Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Recently, Bosley asked me how things were going on FCH, and he mentioned that we should try to get things wrapped up sooner rather than later because we were starting to run out of fee on that project. His comment made me realize that I didn't actually know how much fee I had left on each of my projects, and maybe I should find out. Turns out that access to that information isn't restricted, just kinda hidden in our project files. Because no one says, "here it is, here's how it works" unless you ask, then no one knows where it is and how it works.
But I did ask Howie on Friday what was the deal with fee. Where do we keep track of it and how do we know how much we have left? Howie showed me two ways of keeping track. One was kept for every project on the same office-wide software that our timesheets are done on, and the other is a record in an Excel spreadsheet that Howie does on all his projects. He showed me how each person bills against the project, how many hours they worked per week, and how much is still left. He puts the overall budget, broken up by phase, into the spreadsheet, and as Howie puts in how many hours each team member works on it, the spreadsheet shows him how much is left for that phase. It was eye-opening to see that we had already spent our fee for the planning phase on TCMC, for example. Howie pointed that out to me, and then he mentioned that we could look for ways to save fee as the project goes along. For example, we might roll SD into DD, since the floor plan is pretty much worked out at this point.
The concern I return to again and again is fee versus product and service. If we're running low on fee for a project (that is, we've nearly spent up and billed for all the cash we asked the client for in the first place), how do we assure that we still give the contractor (and thereby the owner) the good product that was paid for? What happens when you've spent the money wisely--no one was wasting time on the project and everyone who billed to it was really and truly doing something useful on it--and you're still not done? How do you schedule your time? My initial thought is to remove myself as much as possible from the project and step in as needed. We bill TCMC and FCH only $60/hr for Intern Timmy and Intern Kimmy, respectively, but we bill those clients $100/hr for me, $160/hr for Howie, and $185/hr for Bosley. The partner I used to do a lot of work for, Alex, rarely got involved on his own projects and therefore rarely billed to them. Bosely, however, works on his projects and bills to them, which on the plus side means that a client gets high-level attention but on the minus side he eats the fee. This is kind of annoying to me as a worker bee because Bosley, as a partner, will get a bigger chunk of the profits when the project is over than I will, and because he's salary he doesn't actually have to bill the time at all. I'm hourly so I do have to bill each hour I work (or travel to a meeting or work session) or I don't get paid. Furthermore, this hoses all the interns, and you know how I love my interns. Do not hose the little people who actually do the work, I always say. It's a little something I learned from Fight Club. That and do not talk about Fight Club.
So, I'm learning about a new part of my job responsibilities as a job captain and grownup-in-training. I have to watch out for getting the building built, keeping everyone organized and busy, and making sure we still have the cash left to finish the project. I almost feel cool.