Growing up, Ivan Collins dreamed of working on cars as a race team engineer. That is, until he heard about a job where he could blow them up instead.
“I was on a race team at NC State in the engineering department,” he recalls. “One day we were testing our race car, and one of the guys on the team said he had to leave early because they were going to blow up a Volvo at work.
His interest piqued, and since he was already searching for a part-time job at the time, Ivan decided to take a risk and ask for a recommendation.
“It turns out the guy was actually about to graduate, so he put in a good word for me. One thing led to another and I started working at Accident Reconstruction Analysis as an engineer.”
Blowing up cars was the spark that lit up a flame in Ivan. Over the next decade, he became a veritable crime scene investigator and MythBuster rolled into one.
One day he could be investigating an equipment failure in a factory assembly line and finding out exactly what caused a house fire the next.
“Every day is definitely different,” he explains. “We may be doing a burn test, or an explosion test, some product design work, or maybe trying to recreate an accident.
“It’s always interesting.”
From Part-Timer to Part-Owner
Things became even more interesting in 2016, when Ivan and a group of ARA-I engineers, including the original company owner’s son, decided to buy the company out.
After about 12 years with ARA-I, Ivan had gone from a college part-timer to a part-owner.
Among the first major moves the new owners made was to go back to the basics; they made the company leaner, with a focus on making its strongest services even better.
Ivan also pushed for a new business management system that would cut out inefficiencies in their old processes, which involved, as he puts it, “writing everything down on a napkin and passing it around.”
“It worked,” he explains, “but it was just so tough for all of us.”
Fortunately for Ivan, he remembered hearing about an app that might just do the trick.
“While I was working for the older ARA-I on a case in Florida, I happened to run into a guy who said something about this cloud app he was using to track everything from his contacts to his hours.
“And when we took over in April of 2016, I remembered that conversation. I called that guy up again and that’s how we came across WORKetc.”
Keeping an Eye on Cases and Evidence
Ivan estimates that around 70% of ARA-I’s cases involve them working directly with lawyers. This makes it extremely important for their engineers to avoid conflicts of interest.
“Sometimes, when we’re hired to investigate a big accident, for example, another involved party might want to use our services weeks or even a year later.
“By that point, you’ve forgotten what case you’re working on, so to make sure we don’t run into any conflicts of interest, we check WORKetc every time a client contacts us for a new case.”
With all of the cases they handle now stored in WORKetc as projects, ARA-I can now easily search the system for any case information they may need at anytime.
To make sure these conflicts don’t occur, ARA-I includes a date of loss that follows a specific format into their projects’ description fields along with the names of any involved parties.
“We just run a quick search for the date of loss and check the results. It’s that easy. And we can even do it while we’re out in the field.”
ARA-I now also uses WORKetc to keep track of any physical evidence associated with their cases.
“We’ve recently purchased a big warehouse to expand our evidence storage capabilities, and we use the WORKetc case numbers to tie the physical evidence with the actual case.
“So if I’m at the warehouse and I need to find some info on a piece of evidence, I can just look up the case number on my phone.”
By using WORKetc’s recurring subscriptions, they’re also able to accurately bill clients for the items they keep in storage.
Time Tracking and Invoicing
ARA-I has also sped up their time tracking and invoicing processes considerably since implementing WORKetc.
As Ivan explains it, instead of an automated system, what they had before was a secretary who would go over each and every timesheet the ARA-I staff had accumulated for the month with them.
“We had to write everything down,” he recalls. “Put it on a calendar, a notepad, a napkin, whatever—and you better make sure you don’t lose them.
“There was no point in putting our hours in a computer because we still had to go and give it to the secretary at the end of every month so she could send the invoices out via snail mail.”
Ivan admits that to this day he still can’t quite say how the old system worked exactly, but it did work.
The problem was that it was very inefficient. One person knew the ins and outs by heart, and that was the only job she was there to do.
These timesheet reviews also had to be done for every single member of ARA-I’s staff, and the billing system was too complicated for just anyone to pull information from it.
Now, with WORKetc, everybody just has to put in their hours everyday.
“At the end of the month, it’s all there in the system. All that’s left to do is review the unbilled charges, make sure everything is correct, create an invoice, and hit send. That’s it.
“Not only did we save time, we didn’t need to pay someone just to do that.
“And when a client calls asking about a bill, we don’t have to call anybody else. We can just instantly check on our phones and tell them what they need to know right there.”
WORKetc’s iOS and Android mobile apps have also helped Ivan and the ARA-I team keep better track of the hours they sink into a project.
“Sometimes we’re flying all over the country or even overseas for a case, and I could be sitting in the airport and I’m still able to log my hours.”
Tracking all employee hours in WORKetc also helped them overcome one of the biggest issues with implementing a new CRM system: getting everyone to use it.
“We made it so that you had to put in your hours in WORKetc if you wanna get paid, so everybody got used to it really quickly,” Ivan explains with a chuckle.
More Than A CRM
Since implementing WORKetc, ARA-I has successfully streamlined its numerous and, in Ivan’s words, very non-generic processes.
They’ve saved countless hours from turning their old, manual timesheet review and invoicing system into a more automated, “log and forget” process that takes a few minutes per month.
They’ve also decreased the chances that conflicts of interest would occur in their projects, ensuring that the largely legal-focused aspects of the business stay aboveboard.
And with ARA-I’s new co-owners ready to bring the company, which is about to turn 40, into another decade of engineering excellence, WORKetc has already shown itself capable of adapting to ARA-I’s planned expansion efforts.
“It’s just a bit crazy because I thought we had such a weird business that would be hard to track,” Ivan confides, “but WORKetc was able to blend into exactly what we needed.
“When we added more storage capabilities, for example—we just started playing around with WORKetc, and we were very pleasantly surprised to discover that hey, this is actually going to work out great.”
When the new ARA-I started putting their plans to strengthen the company into action, they knew they needed a one-stop business management software in order to succeed.
In WORKetc, they found exactly that: an integrated system that’s more than a CRM.