With Productive, Brand Labs Development Agency Has Full Transparency of Their Business

Brand Labs is a development agency based in the US. Before moving to Productive in June 2019, the team was looking for an agency management platform so that they could drop multiple tools they used before. We spoke with Co-President Michelle Pittell about the impacts they’re seeing from using Productive and what they like about the tool.

You’re a development agency of 25 people. We know you serve mid-level to Fortune 500 companies. What markets do you operate in? 

Our main markets are e-commerce, so most people will come to us if they have a custom development need. We decided to drop some services recently because development has always been our bread and butter.

I knew without seeing numbers that certain projects and clients weren’t making money for us, but once having switched over to Productive—it proved that we weren’t making money. Once the data was there, we were really seeing where the money was coming in from. It was very easy to correlate how much we were paying for something vs. how much we were making.

“This is a person, this is how much that person makes, this is our overhead, this is how much we’re charging our client. The tool gives us full transparency, across the board. From our standpoint, Productive erases the seed of doubt. Data drives my decisions, and now I have all the data to make the right decisions.”

I’m sure you even started to charge your services differently after getting this new data.

From an internal standpoint, Productive has shifted the way we look at things because we’re able to see things very clearly now. This is a person, this is how much that person makes, this is our overhead, this is how much we’re charging our client. The tool gives us full transparency, across the board. From our standpoint, Productive erases the seed of doubt. Data drives my decisions, and now I have all the data to make the right decisions.

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“The user interface is fast and smooth, it’s a very single-page application—and it works really well. You’ve hit this balance where it’s powerful, but it’s not too complicated.“

Before Productive you were using multiple tools. You were using Basecamp, right?

We were in Basecamp for project management, client communication, and task organization. We took what we were doing there and just brought it into Productive. We had built our own time tracking app and we had all our deployments, billing, and everything else separate. 

Were you looking for an all-in-one agency system? Did anything in Productive surprise you once you started using it?

When we knew we were going to move off of Basecamp, we were looking for a platform that would give us the most of what we were hoping for. We weren’t assuming that any tool would dot every i and cross every t, so we looked at all the popular project management tools and we did trials of everything. 

For us, the biggest selling point was that we were able to use it for the sales funnel along with project management and invoicing—and time tracking, too. Previously, we were using four different tools for all those activities. We were able to cancel a lot of our other subscriptions and invest in one tool.

So the sales funnel mixed with the project management, invoicing, and time tracking was what sold it for us, as it was a unique blend. It made sense, and it was simple.

So things like profitability data and utilization insightsthose were things that you didn’t expect when you first started looking for a tool?

Yeah, we had built our own time tracker and we had utilization insights before, but because we built it, we had to keep maintaining it.

Can you tell us how your role has changed since you switched to Productive? You mentioned that your decisions are more data-driven.

All of our invoicing being in one place makes the lives of our project managers much easier and consistent. That was an immediate benefit of the tool, as well as the time tracking. 

I myself recently moved into the co-president role, so with that, I had to start looking at numbers much more. Insights have been huge for me to see where we are today and plan out where we need to be in the coming years. Now my focus is on the billing and our key metrics. We can see the data any way we want. I feel like there are no limits, we have everything we need.

Our users often say that Productive’s UI is simple, but there’s a lot of complexity and depth to the tool. Do you feel like you’re missing out on any data? What was the learning curve like for you?

I think from the start it’s been very intuitive. You might not know how to do everything from the beginning, but it is above all things intuitive. The help articles are just very easily digestible and readable. It’s very simple, direct, and efficient. I feel like there has not been a single hold-up there. The only hold-up would be personal, like—do I have the time to look into this today? 

“You guys are funny and nice and accommodating and easy to work with. For us, every time we would chat with Support or look at something, we’d comment: They’re just so easy, they’re so nice!”

Do you have a favorite part of the tool?

One thing that I really like about Productive is the support. We all say: We love Productive’s Support. You guys are funny and nice and accommodating and easy to work with. For us, every time we would chat with Support or look at something, we’d comment: They’re just so easy, they’re so nice!

So that was a huge selling point and something that we comment on often, the updates that we’re getting and the customer service. I never feel silly if I email Gabrijela and ask her a simple question or to walk me through a report. 

Overall, how have your agency’s operations evolved since using Productive? Do you have big growth plans in the next few years?

Well, we look at reporting entirely differently now. Again, bringing our time tracking and invoicing into one tool made a huge difference. What we like is that we can also assign tasks to clients so that they know if they have anything to do. We also use Slack and Github, so we need to balance what goes into Productive, what stays in Github, what stays in Slack. We have an entirely new sales process and then we just roll won deals into a new project.

In terms of growth, we’re not looking to be a gigantic agency, we’re looking to be a good agency. For us, that’s the priority.

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