All posts by LeAnn Nowak

Five Tips for Getting Staff to Enter Timesheets in Architectural/Engineering Firms

I’ve interviewed hundreds of Project Managers at Architectural/Engineering firms over the past twenty years and it seems the number one complaint never changes:  “Our employees just won’t enter their timesheets”.   I love to come back with a quick “Why won’t they?”

Usually the feedback during these conversations has something to do with time – your staff doesn’t have time, your staff won’t make the time or because they don’t want to do administrative tasks so they can be billable all of the time.

My next question usually goes something like this “Why don’t you show them that it is imperative that you have this information for accountability and profitability analysis?”  It still amazes me that Architectural and Engineering firms have such an issue with getting employees to do daily timesheets when it is the lifeline of your business.    As you know, timesheets in your firms tell you where the most time is being spent on a project and this correlates to all budgeting and scheduling on the particular job.

When you spend time with your team showing them the real-time information you use from timesheets so they can see and understand the business implications, I usually find the employee is more receptive to keeping up with the goal of daily entry.  They need to understand that your Project Management system is integrated and the timesheet information is used for more than billing or being passed to payroll.   The next time an employee balks at your request for detailed timesheet entry and tell you they don’t have time – you can be prepared to show them why taking the few minutes now can help you to see if the project they are working on is over/under budget, making the firm money, etc.

In summary, 5 tips for getting staff to enter timesheets in architectural/engineering firms:

  1. Use a system that integrates your timesheets with project reports so that you have real-time data to show your staff.   If you have a disconnected system that requires duplicate entry it is harder to convince your team that you really do use the data.
  2. Show your employees the key indicator reports that you use to measure metrics on projects.
  3. Use a system that makes daily time entry simple.  The easier it is for them to enter the data for the day, the more likely they will do it.
  4. Implement a system that provides an option for time entry via iPhone or iPad so the time entry can be done on-site or at home.
  5. Lead by example!

Project Management on Your Phone…Sing Along!

I can’t sing. I can’t carry a tune.  And, I admit that I am not even a Peyton Manning fan (sorry Broncos, I am a Colorado native so I shouldn’t admit this out loud!).   But I LOVE “Football on Your Phone” — what a great marketing tool advertising Direct TV’s NFL Ticket.   The hilarious video featuring Peyton and his brother Eli has gone viral.  I’ve been humming the tune ever since I watched it a few days ago.

Of course, I started thinking about the concept – why shouldn’t we have football on our phones? We have apps for practically anything else we need these days.   This led me to thinking about what Architectural and Engineering firms need on their phones.  It hit me right away:  Project Management.

Your Project Managers spend a lot of time at client meeting and project locations and they need instant access to project information.   A PM should be able to get on their iPhone (or iPad) and be able to look up a client address/phone number, to record project notes or even to see the Tasks assigned to the project.  And, of course, you’ll want to enter your time.  Daily time entry is much easier to keep up with when you don’t have to be at your desk.

Now, you might not be “on a date with Simone, sitting on a throne or buttering a scone” as the lyrics indicate – but you might be in your company vehicle, sitting in a field, eating your lunch from a paper bag when it just hits you that you need to check the outstanding tasks on the project or a team member might have called you up to discuss an assignment and you’ll surely agree you need “Project Management on Your Phone”.

Watch the video, have a chuckle and then take a look at to see how you can get Project Management on Your Phone with Praesto AE.

3 tips for AE Firm Business Development and “Dream” Fulfillment from SMPS

I planned to write while I was at the Society for Marketing Professional Services conference and since I’ve attended more than a dozen years consecutively…I should have known better than to think I would find a few free minutes.    And, I will also admit that I didn’t get out my running shoes, not once.

True to form, the conference was packed full of inspiring keynotes, informative educational sessions and phenomenal networking.   This years’ theme, Dream Big (what else would it be in the land of all things Disney?!), resonated throughout the three days of learning.

I know that each of you has dreams for your Architectural or Engineering firms – dreams in terms of your profitability, your number of staff, the number of projects you want to take on each year – dreams for your success.   In order to achieve these goals you need to have everyone in your firm wearing a sales hat, you need to do this to outdo and outlast the competition.   So, I spent a lot of my time attending sessions regarding Business Development – everything from how to develop your own personal brand to helping your technical staff to create business to effective leadership in this role in our organizations.

The three top tips I took away in this capacity are:

  1. Teach your team.  Don’t assume that everyone knows your elevator speech, how to cultivate an opportunity or even how to effectively talk the talk at networking events.
  2. Incentivize your team.  You need to provide incentives if you want your technical staff to take on a business development mentality.  Whether that be providing a bonus structure or holding contest or whether it means providing concrete goals that must be met and are included in performance reviews – your team needs to know you are serious.
  3. Monitor your team.  It is imperative that your marketing/business development principal management communicates regularly with others on the topic of sales goals.  Set semi-monthly meetings, keep data in your client relationship management systems, produce reports, etc.

I’ve been inspired to Dream Big when it comes to marketing for my firm and to help our Architectural and Engineering clients market their firms as well.   That’s why I am thrilled that our product, Praesto AE, includes components for marketers and business developers to track activities, prepare/track proposals and analyze efforts in these areas.

And now, the break is over and it’s time to get back to the office and to train to fulfill my dream of riding those 100 miles on the road bike.  It’s time for me to get back to making those dreams happen to and keep thinking of the next big ones as well!

Taking a break from the bike to network and get educated at SMPS!

This week I am taking a break from the bike.  Over the past week I did several rides – starting with climbing our roads to Horsetooth Rock, which included 7 and 8% grades, and also shorter rides of 35 and 26 miles for recovery.   But today the bike goes in for maintenance and tomorrow I venture to Orlando for a conference and will be packing the running shoes.

I am in love with cycling so the prospect of being away from the bike for a week is tough, but I am sure after a few miles I will become reacquainted with my first love and will enjoy the solitude of a morning run as well.

The conference — Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), Build Business – will be attended by roughly 1000 marketing people (in varying capacities) from Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms.  I’ve been part of this organization for over 10 years.   It teaches and advocates best practices for marketing and business development in an industry that often thrives on referrals and repeat business but really takes so much more behind the scenes.    The sessions will revolve around proposal generation, knowledge management, client relationships and more.    I encourage you to check out

I will write again from the road…already knowing that I will find plenty to write about based on my past experiences with this wonderful organization and brilliant! people.

In the meantime, I will be giving a few muscles a break and finding a few that haven’t been used in a while.  And I know I will look forward to taking back to the road on my bright orange bike and I will be refreshed, renewed and will leave Orlando having reconnected with old friends, gained a lot of continued knowledge on the AEC industry and will have a ton of new contacts.

Do numbers matter? You bet they do! A look at metrics in cycling and project management!

Before I started this quest for a Centric, I really considered myself a runner.  But then due to an injury that forced me to take six weeks off training, I discovered cycling.   As a runner, I had my running watch at my disposal and I liked to also use it for my rides.  I figured as long as I had the number of miles I went and the total time, I knew what I needed to know.

Sound familiar?  I often hear Principals of Architectural and Engineering firms say they don’t need project management software – they figure if they have money in the bank they are doing okay.  They don’t need metrics.

I recently discovered the difference numbers can make. And, I know from experience the numbers can make a difference for you.  You might have cash flow but are your projects really profitable, what is your average percent of profit, what is your actual fee per hour spent?

E firms need to have information available so you can use real-time information from time and expenses and see if projects are on, over or under budget.  If you are going to make a profit – you need to keep on budget and you can’t react to issues if you don’t have good information at your fingertips.  The same goes for staffing – if you don’t know if you are reaching milestones on your projects – how do you make adjustments?

Using project ratio tracking is another valuable metric that helps you evaluate current work as well as setting fees for new work.  If you can measure fees by ratios such as percentage of construction costs, fee per area, per hour, per drawing…you can predict profits going in rather than waiting until you are coming out to see how you did.

And, imagine not only being able to view your gross and net profits by project – but also taking a look at max profit possible (the best case scenario if you complete your project with no additional costs).

These numbers, although using different terms, are the same numbers I needed to see on the bike.  I thought total miles and time spent was enough until I got a Garmin.  Now I understand that the information I can see in real-time, at my fingertips and through post-ride reports has given me a whole new understanding of my training.   I can now see my cadence, my average moving miles per hour, my elevation change, my average heart rate.   All metrics that make a difference.

I love knowing at any point in my ride that I might need to improve, speed up, slow down…whatever is necessary for max efficiency.   So, you might have money in the bank but are you reaching your max?

Got Clipless pedals? Got Project Management Software? The right equipment can improve efficiencies!

Tags: Architecture, Engineering | Date Posted: | Author:

Having the right equipment in cycling will make a huge difference in efficiencies.  Having the right “equipment” in your business will mean the same thing.

I was apprehensive about using clipless pedals and cleats.  I admit it.  I am a fairly strong rider but I began to realize I wasn’t going to be efficient enough to make the 100 miles in my goal of six hours if I didn’t find a way to improve.  The ride I am signing up for has some pretty hefty climbs (category 2 for you riders that follow the ratings scale) and efficiencies are important when you are taking on elevation changes.

I was full of excuses about making the change to my pedals/shoes.  It was going to be another investment, it was going to mean a learning curve and it might also mean some bumps and bruises as I got used to the change.

But I did the research and I took on the challenge.  I knew that being connected to my bike would mean that I would be able to use less energy,  I knew it would mean that the climbs would come easier as I focused less on my feet and more on my lungs.  I knew that it meant that my riding would improve and it would be worth the expenditure.  It would be worth the learning curve.

As I completed 42 miles of hill (or climb) training this past weekend I was thinking about how this correlated to an investment in project management software for architects and engineers.  And it led me to thinking about the excuses.  When I call on your firms to gage interest in our business/project management system, I often hear the same resistance.   When asked if you have the right business/project software tools I get the same answers “we have what we need, we don’t want to change, we don’t want to make another investment in business software, we’ve spent enough on administrative or overhead items, we don’t have time for the learning curve”.   I get it.

But sometimes we have to take the chance to get to the next level.  We have to invest and make change if we are going to meet our goals.  If you want to have the means to hold your staff accountable, if you want to have real-time metrics to stay on top of project budgets or if you want to know if your projects are profitable (or not) then it means you need to have the right equipment – software like Praesto AE that is designed for the industry and gives you the tools to improve.

If small architectural/engineering firms invest in their businesses, they can be wildly successful.  I am now completely connected to my bike, and I can feel that wild success coming as well.  And, that’s a good thing!

Building foundations…in cycling and project management software

by LeAnn Nowak, CPSM

I spend a lot of time on my road bike as I am training for a 100 mile ride at the end of September.  So far my longest ride is just at three hours but I will be at eight before it is all said and done.    I tend to spend a lot of this time thinking about business and the idea came to me to turn these thoughts into a blog for my latest endeavor – doing sales and marketing for Base Builders.

As you can imagine the correlation between cycling and project management software came to me when I started thinking about our company name and how I am building a base for my endurance and speed while at Base Builders we are helping architects and engineers build a base for their business and project management.

I got to thinking “what is the true base of my training”?   Is it my bike?  My heart?  My lungs?  My legs?  Is it mental?   I am sure if you asked a hundred cyclists you would get a hundred different answers.  Just like if you ask an Architect or an Engineer what the base of their business management is — you will find out the answer will vary from firm Principal to firm Principal.

Some Principals would tell you that solid business management requires the ability to manage cash, others would say it is the ability to track and manage projects and yet others would say it is being able to measure profitability on a project by project basis.  None of them would be wrong.  These are all critical components of managing a small AE firm just like with cycling where your base needs to include a solid bike, a healthy heart and lungs, strong legs and a will to get through the long rides.

Base Builders offers these small to mid-size firms the ability to “have it all” – to have a single solution where they can have a base for their business and project management.  We offer Praesto AE so they can work hard during the day and rest, or ride, at night.

Please join me for my weekly Blog posts in the months ahead, where I will continue to explore the world of cycling, Base Builders, Praesto AE and most importantly  business/project management in the AE industry.