[quote style=”boxed”]Take a step back, and think big picture instead of getting caught up in the daily tasks of a business. [/quote]
Dave Nevogt is the co-founder of Hubstaff.com which helps virtual teams communicate better through automatic time tracking and activity tracking. He’s been running online businesses since he was 23, and now manages a team of 30 remote employees. Dave has been honored as one of Indianapolis’s top 40 under 40 entrepreneurs, and focuses on teaching others to manage remote teams. His remote team theories can be found here –
What are you working on right now?
We are building Hubstaff.com which aims to provide better data to managers of remote teams. Hubstaff tracks time spent on specific projects and then allows freelancers to invoice for their time. It also lets managers to get a deeper understanding of what their employees are working on. We aim to help reduce the stress that remote managers face as they try to manage their team.
Where did the idea for Hubstaff.com come from?
I’ve been looking for similar software since 2008. I had a physical office with 6 employees in it, but I have always been somewhat obsessed with the idea of productivity and getting more done in less time. So I was searching for a software that would help me “automatically” manage my team of employees. When I couldn’t find it, I set out to build it. So the idea was really born out of my own need for the product.
How do you make money?
We charge teams on a monthly basis to use the software based on the size of their team. The price is roughly $5 per user per month. We are also considering releasing a metered version where teams would pay based on just the time that they track vs. on a per user basis.
What does your typical day look like?
I run the marketing side of Hubstaff, so I spend time in our paid advertising systems and designing processes for our marketing employees to follow through with. Also a large part of my day is spent touching base with my team of contractors and testing the work that they have recently gotten done. It’s my job to come up with the ideas and implementation of new features, and then test them as a user as they are completed. This requires testing many different scenarios to make sure that we are covering our bases.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I usually document things very well up front, so that means heavy documentation in google docs or camtasia videos. This documentation is very complete and almost overkill. Once I document an idea fully, I’m able to give this to an employee and I rely on them to bring it to phase one. I then have phase one presented to me, and propose changes for phase 2. The idea is brought to life by my initial documentation and then employee specialists.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m most excited about the prospect of virtual work and the fact that I can find and manage a team member from anywhere in the world. This allows me to build any business that can be run virtually and focus my energy there. It’s exciting to me that a person can create leverage by building processes and outsourcing the implementation of those processes.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was working as a financial analyst working for a large pharmaceutical company in Chicago. To most this may not seem all that bad, but to an entrepreneur it was not the right fit. There was really no room at all to get creative and to express my own ideas. I learned that the largest reward for me is when I can add value directly to the world. This is when I believe success starts to form… When you can add value. People are willing to pay for it. If you are in a position where you cannot add direct value, you’re being limited.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d make sure that I have the correct idea through customer validation and then put all my resources and time into that one idea. I spread myself too thin early on and as a result, one particular business that could have taken off to be probably a $3MM business was limited at $1.5MM. That’s a huge difference because successful ideas don’t come every day. Once you find one, and validate it, throw everything you have at it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take a step back, and think big picture instead of getting caught up in the daily tasks of a business. This means analyzing where your business is at currently, where you want it to be in 365 days, and what you need to do now in order to get it there. Those are the things you should be working on daily, not all the fires.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I invested a lot of time and effort into an ecommerce business. I had it built up to $30k a month in revenue within 60 days. The problem was that our margins were terrible. We had to sell at discounts and in order to obtain inventory we had to pay a decent price. So of that $30k we were only producing around $1k in profits. I decided to shut down the business and focus on higher profit activities. I overcame it by looking at it as a learning experience, not getting down on myself, and moving forward as a more experienced business person.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Create a large database of words and related words. Then add synonyms, pre-fixes, and suffixes. Allow people to come to the site and enter a search term, and display related available domain names to them based on your database. No one is doing this really well right now. Monetize it by selling premium domains and linking to popular registrars.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
People’s awareness of the planet and the fact that we need to look after where we all live for future generations. I’d focus on two things. Laws the prohibit the cutting down of too many trees for development. Also put into place programs that help find homes for people’s used items like tv’s, plastic toys, home furnishings, etc… These are things that other people in your local community would love to have, but people throw away just for convenience.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I did pole vault in high school. Had scholarships to small schools for college and turned them down so that I could go to a big time university and have that experience. Glad that I did.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Google Docs – Allows me to collaborate and build specs with my remote team in the cloud for free
Dropbox – Has totally replaced my need for physical hard drives, and allows all of my computers to sync together
PivotalTracker – Allows me to have an idea, spec it out briefly, then forget about it until our dev team can focus on it
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The 80/20 Principle, because it teaches you to focus on what matters in life and in business. That’s how you get ahead.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
@ThisIsSethsBlog – mind opening marketing thoughts and how to market today and going forward
@garyvee – teaches you to be your own person and follow your passion with confidence
@dandakich – a little sports commentary with personality to get your mind thinking in a different direction
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
My partner sending me headshots of some famous entrepreneurs. Some of them are seriously funny.
Who is your hero?
Anyone that works hard to change the world in a positive direction. Too many to mention.
What’s the most important aspect of managing a virtual employee?
The most important aspect is making sure that you get someone that is accountable for their actions and cares about their ability to follow through with their promises. After that, you need to make sure that you, as the manager, are doing everything possible to remove all potential excuses from the your employees. That means making yourself available for questions, providing great documentation, and getting their buy in early.
How do you manage to have a good work / life balance when running several companies.
I try to always remember that family is more important than business. In 30 years, chances are I am going to wish I would have spent more time with family than on work. Keeping that in mind helps me to keep things in perspective and make the right decisions.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.