About Personnel Manager
In Feb 2005, I started my own business called Show Support. It is basically a labour hire company for the entertainment industry in Australia, providing skilled lighting and sound technicians to assist in the setting up and dismantling of shows, concerts, corporate events, conferences and exhibitions.
I started out in Sydney with just a small 'crew' servicing the requirements of a relatively small amount of clients. One thing I noticed was that the extra workload was incredible. I suddenly had to spend hours on the phone, sometimes calling up to twenty people just to get one shift booked. And then when I would tell the person the details of their shift, expecting them to write it in their diary, they would invariably say "just text it to me." Things had certainly changed since I used to work in crewing. So then after spending hours on the phone calling everyone to get them booked, I would sit there, frantically sending out text messages from my phone, till my thumbs were sore. And I would sometimes make mistakes.
I created some Excel spreadsheets (which is what I notice most business still tend to rely on) and I named them 'Jobsheets'. These were where I put all the info for the shifts I had booked in a week for a certain client. But if I wanted to to see who was out working on a Friday night, I would have to collate the info from all the jobsheets and rewrite a list. There just didn't seem to be an easier way to do this.
When I had finally got the jobs staffed, and gone out and worked on them myself, I would then have to come home of an evening and start calculating the pays for all the crew and writing up invoices. All time consuming stuff. Sometimes I would get home after midnight, spend all night doing the paperwork and see the sun come up, knowing that it was time to go back to work.
I am sure I am painting a familiar picture for lots of small business owners. As things started to get busier, I was getting an increasing amount of calls from clients booking more and more crew. Sometimes they would email me their bookings or sometimes, they would just tell me the details over the phone. So I would have to frantically create jobsheets, and start calling staff.
In our industry, crew are required to work at all times of the day and night, and there is extremely high demand for experienced crew at very peak times with little or no notice. I am not sure about other industries, but running a 'crewing service' in the entertainment industry is about as tough as it gets for recruiting casual staff on a regular basis. Our office is open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.
I approached Web Programmer in late 2005 with a view to getting them to create some type of online PHP software that would 'electronically' recreate our 'jobsheets' so that I could access information from them by doing 'searches'. This did not take very long and the result was the Ops Home Page and the Shifts Page, where I could search shifts by Date, Client or Crew Member. So for the first time, I could search the shifts for the coming weekend and print them. If I wanted to go out for dinner, I could print up the shifts for that evening and have them in my pocket. Then with calls diverted to my mobile, I could be 'in my office' so to speak in case any clients called. Also, if I went to visit a friend, provided they had internet connection, I was also 'in my office'.
Even if I had to go away, either domestically or overseas, I could still run my business exactly the same as if I was in my office. Or if I had other staff managing things for me, I could login at any stage and monitor everything that was happening with my company. Currently, all after hours support and operations is conducted from the North NSW Coast by a mate of mine who has 'Duty Manager' access. All incoming SMS messages come through as emails which are forwarded to his account.
The jobsheets were so designed that each one had a corresponding Invoice and a Quote. So that by creating a jobsheet you had sorted out a lot of the paperwork including a lot of the maths involved in quotes. So now, if a client put in a booking and required a quotation, there was no need to get out the calculator, pen and paper, and start figuring it out. I just had to click on the Quote, enter the clients name and email address and press the magic button - SEND. And better still the system was programmed to remember all these names and email addresses for future reference.
Similarly with the Invoices, once a job was completed, I could just open the invoice with the click of a button and press Send. I couldn't believe it. A whole day's work every week had just evaporated. Like that. And it never made mistakes (like I used to). For someone who hates maths as much as me, it was an absolute godsend. My life was starting to get easier.
The next step was to get the database which we decided to name the 'Personnel Manager', or PM for short, to handle the SMS requirements as I was well and truly sick of sending out SMS by hand or even on the computer. We created a system whereby once a job was in the system, the question SMS (SMS?), the one which would go out to multiple crew asking if they wanted to do a certain shift, would be automatically generated. Once crew texted back accepting that shift, the system would automatically send them a 'Confirmed' SMS with all the details of the job. For extra precaution, we created the ability for the system to send out a 'Reminder' SMS the day before the shift at 16:00pm.
I will never forget the first day that this new functionality came online. I had a booking come in for about 15 crew. I sent the SMS? out to about 20 crew and went out to lunch (an absolutely stressed out wreck of a man). When I came back into the office, I could not believe my eyes. The job was booked! All staff names were in black with a C after them, meaning they were confirmed for the job. The job had literally booked itself and I knew that it had saved me anywhere from 15 to 90 mins work.
We also added the ability for staff to enter their own upcoming unavailability, times that they could not work due to other commitments such as holidays. This enabled me to finally dispense with all the annoying little post it notes with each crew member's holiday's or other job written on them.
The Personnel Manager was also incredibly user friendly. I was able to take on casual staff with no experience and train them to use the system within a day.
It soon occurred to me, due to the developments of the system, that it would be fairly easy to replicate the system within itself and create a 'second' business. In this way I was able to set up Show Support in Melbourne in early 2006. This was a big step for me and would have been practically impossible without the Personnel Manager. But with it, it was incredibly simple.
Naturally, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Perth and Adelaide all followed very quickly after this, all efficiently run from one central system which could be operated by as many simultaneous users as necessary in as many different locations. We created an extra level of access, Business Manager, and gave our managers on the ground in each state the resources necessary to book their own jobs, recruit and organise their own staff without granting them the ability to access any information about money or invoices or any of the jobs in any other businesses that did not concern them.
So now, thanks to the Personnel Manager, not only was an incredibly labour intensive business getting easier to run, but it was expanding rapidly and outflanking our competition. Plus our clients and crew were happy that they could log into the system and see all their upcoming bookings as well. Our crew now had the ability to accept/decline shifts online and enter their start and finish times. They could also view the names and numbers of other crew on the same job as them. The moment this upgrade came through I noticed a dramatic reduction in the amount of calls coming in in the middle of the night. The late night reminder SMS messages were also a significant factor in reducing problems after hours.
The next major development was when we gave clients the ability to make bookings online, similar to the way the airlines do. This saved us a huge amount of work, the day to day data entry of creating all the jobsheets and entering that information. Also, we no longer were in a position to make any mistakes which would happen from time to time and which would cost me money. When the clients made the autobooking, it asked them to select whether they wanted to book crew in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane etc effectively advertising our services in those other states. At this stage I noticed our business roughly doubled in size as clients started to make online bookings for our crew in places that they did not realise we operated. It was just too easy for them to sort out their crewing requirements by putting in these 'autobookings' especially for our corporate clients that would have national touring roadshows that would require crew in every state. In this way we became the first national crewing service in Australia.
Since then, there have been countless other time saving upgrades that make running a business as seamless as possible. Several of our clients signed on as subscribers to the Personnel Manager. We no longer allow clients to subscribe as it makes them too efficient and they no longer require the services of Show Support. The system is continually being upgraded for our clients at no extra cost.
Now we have clients from completely different industries using the system because it is a very time and cost effective way of handling the 'personnel' aspects of any business, large or small, labour hire or otherwise. When it comes to scheduling a job, the Personnel Manager will identify every available staff member that has the necessary skills and fire off SMS messages to them, working it's way down the list (which you can prioritise) until it gets each and every job booked. We have been 'tailoring' PM to suit the needs of each individual client. In this way, the Personnel Manager can service the requirements of any business by changing the settings options in Global Page which the 'superuser' can do themselves.
Because each user can customise the Personnel Manager in their Global Settings Page, and because each user enters their own Activities (skills), it can be used in any industry and for any business.
Lately we have been adding some very handy Occupational Health and Safety features which make it impossible for the system to book unqualified personnel for jobs, requiring the user to sight and enter license and registration numbers as well as renewal dates. The system now warns us if someone is unlicensed for a certain 'activity' or if their license has expired. For example if we book a Rigger for a job and we do not have their Rigger's Certificate number in the system, it will prompt us to enter it.
The PM also warns us if we have double booked someone, or if we have them booked for too long or without a sufficient break. It also gives us the ability to make certain crew 'incompatible' with certain clients so we don't end up accidentally sending the wrong staff to the wrong jobs.
In Summary, the Personnel Manager software completely streamlines the running of all labour aspects of your business by automating the processes of entering bookings, booking staff, confirming staff for jobs, calculating their wages, invoicing, quotes and chasing up outstanding accounts. You can do this from anywhere with an internet connection. It will promote the expansion of your business, increase efficiency, rule out errors and save you thousands of hours of pointless labour each year, saving you massive amounts of money into the bargain. With this system, you will no longer need huge teams of operations or admin staff and you will increase your leisure time dramatically.
It really is a complete online scheduling solution.