How Salt³ shook up their engineering firm with industry-specific management softwareJune 24th, 2019
Born five years ago in regional Victoria, Salt³ provides engineering services and consultancy for traffic, transport, and waste. From those recent and humble beginnings, Salt³ director Jo Garretty took the wheel and steered the company’s expansion to include offices in Melbourne and Sydney, and projects not only in the home state but also in NSW, South Australia, and Queensland across government and private sectors. So, how has Jo kept the success of Salt³ shakin’?
Waste not, want not
“We offer ourselves as a boutique firm,” says Jo, “There’s a lot of crossover between the traffic and waste services, so the teams do work quite closely together to deliver reports and advice and engineering solutions to our clients.”
Elaborating on the crossovers between traffic and waste engineering, she explains that in a residential development, the traffic team will look at carpark design — how trucks will service the development, and how waste will be collected.
“That’s where the waste team comes in,” she says, “They design the systems that transfer the waste from within the building from each dwelling. If it’s a high rise building, it might have shoots that go down into a waste room. The waste team design how big that room needs to be, how many bins need to go in there and how often the truck needs to come and collect the waste. Often each waste report has a traffic sweep path in the back of it, for example, showing the sweep path of the truck.”
What does being the director of a waste and traffic engineering firm look like?
“I still do project work, but a lot of other things take up my time, like running the business, business development, and managing staff,” Jo says.
“But I do enjoy the project work as well. It’s enjoyable going out meeting clients and architects and everyone’s excited about the projects because many we do are amazing. I mean, they win awards and they look great — there’s something tangible out there as a result”.
The journey to Synergy savvy at Salt³
Salt³ previously used another software product for practice and project management but had some real challenges with that.
“It was limited in what it could offer, particularly if we wanted to get people in the team using it, becoming their own project manager and invoicing for projects as well,” Jo says.
“The other program didn’t really allow that, it was all managed through one or two admin people arranging all the invoices and sending them out, and it just took up a lot of time. The reporting side of it was limited as well.
“We set out to look at other products which could give us more, and we did look at a couple of different options. We landed on Synergy because it ticked boxes that most of the others didn’t as it’s designed specifically for consulting engineers like us.
“Because we’re engineers, the particular way we invoice traffic and waste can be very intricate as some of the projects aren’t massive. It’s not always a fixed fee, sometimes we have time and expense, or we might have a combined invoice that has a fixed fee and a time expense component. Additionally, we’re now often combining the waste and the traffic invoices in one. These are some of the features that we’ve been really glad to have with Synergy.”
Setting up for success
We’re well aware that implementing a new business and project management software isn’t exactly easy, folks, and it takes an investment of time. We asked Jo how she and the Salt³ team found that process and whether she felt they’d recouped the expenditure with the streamlining of systems.
“Learning a new program is always a bit tricky, especially if you’re not IT savvy, but it wasn’t overly arduous,” she says.
“We got there in a week or so and everyone picked it up, and they’re using it no problem. We use it daily for different reasons.”
Daily does it — employee autonomy all the way
Jo explains that choosing a software specific to the architectural, engineering, and construction design (AEC) industry has been crucial to their staff being able to carry out their projects quickly and autonomously.
“Most people enter their timesheets every day. Everyone has Synergy open every day, and it gives them the flexibility to go in and generate an invoice. Say they close up a project — they can draft the invoice for approval at any time, from wherever they are, so we don’t have to wait until the end of the month.
“Before it was an entire admin role, and now it still is as a final step, but by allowing project managers to generate their own invoices, we’ve probably saved five days a month overall with just that benefit.”
Asked about the importance of a project management software being industry-specific, Jo says she’d give it an eight or nine out of 10. “I really think it’s quite important.”
Best practice — AEC success advice
For Jo Garretty, success is about relationships with the clients.
“If you don’t have any clients then you’ve got no work to do,” she says.
“But it’s processes as well. I know sometimes people don’t like doing invoicing and that kind of thing, but you just need to keep on top of that using systems. When we started out we didn’t have a timesheet and invoicing program, we did it all in Excel, but when a business gets bigger and you employ people, that limits your ability to grow. So, once you start employing people, just think, ‘well, I can’t do everything myself because I’m not going to generate the work’. Save time on admin with the right systems and processes and free up time to grow the business.”
What’s ahead for Salt³ (no Pepa)
Salt³ is a firm driven by their values: approachability, loyalty and transparency. Servicing their clients is their focus, Jo says.
“And not just being on the other end of an email, but actually developing relationships with them. We try hard to get face-to-face time with our clients — delivering things on time and giving quality advice and maintaining our relationship with other stakeholders.
“We want our clients to feel they can call us up and have a chat, that we’re not going to be saying we won’t help you, because often things are quite challenging and a certain solution might not work, but we’ll come up with another way to get around it for you — we want to offer solutions.”