Sunday, October 15, 2017

NPS Global 1.0 - My first explanation of where NPS came from and how it became a reality this week

I guess I need to start telling the NPS story: No owners, Part-time freelancers, Small self-managing teams. The t-shirt shown summarizes the NPS values. There is a non-owned corporate account, about 8 people on the first team, and a pretty good history of projects through the pipeline since June 2017. You could hire us, join us, advise us, help us, or copy us. At the moment, what we need most is another P.E. or more.

On Friday (Oct 13, 2017) I reached a significant milestone when I transferred the funds for the NPS Maricopa Inc. (an Arizona nonprofit corporation) team from my personal business account to the corporation. I had been working with a team of about 8 civil engineers and designers since April, and I have been doing my best to teach the advice process and other self-managing values.

Before April I had a passion to form a working example of a non-profit corporation to attempt to address some of the bad pressures on corporate officers from passive stockholders. And thanks to some synergistic dialogue with Pamela Borden about minimum wage followed by personal earnest introspection, I was interested to also try to give an example of part-time freelance workers. My hope was that setting a freelancer boundary between workers and corporations might give workers enough freedom to shift the balance of bargaining power between labor and (nonprofit) capital in such a way as to correctly correct the low wage problem so that we can eventually stop using the price fixing band-aid of minimum wage.

On April 5 out of workload desperation I went on and was lucky to think of 5 revealing interview questions that allowed me to easily sift through candidates and find some amazing colleagues in the USA, Bulgaria, Kenya, and Philippines.

On May 3 my friend Iuval Clejan pointed me at…/how-self-management-wor… and its attached PDFs. I slowly made my way through the PDFs and shared cool parts with my engineering colleagues. Through May and June I worked on teaching my colleagues to get advice from and teach each other instead of always from me. I worked on preparing them for "no owners" (which also means "no Santa Claus").

At the end of June I saw that the number of invoices I needed to prepare (I am doing all my accounting myself with spreadsheets; it's fun for me) was overwhelming, and I decided to draw on the self-managing principles to have the main worker on each project prepare its monthly billing. This was a huge paradigm shift for my colleagues, and it increased my clarity about self-managing.
At the end of August it became apparent that it was not sustainable for my international colleagues to bill their team without limit every week with no regard to any calibration of their billing rate, time logging style, and available budgets. So I instituted personal monthly pay time sheet invoices. I turned off all hourly pay at Upwork. I instituted a monthly ritual of "billing/money time" on the 1st and 2nd of the month. I send a warning email for all to get our time logged into the project costs a week before end of month. I send a final reminder the last day of the month that "tomorrow is billing day". On the first day of the month, it's time for soul search and balancing of project budgets, scopes, hours, and forecasts. We all adjust our rates (I have found I have not yet been able to bill near the $120/hr I was billing alone; I blame that on my own poor leadership, and I can talk about it more elsewhere) to make the money work. Then we send out our invoices. After we finish most of our project invoices, we submit our personal time sheet invoices. At the end of the year we will take bonuses to bring our account to zero for January first. All this drives home to us all that "no owners" also means "no Santa Claus".

In August we decided on the name NPS, and my colleague Plamen K. Dimov in Bulgaria designed the t-shirt shown above as an expression of the values of the team.

In September we developed a modest billing rate markup (115% for the moment; engineers are mostly billable) to cover overhead. With overhead billable, I began to get advice on fee proposals, which is another important step toward self-managing and mutual ownership of solvency and financial sustainability.

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