends for 2022 are ones you won’t want to miss.

Invest in Online Events

Online events have blown up since the start of the pandemic, as you may already know. As companies made the switch from an in office to a work from home schedule, online meeting platforms became a must. 

But work meetings aren’t the only way people are taking advantage of virtual spaces. Webinars, product launches, classes, and co-working, just to name a few, have given us a more convenient way to assemble. Online events can be a good way to get your company’s name out there, whether by appealing to a new audience or addressing an already existing one. It can also be a good way to gather data on your attendees, which in the long run helps you build consumer profiles and stronger relationships with your audiences.

Meaningful Multimedia 

Breaking up the text in your posts/emails is important. Using images can spice up your posts, but make sure that if your reader looks at only one thing in your entire post, and it’s that picture, they can still get value from it. Replace your empty stock photos with videos, podcasts, or any other picture content that illustrates what the post is trying to say with just a glance. You can also use a program like Canva to create an infographic quickly, making your content even more relevant to your audience.

Sustainability, Goodwill, and Values

Be a part of the things that matter in the world. While it goes without saying that different brands are going to have different practices, stay authentic to your values and to the things that matter the most to you. Even if your entire company doesn’t currently revolve around sustainability, sharing posts and generating discussions using your brand and your platform will go a long way. These things are going to resonate with your audience. Consumers are more likely to support brands that demonstrate awareness and responsibility for things like the environment, animals, and humankind. Aligning your brand with positive values will attract new customers, while helping you retain the ones you already have. Marketers need to shed light on the actual steps that their business is taking to tackle the world’s most challenging issues. The more transparent you are about your practices, the easier it will be to attract clients who are looking to support a business like yours.

Accessibility

Accessibility is a hot topic of discussion for businesses, and it’s getting even bigger in 2022. Making yourself digitally accessible means that you’re making an effort to reduce any barriers to your services, tools, and technologies. This means making sure that your designs are universally usable for customers who may have different impairments. 

The “ideal customer experience” should drive your operations, and a lack of accessibility, whether that be your website, your course material, or the product itself, is going to spoil the brand image that you’ve been working so hard to create. For a more in depth look, check out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.

The world of business marketing is an ever-evolving one, and as the world shifts so do the expectations consumers have for the companies they choose to support. Finding new and exciting ways to cater to your audiences doesn’t have to be rocket science (even though it feels like it sometimes). Stick with it, and find what works best for you and your brand.

Tune in next Wednesday for a special 4/20 blog…yes, you read that right.

How Co-working is Changing the Work Game

by Jessi Burg and Kelly Sullivan

There are so many great things about being your own boss: you can write your own schedule, choose your own clients, and work on projects that you enjoy. Oftentimes, when paired with working out of your home, it can also get lonely or become difficult to stay motivated. One of our favorite ways to combat these issues is with business co-working.

What exactly is co-working? Co-working spaces are increasing in popularity amongst individuals who need a space to work, but don’t always want to work from home or from a coffee shop. You meet at a given location with provided desks and reliable internet, and are able to make connections with others while you work. Similar to working in an office, but with people who don’t work at the same company as you.

Co-working is also successful in a virtual setting, or in planned groups. In this sense, co-working is a set time frame where a group of people come together at the same time, like a study group for business owners. Everyone works on their own projects, but being in a group setting helps them stay focused. Keep reading for some of our favorite reasons to join the co-working movement.

Accountability

If you didn’t already know, voicing your goals out loud to someone else makes you more likely to actually achieve them. Co-working helps to promote this same process! At the start of each session, everyone in the group talks about what they’re working on, and at the end, shares their progress. This creates accountability, which makes you less likely to procrastinate on the work you need to get done. Once you get your task done or achieve your stated goals, you have a group of people around you to help you celebrate your accomplishments.

Connection

Owning your own business can get lonely, especially if you are one of only a few employees, or you are the sole employee of the company. Sometimes it’s hard to find people who understand the issues specific to your business. During co-working sessions, you’re given the ability to network with other small business owners who understand some of what you deal with in your day to day. Whether you help each other troubleshoot or listen to each other’s qualms, creating community is vital to individual success. 

For those who mainly work from home, co-working blocks out time in the day to have some human interaction. For those who spend much of their time having transactional exchanges, (every conversation is about someone paying you, or about who you’re paying), co-working allows you to chat without any fiscal expectations.

Structure

One of the hardest things about working from home is creating structure. It’s easy to decide that you’ll start late today because you want to get laundry done, and promise you’ll make the work up later, even if you don’t (somehow, there’s always more laundry). Even if you work on personal tasks, co-working gives you a start and an end time to get your work done. If you can’t make it to co-working sessions or have trouble finding a group that works for you, we love the Pomodoro method – you can set up your smaller work periods, choose a short break or a long break between them, and voila! Structure! 

Body Doubling

Co-working is sometimes referred to as “body doubling”, which is a term for a productivity strategy used to help us stay focused. The “body double” is the presence of another being in your workspace that holds you accountable and makes you less likely to get distracted (check out this quick video from How to ADHD). You may have heard of “mirror neurons” – these are particles in our brains that tell us we should be doing the same thing as someone else. Being able to watch someone else work tricks your brain into thinking you need to be working too. For neurodivergent business owners, such as people with ADHD, this can be a physical anchor to the world – making it harder to chase those mental rabbit holes.

Here at Outgrow Your Garage, we offer virtual co-working sessions twice a week. If any of the above applies to you, or you just want to check it out, come join us to find out why we think co-working is so beneficial.

*Note: You can also test out the concept of the Pomodoro method using a focus app – we recommend Forest since it works as both an app as well as as a browser extension, and the paid version supports forest restoration (YAY)!