Blais & Associates (B&A) is a professional grant research and writing firm that helps local government agencies increase their revenue by obtaining local, state, and federal grants. With offices in California, Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, B&A has a strong national reputation for professional delivery of grant research, writing and management.
Should the president and chief executive officer of a dynamic, fast growing grant management firm be spending 50 hours each month manually recording employees’ time? Of course not, but that was the unenviable situation Neil Blais of Blais & Associates (B&A) found himself in — until he discovered Replicon.
Manual time recording stunted growth
From its headquarters in Texas, B&A manages a network of part-time staff located in California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas. Every month, each staff member used to send in an Excel spreadsheet detailing their project work activities, broken down into 15 minute increments. This included everything from needs assessment and grant writing, to working with the client’s lobbyist in support of congressional or state earmarks, so that clients could understand every action, activity, and discussion that took place.
Blais then transferred the time and details from Excel into the company’s accounting platform, massaging the content as he went along to adapt the language and add context. “I used to sit on the board of a city council and remember seeing $20,000 lump sum invoices arrive from consultants with no narrative of what was involved. We pride ourselves on our transparency at B&A, and want to give clients as much detail and insight as possible into the work we do,” Blais explains.
As Blais sat hunched over the spreadsheets, he realized that his time could be better spent writing a response to a grant management request for proposal (RFP) or contacting new business prospects. “Blais & Associates procures millions of dollars every year in grants for clients from government and private funding sources. The business is growing fast, but capturing the billable time of our staff was stunting our growth. There were occasions when I had to choose between replying to a city’s RFP or recording staff time. Cash flow comes first, so recording time took priority. But it hurt.” It was time to act.
Replicon supports integration, flexibility, compliance, and transparency
Replicon was the only solution Blais saw that offered seamless integration with the company’s accounting system QuickBooks: data could be moved between the two systems in seconds, with just a few clicks. Replicon also gave B&A the flexibility to quickly track internal costs and manage client billing rates. According to Blais, Replicon was a cut above other solutions the company considered. “The Replicon team gave us confidence that we were dealing with a mature, experienced organization—one that could expertly deliver a powerful time billing system.”
B&A now uses Replicon TimeBill to capture billable time and project costs in a fraction of the time it used to take. The company’s employees enter their daily time in 15 minute increments, along with associated commentary, directly into Replicon themselves. As a result, Blais is not only freed from the burden of manually recording all of this data, but he has discovered additional benefits. The company can accurately account for spending across multiple projects in real time, link time spent to specific funding sources, identify where money is spent and justify this spending to clients, and create a robust audit trail to streamline and simplify compliance.
The City of Anaheim, California, for example, turned to B&A to write a grant application for the development of a local park, which provides much-needed recreational resources in a high-density, low-income neighborhood. B&A staff working on the grant application recorded their activity details directly into Replicon. Neil was able to review the timesheets remotely in Texas, ensuring that the client was billed accurately for the time spent. As a result, there were no billing disputes, no project overruns, and the City had a complete, compliant record of time spent on the writing of the grant application.
The Replicon deployment was fast and pain-free, too. “We were delighted with the expertise, knowledge, and experience of the Replicon Customer Success team,” says Blais. “They knew what we were trying to achieve and did everything in their power to deliver a best-practice time management system. Whenever we came up against a barrier, the Replicon team was very responsive.”
"There's no doubt that Replicon is helping B&A to grow - and grow quickly. We devote more time to new business development, enjoy more trusted client relationships, and comply with the regulatroy requirements of governments and enterprises alike."
Replicon reduced the delay between when time is recorded by staff to the physical client payment by up to 30 days (from 90 to 60 days). By eliminating manual intervention, Replicon also cut up to seven days off the invoicing process. This improved cash flow, enriched revenue forecasts and allowed more efficient resource allocation.
The accurate, real-time view of project costs has enabled B&A to significantly lower the amount discounted for project cost over-runs on fixed-bid projects, saving $30,000 annually.
Blais is using the extra 50 hours every month to write a response to at least one additional RFP, or contact 20 new business leads. He estimates that it will add up to four new clients in the next few months—partly driven by the extra time made available by Replicon for new business development.