Look up, and before long, you'll see a drone fly past. That's how popular they are right now.
Incredible drone footage is popping up all over the internet too—in stunning short films, ground–breaking snowboarding videos, and natural environments that even helicopters would have trouble getting to.
So it's no surprise that drone sales have been going in the same direction, and one of the companies at the forefront of this skyward trend is Washington, DC, based Expert Drones, which was set up in 2014.
"Right away, we established a strong customer base," says company president Brett Velicovich.
"We started out selling higher-end drones online, and back then they were something people would see on TV but couldn't really buy anywhere—or go into a store to physically touch—so when we opened our first store the Tysons Corner Mall, just outside Washington, DC, we got a fantastic response.
"People loved being able to come and see the drones in person."
Expert Drones don't just sell drones, either. Construction companies, the music industry, and marketers everywhere are also increasingly looking to Velicovich and his team for their expertise.
But more on that later...
Reaching New Heights
Just two years after setting up the company, Velicovich has already opened three new outlets in McLean, VA; Scottsdale, AZ; Houston, TX; and a fourth is opening soon in Old Town Alexandria, VA
Expert Drones now has almost 50 employees and until the summer of 2015, they were using paper timesheets to track their time—giving Velicovich and his accountant a pile of extra paperwork to sift through every two weeks.
"We used to have this rush to get everything in at the last minute before each payday," he reflects. "At the same time, we were so busy working with our clients and a ton of other stuff. And then we'd realize that something hadn't been tracked right—or that someone who was on the schedule one day didn't actually work because they switched shifts—and we'd have to figure it all out."
They needed a better way to track their time, and that's when they found TSheets.
Before TSheets it was really inefficient. It was like we were stuck back in the 90s—so TSheets has definitely been a great help. It has made it a lot more efficient for us to keep track of our time at our retail locations and the other places we do business.Brett Velicovich
He says it's made payroll a lot easier as well.
"Now we just pull up TSheets, and right away we've got the exact numbers for the last two weeks, and all the overtime. We just plug it into our payroll system, hit send, and all the paychecks are done."
"TSheets is definitely saving us a lot of time."
There's been other payoffs from using TSheets too.
Velicovich says that now that all the staff at their retail locations are using TSheets, he's been able to get a much better handle on managing his sales team.
"They clock in on the iPad right when they get in," he explains, "and wherever I am I can see who's working, which is great, especially when we've just made a really big sale, because I'll know who's on shift. So for me it's actually more than just about timesheets. I can actually track who made a sale at that time.
"If a couple of days go by when we don't see as many sales, I can go in and see who was working then and maybe change things around a bit. So it's more than a payroll thing. It's helping us track who's performing at the level we need them to."
"It would be really cool to see where everyone is like that. We'd definitely use scheduling too."
With the retail side of the business doing so well, Velicovich can turn his attention to other projects, such as consulting. He says one of the fastest growing markets for his expertise at the moment is the construction industry.
"We're doing a lot of aerial photography for real estate projects and also a lot of inspections at construction sites," he explains.
One of these projects involves filming wind turbines in New Mexico.
"We'll be inspecting the blades for damage, which would typically require someone to climb 400 feet in the air and do very dangerous work, but now we can send up a drone to the top of that wind turbine in a matter of seconds."
There's also been a lot of interest from big construction firms who want to document their projects' progress, because as Velicovich explains, "With a drone, you can always fly the exact same route. You just program it and it takes all the same shots every month."
He thinks the construction and real estate industries could be the ones to benefit most from the new technology.
"The video is very high quality and it's something you used to have to pay thousands of dollars for a helicopter to do," he explains. "But now for a few hundred you can get even better quality."
It's also a cheap way to advertise.
"You can attach a banner to a drone and fly it around on an automated route," Velicovich says. "Just like a modern version of those planes you would see carrying banners. Now a drone can do it for the tenth of the price."
"It's saving us up to $1,000 each pay period"
With such a busy schedule to manage, does Velicovich think that TSheets has been a good investment?
"Definitely. I would say TSheets is saving us $500 to $1,000 each pay period. The more we can automate things the better, and right away we realized the cost benefit."
Expert Drones is growing fast, but Velicovich says the company still experiences all the usual challenges that small businesses face.
"When you're starting out you think you shouldn't be paying out, even for small things like time sheets, because you're counting every penny," he explains.
"But we quickly realized it was actually saving us money by working with TSheets because it was more efficient, people were clocking in and out as opposed to telling us they'd worked eight hours one day. But what if they'd only worked 7.5 hours? We wouldn't know. And we'd still have to pay them for it.
"So working with TSheets saved us money right off the bat because we knew exactly what hours people were working."
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