Tips on getting your office – and drilling business – in order
By J. Lynn Fraser
By J. Lynn Fraser
Standardized procedures in an organized office cut down on lost time and money. In turn, this consistency increases client and employee confidence in a company’s ability to produce reliable work.
An organized office runs smoothly when staff, records, communications, training and safety are governed by standardized routines.
Ground Water Canada spoke with three established drilling businesses in Canada about how they keep their offices, and their businesses, in order.
At Drillwell Enterprises, a custom-made book keeps track of jobs that are “ready to go, or are in progress, or are to be billed,” according to Shawn Slade, a partner at the British Columbia-based company. A large magnetic board is used to organize jobs that require attention before they go out, Slade says.
“We have found that success starts at the first visit or first phone call,” says Kim Friesen, manager at the company based in Steinbach, Man. “Even though we have a fully automated phone system that is integral to our company, we have found that the human interaction from a personal visit or phone conversation is the foundation of building a good relationship with our clients, that can last generations.”
“We have a multifunctional online scheduling program that was developed by local IT to meet our specific needs,” she adds. “This customized colour-coded program organizes quoted, scheduled, dispatched and completed jobs and allows us to see, at a glance, the status of all our projects. This program also allows our drillers to access their daily schedule, which includes maps, job information and any applicable permits required before they head out for their day.”
Paperwork for jobs is printed out every morning at Aaron Drilling of Black Diamond, Alta. The company also uses a daily work chart, timesheets and work orders that are sent to the “guys in field,” president Tyler Crawford says.
DRILLING DOWN ON WELL RECORDS
You don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been.
“We keep hard copies of all project material (notes, quotes), drillers logs and history for easy access among all staff for review or maintenance purposes,” Friesen says. “For security and backup, we have all documentation electronically archived.”
“We have found that completing our well reports electronically in house makes for cleaner, more professional and efficient documents that we send to our clients.”
Aaron Drilling’s well records are initially handwritten by drillers in the field or created on the crew’s cellphone or laptop. Records are then sent to the company’s office manager and saved on Alberta Environment’s database, says partner Tyler Crawford. The company has a custom-built database for its driller reports.
Keeping and storing an offsite inventory of field notes, invoices, trucks, office equipment and digital devices, for example – in case of fire, flood or theft – will help you file a claim with your insurance provider. It will also be your backup for tax and legal disputes.
KEEPING SAFETY DOCUMENTATION SAFE
Safety certification and training is about more than ticking a box on a list of requirements.
“It’s very important to invest the time in safety. We spare no expense to educate guys in the field,” Aaron Drilling’s Crawford says. “Our office manager tracks certifications in skills and first aid on a PC.” Aaron Drilling also uses a safety location system to track crews in the field.
“We use Excel alerts,” Drillwell’s Shawn Slade notes, to track employee training and to monitor expiration of safety certifications. At Drillwell copies of safety meetings are kept in both paper and electronic formats. Back-up copies are kept in a file folder in the office and older copies are kept in storage.
“Safety has become a huge component in the industry,” Kim Friesen says. “We are a front leader, being the first COR-certified drilling company in Manitoba. We now have three of our five drilling companies in Canada COR certified and are currently working on getting our fourth company certified. With the help of our safety co-ordinator, who manages the safety system for all five of our companies, we have been able to streamline our safety program. This has given us the advantage in procuring contracts.”
THERE BE DRAGONS OUT THERE
You wouldn’t leave your office unlocked at night, so don’t leave your digital devices open to digital “pirates.”
Modern-day pirates can use malicious software to take control of your business’s computer files. These people can encrypt your files to hold your business hostage. A ransom may be demanded in return for gaining renewed access to your files. The RCMP warns that paying the ransom may not guarantee access to your files.
All it takes is one click on an email from an unknown source or on a pop-up ad or an attachment whose source you can’t verify to expose your devices to malware or ransomware. Be wary of phishing scams, that is, ploys to find out personal information about you by telephone or through unfamiliar websites. According to the RCMP’s website during each day in 2015 over 1,600 Canadians were affected by ransomware attacks and that number doubled in 2016. The RCMP advises training your staff on security procedures.
Keep your anti-virus software and anti-malware software up to date on all devices connected to your business. Back up your systems on a removable device or on the cloud. It should be a regular office routine to disconnect your back-up devices when not in use.
SOFTWARE AND SPECIALIZED STAFF
In an organized office specialized software and staff are essential.
“We stay on top,” Crawford says. “Our year end is scheduled for tax season. “We use QuickBooks daily and we have an office manager who handles payroll and payables.” Aaron Drilling also uses a part-time chartered accountant and a third-party accounting firm. “Accounting is a tremendously large expense,” he adds.
“Bringing someone in on filing, invoicing, and accounts receivable” is a best practice for a business, Slade notes. He advises owners to “be comfortable” with Microsoft Office. Drillwell uses Sage accounting software and QuickBooks for quoting and accounting. The company also has an in-house certified accountant “who never stops organizing for tax season,” Slade says.
“Word and spreadsheets don’t talk to each other,” says Rick Oberle, president of Geographic Insights, based in Lansing, Mich. Oberle’s company offers Well Magic, a software program designed for the well industry. It generates reports, work orders, estimates and invoices. “It is an integrated system that is more efficient and substantial than paper-and-pen procedures,” he says. Oberle believes that “software takes less time. A computer program is like any other tool. [People’s] phones are more complicated than their PCs.”
“Best practices is bringing someone in for filing, invoicing, and accounts receivable,” Slade adds.
WALKING THE TALK
Technology makes businesses efficient, but there is more to business than just efficiency. Up-to-date technology and the human voice help maintain business relationships.
Kim Friesen notes, “Success is not an individual component of a company but a team effort from our frontline receptionist to scheduling to bookkeeping and every aspect in between that has made us successful.”
“We’re dealing with people’s houses and properties. [Being able to communicate] is important for customer service, to answer questions, for accurate documentation, and [being able] at a fingertip to explain charges,” Tyler Crawford points out. “When jobs come in we can intercept crews to send them work orders. We have the ability at any time to know where they are,” Crawford says.
Aaron Drilling uses cellphones with boosters. Their employees are responsible for checking in regularly.
At Drillwell, local crews in the field have two-way radios and use satellite phones when they are at remote locations.
“Our most valuable asset is our employees, Tyler Crawford says. “We care about getting them to their families every night. Keeping our employees happy, healthy and safe helps everything run smoothly.”
Lynn Fraser is a technical editor with academic, non-profit, government, industry, and corporate experience. She specializes in academic reports, journal articles, and grants. For 20 years her writing, over 300 articles, has appeared in national and international magazines and newspapers