5 Tips to Manage 1099 Contractors

5 Tips to Manage 1099 Contractors

 

More than 20 million people in the US are independent contractors. This means there’s plenty to choose from, and there’s some very good reason to use them instead of salaried employees. For example, you only need to pay independent contractors for a specific volume of work, and independent contractors will usually have all the tools they need to do a job. 

Project management involving 1099 contractors will usually take a degree of team management to get the desired results. Follow some simple steps, and you are already closer to getting the completed job you’re hoping for.

1. Set Clear Expectations

It’s a good idea to set expectations when working with anybody, especially 1099 contractors. You need to make it clear exactly what you need to be done and how it needs to be done. This should also include details on which materials are to be used and make them aware of limitations on working hours or other restrictions.

With expectations set, the contractor can then set about their task in full confidence that they’re doing what’s expected of them. If you don’t set expectations, the contractor could become confused and not fully understand the scope of the task. Such poor project management can result in a poorly done job.

Good team management also involves communicating clearly during the job as well as well as before. If there are any updates or changes to what you need, let the contractor know as soon as you know. And remember that if there are changes to the plan, you should pay the contractor according to what you agreed upon initially.

2. Use a Time Tracker

Time Tracker on the Web, Mobile

Time Tracker on the Web, Mobile

It’s usually a good idea to track how much time remote employees are working on tasks, especially if they are being paid by the hour. Let contractors know that they are being monitored, and it can help to prevent any temptations to take liberties with your time.

Using a time tracker like the  PK4 TimeTracker can also help with project management for other reasons. For example, a time tracker will help make it easier for you to keep accurate records of how long remote employees have worked for, which helps when it comes to invoicing and accounting. A time tracker can also help you see if time is being spent well, potentially helping you make changes that will help you make contractors more productive. And you can make it easy by giving your contractors access to a mobile or web app, so that the learning curve is smoother.

3. Create a Contract 

You should always create a contract before any work gets started. The contract should include details such as the scope of the work involved, the materials used, and the overall cost of doing the job. A contract should also help you provide guidelines that will help you measure the contractor’s performance and set limitations on what the contractor can or cannot do.

With the scope of the task and other details officially noted, the contractor can go ahead and start work with confidence. If, for whichever reason, the terms of the contract are not met, then you both have an option to take a legal approach if necessary.

4. Don’t Micromanage

Good team management often involves standing back and letting the professionals do what they’re good at. If you’ve recruited a professional with a solid track record, then you should have confidence that they can do what they’re skilled at without your supervision.

Micromanaging is only likely to lead to frustration, and the contractor’s productivity could take a hit. Micromanaging is also likely to be time-consuming and potentially frustrating for you, and it’s unlikely to provide any benefit.

And remember that in most cases, they’re the expert, and you are not. While you might have an idea of how a particular job should be done or how long it would take, the person with the skills and experience is far more likely to be correct.
If you want to know how your contractor is progressing, then it’s fine to request the occasional update. Depending on the nature of the job, daily or weekly updates may be ideal.

5. Pay Them Well

It can be tempting to choose a cheap contractor to save money, but it’s usually a bad idea. A skilled contractor will want to be paid what they’re worth, meaning somebody willing to do the job on the cheap is unlikely to have the required skills and experience.

While a cheaper contractor might cost you less, you’re running the risk of having to pay a lot more in the long term. In some cases, the job might need to be redone entirely, which, of course, means paying another subcontractor. Depending on the task, the wrong contractor might even cause damage that will cost even more to rectify.

While you should pay well, it’s also fine to make sure you don’t overpay. Ask around to see what the going rates are to get an idea of what it will cost.

Summary

Independent contractors are the ideal option for various tasks, and they’re best used when there’s a single job to be done. However, it makes a lot of sense to choose the right contractor and manage them effectively.

One of the key factors that will help you manage contractors is communicating clearly with them. Set expectations, clarify what you need to be done, and create a contract to confirm what you need in writing. It’s also best to avoid micromanaging contractors and instead ask for the occasional update on their progress. You can also use a time tracking app to monitor how long they’re working, including remote employees, which will help prevent disputes and make things easier when it comes to invoicing.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects is to pay a good rate. Paying well will help ensure you hire a contractor that knows what they’re doing and can get the job done properly at the first time of asking. Otherwise, you’re opening yourself up to the risk of more inconvenience and more financial cost.

Photo by Claire Nakkachi on Unsplash

Plugging Gaps in Customer Support Revenues

Plugging Gaps in Customer Support Revenues

Interview with Mr. Jason Liner, VP FP&A MercuryGate International, Cary NC

MercuryGate is the only full power, feature-rich transportation management system (TMS) that is singularly focused on strategic freight transportation management automation and has been for over two decades. The result is the best-of-breed transportation management platform that enables logistics experts to execute efficiencies previously unattainable and empowers relative newcomers to perform at expert levels they could not otherwise achieve.

The MercuryGate TMS simplifies and centralizes the management of freight transportation within a single software platform to save time and money for shippers, 3PLs, brokers and carriers around the world. The platform supports all modes of transport including ocean, air, rail, truckload, LTL, last mile, parcel and intermodal to give you visibility to every shipment, automate manual processes, and make smarter decisions based on delivery performance.

Mr. Jason Liner is the Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis at MercuryGate International.

1. What is your primary role in the company?

My primary role is in Financial Planning and Analysis. As a part of my role, I work across Finance, Operations, Product Development, and Product Strategy. I help drive strategic decisions throughout the business, isolating issues and articulating appropriate business solutions.

2. What was the main challenge that you wanted to solve?

Some of our customers pay separately for Customer Support. For those customers, support is not a part of their subscription fees. We also do a fair amount of implementation services for our customers. We have three different teams working on customer-facing issues. There are Tier-1 and Tier-2 Support teams, the implementation team, and sometimes the development team. All these teams primarily work in different siloed software systems – the Customer support team in Salesforce, the implementation team in OpenAir, and the dev team in Jira. Our billing to customers is done based on the Case Number in Salesforce on yet another system. Reconciling hours spent on customer Cases across these systems was a nightmare. Some of the time details would have missing Case numbers. In addition, since some of our teams needed to log their hours in duplicate, they would often forget to do that. We recognized that we were losing out on our support revenues with all these issues. We desperately needed a single system-of-record for the hours that the different teams worked on Customer Cases. One that we could easily integrate with our billing system.

3. What is your number 1 challenge to tracking employee performance? 

Disparate and siloed systems for different teams

4. What is your team size?

About 120 people in Customer Service and Implementation teams. Plus, another 50 people in the development team who also work on customer-facing issues.

5. What are you currently doing to make your customer service team more efficient?

We have implemented the PK4 TimeTracker for all our teams in different ways. For the Customer Service team, which works in Salesforce, we have implemented the Time Tracker lightning component that tracks time right inside the Case. The process is highly efficient, and we are now tracking every minute that the team spends on a Case. For the development team, we have integrated their Jira worklogs to be brought into Salesforce directly via the TimeTracker. So their time is recorded automatically into the Time Tracker, without their having even to click a button. Our Implementation team uses the Time Tracker web app to track their hours whenever they need to work on a Case. So all hours worked are now directly tied to Cases, and it all happens seamlessly.

6. What has been the significant impact for you?

Within the first month of implementing the Time Tracker, we’ve seen our Support revenues go up because all the hours are now accurately tracked. The time that we spent reconciling and billing customers has also drastically reduced.

5 Tips to Stay Focused at Work During a Personal Crisis

5 Tips to Stay Focused at Work During a Personal Crisis

 A personal crisis could strike any person at any time, and it doesn’t matter how stable or happy your life might otherwise be – the effects can be devastating. A personal crisis will be on your mind almost constantly, no matter how much you might want a break from it. You are also likely to take the problem to work with you no matter how hard you try to put on a brave face.

No matter how hard you might try to get your work done, it can be all but impossible to prevent other thoughts from creeping in and harming your productivity. Your performance at work can begin to suffer as you lose focus, potentially causing harm to your professional life. It’s a fairly common issue, and around 47% of employees say their performance at work is sometimes affected by their personal commitments.

If your professional life also takes a hit, then things will only get worse for you, making it essential for you to remain focused at work as much as possible. You can take steps to help you maintain your productivity at work as much as possible. 

Create a Schedule

 If you’re working without a specific goal in mind, it can be easy for your thoughts to distract you. Creating a schedule will help you keep focused on your work, helping you to work towards a goal rather than just working through the motions. 

To help keep your productivity on target, consider using time tracking software like the one from PK4 Tech to monitor your time. Time tracking software will help make it easier to tell when you are being productive and help you avoid wasting time. Knowing that you’re monitoring yourself can also help you focus on your work. 

Speak With Other People

Anybody going through a personal crisis should speak with other people. Meet up with somebody close to you and explain the situation and how it affects you. Also, listen for their feedback and advice and be prepared to hear some things you may not like.

However, this doesn’t mean you should speak with everybody about your problems. When at work, it’s best to limit what you say to other people. For one thing, telling colleagues about your situation keeps your head in the issue instead of giving you a chance to focus on something else.

Treat Going to Work as an Escape

When things are difficult in your personal life, going to work can be the ideal escape. Even the journey to and from work can help give your mind a break from what is upsetting you, and your mind will become even more occupied when you have a job to do.

There is also a social aspect to working with other people, making your job a convenient getaway. You can get involved with discussions not related to your personal commitments, whether they’re work-related or not. It can also be great to arrange a social outing with work colleagues although you should be careful not to overdo it, especially if you must work the following day.

Don’t Push Yourself Hard

You’re only human, so don’t put too much work pressure on yourself if you struggle sometimes. Instead, give yourself some space occasionally and don’t be hard on yourself if your productivity does take a hit.

It may take you a bit longer than usual to perform tasks, and things won’t improve for you overnight. However, beating yourself up about it won’t improve the situation and can make matters worse. Things will likely improve after a while, but you just have to let them through your system naturally. 

Limit Personal Contact

With a personal crisis going on, some people will likely want to call you regularly to get updates. Instead, it’s a good idea to set some limits and let people know that you’re at work and need to focus on your job.

Having people call you regularly to talk about your problem will cause you to keep thinking about it and perhaps even remind you about it when your mind has taken a break for a while. Unfortunately, it will also distract you from your work, potentially upsetting management and colleagues and increasing work pressure.

Try to limit calls to urgent matters only and, if needed, limit who has access to your number. You might need to turn your mobile phone off if the calls you’re receiving is harming your productivity.

Summary

Although most people will recover in time, there is no way to take away the pain and anguish of a personal crisis. In the meantime, it is essential to look after yourself, including looking after your professional prospects.

When going through a personal crisis, it’s important to focus on your work so your job is not adversely affected to the point where work pressure also becomes difficult to cope with. But, on the other hand, you will also need to acknowledge that you’re going through a difficult time and that you should not expect yourself to be firing on all cylinders.

Give yourself breathing space and time, use time tracking software, create a schedule, and set limitations on disturbances to help keep you focused. By focusing on your work, you’re helping to ensure you’re still in great condition when your crisis finally subsides.

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

Manage Projects Efficiently and Get Paid Faster

Manage Projects Efficiently and Get Paid Faster

Late payments can play havoc with a company’s cash flow. Such disruption can result in shortages meaning there’s a lack of funds to reinvestment in the company or even difficulties paying bills and staff. Regardless, studies have shown that around 64% of small companies have experienced not being paid on invoices for 60 days or longer.

There are various reasons for late payments from clients. One reason is the client lacking funds themselves, while another potential reason is a lack of organization. The company doing the work is also sometimes at fault, such as delayed delivery, quality issues, or administrative problems. 

One way to ensure that you’re paid for projects on time is to run the project as efficiently as possible.

Define the Project Before Starting

One way to help ensure you get paid on time is to define the project before starting. You need to define the scope of the task, which materials are needed, how long it will take, and who will be working on the project.

By defining the project fully, you can give an accurate quote and completion deadline, meaning the client is less likely to have anything to contest when paying. Defining the project will also help ensure you get paid fairly for your work and have everything you need to do the job. 

Track Your Team

Manpower is one of the most important ingredients of just about any project. Your staff’s experience and skills are necessary to get the job done and even the most advanced technology cannot replace most human tasks. However, as important as manpower is for getting a project finished, it is also one of the most expensive aspects. Manpower can also be one of the most difficult variables to manage.

However, solutions like PK4 Tech’s time tracking software can help to make it much easier for you to track and manage your team. For example, the technology can let you know where an employee is at a particular time, what they have been working on, and how long they have spent on certain tasks.

This ability to monitor employees in such a way is beneficial for numerous reasons, including:

  • Error Reduction: It can be very easy to make errors when timesheets are created. People are unlikely to remember all the details of their working week, especially if they have been busy. Time tracking software will help to eliminate errors by tracking your employees’ actions for you. 
  • Improved Billing: Time trackers make it easier to track the amount of time working for clients. The software also makes it easier for you to send reports to your clients to keep up with the work being done and monitor the progress of the project themselves. With everything documented, clients are less likely to have a reason to delay their payments.
  • Monitor Productivity: The average employee will spend around 51% of their working day on unproductive tasks. It’s not necessarily their fault; people just won’t always realize how much time certain tasks are taking. With time tracking software, you can monitor how long employees are spending on tasks, helping you identify where they could be spending their time better.
  • Easy Processing: Processing timesheets can be a time-consuming and menial task for managers, meaning more important tasks are pushed aside. However, time-tracking software makes it much simpler for managers to approve timesheets. Instead of using paper sheets, managers instead have all the details they need on the screen in front of them. The software makes it easy to accept or reject timesheets at the touch of a button, and let employees know why their timesheet was rejected.
  • Budget Monitoring: It can be easy to go over budget if you’re not monitoring your expenses, but time tracking software makes it easy for you. With the right software, you can get the information you need at a glance, helping you make important decisions. 

Time tracking can help you manage your project more efficiently in numerous ways. In addition to the benefits already mentioned, the software can also produce comprehensive reports that give you the information you need to make impactful decisions. Not only that, but time-tracking software can also integrate with other systems, helping you get more value from them. Overall, the software can help you identify the most productive ways to work, while reducing errors and streamlining your processes. Your clients are more likely to pay on time with an efficiently managed process.

See Your Productivity Soar with the Eisenhower Matrix

See Your Productivity Soar with the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower matrix is named after the USA’s 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Not only was Eisenhower a president, but he was also a five-star general, Supreme Commander of Allied forces in WWII, and he even created NASA. He was a busy guy who got a lot done in his life, so he knew a thing or two about work productivity.

Eisenhower had the incredible ability to sustain his productivity not just for weeks or months, but for decades on end. So it’s no surprise that his methods for task management, time management and productivity have been studied and copied by scores of people.

During WWII, the then general was quite busy with many tasks on his plate. After all, work management when commanding the forces of several nations during a fierce war will be a demanding job. So, to help him improve his work management, he devised the system now known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Mere-Urgency Effect

The mere-urgency effect is a common phenomenon. The phenomenon is that people tend to prioritize urgent tasks rather than how important they are. So, for example, you might prioritize a Zoom call over more serious matters for no other reason than the appointment is quickly approaching. The result is that the less important tasks become neglected, thus impacting your work productivity.

The Eisenhower Matrix is also based on the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle says that 20% of input can achieve 80% of output if you practice efficient task management. However, most people and businesses tend to spend 80% of their input to achieve just 20% of their output. The Eisenhower Matrix helps overcome this by prioritizing the tasks that help you get the most important tasks done first.

How The Eisenhower Matrix Works

The Eisenhower Matrix works by diving tasks into four categories.

⦁ Urgent and important

Tasks that fall into this category are prioritized to be done before anything else.

 ⦁ Not urgent but important

 You should schedule these tasks for before the deadline approaches, but after urgent and important categories.

  ⦁ Urgent but not important

 Tasks that fall into this category should be delegated to somebody else. 

 ⦁ Not urgent and not important

In most cases, these tasks should be deleted. They will only take valuable time and give little to nothing back in return. 

One of the great things about the Eisenhower Matrix is that it can be used for broad productivity plans (“What should I accomplish this month?”) and for smaller, daily plans (“What should I do today?”).

One of the key advantages of the Eisenhower Matrix is that it helps you to stop wasting time on unproductive tasks, leaving you with more time to focus on more productive tasks instead. Such tasks tend to be menial and time-consuming, making for poor time management.

Another advantage of the Eisenhower Matrix is that it helps you visualize which of your tasks is more important and encourages you to work out how important each task is. For example, if you need to know where to place a particular account, you may be encouraged to work out how much you are profiting from that account. If the account is not earning you enough money, it can be delegated to somebody in a junior position or closed altogether.

The monetary value of a particular task is not the only thing to consider – time tends to be a far more valuable commodity. However, tracking time spent on tasks can be time-consuming, which would make it counter-productive considering we’re trying to improve your time management. One solution is to use time tracking software like the PK4 TimeTracker that will help track your time automatically. Not only will the software make it easy for you to track how long you spend working on particular tasks, but it also gives you comprehensive reports that tell you exactly what you are spending your time on. 

Easy to Use

The Eisenhower Matrix is also very easy to use. All you need is paper, a pen, a ruler, and your to-do list. Alternatively, you can find an app that will help you to create a matrix electronically.

Using pen and paper, start by drawing a box and splitting it into four separate sections. Then, label the two columns with ‘Urgent’ for the left column and ‘Not Urgent’ for the right column. Next, label the two rows with ‘Important’ on the top row and ‘Not Important’ below.

The top left-hand box should be titled ‘Do’, with ‘Decide’ in the top right-hand box. Give the bottom left-hand box the title ‘Delegate’ and the bottom right-hand box ‘Delete’.

All you need to do now is place your tasks in the appropriate box, and you have an efficient task management structure in place. 

Try the Eisenhower Matrix for yourself

Dwight Eisenhower once said “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

The Eisenhower Matrix  helps you view both your long-term goals and your to-do lists through this prism. This will help you prioritize your days, weeks and even your longer timeframes more strategically and effectively. So if you have a growing list of goals and tasks, drawing an Eisenhower Matrix is a great place to start. Try it as you start the New Year and see if you get a better handle on things.

 

You Really Need Timesheets for Salaried Employees. Here’s Why!

You Really Need Timesheets for Salaried Employees. Here’s Why!

Salaried employees get paid the same regardless of whether or not their time is tracked, so is there any need for time tracking at all? Surely it’s just a waste of time and something that’s only likely to irritate rather than encourage productivity. So why use a time tracker for salaried employees at all?
There are several reasons why time management for salaried employees is a rather good idea, some of which are below.

Prevent Employee Burnout

Managers watch employee times

Managers track employee time

Employee burnout is an issue that any company should be mindful of. It’s not just that we should have our employee’s best interests in mind (although that would be nice), but burnout can negatively affect a company as well.

A burned-out employee is likely to offer less productivity than otherwise. Not only will their performance levels drop but you might end up losing them altogether. Timesheets will help you to identify employees who probably need to take a break, or at least spend more of their day doing things other than working.

Improve Productivity

Time tracking products like the PK4 TimeTracker are not necessarily about snooping on employees (although they can be if you feel some people are not pulling their weight). In most cases, asking salaried staff to complete timesheets is more about understanding which tasks are time-consuming and where time management can be improved. Employees spend around 4 hours a week on unproductive tasks, and knowing where time is spent will help to identify where their time could be put to better use. If your employees are spending a lot of time on menial tasks that could be automated, for example, then you’d know that investing in the right technology could bring a considerable boost to productivity.

Billing Customers

Some companies will charge their clients on an hourly basis for their services. So, even if an employee’s pay is not affected by the hours they work, a time tracker is still very useful when it comes to billing customers. Not only does time tracking let companies know what to charge when invoicing, but they can also provide a breakdown of the work that has been done. Considering around 10% of billable hours can be lost if time is not recorded by the end of the day, it’s easy to see how time tracking will be beneficial.

Calculate Overtime

Ok, we’ve not been entirely honest above when we say salaried employees are always paid the same – there is overtime to take into account.

Employees that are legible for overtime would no doubt be quite keen to be paid for additional worked hours. After all, they’re probably not doing it because they just love to be in the office. On the flip-side, employers are not usually in the habit of paying people for nothing, and time tracking can come in handy here as well.

Although not all employees are eligible for overtime, time tracking is somewhat of a no-brainer for many of those that are and quite necessary for payroll to be accurate.

Project Management

Complex project management can be difficult, with time management being one of the most difficult challenges. If something is taking longer than expected then it’s best to know as soon as possible because an issue in the pipeline can affect everything else that comes afterwards. With time tracking, project management becomes a lot easier because you know just how much time is being spent and whether or not the task is on target to meet deadlines.

Measuring Costs

Costs are one of the most important metrics that determine whether or not a business is a success or a failure, and time tracking is an effective way of helping you to manage your costs. With a timesheet, you can see where your employees are spending time on tasks that are not cost-effective, enabling you to make changes that will allow you to manage your costs better.

Above are just a few reasons why time management is a good idea for salaried staff. A timesheet can help you to know how much payroll should be paying your employees and how much you should be invoicing your clients. They can provide you with a breakdown of a working day that will help you identify areas for improvement where costs and productivity are concerned, while time tracking will also help you manage the well-being of your valued employees better.

It is also very easy to use time tracking, with modern options offering greater functionality such as reporting in addition to simply keeping a record of time worked.