Archive for May, 2009

An interns view of Setpoint

May 27, 2009 by Setpoint

Hi everyone, it’s Ross the intern…just kidding, it’s Jake the intern.  I just started here at Setpoint and have found that it is unlike any other company I have ever worked for.  This company is a tight knit group of friends.  The company is more like a family than a group of co-workers.  Because of this, it is very easy to come in and feel accepted.  You don’t have worry about what you say or if you will look stupid.

My first day of work was quite hectic. Roger took me around and introduced me to everybody.  I experienced information overload and forgot most everybody’s names.  “I am sorry, I’m not that good with names, work with me.”  Everyone seems really nice and easy to get along with.

Jumping back into SolidWorks has been a little bit challenging.  It seems like I am learning a lot more than I am remembering.  Thankfully there are a lot people here who are nice enough to help me learn.  Bryan, Justin, Mark, Bob, and Nate have all helped me get back into the swing of things.  If you have not helped me yet it is likely you will have to. 

The atmosphere at Setpoint is very laidback.  It is not the regular shirt and tie I was expecting.  It is common to see a couple rifles in any given week. You can lean a lot by simply listening in on ongoing conversations about the quest for extreme accuracy at the shooting range.  Shooting is one of my favorite hobbies and I enjoy learning the finer aspects of it.

All in all Setpoint is a great company and I think I will greatly enjoy working here.  The people are great and the work isn’t bad.  Thanks to everyone for helping me get set.

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Setpoint Systems in Ownership Transition

May 21, 2009 by Joe Knight

Setpoint Systems had been around since 1992.  Over that time the organization has done many things.  We have seen many changes.  The business has always endured through good times and tough times.  Today Setpoint is led by Brad Angus the companies’ 5th CEO.  The companies’ 1st CEO was one of the co-founders, Joe VanDenBerghe.  Joe VanDenBerghe founded Setpoint Systems with Joe Cornwell, two talented engineers.  Under their leadership the company thrived.

This month the company hit a major milestone when Joe VanDenBerghe was bought out by a group of current employees.  For the past two years the two Joe’s were not involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and only served as board members.  The two Joe’s now are involved in the amusement park ride business primarily designing and building roller coasters.  That business is doing well and is a good fit for the two crazy engineers.

With this buyout a new chapter is beginning at Setpoint Systems.  For the first time a large group of company employees are now owners of the company.  The companies’ 1st CEO & co-founder is no longer involved.  These changes are going to continue to create a new culture that our fearless leader Brad Angus started two and a half years ago when he arrived on the scene.

Setpoint has always been an open book company.  In other words we share our numbers with our employees on a weekly basis.  We always felt that this made employees feel like they had a vested interest in the company.  I always said the employees have psychic ownership, even though they did not own stock they act like it because they see the numbers and want the company to perform well. 

Now with many employees really owning stock we are going to see how things go with actual ownership rather than psychic ownership.  I think this is an exciting transition for Setpoint Systems and a natural outcome of being open book.  As a management team, we have talked about taking this step for years and now it is a reality. 

We’ll talk more about how this change affects the business in future blogs….Stay tuned.

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Bookkeeping

May 14, 2009 by Setpoint

When I first started with Setpoint I did not know much about QuickBooks, accounts receivable, or accounts payables.  My boss was very good at explaining what to do and letting me figure things out on my own.

It has been very interesting for me to learn how a company can start with a drawing and go through the purchasing to receiving end to putting it together to making a project work.  My job is to take care of the invoices after we have received the product.  I make sure that it has been received and the amount we ordered is right and from there we start the process of putting the invoice in QuickBooks.

When I first started there were some problem invoices that dated back over 1 year.  For the first 6 months I focused on getting every vendor paid and the problem invoices fixed so that now we do not have any outstanding problem invoices.  That has been my biggest accomplishment.  It’s so much easier to try to fix the problem when everyone remembers the situation.

Some of the problems when I first started were that a payment wasn’t made to the right invoice.  So there was some confusion on both parties.  And because it was so late none of the sales people remembered if we had brought it back or what really happened.

Now that I have gotten to know the vendors I just call and ask for the person who knows me and am on a first name basis with them.  It’s easier because they know me and seem more willing to help with the problem.  At the first of the month we receive a statement with all outstanding invoices, this lets me know what I need to work on or if there is a problem.

I enjoy my job and have loved getting to learn more about QuickBooks, accounts receivable and accounts payable.  It’s great to have this knowledge.

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Virtual Companies

May 11, 2009 by Brad

You read and hear a lot about virtual companies these days. What does it take to actually try and make one work?

At Setpoint, we are in a highly cyclical business.  We used to size our business based on the busy times and then try and tough it out during the slow times with out having to lay people off.  Every time you have to lay people off, it is very painful – not only for the people you have to let go, but it is difficult for those that remain. A couple of years ago we made a strategic decision to size our company for the lean times and use outsourcing techniques to handle the busy times, we decided to try and become a small base of key people that can wear many hats and outsource some functions that we believed could be more generic with proper management.

I had read many articles about the virtualization of the work force. One book that gives great insight is The Future of Work by Thomas W. Malone.

It is hard to make a virtual company work. Reading about it is one thing, putting it into action profitably has been much more difficult.

We used www.dice.com to help us filter and identify technical people that fit our needs.  We then used our best mentoring VP to sort through the resumes and set up discussions to find those that might match with our culture.

One thing we did instead of flying them out to meet with us was, we set up a 20 hour project they had to complete (we paid them for this) to see how they would do. We found out a lot by seeing how they solved that project. Like all people that work for a company – not all will be a fit for you or them, the sooner you find out the better for everyone involved.

We have needed many tools to help us make this concept work. One of the main tools we use many times a day is from www.37signals.com – it is called Basecamp. This is our main communication and file tool, it is a diary of all that is taking place and assignments given. We use concurrent licenses for our engineering software programs to give us flexibility to share licenses. www.twiddla.com helps in our concepting phase. Every engineer has a unique color they use so we can recognize who has done what. www.gotomeeting.com is used to host virtual meetings and share information. You will need a conferencing program so that many can join the daily conversations. Setpoint is considering IP phones so we can send phones to our virtual employees and have them just a local extension away.

As you start out with new people give them clear short work assignments to make sure you and they are a good fit with your culture. The key roles of some of your employees will have to change. They have to over communicate and not be afraid to call up and see how their distant team member is doing. One of worst things is to assume everything is going fine if you don’t hear from a virtual team member.

More than anything it is important to have frequent (at least daily) contact with your virtual people. We have done things to connect with our offsite members so they feel like they are working for a real company that cares for them. In Basecamp we have a picture of our facility. As we send messages back and forth through Basecamp we have our own pictures on the message to reinforce that there is a real person behind all of this action.

Your face to the customer has to remain with your employees. We have found that customers have to connect with employees – not virtual team members. It has to appear seamless to them.

We feel that we are making progress but it is a continual battle.  Is it better than carrying too many employees through a downtime in the cyclical nature of this business? For us, the answer is a definite yes.

We are still growing at being a company that has virtual team members and believe we still have many lessons to learn as we go down this path. We’d love to hear from any of you out there that can help Setpoint get there faster.

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Open Book Finance – Setpoint’s Projects Board

May 4, 2009 by Kara

Joe Knight, the CFO here at Setpoint, talks about open book finances and how we track our projects. In our latest YouTube video Joe walks through our project board that let’s us know how we are doing on each project. He walks through how GP is determined as well as how much we have earned.

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