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Create a hit product with a sewing machine and £60

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At the age of 21, James Wren and Jack Dyer said to themselves that they wanted to become millionaires, and they were going to take any means necessary to get there.

In this episode, we explore how these two ex-football players leapt into the entrepreneurial world with nothing but the resilience, goal orientation and self-awareness that they learned on the pitch.

We delve into everything you need to know about manufacturing, to looking at the bigger picture for your business and how to know if you’ve found the right business partner.

Here are the highlights:

From football to friends and finally, business partners

Creating a product

Entrusting your vision to others but not letting them alter your idea

Doing your own manufacturing research could save you thousands

Getting a patent on your ideas and their novelty

Raising money by any means necessary

Let’s talk about NDAs

Looking at the bigger picture to decide your route to market

Building your own website

Using Facebook ads to market your business and investing in your website

Chaos and confusion looking for manufacturers in China

Expanding your business to apparel

First collections and learning how to design apparel for women

Transferrable skills from sports into business

Trust, morality, and honesty are key to building a good relationship with your business partner

From football to friends and finally, business partners

Bex Burn-Callander:

Let’s start with your professional footballing careers, because you are both really young, but you’ve kind of already had two very distinct careers.

Tell me about being Premier League youth players.

Maybe if you’ll kick us off, James, and then I’ll bring you in, Jack. And what made you decide to choose football? Because that’s a massive commitment.

James Wren:

I think it’s something that every lad in the UK has been brought up with, to be honest. It’s just something I wanted to do from the age of six, up until about the age of 21-22.

And it’s been such a fantastic journey, even though I’m not doing it anymore. It was a platform to learn all of your disciplines, keep you out of trouble, and learn a lot of life lessons, really.

So I look back on that time with fond memories.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And Jack, were you just a natural?

Did you just kind of fall into football or were you one of the kids that was like, this is my dream, I’m going to work at it and work at it and work at it until it becomes true?

Jack Dyer:

Pretty much, yeah.

Similar to James, I think, as a kid, you’ve got a ball at your feet, and if you love and enjoy it that much, you think that’s what I want to do when I’m older. And you try and work as hard as you can to try and make that dream happen.

Luckily for us, it did happen for a short period of time.

And yes, I lived the dream for a while, and now I’m trying to live and pursue a different dream.

Bex Burn-Callander:

But you were both playing for different teams, right?

So tell me how you came to meet and become great friends.

James Wren:

After the age of 18, I left the club that I was at, Walsall, and then I moved to Burton Albion, where Jack already was previously the year before.

When you’re at a new football club, you tend to find out which people live near you, because you try and save as much money as you can by travelling in together. So we kind of got forced together, to be honest.

I’d been there about two or three weeks, and one of the senior players said, “Oh, you two live close to each other. You should drive in.”

And you look across the dressing room at someone else, and you think, are we really going to get on? Do we have the same interests? Are we going to have a fight over the music in the car on the way there?

So you have that sort of awkward stand-off. It’s like, “Right, I’ll meet you tomorrow at 8:30am.”

As we got in the car, after about two minutes, the tunes start blaring, and then you go, do you know what? He’s actually all right, he is.

Then you find common ground. You start talking about music, about people in the area who you know and whatnot.

Our friendship was formed travelling up and down the A38 on the way to training.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That is definitely a way to accelerate a friendship, spend a lot of time in an enclosed space with them.

Creating a product

Bex Burn-Callander:

What made you think about the actual product, this vest? How did you come up with that?

Were there lots of other ideas on the table, and then you settled on that later, or was this the one true idea that you always wanted to pursue from the beginning?

James Wren:

Oh, no. There were loads of ideas, honestly, loads.

I think the biggest catalyst was that you come out of professional football, the dream job that you always wanted to do, and then you go into the real world, and whilst you can have a fantastic job in that capacity, we always just wanted more.

We’d always meet up at the gym, and we’d be training. And then after the training session, be in the jacuzzi or the sauna, and we’d be talking about certain things and the things that we wanted to achieve.

As you do when you’re 21-22, you kind of go “Right then, we want to be millionaires. How can we get there as quick as we can?”

There were ideas around renovating houses, and then you look at each other and go, “You can’t even paint your bedroom, so how are we going to do that?”

We’ve had a few wacky ideas like portable blenders and that sort of thing.

We were actually creating an app at the time, influenced by Instagram. So we thought we had a good idea. But we soon realised just how much money it was going to cost.

The realisation was, if we’re going to pursue this app, we’re going to need some funds, and our first thought process was, what can we sell in order to create those funds?

We’re talking about physical product.

And it just so happens at the time of thinking about what physical product can we sell, it was closed season, and we were both out running, both running with our phones in our hands, earphones coming out and whatever else.

And it’s like, “Why don’t we come up with a vest where you can actively use your phone and put your headphone wires away?” The plan was to sell that in order to create funds for the app.

Just like that, the idea of the Freetrain, well, it was actually called the F1 at the time, was born.

We’ve just always had that mentality of, think of an idea, now how can we get it over the line?

Bex Burn-Callander:

And how did you design this vest? Which of you is a designer? Were you doing sketches?

Did you have your sewing kits out, trying to come up with prototypes?

How did you create this particular structure?

Jack Dyer:

By hook or by crook is the most honest answer to that.

Neither of us are designers by trade.

But I think with anything and what we’ve learned is literally just trial and error, and you can always cut something out of a T-shirt.

My nan was a seamstress, so she got the sewing machine out.

We ordered a roll of neoprene and thought, “Well, let’s try and make this something you can put on and wear.”

And at least then we can have this idea down into a physical product, and we can actually think, does it work?

So it was a massive trial and error process.

When we got the first one made into something you could put on, it was then all about the reshaping of it, the additional add-ons, or thinking, let’s take this bit off.

It was a case of having the idea, trying to get that tweaked on the vest, and then trialling it again.

It was almost like, do something, get the feedback, go again, go again, go again.

It was a long, very frustrating period, because we knew how we wanted it, but we didn’t have the skills ourselves to create it, because we didn’t have the manufacturing or the engineering background.

But we just found a way to do it somehow.

When you think back now, you wonder how we did it and got it to that stage, to where it is now, but we did somehow.

Just keep going. You’ve just got to keep going, that’s it.

Entrusting your vision to others but not letting them alter your idea

Bex Burn-Callander:

How did you get that feedback?

Was it just the pair of you wearing these prototypes, or did you have a whole army of mates or other people in the family who were wearing them?

How did you get people to say, oh, actually it’s a bit uncomfortable under the armpit?

James Wren:

We did everything from start to finish. The first one actually looked a little bit like a bulletproof vest.

I remember that time vividly, sitting in the car park, we put it on, and we were thinking, “Can you really go for a run in this?”

We always had an idea of how it would go and the next one we made was actually drawn out of a T-shirt, and we cut it out, and we’ve still got that one to this day, so we’ve still got the original shape.

But it was just a case of, as Jack said, what else can we add on? Is this a benefit? Is it not?

But I think the biggest and most stressful thing for us has been taking it to people with these backgrounds and specialised skills, because we’ve always had that vision of what it was going to look like.

But you’d have someone try and take you in a different direction with it, or you would think that they’ve got your vision down to a T, they know what it is, and then you go back and see it, and they’d say, “I know you said this, but I was thinking we could put a jetpack on the back.”

And you’d just go, “Oh no.”

We ended up going to a manufacturer just down the road in Wolverhampton. We got them to make a sample, and we went through sample, after sample, after sample, until we really got what we wanted.

It was like pulling teeth, but we got there eventually.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s a really interesting point because when you come up with a product, people are trying to be helpful, but when they’re trying to tweak it, and they’re trying to make recommendations, “Oh, you can go in this direction…”, it can be a massive distraction.

And it can also sort of dent your confidence in the initial product, because you’re like, oh, well, it doesn’t need all those things. We liked it the way it was.

Jack Dyer:

I think the good thing is, for us, because there’s two of us as well. We’ve always almost been our ideal customer.

We’ve had a very good opinion that if something’s not right, one of us will figure out that it’s not right and say, “Look, we’ve been biased here,” which we’ve learned very quickly.

We’re very honest, and we know what our customers want, and that helped us right from the off.

We’re also obviously surrounded with our sports background, and I was doing some fitness stuff at the time too.

So we’d get the guys down there to test it.

Once we got it to a stage where we thought, this really does work, we put it on some people and said, “Just go for a little run around the car park and see what you think.”

And you can see them believing in the product and saying to you, “Oh my God, this solves that problem. This is so simple.”

At that moment, when you’re not telling someone how good it is and saying, “Oh, we’ve got this idea, it’s going to be great.” When you see the reaction without saying anything, you kind of know that you’ve got something worthwhile.

The other thing, just to add to that as well, it’s very hard.

If you can, go into Google and say, you’ve got this idea, and you want to make it into a product, a lot of people will charge you a hell of a lot of money from that.

James touched on the manufacturing side, when we’d go and pick up the latest sampling and it would be so frustrating. It was one of the most frustrating periods because we wanted to get it across the line so fast.

We didn’t have a big budget to go to a big company and say, “Make this into the finalised product.”

We were getting little bits of material from eBay, different bits from here and there and saying, “Can you do this? Can you do that?”

And every time we’d go back, we’d say to each other, “This is the one, this is the one that’s going to be perfect today.”

But we’d get there, and they’d have changed it or something else had happened.

And we’d be back at square one almost.

It was that good having two of us then to say, we got to just keep going, keep going, we believe in it. Eventually, we got to the stage where it was finalised. And we were like, this is it. This is ready to now go and sell.

Doing your own manufacturing research could save you thousands

Bex Burn-Callander:

Do you remember how much it cost per sample?

Because that’s a really interesting point when you’re doing just short runs of things, or you are asking a manufacturer just to make a one off, sometimes they can charge hundreds of pounds.

But do you remember how much you were being charged and how many samples you ended up checking out?

James Wren:

Absolutely. It’s honestly like swimming across the Atlantic.

The truth of the matter is, unfortunately there are people out there that overprice these things. There are people out there that see you coming, and we’ve had a few of those moments ourselves very early on.

We were quoted initially £20,000 to get this product over the line, and then it got to the point where it was just impossible for us to do.

But as we said, we’ll always find a way.

We went to a manufacturer with our ideas, and eventually it costs us £30 a sample to keep making and making and making.

But that is the stark contrast in terms of taking your idea and trusting in someone who says, “Yep, I can take you from start to finish.”

And just to really reiterate that point, the last and final process of that £20,000 quote, which was introducing us to manufacturers and finding a manufacturer, which was going to cost us another £6,000.

Instead, we went on Google, picked up the phone, found a manufacturer, and it was free.

And the only cost was £60 per sample.

It was towards the end, and we were quite close to what we wanted. I think we must have had about seven samples from this manufacturing company, and the lessons in between that period of idea, to meeting this manufacturer, are invaluable.

But I mean, we could have been, it could have been over before we even started.

Jack Dyer:

What we didn’t want to do as well, was just send this product off to different manufacturers and say, “What’s your price on this? And can you get us a better sample?”

Because we had this invention, and it was so unique. Obviously, we had the protection around the brand and the product, but still, at a very young age, you think, well, what if they just take this sample and if they believe in it as much as we do, in terms of it being a real game changer, they might just run with that.

We were very scared of people having our idea, that it took us so long to get to a stage where we were nearly there, we just needed that little bit of help across the line.

But we couldn’t just send it out to people and say, make us another sample, or what’s the cost on that? Because we were scared of people copying us.

Getting a patent on your ideas and their novelty

Bex Burn-Callander:

But can you patent something like a running vest or is it just seen as being a kind of general product? So you can’t actually say no one else can copy this design?

James Wren:

I think it’s more in that it’s the novelty of what you are creating. If nothing out there has been made like this, then there’s protection in and around that, which is what we sought after.

A lot of the time with patents and whatnot it’s to do with the mechanisms.

But I think if you’ve seen our products, you’ll know it’s a pretty simple idea.

But our protection is in and around where the item is, the fact that you can pull the phone down and use it.

So it’s the novelty in that which we’ve been able to protect thankfully. So that’s given us a platform, and it was always going to give us the head start that we needed to get the product out there.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I’m still reeling from that £20,000 quote.

Sometimes it’s a good thing when you don’t have bags of money because you literally cannot say yes to these outlandish quotes.

Raising money by any means necessary

Bex Burn-Callander:

So how did you fund your startup at the beginning?

Was it just savings from you guys or did you manage to get some venture capital or seed funding at all?

James Wren:

We did put a little bit of savings in ourselves.

People say the word entrepreneurs, but we look at ourselves as problem solvers. All we do is look at a problem and think, how can we solve it?

It’s going to cost this much for us to get it off the ground. How can we solve that problem?

And our way of solving that problem was leaning on our previous football background in terms of using the PFA, our fitness degrees.

So what we did was we combined the two, we spoke to the PFA, which is the support network for professional footballers. They gave us a grant to go and buy some equipment, and then we went around schools, and we were actually putting on sessions for the kids and sessions for the teachers.

And that’s the way we funded, we actually funded this.

One of the funny stories we’ve got is, on one of our development days, we were down in Cardiff, and we were scrambling down the motorway, running.

We had to go home, get changed into our sports kit, and get to this school, we were putting on a session for the teachers on a Friday, but that was just the journey.

It was all about getting this over the line by any means necessary.

Bex Burn-Callander:

So in these sessions, were you basically showing how the product worked, or were you just, what were the sessions with the teachers and the kids?

Was it related to the business or were you doing that separately?

Jack Dyer:

We did fitness classes, football classes for the kids and boxing.

We’re both really big fans of boxing. So we got on Sports Direct or Google, and we ordered 20 sets of pads and gloves. And then we just got the teachers pairing up in twos, one had the pads, one had the gloves.

We’ve always had a passion for fitness, and we had our qualifications as well. So we just put on group fitness sessions for the teachers, and we absolutely loved it.

It was a real good thing for us to learn, because at a young age, we were in charge of the teachers who were a lot older us at the time, and you got to try and get their respect and put on a good session for them because inevitably they were paying us for this.

We had a month’s trial at the start in terms of, well, we’ll see if it goes all right and stuff.

We ended up doing it for about six months. It was really, really good. We got a lot of satisfaction out of it really.

The main thing is we got the money to start moving forward with Freetrain.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Oh, I understand.

Jack Dyer:

I’m rambling here, but the other good thing is, it wasn’t just a quick thing where we could go, “Yeah, we’ll do two weeks, we’ve got the money, and then we’ll do it.”

From the initial idea to when we launched, to run those classes for six months to raise the money, to try and put into the first batch of products, we knew it was going to be six to 12 months.

It was quite frustrating at the time, because as much as we wanted to do it there and then, we just had that bit of longevity to say, well, it isn’t going to happen straight away, but we’ve got to just keep going through it to get the money.

There were no shortcuts to it, which I feel is a good lesson. Because I think a lot of people want things so quickly these days.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Yeah, I was going to say, how do you cope with the slow pace when you’ve got this product, and you desperately want to get it out, you’re worried about people copying it, you don’t want anyone to bring out a rival product in the meanwhile while you’re trying to raise the money to get it going.

Let’s talk about NDAs

Bex Burn-Callander:

How did you both stay focused and determined when the timelines just kept stretching?

James Wren:

That’s a great question.

To be honest with you, I don’t really know. As we say, I’d almost call it tunnel vision. We kept our cards close to our chest in terms of the idea and what it did.

Not many people knew. Our friends never knew we were doing this. It was very, very private between ourselves and some of the guys who we were using to manufacture the product.

So of course the first thing you do is get your NDAs [non-disclosure agreements] and you hope that they stand up, and you’ve done the best job possible.

But I think one of the takeaways from football is patience, it’s patience about getting into the first team, it’s patience about learning a new skill.

And it’s dealing with setbacks, which is, I’d say, the most vital thing in anything you do in life.

There will be setbacks, and it’s how you deal with that, that determines how you move forward. So both of us have had many setbacks in football. So it’s just one of those.

You take it on the chin, and you keep moving forward.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And I definitely want to return to that theme about what you’ve learned in football that you’ve brought into business, but you said NDAs, just their non-disclosure agreements.

How did you know how to write a non-disclosure agreement? Do you have like a pal who’s a lawyer or is this one of those sort of, you can Google and just download the template and off you go?

Jack Dyer:

Well, we didn’t write it ourselves, we can tell you that.

Again, it’s like, you got to think that the time we’re in nowadays, most things are accessible if you’ve got a bit of notice about it.

The good thing is we’ve got two brains, and we’ll figure it out, so you can look at local lawyers.

One thing we did is use friends and contacts to enable us to get something done for a cheaper price to start with.

It just so happened the first lawyer that we ever used really liked the Freetrain vest.

So it was a real easy synergy, and it was great to just crack on with, and that was a real help to start with.

But there are ways to figure it out. I mean, you only have to go on Google these days. You can find most things out is the honest answer to that.

Looking at the bigger picture to decide your route to market

Bex Burn-Callander:

And tell me then, so once you’d actually created this product, so you’d had all the samples, there was one that you loved, the manufacturer was set to go. So how did you then decide your route to market?

Were you immediately thinking, I’m going to sell sort of direct to consumer?

Did you think you might try through a partnership?

Did you think about what platforms you might use, like Amazon, or is that like not quite right for the brand, so I’ll do something else?

How did you work out how you would target your customer?

James Wren:

Many, many, many conversations.

And again, I think it was the age that we grew up in. Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, we were exposed to all these things, but I think the biggest thing for us has always been the end goal.

I think the end goal determines what you do today.

There were quicker wins and easier wins for us.

For example, we only launched a product on Amazon at the start of this year. That was always in the plan because we knew that this product wasn’t going to last forever. It was always going to be a success, but it wasn’t going to last forever.

So we had to think about how we would build the brand.

It was the overall goal in that sense, as to what directed us at the start.

So we went direct to consumer believing that if we put our own ads out, if people are coming to our website, if we can send the product to ourselves and get our personality across, we are creating and showing people something that they can believe in and buy into.

I think for where we are today and the fact that we’ve just launched our first collection, and we’ve got a strong customer base that we’ve launched that to, that they are all decisions for the future that were made two years ago.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s really interesting.

So you don’t think about individual problems, or how will I do this?

You think about what the end results needs to be, like your overall mission. And then you make sure that whatever decisions you make along the way all lead you to that particular goal.

And did you say that the actual mission was to build a long-term brand?

If you had to articulate that one audacious goal that you set right at the beginning, what would it be?

James Wren:

Honestly, we say this to everyone, and we ourselves laugh at it now after really analysing them and what they do, but we always wanted a sports brand to be the size of Nike or bigger than Nike. And it all stems from the product.

Our whole aim was always to go narrow and then wide.

So to really penetrate the market with one product, get the name out there, and then expand into apparel, rather than starting at the start with a few T-shirts and shorts.

That probably wouldn’t have been the best quality.

We had an idea, something that a platform that enabled us to get to this point now.

Building your own website

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s really interesting.

And did you then have to design your own website because you wanted to go straight to the consumer?

Tell me how tricky it was to actually build that initial sales point and that brand and attract those first few sales, those first few orders.

Jack Dyer:

Very tricky.

We did build the first website. Luckily, the platform we use, Shopify, who we’ve used right from the off, it’s fairly simple, there’s not much coding involved.

But again, we just kind of sat down, it was uploading certain images, thinking, how does this one look? And just feeding back between ourselves.

We believed in what we wanted the consumer to see, and then pulling favours off, whether it was from photographers or graphic designers to get the right image done.

But I mean, a classic one, on our website, on our homepage, one of the main banner images was, we believe that this product, anyone who had a phone arm band or a bum belt, this was kind of our pitch that it’s the best way to carry your phone.

So the banner image on the website, we had a picture of an arm band, a picture of a belt, and a picture of our Freetrain vest.

We ourselves just put two red crosses over the arm band and the belt and a green tick on the vest, literally on an app on our iPad.

And we launched with that.

Again, we look back, and it’s hideous to think of it now. But at the time it was, well, what’s the other option? We’ve kind of got to go with this.

So the first website we did, looking back now was far from what it is now, but we had to launch with something because we didn’t have the budgets to get developers in and stuff like that.

So you just got to roll with it.

Using Facebook ads to market your business and investing in your website

Bex Burn-Callander:

How did you get those first eyeballs to the site, though? Because you can build the thing, but no one knows you exist. No one even knows this product exists.

So how did you get people to come and buy it?

Jack Dyer:

I don’t think there’s a magic answer to that.

I mean, luckily for us, we started by marketing on Facebook and stuff. Eventually we kind of roped in a friend who, again, was someone that we knew through someone we knew, to help us run some Facebook ads.

The first time we launched, the day that we launched, we got all the stuff on the website. We’d done this Facebook ad ourselves, and we were thinking, right, this is it then. We’re going to press live on this ad. We were rumbling around from our other jobs.

We, in our head, for some reason, had this idea that the ad had to go live, I think it was 4pm or 5pm on a Friday for whatever reason.

It was like, it has to launch at this time. We were uploading the video, it wasn’t uploading properly.

Then we put, I think it was £100 on the first Facebook spend, hooked everything up.

We woke up in the morning, and we were thinking, well, there are no notifications. It must have been a glitch. It must have gone mad. We’ve probably sold out all the vests. These things gone like fire.

And we didn’t sell one vest.

We literally thought in our heads, we’ve got the vest, we’ve got the website, put the Facebook ad on, that’s it, we’ve made it.

But we didn’t sell one vest, which is, again, looking back now, is mad.

But we didn’t really overthink it.

We thought, well, how do we do it? We realised that the Facebook targeting ads was a little bit beyond our kind of knowledge level, and we managed to get in some help for free to start with.

Once we started getting the ads going properly, people were seeing the products, we made a fantastic video to start with, which was telling people why this is a good invention and why it’s better than how you’re currently carrying your phone.

People seemed to watch the ad, see exactly what the product was, the price point was good, and somehow, they converted on the website, which didn’t look fantastic.

But that’s when it started to take some momentum.

The feedback was that people were loving the product.

And then it was enough for us to say, again, the public are taking to this now. Not our friends, not us. We’ve got something which people are buying into, so let’s move with it as fast as possible.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And can you remember the one slogan or ad or cleverly worded Facebook post?

Was there one thing that you did that generated more sales than anything else?

James Wren:

I wouldn’t necessarily say a campaign because I think in this day and age now with social media and the fact that you can create an ad and put one out there, you try to hit people in as many different touchpoints as possible, whether it’s an image, whether it’s a video.

Our videos were always very descriptive, as to what the product does, and we always started that way.

However, when you start on a zero budget, you are the models, the videographers, the directors, everything.

So I’d say the turning point for us, or the real start of success is when we started reinvesting, when we looked at it, and we said, right, okay. So we can either pocket some of the money or we can buy more inventory.

But what we decided to do was start investing in the visual side of the brand.

So we updated the website, had that looking a lot cleaner. We started paying a real photographer. We started getting real models in.

Then all of a sudden, when you’re doing your outreach to, say, influencers or people who you want your product to be seen on, when you send them a message, and they have a look at your page, they go, “Okay, so you guys are quite serious. I’m happy to work with you.”

I think the big thing I’d like to get across here is that there were people out there with 800 followers who were quite big in their running community, but we could not give this product away.

They wouldn’t accept it. They’d say, “No, thanks. I’m actually signed with ASICS.”

But then all of a sudden, you start investing in how your page looks, how your Instagram looks, how the website looks.

Then you start getting real life, I say celebrities, and real-life endorsements from people who see what you’re trying to do.

All of these people who wouldn’t believe in your product because of how it looked before, they all come calling again.

But instead they’ve got to go through the website and make an order. But no, that was a real big turning point and something that we looked at and realised you get out what you put in.

Chaos and confusion looking for manufacturers in China

Bex Burn-Callander:

And you, when you started making traction, it kind of snowballed quite quickly for you guys.

So you had to move presumably from a kind of smaller manufacturing to a much bigger outfit. Tell me about how you solved that problem.

Was it tricky? Where did you go?

How did you find the right company?

Tell me all about that journey.

Jack Dyer:

When we realised this was a serious kind of thing, and we had a product that we were going to run with, the first thing that we had to do was find a better supply chain. We were manufacturing the products in the Midlands.

We were getting all the materials for the products in from Asia, and it just wasn’t the best way to do it. So this was still when we were working our other jobs.

We thought, well, following the Nike blueprint, we best get ourselves out to China and try and find us some good manufacturers.

So that’s probably where the real gems in the story or some of the gems start, because we had to go to the other side of the world with absolutely zero experience in manufacturing or anything to try and find a good supply for our product.

The research we’d done was that this was the place to make the product in terms of quality. So off we went.

There was a funny story just as we just as we kind of got there.

We were both still working in the airport. I think James, I’m sure we can say, how he only let his work know, I think the day of, but it was getting out to China and finding these suppliers.

We went out there with an itinerary that was jotted down on a piece of paper, thinking that we’d just go to Hong Kong, and we’d make it easy to these factories, show them the product.

It’s probably two or three hours’ worth of stories in with that.

But the magic was we went out to China together, didn’t have a clue what we were doing, had an idea of what we wanted to find.

Somehow after a week we came back, and we found a fantastic manufacturer.

It’s really helped us with getting a good quality product in, something that we could really stand behind, is the top line answer to that.

James Wren:

I think one thing to bolt on to that is when we were getting the products made in Wolverhampton, what we found was all of the components that we were getting were coming from the Far East, and all that was going to do was add costs on to things.

So there was just no way of having the materials, the phone cases, it’s just impossible to have it made in the UK.

And that’s what ultimately forced our hand and why we had to go out to the Far East.

Bex Burn-Callander:

But you guys have massively oversimplified.

I need to know, so you basically, you’re at the airport, you’re flying to Hong Kong. Did you even know which manufacturers you were going to visit?

Or did you think I’ll just land, and I’ll just look for the manufacturing district, and I’ll knock on doors?

Were you, did you have like meetings already set up or, or anything like that?

James Wren:

So at the time, the company that was supplying us the neoprene from China, we got in touch with those guys, because the only way you can get into China is with a visa.

So we were up at sort of three in the morning, emailing back and forth with this factory saying, we need an invitation with a company stamp X, Y, and Z.

So it was all a real scramble for us. We sort of jumped on Alibaba.

Jack went and searched for about, I think for a week we had 10 manufacturers to go and speak to.

So initially we were doing two a day, and being 23-24, we kind of looked it and thought, “Ah, China’s not that big.”

More fool us. It’s absolutely massive.

And we’ve got some real stories to tell about how we managed to navigate our way around China. It was a little bit like ‘Idiot abroad’, except there was two of us.

Jack Dyer:

Literally. It was actually a really hard decision for us to pull the trigger and go, wasn’t it?

Because James was still playing football at the time and working his other job. I was working my other job. And I think we’d had probably three manufacturers or maybe even two confirm that we were good for meetings.

But the idea was, if we go and speak to eight, that gives us real understanding of who’s good and what the best price points are.

We didn’t really want to go and just speak to two, but we were waiting for responses because the time delay and stuff to get these booked in.

But at the same time, I think we flew on Sunday. And on Saturday, we were thinking we’ve either got to book the flight or not.

We kind of went on a whim thinking, well, we’ll book the flight.

Again, the flights weren’t cheap. We didn’t have a lot of money at all. But we went on the basis of hoping that these 3, 4, 6 manufacturers would agree to see us.

Luckily, they all came back on the Sunday as we were kind of landing in China.

We were still booking meetings for later in that week, but they all came through, and we managed to get a good overview of what we were looking for by speaking to multiple manufacturers.

Bex Burn-Callander:

What an amazing adventure.

I want to do a podcast all about how I source Chinese manufacturing. And I want you to come back or at least I want to hear all the stories over a pint or something.

Expanding your business to apparel

Bex Burn-Callander:

But you mentioned that you wanted to be a brand that was as big or bigger than Nike.

So tell me then how you went from just the vest to then thinking what comes next.

Because you’ve come up with an original product. It must have been really hard to think, what do we do next?

James Wren:

I think we always wanted to go into apparel.

So it was a case of once we realised that the vest was such a good idea, we were never going to do the app. It’s just conversations we have all the time.

Most of our day is spent talking about the future and what we want to do next and why it’s the best decision. I think the fact that there’s two of us, even if we both think it’s the best idea ever, it will still be questioned.

From the start I remember, so when Jack would be on sales meetings, or I’d be on the way to sales meetings, I remember driving up and down the M6, just having conversations about the vest, why we think it will work, who we’re going to get it on next, and why we wanted to go into apparel.

It was those conversations that really forged where we are and where we’re going today.

It was very, very natural for us, to be honest. You could call it a little bit of foresight, but I think honestly it was just very natural.

It was just a very early realisation that once we get a bit of traction, we have to move quickly, and we have to move on to something else.

First collections and learning how to design apparel for women

Bex Burn-Callander:

But how did you come up with the first collection?

Were you guys involved in the design or did you outsource that?

Because there’s a lot riding on the kind of next move when you’ve got one big hit product.

James Wren:

Oh, absolutely.

So we did start working with freelancers. We worked with a freelance designer and a freelance developer.

Again, it’s similar teething problems to when we were developing the vest. It was all about, really, being able to implement our ideas and our vision on to the items that we wanted to create.

I think, I’d say it’s a strength of ours, to be honest, the fact that we’ve never tried to create a product for someone else, away from ourselves.

We’ve always looked at ourselves as our perfect target market, hopefully in the fact that we are pretty much like everybody else.

So it was a case of working with the designer and the developer. This was during Covid as well.

So it was all through Zoom, expressing our ideas, putting it together, loads of PowerPoints and presentations and saying, this is the essence of the brand. This is what we believe in. This is what we would like it to look like eventually in the end.

There’s no design experience from ourselves.

It was literally just a case of direction, and again, painful at times, but probably a little bit easier than creating the vest.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well, I’m curious, though. What about the products for women?

Cause obviously you guys, you don’t have much experience of carrying boobs around, you can’t try on the products as women.

So how did you sort out that side of it?

Jack Dyer:

The good news is the first freelancers that we worked with were both female. I think, again, the good thing about us together, we believe that we’re very well-rounded, and we think of all scenarios.

Even when we were marketing, for example, different consumers have different touchpoints, and that’s whether it’s the imagery, the videos.

So we’re always thinking of, well, who’s who are our customers and that is both male and female.

Anything we didn’t know in terms of not being a female, we’d get in expertise from elsewhere.

We would speak to a lot of athletes, a lot of people who like going to the gym, a lot of people who just like wearing active wear for casual purposes and get the feedback.

Then, we’d kind of add some inspiration into that from our point of view in terms of what we believe, because we’re very well-rounded in terms of where we want the brand to be.

We take inspiration from things in everyday life, whether that’s other brands, whether that’s colour palettes from different things. And hopefully then come up with a final product, which we do believe in, in the emergence collection, the female part of our range.

We are really happy with it.

The most important thing, the feedback we’ve had of our female customers is that they completely share the same belief as us.

So however we’ve got there, those points, I think we’ve done it quite well, considering we both are males that kind of own the company.

Bex Burn-Callander:

No, that’s amazing.

And it’s great that it’s gone down so well with women as well as men.

Transferrable skills from sports into business

Bex Burn-Callander:

I want to talk now a bit about the lessons that you’ve learned from playing football.

What are the kind of direct transferable skills that you felt have made you more successful as entrepreneurs?

James Wren:

I would say the biggest one is resilience more than anything.

I think the fact that from the age of six, to the age of 21-22, the setbacks that you get in football and the way that it feels like it’s the end of the world when something happens when you’re younger, and you realise that the world keeps turning and there’s always another day.

That in itself just allows you to keep going forward in business.

I’d say the difference of, I think things move slower in business than they do on the football pitch.

If you make a mistake on the football pitch, myself being a goalkeeper as well, if you make a mistake, it literally is make or break in that term.

And I think you have to move on very, very quickly.

So I think taking that from the football world over to business, if a mistake happens, or we do have a setback, the fact of when you were playing football, you had 30 seconds to get over that issue, whereas in this world now everything, you’ve got a lot longer to do.

You have more time to think, you have more time to deal with it emotionally, you have more time to kind of reset yourself.

That’s such an asset to have in terms of moving forward.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Would you add anything to that, Jack?

What other things do you feel like you’ve brought into this world from your footballing career?

Jack Dyer:

I think it’s a very, very good answer. I’m pretty similar to that.

I think the only, maybe, the key thing that sticks out to me is analysis and just being very, very aware of what your assets are and what maybe you’re not so good at.

So obviously when you’re playing football, you’ll get feedback off everyone, whether that’s your teammates, your parents, the fans, the manager, in terms of what you’ve done well, what you’ve not done well.

Sometimes you will disagree with that.

I think one thing that does is it makes you very self-aware in terms of, well, people keep telling me I’m good at this, but I’m not very good at this.

So if I want to get better, I either double down on what I’m good at, or I work on what I’m bad at.

I think that’s very good moving into business because there are hundreds of things that we are not very good at or not naturally skilled for, but we can work on that, and we can know that between us, maybe we are not too good in this area of the business. We maybe need a little bit of help here.

Just being self-aware and understanding that you don’t really know everything or that it’s not always going to go your way.

I think that comes from listening to other people’s opinions, taking feedback from the team, from outsiders to get to a place where we can be confident in the decision that is best for the brand.

That’s one takeaway, I would say.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And I suppose just being goal orientated, I mean, not to just say that as a pun, but James earlier used the phrase tunnel vision, but there’s definitely been a single-minded determination.

And neither of you have seemed to waver at all. You set a goal, and then you’ve just moved towards it, just kind of unstoppable.

James Wren:

There are a million takeaways. And when you ask that question, it all does relate back to football, and you have one goal.

When you’re a kid, and you’re in a youth setup, you want to become a professional footballer. If you get an injury at that point, you can’t wallow in your own pity. You have to go through your rehabilitation. You have to come back fitter, back stronger.

When a negative thing happens, there’s always an opportunity.

When you’re injured, and you’re off the field, you work on your body, you work on your frame and your balance.

Then, when you’re back out in the pitch, you are that little bit better than you were before.

I think working with fantastic managers and coaches, watching them all the time and their tunnel vision and their drive, that sort of rubs off on you.

I think we have that between ourselves.

We have a great relationship in terms of the friendship and then the business relationship. But we take that almost as a team, and we push each other, we spur each other on.

We don’t want to let the side down, we want to keep taking the company forward.

So that’s something that has always been there and something that’s going to remain for the next however many years.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And the dynamic between you two is amazing.

You can see there’s absolute trust that you’ve got this, this way of bouncing off each other that has been the making of the business.

Trust, morality, and honesty are key to building a good relationship with your business partner

Bex Burn-Callander:

So for anyone listening that wants to find a co-founder and is inspired by this relationship, what should they look for?

How can they seek to kind of copy or conjure up this kind of dynamism in a co-founder?

What do they look for?

Jack Dyer:

It’s hard to give advice and to say, go out and look for this. I think if I look back at myself and James’ journey, it sort of did happen naturally.

The fact that we weren’t really looking for each other, but the fact that we built a relationship before going into business, and whether that was around, having the same visions and or having different ones, you really start to know that person.

And then moving into business, it was quite natural.

So we didn’t go, I’m looking at this for a checklist as a business partner.

I think we could probably speak on it now a little bit in terms of what’s worked really well for us. And I think, there are multiple takeaways, and I don’t want that to sound very generic, but we have a very clear vision together.

We also have individual vision on certain things where we can come together, have a real good discussion or a good debate, and come up with a solution where we know it’s the best decision for the brand.

We have certain attributes that lend well to different tasks, whether that’s marketing, whether that’s product.

But again, I think that’s quite hard to go out and look for someone, unless you have a real idea of what you want.

The one good thing is we trust each other.

We work well together. We’re very honest with each other. And I think that’s the fundamentals I would personally look at if I was to do it again. Because without that, I think you’ll really struggle because it hasn’t been easy.

The resilience that James touched on, we really had to have that because on the surface level, it does look fantastic. But we’ve had multiple conversations when things haven’t gone right. And we’ve had to stick in there together.

I think without that trust and relationship before, it might have come to a time where you both just don’t fancy it, but we know we’ve kind of got each other’s back, if that makes sense.

James Wren:

I think it’s very hard to go out and look for your ideal business partner. I would say the big things are, trust, morality, and honesty.

Hopefully, we do have that point, Bex, and that you can sit down with myself and Jack, you’ll see, we are quite different in our personalities and the way that, say, we may react to things and that’s never a negative, but I think the foundations are, the trust and the honesty.

I think we both have a similar work rate.

So the thing is everything that is done is in the best interest of the company and whether we disagree on things, and sometimes there’s short disagreements, sometimes they’re a lot longer, and we always sort these things through.

But we never look at a certain situation and think, he’s doing it for his own self development, or I’m doing it for my own self development. It’s all brought to the table, and it’s all in the best interest of the company.

I think the fact that we’re 50-50 in this and split down the middle, it’s very pure.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Oh guys, I love that. It’s a business partnership based on ethics and trust. I think that’s probably a good place to stop. I’ve loved talking to you both.

I can’t wait to see Freetrain grow and take over, be bigger than Nike.

I’ll be rooting for you the whole way.

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Read Now: Get the Most Out of Remote Meetings and Avoid Meeting Burn Out – 101 Latest News



Get the Most Out of Remote Meetings and Avoid Meeting Burn Out

#Remote #Meetings #Avoid #Meeting #Burn

Virtual meetings aren’t too bad at the start of the day, but when they keep racking up throughout the day, it can make things difficult for employees. Mental fog, mental fatigue, and lack of creativity and focus are all too common, partly due to too many online meetings. Thankfully, there are ways employees and managers can get more out of their remote meetings and avoid long-term meeting burnout.

Get the Most Out of Remote Meetings

Tip 1: Prepare and Present Correctly

Nothing is worse than a meeting that could be fantastic and end up boring and unproductive. People aren’t focused, participation is low, and the presenter must repeat themselves multiple times. Make sure that the small stuff is taken care of; share the right link on the team’s online calendar and ensure that everyone at least knows about the meeting. Managers can easily send out a reminder via Slack or other communication methods to inform team members that the meeting will start in an hour.

Regarding presentation, managers, and employees can ensure that audience members are mentally present by prioritizing audience engagement. For those leading or facilitating the meeting, asking questions to specific individuals can be powerful. Consider asking team members if they can participate in a small way during the meeting. Even though they may only speak for a minute or two, it can keep them engaged before and after their comments and thus more attentive throughout the meeting.

Another small change presenters and facilitators can make are pacing themselves for the benefit of the group. When presenters speak a million miles a minute, it can make it more difficult for team members to understand them and, thus, more likely for them to tune out. After meetings, presenters can also message team members individually and get their feedback on the overall points of the meeting.

Team members vary in preference and engagement levels, so getting your team’s feedback will help you become a better presenter for your team.

Tip #2: Get Rid of Distractions.

More than 50% of individuals perform other non-productive tasks during meetings, such as checking emails and looking at their phones. Around 40% Browse Social Media, with some surfing the internet and others daydreaming. In a remote setting, you can’t fully control what your employees do, and it’s tough to tell when a team member is looking at something else on the internet. In fact, some employees admit to playing video games during meetings. To combat this, try to cultivate a culture that prioritizes meetings. Encourage team members to engage in a “ceremonial closing of tabs” when joining the meeting.

Tip #3: Be Selective About Meetings

Meetings aren’t always necessary, and sometimes organizations will schedule team meetings that could really be an email or even a Slack message. A Harvard Research Study found that roughly 70% of meetings prevent employees from engaging in productive work. The study also found that employee productivity increased by 71% when the number of meetings held was reduced by 40%.

HBR recommends that managers scale back meetings by being more selective about meetings. They recommend only “holding meetings when absolutely necessary. That typically includes to review work that’s occurred (what worked or didn’t and why), to clarify and validate something(policies, team goals, etc.)” or to “distribute work appropriately among your team.”

Even when meetings are needed, be sure to invite only the team members that are absolutely necessary to the meeting and to the goal that the team is shooting for. HBR also recommends that managers can encourage team members to flag or cancel meetings if those meetings aren’t a great use of their time.

Owl Labs created a list of questions for managers or anyone that could call the need for a meeting. The first question they recommend is to ask if the matter is urgent or time-sensitive. If the matter is urgent and important, consider first messaging team members on Slack if you don’t necessarily need their input. If there is an issue that absolutely requires input from other team members, it would be best to call a meeting with everyone,

Tip #4: Keep Meetings Short

Shorter meetings help employees be more productive overall, but how can managers keep meetings shorter? As discussed above, limiting the number of team members or individuals in the meeting can be beneficial, especially for keeping meetings shorter. Another strategy managers can take is to assign meeting roles for various team members.

Managers can also consider cutting the time of meetings and fitting the content they need into the time set. For example, cut hour-long meetings to just 45 minutes or 30-minute meetings to just 15 minutes.

Tip 5: Refresh Your Mind.

Inhale, exhale and return your attention to your physical and mental health. Guided breathing methods are now accessible online, enabling users to take a break between meetings and even during sessions. Additionally, to help you feel more at ease, consider surrounding your desk with something small to help you relax. This may be something as small as a houseplant or a picture of your significant other, but it can make a big difference.

Lastly, a great way to refresh your mind is by getting outside. Getting some fresh air and sunlight on your skin can help people be a bit more alert overall and refreshed when they return to their desks. This can be just sitting on the front porch for a bit, hanging out in the backyard, or going through a stroll in the neighborhood. Walks don’t have to be long to be effective either; 15 minutes can be enough to get employees rolling again.

Tip 6: Create an A rea Just for Meetings

When working remotely, setting up a specialized meeting space has numerous noteworthy advantages. It improves professionalism and productivity in the first place. Setting up a more formal and concentrated environment is facilitated by having a location set aside expressly for meetings. Participants can actively participate in talks more successfully, improving communication and decision-making by removing distractions and providing a professional setting.

Second, a designated meeting space can significantly raise the standard of online interactions. It enables people to arrange the ideal lighting, placement, and audio gear to guarantee effective communication. Participants can communicate non-verbal cues more effectively during meetings if sufficient lighting and the right camera angles improve understanding and engagement. Furthermore, enhancing audio quality with noise-canceling technology or soundproofing techniques helps to reduce background noise and guarantees that participants can clearly hear one another.

Specific meeting space also promotes work-life harmony. Drawing lines between work and personal life is simpler when meetings occur in a defined location. People can psychologically switch between their professional and personal roles by physically entering and exiting the meeting location. This division lessens the propensity to be in a work mindset all the time and enables more focus and presence during meetings, which increases productivity and enhances general well-being.

Tip 7: Avoiding Meeting Burnout is a Team Effort

It takes a collaborative effort to prevent meeting burnout rather than just being an individual responsibility. Teams should collaborate to design procedures that reduce burnout and foster a healthy work environment by acknowledging the cumulative impact of meetings on team members’ productivity and well-being.

First and foremost, a team’s ability to communicate and work together effectively is crucial. The frequency, length, and purpose of meetings, as well as other preferences, should be openly discussed by team members. Teams can decrease the overall number of meetings and ensure that only important subjects are covered by deciding whether each meeting is necessary collaboratively. This prevents wasting time, which leads to burnout.

Groups can actively encourage effective meeting procedures. Each meeting entails establishing clear objectives, agendas, and outputs that can be implemented. By adopting these guidelines, team members may stay on task and productive during meetings, reducing time lost on side topics or pointless conversations. Meetings can be run more effectively by promoting the use of technologies and tools that simplify communication, including collaboration platforms or shared documents.

Teams might also take a flexible stance when it comes to meetings. Team members can use asynchronous communication channels for non-urgent talks, such as email or project management software because they know that not all discussions require synchronous communication. Teams may lessen the overall strain of meetings and give people more control over their calendars by embracing flexibility and enabling people to manage their time well.

Tip 8: Change your diet

Keeping a balanced diet is essential for preventing fatigue from virtual meetings. Proper eating promotes general health and gives you the vigor and concentration you need to get through long sessions. Here are four ways that a balanced diet might help prevent burnout in the workplace.

First, eating foods that are high in nutrients helps maintain cognitive function and brain health. Your body will get vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants if you choose a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats. Thanks to these nutrients, you can stay focused and involved during virtual meetings, which also help with memory and concentration, lowering your risk of burnout.

A balanced diet also contributes to sustaining energy levels throughout the day by helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Lean proteins and complex carbs from whole grains, legumes, and veggies can give you a continuous energy supply. This lessens the mental tiredness brought on by burnout by preventing energy crashes and assisting you in maintaining focus and productivity throughout back-to-back sessions.

Image Credit: Pexels; CorronBro; Thank You!

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Read Now: Is a biometric time clock right for your small business? – 101 Latest News



Is a biometric time clock right for your small business?

#biometric #time #clock #small #business

Managing your team’s working hours can often feel like a demanding task that requires constant attention. If you’re seeking a more effective way to track employee hours and reduce unnecessary labor expenses, a biometric time clock could be the solution you’ve been seeking.

 As with any important business decision, you’ve got to do your research. This is particularly true for biometric time clocks. Biometric time clocks aren’t for everyone—they’re bit controversial and even illegal in some states. So, let’s do a deep dive into the pros, cons, and legal considerations to determine whether this innovative approach is right for your business.

 Don’t worry: if you live in a state that has banned biometric time clocks, we’ll also introduce alternative options that offer similar benefits without compromising privacy. Let’s get to it!

What is a biometric time clock?

A biometric time clock is a small business time clock solution that utilizes unique body measurements to identify employees as they clock in and out.

These types of biometric time clock systems typically use fingerprints, hand geometry, facial recognition, or iris scans to identify individual employees.

Biometric time clocks are more than just fingerprint time clocks

Although biometric time clocks may seem like a futuristic way to clock in and out for a shift, businesses used this technology as early as the 90s. In the 40 years since then, biometric time clock technology has expanded to include different biometric identifiers. Today, businesses can choose to use their employees’ unique fingerprints, palms, facial features, or irises for accurate time clock identification.

1. Biometric fingerprint time clocks

As the name suggests, biometric fingerprint time clocks use fingerprints to ensure the correct employees are clocking in for their shifts. To clock in, employees simply place their index finger or thumb on a fingerprint reader. Then, the biometric system identifies the employee by matching the scanned fingerprint to its database of stored images.  

Although fingerprint time clocks are relatively straightforward to use, they aren’t exactly foolproof. In fact, a recent study found that the scanners sometimes produced false matches when employees had wet or dirty fingers. Even hand lotions and sanitizers were found to degrade fingerprint quality, leading to identification errors and complicating the clock in process—the opposite of what you’re looking for.

2. Biometric palm time clocks

Much like fingerprint time clocks, palm time clocks use a biometric scanner to identify the unique patterns and geometry of each employee’s palm. To ensure proper placement, most systems have a template indicating where your employees should place their hands.

Once scanned, the system compares the unique palm pattern to its database of employee biometrics. Barring any errors, it’s then able to identify the individual employee and check them in for their shift.

3. Biometric facial recognition time clocks

Unlike fingerprint time clocks, facial recognition is touchless. This made the technology an increasingly popular option during the pandemic. To clock in, an employee simply stands in front of the clock while it scans their face. The facial recognition software then analyzes the unique features of each employee’s face, such as the distance between their eyes or the length of their forehead.

From there, the system scans its database to identify the employee and allows them to clock in for their shift. Some of these systems are able to work using just parts of the face—ideal if your team wears masks, like in the healthcare or veterinary industry. However, some of these systems do require the full face. Make sure you know what your needs would be when looking into this option.

4. Biometric iris time clocks 

Iris time clocks operate much like biometric facial recognition systems. To clock in, employees’ eyes are scanned using infrared technology. This illuminates the eye and identifies unique patterns on the iris.  

To get an accurate reading, employees need to stand relatively close to the scanner and remove their glasses to avoid reflections. It’s also worth noting that long eyelashes, contact lenses, and even unusual eye colors can prevent these machines from working properly.

Are biometric time clocks legal?

The short answer is, it depends. While employers have always required personal information, such as social security numbers to pay their employees, biometric data is a bit more controversial. As a result, many states are passing laws to restrict the use of biometric time clocks and protect employee privacy.

According to the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), New York has already banned employers from requiring fingerprint scans. And Oregon has banned facial recognition scans entirely.

Since these laws vary from state to state, you’ll need to check your state and local labor laws to determine the legalities of biometric time clocks in your area. Even if your state doesn’t currently have biometric-specific laws in place, they might in the future. You can check pending laws via the BIPA tracker to ensure your plans to implement biometric time clocks won’t be affected in the future.

Complying with legal requirements

Once you’ve established whether you can legally use a biometric time clock, you’ll need to establish a comprehensive compliance policy. This should include details such as:

  • The type of biometric data you’ll be collecting from your employees
  • How you plan to collect the data
  • How long you’ll store the data
  • The reason for collecting the data
  • How you plan to keep the data you collect secure

To safeguard your business from potential fines and lawsuits, you’ll need to provide the details of this compliance policy to your staff and get everyone’s written consent. Once your paperwork is in place, you can legally implement a biometric time clock system. But you’ll need to continually protect and monitor your employees’ biometric data to stay compliant with biometric workplace laws. This includes encrypting and restricting access to your server and destroying data as employees resign.

It’s also important to stay up to date with federal and state laws, as recent lawsuits against companies like Pret a Manger and Walmart are prompting many states to alter their legislation.

The bottom line? Do your research before moving forward with a biometric time clock. If you’re worried about breaking any rules, consider opting for a cloud-based time clock like Homebase instead.

Note: This isn’t legal advice. If you plan to implement a biometric time clock, consult a lawyer.

Is a biometric time clock right for my small business?

Assuming your state allows it, deciding whether a biometric time clock is a personal decision that warrants careful consideration. So, let’s dive into the pros and cons to help you determine whether it’s the right choice for your employees and business.

1. Pro: Eliminate buddy punching

Buddy punching is without a doubt one of the biggest reasons small businesses implement biometric time clocks. For those who haven’t heard the term before, buddy punching is when one team member clocks in for another before they’ve actually arrived for their shift. This is particularly easy to do using traditional time punch cards, physical key cards, or even personal codes. It’s a form of time theft that can easily cost your business money. Since biometric time clocks use data that’s unique to each employee, they need to physically be there to check in, which eliminates the possibility of buddy punching.

While this practice may seem relatively harmless, buddy punching for a single employee that’s consistently late can wind up costing you over a thousand dollars a year. And that’s just for one employee. If your team has a habit of buddy punching it can cost you much more. Biometric time clocks prevent this from happening, meaning you’re not paying for labor that wasn’t performed.

Now, if biometric time clocks are prohibited in your area, you can still avoid buddy punching with the right software. With Homebase’s time clock app, your employees check in with the app, which uses geo-fencing to confirm their location. The app also prevents early clock-ins, tracks breaks, and automatically alerts you to late arrivals to reduce labor leakage.  

2. Pro: Streamline clocking in and out

With biometric time clocks, your employees don’t need to remember a key card or fob to clock in for their shift. Since their biometric data is part of their physical bodies, they always have the information needed to clock in. This eliminates those frantic pre-shift searches for missing employee cards and allows managers to focus on tasks beyond assisting their team with clocking in and out, or reissuing punch cards.

However, since the modern employee is rarely without their mobile phone, cloud-based time clocks are an equally viable option. Homebase’s time clock app allows your team to clock in directly in the app, eliminating the need for timecards, fingerprints, or any additional training.

3. Pro: Improve security

​​When biometric time clocks are used to control access to your business, they can also improve security. Unlike key cards or fobs, biometric metrics can’t be stolen or lost. This eliminates the risk of someone using a lost or stolen key card to access, damage, or even rob your business.

However, it’s important to note that not all biometric time clocks provide this feature. Even those that do can’t protect your business from human errors like leaving doors unlocked. So, whether you utilize a biometric time clock or not, you should always have additional security measures in place to safeguard against human error.

4. Con: Privacy and legality concerns

​​Understandably, privacy concerns are the biggest drawback of using biometric clocks. Whether you’re using fingerprints, palms, faces, or irises to identify your employees, you’re storing extremely personal information. Unlike passwords that can be changed, this kind of data can’t be altered. So, if this information is leaked or stolen, the damage is permanent and can’t be undone.

The controversy surrounding biometric data collection has intensified, as identity thieves and hackers increasingly seek out this type of information to gain access to sensitive information. As a result, states like New York, Oregon, Illinois, and Washington have already established laws restricting or banning biometric time clocks. In these states, employers can face fines of up to $5,000 per employee for deliberately violating these laws.

Currently, White Castle is in a massive lawsuit for allegedly scanning the fingerprints of nearly 10,000 employees without their consent. If the fast-food chain is found guilty of intentionally collecting this information without consent, it could face billions of dollars in fines.

Although biometric data can save you thousands in lost wages, violating these laws (whether intentionally or not) can cost you much more. So, be sure to seek legal guidance and take the necessary steps to protect your employees’ personal data.

5. Con: False matches

Although biometric time clocks are meant to make clocking in and out simpler and more secure, the technology isn’t foolproof. Recent studies have found that fingerprint scanners can produce false matches if an employee’s hands are cold, damp, hot, or dirty. Hand sanitizer can also impede results, which can present issues for restaurant and hospital staff that must maintain high standards of hygiene throughout their shifts.

 Facial and iris biometric scanners can also fail to accurately identify employees with long eyelashes, contact lenses, and unusual eye colors. Reflections and poor lighting can aggravate these issues and lead to inaccurate results.

6. Con: ​​Accessibility challenges

​​As we just mentioned, clocking in with a biometric time clock isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem. Unfortunately, those with disabilities may find it even harder to adopt these technologies as they’re not entirely inclusive. For example, most facial recognition and iris scanners are installed too high for wheelchair users to access. 

It can also be difficult for individuals with visual impairments to see where to place their hands or stand for an accurate scan. Implementing new systems without accessibility in mind can affect the perceived inclusivity of your business and cause undue stress for those who struggle to use it.

 It’s also worth noting that businesses in the United States are required by law to provide an accessible alternative for employees with disabilities. So, not only does this require an additional investment in a secondary time clock, but you’ll also have the added task of integrating it with your payroll system.

Are there viable alternatives to biometric time clocks?

If you’re intrigued by the benefits of biometric time clocks but find the potential legal implications concerning, an online time clock app might be better suited for your business. These innovative apps offer all the features of biometric time clocks and more, without the need to navigate complex data privacy regulations.

 So, what exactly is an online time clock app? An online time clock app is a digital tool that allows employees to easily clock in and out of their shifts from their personal devices.

Using Homebase for time tracking

 With the Homebase app, employees can clock in using their smartphones once they arrive at work. The app uses geo-fencing technology to confirm their location, prevent early clock-ins, and ensure accurate time tracking. It also tracks breaks and even sends alerts about late arrivals, helping you minimize labor leakage and stay on top of attendance.

 Since your employees use their own devices to clock in, online time clock apps eliminate buddy punching much like biometric time clocks do. However, unlike biometric scanners that are subject to location-dependent privacy laws, Homebase complies with existing (and pending) legislation nationwide. This ensures your business won’t be on the hook for a second system should biometric data collection laws change in your area.

 What’s more, the app is free for unlimited employees, saving you the expenses associated with traditional biometric solutions, which can cost up to $500.  And because Homebase is app-based, any repairs or maintenance are automatically included in routine updates.

 While selecting the right time clock solution for your business will ultimately depend on your unique circumstances, an online time clock app like Homebase provides all the benefits of biometric time clocks without the added complexities of ongoing legality concerns.

Get a free time clock that frees up your time. Track hours. Prep for payroll. Control labor costs. All with our free time clock. Try Homebase time clock

Biometric time clock FAQs 

What are biometric time clocks?

A biometric time clock is a small business time clock solution that utilizes unique body measurements to identify employees as they clock in and out.

Also known as hand scanner time clocks, fingerprint time clocks, hand-punch time clocks, or biometric hand-punch devices, these types of systems most often use fingerprints or hand geometry to recognize each employee and track and manage their time.

What are the 4 types of biometric time clocks?

The four types of biometric time clocks are fingerprint time clocks, palm time clocks, facial recognition time clocks, and iris time clocks. Fingerprint and palm time clocks scan the fingerprints and palms of your employees to accurately identify and clock them in for each shift. Facial and iris time clocks work in a similar fashion. Using touchless infrared technology, these time clocks identify (and clock in) employees based on their unique facial and iris measurements.  

Are biometric time clocks legal in America?

Biometric time clocks are legal in some parts of the United States. Since laws vary by state, you’ll need to check your state and local labor laws to determine the legalities of biometric time clocks in your area. 

What are alternatives to biometric time clocks?

There are several alternatives to biometric time clocks, like traditional time punch cards and physical key cards. However, cloud-based time clock apps are the most comparable alternative. Similar to biometric time clocks, Homebase’s time clock app accurately and securely tracks your team’s hours. Unlike biometric clocks, Homebase eliminates the need to keep up with evolving compliance and privacy laws. It’s a cost-effective, reliable long-term option.

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Read Now: All the Nvidia news announced by Jensen Huang at Computex – 101 Latest News



All the Nvidia news announced by Jensen Huang at Computex

#Nvidia #news #announced #Jensen #Huang #Computex

Jensen Huang wants to bring generative AI to every data center, the Nvidia co-founder and CEO said during Computex in Taipei today. During the speech, Huang’s first public speech in almost four years he said, he made a slew of announcements, including chip release dates, its DGX GH200 super computer  and partnerships with major companies. Here’s all the news from the two-hour-long keynote.

  1. Nvidia’s GForce RTX 4080 Ti GPU for gamers is now in full production and being produced in “large quantities” with partners in Taiwan.

2. Huang announced the Nvidia Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) for Games, an customizable AI model foundry service with pre-trained models for game developers. It will give NPCs more character through AI-powered language interactions.

3. Nvidia Cuda computing model now serves four million developers and more than 3,000 applications. Cuda seen 40 million downloads, including 25 million just last year alone.

4. Full volume production of GPU server HGX H100 has begun and is being manufactured by “companies all over Taiwan,” Huang said. He added it is the world’s first computer that has a transformer engine in it.

5. Huang referred to Nvidia’s 2019 acquisition of supercomputer chipmaker Mellanox for $6.9 billion as “one of the greatest strategic decisions” it has ever made.

6. Production of the next generation of Hopper GPUs will start in August 2024, exactly two years after the first generation started manufacture.

7. Nvidia’s GH200 Grace Hopper is now in full production. The superchip boosts 4 PetaFIOPS TE, 72 Arm CPUs connected by chip-to-chip link, 96GB HBM3 and 576 GPU memory. Huang described as the world’s first accelerated computing processor that also has a giant memory: “this is a computer, not a chip.” It is designed for high-resilience data center applications.

8. If the Grace Hopper’s memory is not enough, Nvidia has the solution—the DGX GH200. It’s made by first connecting eight Grace Hoppers togethers with three NVLINK Switches, then connecting the pods together at 900GB together. Then finally, 32 are joined together, with another layer of switches, to connect a total of 256 Grace Hopper chips. The resulting ExaFLOPS Transformer Engine has 144 TB GPU memory and functions as a giant GPU. Huang said the Grace Hopper is so fast it can run the 5G stack in software. Google Cloud, Meta and Microsoft will be the first companies to have access to the DGX GH200 and will perform research into its capabilities.

9. Nvidia and SoftBank have entered into a partnership to introduce the Grace Hopper superchip into SoftBank’s new distributed data centers in Japan. They will be able to host generative AI and wireless applications in a multi-tenant common server platform, reducing costs and energy.

10. The SoftBank-Nvidia partnership will be based on Nvidia MGX reference architecture, which is currently being used in partnership with companies in Taiwan. It gives system manufacturers a modular reference architecture to help them build more than 100 server variations for AI, accelerated computing and omniverse uses. Companies in the partnership include ASRock Rack, Asus, Gigabyte, Pegatron, QCT and Supermicro.

11. Huang announced the Spectrum-X accelerated networking platform to increase the speed of Ethernet-based clouds. It includes the Spectrum 4 switch, which has 128 ports of 400GB per second and 51.2T per second. The switch is designed to enable a new type of Ethernet, Huang said, and was designed end-to-end to do adaptive routing, isolate performance and do in-fabric computing. It also includes the Bluefield 3 Smart Nic, which connects to the Spectrum 4 switch to perform congestion control.

12. WPP, the largest ad agency in the world, has partnered with Nvidia to develop a content engine based on Nvidia Omniverse. It will be capable of producing photos and video content to be used in advertising.

13. Robot platform Nvidia Isaac ARM is now available for anyone who wants to build robots, and is full-stack, from chips to sensors. Isaac ARM starts with a chip called Nova Orin and is the first robotics full-reference stack, said Huang.

Thanks in large to its importance in AI computing, Nvidia’s stock has soared over the past year, and it is currently has a market valuation of about $960 billion, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world (only Apple, Microsoft, Saudi Aramco, Alphabet and Amazon are ranked higher).

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