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Timekeeping Blog

Happy Administrative Professionals’ Day!

Happy Admin Prof Day

We are privileged to work with thousands of administrative professionals across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and we want to wish you all a fabulous day!

As the saying goes, behind every great CEO is an awesome administrator. Well, it’s not a saying until now, be we do appreciate the efforts and tremendous contributions that you all make. The wheels of small business would fly off without you.

And to all the CEO’s out there, if your administrative assistants are still collecting, calculating and processing handwritten timesheets for your off-site workers, please give them the gift that keeps on giving-automated time cards!

Thank you Administrative Professionals!  We celebrate you on this very special day!

 

Chronotek is Celebrating its 20th Birthday

Limited Edition 1996Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you! This goes out to all of our customers, present and past, that have helped us reach a momentous milestone. Chronotek turns 20 this year.

It’s a big deal and we couldn’t be more proud or grateful.  Only about 25% of all new small business startups make it to their 15th birthday.   Most get out-lived by their pet dogs. So 20 years is pretty special.

We want to celebrate with our awesome customers by playing a game.  Test your knowledge in our Chronotek Challenge.   Let the games begin!

1.  What movie won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film the year that Chronotek started?  (We didn’t say the quiz would be easy.)

A. Ghostbusters
B. Shawshank Redemption
C. A Close Shave
D. Apollo 13
***Ok, so maybe it is easy.

2.  The Greek god, Chronos, is sometimes allegorically referred to as:

A. The Dark Shadow
B. Jimmy Longlegs
C. Father Time
D. The Ghost of Christmas Past

3.  How much money is lost in payroll by using handwritten timecards?

A. 2%
B. 4%
C. This is a trick question because it could be any of these.
D.  6%

4.  The Roman numeral for the year 1996 is:

A. XXX:)VC
B. MCMXC
C. MCMXCVI
D. MCMV+)

5.  What music video won the Grammy in 1996?

A. “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal
B. “I Can’t Go For That” by Hall & Oates (this should be your theme song if you happen to be reading this and you’re still using handwritten timesheets)
C. “Scream” by Michael Jackson (your go-to song on payroll night if you are still using handwritten timesheets)
D. “Aba Daba Honeymoon” by Debbie Reynolds

6.  The Chronotek free trial period is:

A. 15 days
B. 42 seconds
C. 30 days
D. Is this another trick question?

Answer key: 1.C, 2.C, 3.C, 4.C, 5.C, 6.C.  We’ve mentioned before that you should always choose C.

Well, it’s been fun, and thank you again for making Chronotek the best telephone timekeeping system over the past 20 years.  Okay, just one more challenge before we go.

If you aren’t using an automated timekeeping solution for your remote employees, the reason is:

A.    My desk has that “tornado just hit my desk look to it” and I like it that way.
B.    My employees will get mad and take me off their Christmas lists.
C.    I really, really want to, and know that it would be the wisest business decision that I could ever make, but I have been putting it off.
D.    I LOVE losing money.

Thanks for celebrating with us!  Easy to do if you subscribe to this blog or  follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

#4 Enjoy Your Spring – No More Handwritten Timesheets

You steal a glance out your window and notice that it’s a beautiful Spring evening.  A walk and fresh air would be great, but there’s no way. Your desk is littered with handwritten timesheets. And tomorrow is pay day!  Do you even have Donnie’s timesheet?

In this last installment of Spring Cleaning For Small Businesses we’re going to show you how to break free of your office so that you can get outside to smell the roses.

We’ve talked before about the need to automate and centralize the time collection process of your remote employees.  Chronotek is the answer!  So why not go all in and make payroll a squeaky clean and easy process?

Chronotek has a Payroll Snapshot report that accurately calculates overtime for any pay period including the pesky semi-monthly. This report also has California OT settings! Imagine your life not having to do those manual OT calculations any longer. Go ahead, take a minute.

Now for even better news. This report integrates seamlessly with desktop QuickBooks! Just click and in less than the time it takes to steep a cup of green tea your online time cards will be in QuickBooks ready for you to cut checks.

Spring cleaning feels good, doesn’t it?  You know where your employees are now; time cards are nice and tidy with Shift Lock, and payroll day can be a breeze instead of a burden with our Payroll Snapshot and QuickBooks Integration.

Reclaim your life and enjoy your Spring this year! It’s amazing out there!

 

#3 Spring Cleaning for Small Businesses: Use Shift Lock to Clean up Time Cards

We’ve all seen those late night infomercials. The ones that claim for 6 easy payments we can buy a new product that miraculously cleans our house while we sleep and will change our lives forever. The lesson we learn with infomercials is that the payments aren’t easy, there is no miracle, and we’re still doing housework on Saturdays.  Well, we have great news.  First, this isn’t an infomercial and second, we have a new tool on our telephone and app timekeeping system that DOES work and WILL change your life forever.  In this installment of our Spring Cleaning For Small Businesses blog series, we want to introduce to you Shift Lock, a massive time-saving tool that cleans up your cluttered and confusing time card issues.

If employees work designated shifts and your company policy is to pay for only those hours, yet employees continually clock in early and out late, then you have a mess on your hands.  You pay the extra time which throws off your job budgets, or you spend a lot of time correcting the time cards.  Either way it’s more money or more time unnecessarily wasted.  Lose/lose.

With Shift Lock, time cards are automatically adjusted to the scheduled shift time. Your early bird employees can clock in when they arrive to the job, but their times cards lock to the scheduled start time. Late clock-outs can be adjusted to the scheduled end time. They hear this announced when they call to clock in and out or see the message on the mobile app, so there aren’t any surprises on pay day.

Save money. Save time. Win/win.

You may even consider Shift Lock the miracle that cleans up time cards automatically (so you can get some sleep).

Keep posted on this new series by subscribing to this blog or by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

#2 Spring Cleaning for Small Businesses: Locating Your Employees

Sometimes we are forced to clean when we can’t find something.   Since we’re Spring cleaning, let’s address a messy issue that’s been nagging you for a while; employees may not be on the job when they claim to be.    How do you monitor offsite employees to ensure that you’re not wasting money on unearned payroll and potentially damaging relationships with your customers?  We can bring some order to this chaos.

Our simple employee telephone and app clock-in system offers many smart tools and strategies that give small business owners peace of mind that their off-site workers are on the job. We’ll briefly mention a few, but we encourage you to contact us for more information.

  1. Our mobile app provides a GPS track of employees’ locations when they clock in and out. Quickly and easily view if employees were tracked at the job or not at the job.
  2. Lock down jobsite phones with our Linked Phone feature to require employees to use specified phones.
  3. Random Voice Verification helps catch Bob and Bill who work together and have been covering for one other as each take unapproved, but paid “time off”.
  4. Set up check-in alerts for your Bobs and Bills that will notify your manager by text or email, and she can drop in on them at the job.  We’ve had customers implement this strategy and it works great to raise the accountability level.

We’ve said before, that you can’t expect what you don’t inspect, and the aforementioned ideas are great inspection tools to clean up your time theft issues. We will be back soon to offer some more Spring Cleaning suggestions. Don’t miss any!  Keep posted on this new series by subscribing to this blog or by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

#1 Spring Cleaning for Small Businesses

The arrival of Spring is such a welcome sight. The world bursts with colors as trees regenerate, flowers bloom, and the green landscape rolls in. We open the windows to let in the crisp breeze and we fire up the grills in the evening with the extra daylight. And for many people, it means Spring cleaning.

Businesses need to do Spring cleaning as well and evaluate policies, procedures and strategies. The very practices that got businesses to where they are now may not get them to the next level in their growth. Or even worse, current activities could be tarnishing the bottom line.

For companies with a remote workforce, our telephone timekeeping system  is a breath of fresh air. In our new series, Spring Cleaning for Small Businesses, we will introduce strategies to help you track, manage and report on your off-site employees. These ideas will clear the clutter in your daily remote workforce management practices as well as save you time and money. Some of the topics that we will discuss are: how to keep job budgets on track; save time editing time cards; prevent time theft by insuring that employees are on the job; and simplifying the payroll process.

Keep posted on this new series by subscribing to this blog or by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Change Your Future – No More Time Card Pain

“People won’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

The internet cites many sources for this quote, but whoever first said it really understands human behavior. And since humans own and run companies, this truth has both personal and business implications.

We frequently hear the story. The owner of a small, but growing janitorial company, Becky, is up late doing payroll manually. She goes through 25 handwritten timesheets (actually 24 this pay period) to verify the hours with a nagging certainty that not every one of her off-site employees could have worked perfect 6-9pm shifts every night of the week.  Yet that’s what is written on all of the timesheets.  Then there’s Donnie, like always, who failed to turn in his at all. Her pain is immense. At that moment. In her late night-early morning agony she Googles for an employee call in system, and signs up for a free trial on our telephone timekeeping solution.

Ok, this is a new start.   But by the next day the immediate headache has passed, and Becky is caught up once again in the day to day grind of running her business. She doesn’t have time to talk when we give her a call to help her get started, and will call us back later. Later never comes.

Becky experiences the pain again a week later while she does payroll and thinks about us. Then she considers the time it will take to learn the system and train her employees, and she decides she just doesn’t have that time.  After all, she is too busy, because it is payroll day, again!  And her employees will probably give her a hard time about it, especially Donnie.

So her weekly payroll pain is not greater than the “perceived” pain of changing her processes.  And she does nothing.  Chances are she will always be a 25 or less employee company.  She never commits to the time and effort to step out of her business to work on her business.

We truly believe that Becky would like to change. It can’t be fun dreading one day out of every seven.  After all, we already have Mondays in which to contend.  And who likes to knowingly waste money?

If you own a small business with employees who work off-site and can relate to Becky’s pain, why not let 2016 be your breakout year?  Do something bold and courageous. Consider this quote by Seth Godin, “Change-making happens when people fall in love with a different version of the future.”

Fall in love with a future of automated and accurate time cards, a 2-6% payroll savings (a dollar saved is better than a dollar earned because it’s tax-free),  and most of all, a future with no more stress-filled late nights doing payroll.  Take your life back!   Sign up for a free trial today and let us help you change your future.

 

Building a Business: Change Happens

In this last installment of our Building a Business series we’re going to talk about change. Change is inevitable. In our second post of this series, Focus on Service Done Well, we discussed staying committed to your core purpose as a small business. This laser-like focus doesn’t imply that your business won’t undergo or implement changes.  Instead, these changes should serve and bolster your core purpose.  Your service and product line will evolve.  Technologies emerge.  Sony didn’t stick with the Betamax.  And some people probably complained.

That’s the topic of this post.  Well-planned and strategic change is often vital to your business’s survival and success.  And not all of your customers will be pleased.  But just as you can’t allow customers to force you off track into services you don’t need, you can’t let these same customers prevent you from making necessary changes.  And you can’t roll out a change and yet still continue with the old way, thus duplicating your efforts, just to pacify  these customers.  You must cut, allow the bleeding and subsequent healing.  This healing comes as you educate your customers on the benefits of the new way and how to best handle this change.  Document, inform,  offer webinars, do face to face training if necessary and receive their feedback.

When you implement a change it will be the byproduct of much thought, research and strategic planning, and a decision that it was essential to your core focus.  And ultimately, the change would be beneficial to your customers.  But the reality is that most changes will be met with some critical reception.  Expect it, and move forward with confidence tempered with empathy for your clients.

Our core purpose has always been to help our clients succeed by providing a proven way to control labor costs and increase their customer satisfaction.  While our features and tools to accomplish this purpose may change and evolve over time, our core purpose does not.

We know this is the end of the first quarter, however, it is never too late.  We wish you the best year ever and hope that our Building a Business series has been helpful. We welcome you to comment and like us on Facebook.  Also, please give us a call and let us help you build a great business.

 

Building a Business: The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule states, “do to others what you would have them do to you.” Notice that it doesn’t say “don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.” Therefore, “do to others” implies an active engagement of treating others in the way that you want to be treated.  And most people want to be treated well.

How does the Golden Rule relate to our blog series on how to build a business?

As a service business with a remote hourly workforce, your employees are the building blocks of your business and it’s vital to lay a solid foundation. You want employees who work hard, are loyal and honest, dependable, committed and reliable. You want good employees who will stay with you for a long time. The alternative, a high turnover rate, can be crippling. We have had janitorial business owners tell us that 200% employee turnover annually is a conservative number!  That’s a vicious and constant churning of time and dollars to recruit and train new staff, pay overtime to existing staff to compensate and suffer through lower productivity.

It’s much more efficient and profitable to retain your good employees and limit the turnover. We have learned that this can be achieved by following the Golden Rule. Treat employees well to give them a reason to want to stay.

The best way to create and cultivate an efficient and long term workforce is to lead with the same type of qualities that you’re wanting from your workforce.  Build loyalty by being loyal. Develop trust by being trustworthy. Gain generosity by being generous.

How does this look from an employer’s perspective?

Chronotek has a “perk” system to reward and honor employees. These perks are designed to make each staff member feel special and valued, like a VIP.  Many are gifts, while others are special privileges.  A culture of trust and loyalty has developed.  An atmosphere of high expectations and high rewards has emerged.  And these high expectations don’t just come down from the top. It’s intrinsic amongst the staff.  Everyone feels an ownership stake. As a result, the turnover is minimal to zero.

The Chronotek model may be unique, but the basic principle of the Golden Rule can be applied in any business. Treat employees well. Reward their good behaviors. Create a culture that they can’t find anywhere else. Our telephone timekeeping system can help set apart your employees that should be rewarded. Do you have employees that have never been late to a scheduled job? Give them a $5 Starbucks gift card occasionally. What about employees who are consistently on target with job budgets? Give them a paid day or half a day off once a quarter. These employees will learn that you value them and word will get out to other employees that you are an employer who can be trusted to notice and appreciate hard work.

You may think that the Golden Rule strategy is too expensive to implement, but it’s probably more profitable than constantly dealing with a 200% turnover. And it would certainly simplify your management processes to have a more stable and consistent workforce. What is peace of mind worth?  It is not too late to try it in 2016.  You may enjoy it, and your employees will think you are golden.

 

Building a Business: Choosing Vendor Partners

A small business depends upon successful relationships with quality vendor partners.  How a small business chooses its vendors is of upmost importance.  It’s like drafting a player for your team.

Seek out the most reputable vendor partners who provide the optimal solution and offer the best possible customer support.  If feasible, test-drive the services on a free trial period.  Determine that the company is committed to its product and service, as well as to your success.   Your company is as great as its weakest link.  Your quarterback may be awesome, but if he has a horrible offensive left tackle, your team (and QB) will suffer. Your standards for vendor selection should be as high as your internal standards.  Choose the best.   If there’s a tie between 2 or 3 great candidates, let price be your tie breaker.  Then, and only then, should price come into consideration.

Many companies will make the mistake of using price as the primary determining factor in selecting a vendor partner.  While price is important, it’s not paramount. The cheapest uniform supplier may provide apparel that’s dirty and late, and sales people may be inaccessible when you need to contact them. The most expensive vendor might wrap their deliveries in perfume scented paper and include chocolate mints, but do you really care and want to pay for it?  We have learned in 20 years of operating a telephone timekeeping company for small businesses with remote employees that price isn’t the highest determining factor in selecting a vendor partner. The cheapest vendor might prove to be your weakest link. We have often switched to a more expensive vendor because of better service.

Relationships should be built with your vendor partners. Remember that if you chose correctly, this vendor is on your team and committed to your success. You and your vendor will work together. It’s a partnership. It should not be an adversarial relationship.  When issues arise (and they will), you need the confidence that your vendor is working to help solve the problems as if it’s their very own business.

Ultimately, we consider ourselves as vendor partners with our clients.  Our part is to capture accurate time of the hard-to-manage off-site employees.  We have written before that we are not your vendor, but your vendor partner.  We want to be your partner, your teammate, your helpmate.  As a small business owner seek out professional relationships with businesses who feel the same. Together with your vendor partners you will build your business by providing a strong service to help your clients with their needs.

And you both win together.

 

Building a Business: Focus on Service Done Well

I saw this situation unfold just the other day in my own backyard.  Two brothers were playing ball next door and the older, more experienced one wound up and threw a perfect pitch to his father.  I knew that he was the star pitcher on his travel team. Then the younger brother says ‘me too’ and tosses a pitch that sailed over his father’s head. The younger brother was disappointed, yet the father didn’t look surprised. However, the world seems filled with companies with this  ‘me too’ syndrome; companies that think that they can do just as well as the experts in the field and then seem surprised when they fail.  Truly successful businesses fill a need with a service they do with excellence.

Like with any expertise, it takes knowledge, hard work, and extreme dedication to be the best.  Chronotek is considered an expert in timekeeping and remote employee management.  There are other companies that have their expertise in HR, payroll, and staffing.  As a consumer I would expect their service to be the best.  A phenomenon has been happening though.  Companies are trying to diversify into other areas outside of their core focus, which dilutes the quality of the product or service.  According to Peter Bloom, writing in the Washington Business Journal, diversification can be deadly.  He says, “… a company that diversifies without appropriate strategic considerations risks duplicating its systems, increasing overhead cost, distracting company leadership, and potentially even competing against itself.”

Sometimes companies feel pressured to diversify because their clients demand certain services that the company doesn’t offer.  Fear of losing one or two clients will throw the company off track.  Or a company may have venture capitalist partners pushing for higher and higher profits, and the company has to scramble for more revenue streams.  But it’s imperative for the small business owner, the expert in the field, to identify what “upgrades” fit their business model and which ones do not.  We have heard from many of our clients who first tried ”me too” companies that offered multiple services and timekeeping was an “add-on”.  You know how that ended, because now they are our clients.  Other customers have left us for these type of companies only to eventually come back to us.

A small business needs to continually evaluate its mission or core purpose.  S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, strategically chose his company name to constantly remind him of his core business-chicken sandwiches made from the best part of the chicken, the breast fillet. He also modified the spelling of fillet to end in a capital “A” to symbolize, Grade A, the best.1     The Chick-Fil-A sandwich has been the cornerstone of his business for over 50 years and the menu has expanded very little in that time.

Why did you start?  Who are you trying to help?  Does diversifying and offering more services and products enhance or detract from your core purpose?   The greatest way to preserve your profits is to stick to what you do best in order to serve your customers with excellence. Purpose first, and profits will follow.  Or stated another way, keep focused on your vision and the provision will come.

Our core purpose has always been to help our clients succeed by providing a proven way to control labor costs and increase their customer satisfaction.  Diversification is ONLY an option if it strengthens this core and serves our clients better.

Your clients and venture capitalists may demand more services, but they wouldn’t be happy if chasing after these add-ons had a negative impact on the quality of your existing services and products.  This type of chase could damage your credibility. You know your business best. Don’t be pressured.  Build a client base that understands and appreciates your pursuit of excellence and commitment to the core purpose that serves them best.  Let the ‘me-too’ companies be the jack of all trades and master of none.

You can be the All-Star.

  1. How Did You Do It, Truett? S. Truett. Cathy

 

Building a Business: Great Companies Help People

Many businesses enter the new year with goals to improve their practices and bolster their bottom line. So how is it going?  In this new series, we want to help by sharing a few things we’ve learned in our 20 years of growing a successful telephone timekeeping business.

We believe that great companies are those created out of a desire to help people.  They may not have planned to be companies at all.  They started because someone saw a need and had an idea to fill the need to help people.  We agree with Zig Ziglar who said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Apple wanted to build a computer simple enough for everyone to use. Henry Ford wanted to build a better and cheaper car for the multitude.   And more than likely your company got started for a similar reason.

Chronotek was started 20 years ago because our owner wanted to help his entrepreneurial family manage remote employees across the many industries they served.  They struggled every pay period with employees who submitted falsely reported, inaccurate timecards and didn’t show to scheduled jobs.  The struggles are as real today as they were then for small businesses with a remote workforce.  He put his computer education and business experience to work and designed one of, if not the first, web-based timekeeping solutions to help his family and other small businesses.

Today Chronotek is an efficiently run, privately-owned and debt-free company.   We are committed to help our customer’s succeed by providing accurate timekeeping and the innovative tools to manage a remote workforce.  It is our privilege to serve thousands of companies in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico across all industries-janitorial, house cleaning, construction, landscaping, painting, security guards, pool companies, home health, greenhouses, etc.

You might have a similar story, yet are fighting for a breakthrough. We believe that we have gained some insight on how to build a great company that people can trust to help them, and in this next blog series we want to share these thoughts.  We take great effort not to get off track, and we are fortunate to still have the focus of helping people.   So stay tuned as we share from 20 years of doing the hard work.  Hopefully our experiences will help you build a great company.

 

Reference for Cell Email Addresses (Email to SMS): Setup for Text Alert Destinations

Many of our clients set up their Chronotek accounts to get alerts when employees clock in or out, or when they are late to a scheduled job.  We send these alerts from our email address to theirs, and can send them as text messages as well.  Sending messages from email to text requires a cell ‘email address’.   The technical term for text delivery this way is “email to SMS”.  SMS stands for “Short Message Service”.

We put together a quick reference for setting up new text alert destinations for your managers and supervisors.  Outside of our system, these formats work in your personal email ‘To:’ section to send email messages to someone as text messages.  It can be easier, if you are already sitting at your computer, to access your email account and pop off a quick text message, rather than having to pick up your phone to type out a message. To send an email to someone as a text message,  the proper format for your friend’s cell phone provider must be used.

Our phone and app-based timekeeping solution can send these alerts to multiple destinations.  Separate with a semicolon (;) just like in sending through email.

Some of our most popular providers’ formats:

Cell Provider Cell Email Address
AT&T XXXYYYZZZZ@txt.att.net
Boost XXXYYYZZZZ@myboostmobile.com
Cricket XXXYYYZZZZ@sms.mycricket.com
Metro PCS XXXYYYZZZZ@mymetropcs.com
Sprint XXXYYYZZZZ@messaging.sprintpcs.com
T Mobile XXXYYYZZZZ@tmomail.net
Verizon XXXYYYZZZZ@vtext.com
Virgin Mobile XXXYYYZZZZ@vmobl.com

 

 

The expanded list of Text Messaging Email Addresses:

Cell Provider Cell Email Address
ACS   Alaska XXXYYYZZZZ@msg.acsalaska.com
Alltel XXXYYYZZZZ@message.alltel.com
Ameritech XXXYYYZZZZ@paging.acswireless.com
Arch XXXYYYZZZZ@archwireless.net
AT&T XXXYYYZZZZ@txt.att.net
Bell   Canada XXXYYYZZZZ@txt.bellmobility.ca
Blue   Sky Frog XXXYYYZZZZ@blueskyfrog.com
Boost XXXYYYZZZZ@myboostmobile.com
Carolina   West XXXYYYZZZZ@cwwsms.com
Cellular   One XXXYYYZZZZ@mobile.celloneusa.com
Cellular   South XXXYYYZZZZ@csouth1.com
Cincinnati   Bell XXXYYYZZZZ@gocbw.com
Cingular same as AT&T
Claro XXXYYYZZZZ@clarotorpedo.com.br
Comviq XXXYYYZZZZ@sms.comviq.se
Cricket XXXYYYZZZZ@sms.mycricket.com
Edge XXXYYYZZZZ@sms.edgewireless.com
Einstein   PCS XXXYYYZZZZ@einsteinsms.com
Fido XXXYYYZZZZ@fido.ca
Immix XXXYYYZZZZ@immixmail.com
Metro   PCS XXXYYYZZZZ@mymetropcs.com
Mobile   One XXXYYYZZZZ@m1.com.sg
Ntelos XXXYYYZZZZ@pcs.ntelos.com
Optus XXXYYYZZZZ@optusmobile.com.au
Qwest XXXYYYZZZZ@qwestmp.com
Rogers XXXYYYZZZZ@pcs.rogers.com
Sasktel XXXYYYZZZZ@pcs.sasktelmobility.com
Smart XXXYYYZZZZ@mysmart.mymobile.ph
Southern   Linc  XXXYYYZZZZ@page.southernlinc.com
Sprint XXXYYYZZZZ@messaging.sprintpcs.com
SunCom XXXYYYZZZZ@tms.suncom.com
Sure   West XXXYYYZZZZ@mobile.surewest.com
T   Mobile XXXYYYZZZZ@tmomail.net
TBayTel XXXYYYZZZZ@tbayteltxt.net
Telenor XXXYYYZZZZ@mobilpost.no
Telus XXXYYYZZZZ@msg.telus.com
Tim XXXYYYZZZZ@timnet.com
Unicel XXXYYYZZZZ@utext.com
V   Mobile CA XXXYYYZZZZ@vmobile.ca
Verizon XXXYYYZZZZ@vtext.com
Virgin   Mobile XXXYYYZZZZ@vmobl.com
Vodafone XXXYYYZZZZ@vodafone.net
WellCom XXXYYYZZZZ@sms.welcome2well.com

***Where XXXYYYZZZZ is enter the 10 digit phone number without spaces or punctuation.

If this information is helpful, feel free to bookmark this blog page for future reference.

 

 

Obamacare Q & A: Must Offer ‘Affordable’ Coverage

Our guest blogger, Matt Lapointe, helps to explain the ‘Affordable’ concept in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Matt Lapointe, is an attorney with Wetherington Hamilton, P.A. in Tampa, FL,  www.whhlaw.com.  Matt advises small and mid-size businesses on all areas of business law, including the ACA.

Q.  I own 5 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises. Each is in a separate LLC, but I know they must be grouped together for ObamaCare purposes under the aggregation rules you discussed in Part 1 of ObamaCare Q & A.  I offer health coverage to all my full-time employees, but I heard that I could still get fined if the coverage I offer is not affordable to my employees.  How does the ACA define “unaffordable”?

A.  Health insurance coverage is deemed “unaffordable” if the premium required to be paid by the employee exceeds 9.5% of the employee’s household income.  Recognizing that an employer has no way of knowing the “household” income of its employees, the regulations allow affordability to be determined on the basis of the employee’s own income as reported on his or her Form W-2 (in Box 1) instead of household income.  If any employee’s share of the premium exceeds 9.5% of her W-2 reported income and any employee obtains subsidized coverage from the ObamaCare exchange, then the company must pay a penalty of $250 per month ($3,000 per year) multiplied by the number of full-time employees who obtain subsidized coverage from the exchange.

We’ve mentioned our new ACA-ALE Status report that calculates by month the total number of full-time and full-time equivalent employees to determine if your company must comply with the ACA. ACA FT Status

Our other new ACA report, ACA: FT Status – Monthly, breaks down each employee’s hours by the month to point out which employees meet the full-time (FT) status according to the ACA 130-hours per month ruling.

(These new ACA reports are coming out with our next update.)

We would like to thank Matt again for his time as a guest blogger in this series and for his assistance in creating our new ACA reports. As we’ve mentioned before, the Chronotek staff does not have ACA experts and therefore cannot answer compliance questions. Feel free to contact Matt.  We may hear from Matt again. Please stay up to date by subscribing to our blog or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Obamacare Q & A: Does Your Company Qualify – ALE

It’s a daunting task to determine if your business is required to comply with ObamaCare’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). In this third post of our series, ObamaCare Q & A, our guest blogger, Matt Lapointe, an attorney and ACA expert with Wetherington Hamilton, P.A. in Tampa, Florida, will clarify the definition of an Applicable Large Employer (ALE). Matt also helped us create a new report, ACA-ALE Status to crunch the numbers. Thanks Matt, for this ALE Q & A session.

Q.  My office cleaning company has 60 part-time cleaners who work on average 20 hours per week.  I also have 10 full-time supervisors, 3 full-time office staff (including my husband and me) and 2 full-time sales people.  I know that ObamaCare’s Employer Mandate applies to companies with 50 full-time employees.  We only have 15 full-time employees, so ObamaCare doesn’t apply to us, right?

A. WRONG.  To determine whether an employer is an “Applicable Large Employer” or “ALE” the ACA rules require you to convert your part-time employees to “full-time equivalents” or “FTEs.” Under the ACA, “full-time” is 30 hours per week or more. To calculate your FTEs, you take the total number of hours worked by all your part-time employees in a particular month and divide by 120.  In your case, assuming each of your 60 part-timers worked 20 hours per week in a particular month (60 x 20 x 4.3), the total hours worked for that month would be 5160.  Next you divide the total hours for the month by 120.  In your case, 5160/120 = 43 FTEs.  Adding 43 FTEs to the 15 full-timers, you end up with a total of 58.  You need to perform these calculations for every month of 2015 to determine whether, on average, your cleaning company employed 50 or more full-time employees over the course of the year.  If it did, your company is subject to the Employer Mandate.  Here is a chart that demonstrates the necessary calculations:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
FT 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 15
PT/FTEs 43 45 47 45 41 35 33 31 35 37 39 40
Total 58 60 62 60 56 50 48 46 50 52 54 55

12 month total = 651

Monthly Avg   651/12 = 54.25 = 54

Because 54 >50, the Employer is an ALE.

 

 

ChronotekACA-ALEReport

Chronotek has a new report, ACA- ALE Status, that helps to simplify the process of pulling together and understanding the numbers for customers of our telephone timekeeping system.  As Matt mentioned, it’s important to remember that your definition of full-time is quite different from how the ACA determines your company’s full-time and full-time equivalent count. Our new report compiles these numbers automatically.

In our next post in this series, Matt will explain the meaning of “Affordable” in the Affordable Care Act.  It’s not a random or subjective term and all ALE companies need to understand it’s specific directives. Stay informed.  Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

 

ObamaCare Q & A: 50 Employee Rule Defined

The Affordable Care Act 50 employee rule is cause for some discussion.  In our last post we introduced Matt Lapointe, who is an attorney with Wetherington Hamilton, P.A. in Tampa, Florida.  Matt is an expert on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and it’s our privilege to host him as a guest blogger in our ObamaCare Q & A series. He will address vital questions to help prepare small businesses on ACA requirements.  Matt’s first blog deals with an explanation of the 50 employee rule.

Q.  I know that ObamaCare’s Employer Mandate requires employers with 50 or more employees to offer health coverage to their full-time employees starting on January 1, 2016.  My wife and I each own 50% of two different LLCs – my interior design business and her plumbing company.  The interior design business has 15 employees and the plumbing company has 38 employees.  Because both companies are under 50, we don’t have to worry about the Employer Mandate, do we?

A. YES YOU DO.  Under the ACA, companies that have common ownership or are otherwise closely related are aggregated for the purposes of determining whether or not they employ at least 50 full-time employees. This “aggregation rule” in the ACA piggybacks on two established tests codified in Section 414 of the Internal Revenue Code dealing with “controlled groups” and “affiliated service groups.” If two or more companies meet the “controlled group” test or the “affiliated service group” test and the combined total of employees meets the 50 employee threshold, then each separate company is subject to the Employer Mandate even if the separate companies do not individually have enough employees to meet the threshold.  Because your two companies are commonly owned by you and your wife and because both companies combined employ a total of 53 employees, each company is subject to the Employer Mandate.

Thanks, Matt. This is valuable information and probably surprises many small business owners.  As we mentioned in our last post, we aren’t ACA experts at Chronotek, and will not be able to answer ACA questions.  We leave that to the legal advisors like Matt.  However, we will soon be releasing 2 reports to help customers of our telephone timekeeping system.  Our ALE Status (Applicable Large Employer) report calculates by month the total number of full-time and full-time equivalent employees as deemed by the ‘new’ numbers. This report can assist with determining the 50 employee ruling that Matt addressed today. Please remember that if you have more than one Chronotek account, you will need to combine the totals from both accounts.

In our next post Matt will address the very tricky issue of calculating the “real” number of full-time equivalent employees for ACA purposes. Don’t miss it. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

ObamaCare Q & A Series

We’ve been preparing for it. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is imposing new numbers on small businesses.  Like death and taxes, it’s something we’d like to avoid, but unfortunately we can’t.  The best alternative is to be prepared and gain an understanding of its implications for your business.

In our new blog series, ObamaCare Q & A, we’re going to hear from Matthew Lapointe, who is an attorney with Wetherington Hamilton, P.A. in Tampa, FL,  www.whhlaw.com.  Matthew advises small and mid-size businesses on all areas of business law, including the Affordable Care Act.

Matthew will conduct a series of Q & A’s on ACA compliance to give us insight on who must comply and who doesn’t. He also consulted with us as we developed two ACA reports that will be released soon.  We aren’t ACA experts and will defer any questions that you have to your own legal advisors, but our reports will help compile and organize relevant data for companies who use our telephone timekeeping system for their remote employees.

Please check back with us soon for our first Q & A installment in which Matthew will address the ACA compliance issues of owning multiple businesses.  You can also subscribe to our blog or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with all new posts.

We Give Thanks

Can you already smell the roasting turkey and fresh pumpkin pies?  Or are you relishing the thought of an afternoon with a happy, full stomach, watching football, and taking a long nap?  However you spend your Thanksgiving, we wish you a truly great one.   As the backbone of our great country, we give thanks for you every day.

Please enjoy a relaxing and restful day of Thanksgiving. One way to assist with this is to disable all alerts for the holiday. Go to My Account, Company Set Up and remove the check from the Enable Alerts box. This will turn off all alerts for no-shows and clock ins and outs. Be sure to turn them back on after the holidays.

We thank you, our loyal customers,  and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

Always Choose C!

It’s a running joke that when taking a multiple choice test and have no idea of the right answer, always choose C.  When starting a small business, there are Plans A, B and C.  And C is still the right answer, but it’s more than a lucky guess.

Plan A:  You love the idea of being your own boss. You are good at something and decide to turn it into a business. Then you discover that there are many hats to wear in a small business. In The E Myth, author Michael Gerber defines these roles as The Entrepreneur, The Manager and The Technician.  You dive in and do your best to perform all of the roles, but soon discover that you can’t keep up.  Each day holds too many tasks  and you realize that you aren’t good at one or two of the roles. You become frustrated and disillusioned as your dream slips away.

Plan B:  You are wiser and hire employees to do the work so that you can work on the business. Then you discover that your employees are late to jobs, or don’t show up at all, or the workmanship is poor.  And even worse, you know that their handwritten time cards are largely inaccurate!  You hired people, but there’s no accountability system in place.  William Deming said, “You can expect what you inspect.” 

Plan CThe Chronotek Plan.  Hire good people and use our telephone and web-based timekeeping solution to help manage your off-site, hourly employees. We have uncovered some of the common problems a small business with remote workers faces and how we can solve them.

 

PROBLEM:  Falsely reported hours on handwritten time cards.  A study has shown that on average a company loses 10 minutes a day per employee due to time theft. Run those numbers and see how much is wasted in lost wages.

SOLUTION: Our timekeeping solution is an investment at a fraction of the money lost in wages, and will capture accurate time based on a simple and quick action by your employees: call a toll free number or use our app to clock in and out.  Either method takes about 15 seconds and you recoup lost, unearned wages. (And you don’t have to track down and manually calculate those handwritten time cards!)

 

PROBLEM: Missed jobs. There’s nothing worse than getting a morning call  from your best customer because his building wasn’t serviced the previous night.  You had an employee scheduled; the employee didn’t call out, so you went to bed and assumed all was well.

SOLUTION: This nightmare can end with our no-show alerts.  Get a text or email alert if your employee doesn’t clock in by the time you specify on the schedule.

 

PROBLEM: Buddy punching. Your employee, John is running late to the job site, so he calls his co-worker, Jill and asks her to call and clock him in. She uses the job site landline, punches in John’s employee code and you never know the difference. You’re paying John to work even though he isn’t.

SOLUTION: Our Random Voice Verification tool can help prevent this time theft by randomly requiring your employees to state their names on clock in and out. Supervisors can listen to the voice recording and verify the identity.

 

PROBLEM: Countless hours processing payroll.  You’re either paying someone to process payroll, or you are spending time doing it that could be invested in prospecting for new business.

SOLUTION: Use our seamless QuickBooks API Interface to quickly and efficiently transfer time card data from our system to the timesheet section of QuickBooks.  Then cut checks.   Done.

 

PROBLEM:  Losing money on jobs. You bid on new jobs based on an estimated amount of time to get the work completed. Then at the end of the month you wonder why you’re searching the sofa cushions to make payroll. You’re certain that you bid the jobs accurately, but as you analyze your handwritten timesheets you realize that your employees are spending too much time at each site (or at least reporting they are).

SOLUTION: Protect your profits with the Budget Planning Tool. Our new Budget Planning tool analyzes actual hours along with future schedules to help monitor your budgets in real-time.  Through interactive charts and easy-to-follow color-coded graphs, you will know each day if your budget is on track or not.

 

We believe that our web-based and telephone timekeeping system can change your life and keep your dreams alive.  It’s a simple and easy-to-implement solution.  Just choose C and you’ll pass the test!

 

Landmark Books Outline Success for Business Owners

Our most recent blog series entitled Managing Remote Employees dealt with the common challenges that small business owners face and suggested many creative management practices that can be implemented with a telephone and app-based timekeeping system.  In addition to having good management practices in place, a small business owner must have at the core of his business a proven business philosophy that guides all decisions.

Experience is definitely a good teacher and helps shape guiding principles, but much can be learned from the expertise and experiences of others.  We would like to suggest a couple of excellent books that we have read that are landmarks in business publishing.  They have been around for a relatively long time and have stood the tests. If you are just too busy to take on a reading project, simply download the audio version and listen to it while driving or doing desk time.   We are convinced there are many business savvy takeaways from both books.

The first book is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.  E-Myth Revisited bookOriginally written in 1986 and titled, The E-Myth, this powerhouse was revised in 2004 and has sold more than 2 million copies.  To exercise a couple of overused clichés, this book is a game-changer and a paradigm shifter.  Gerber refers to the well-known statistics for small business: 40% fail in 1 year, 80% fail in 5 years, and 80% of the remaining will ultimately fail.  The book describes the approach necessary to be in the minority that succeed.   It’s all about working more ‘on’ your business than working ‘in’ your business.  If you are wearing all of the hats for your business then you likely aren’t spending enough time ‘on’ your business.  The irony is that taking the time to read this book is one of the characteristics of a successful small business owner.

The second classic book is Good To Great by Jim Collins, written in 2001.Good to Great book  Quoted from the Publishers Weekly review on Amazon, “To find the keys to greatness, Collins’s 21-person research team (at his management research firm) read and coded 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project.”   The team studied 1435 companies and the result is an engrossing read that lays out the key characteristics of the 11 great companies that went from good to great (i.e. companies that were built to survive leadership changes and generated stock returns that beat the general market by 7 times for at least 15 years).  Learn the key characteristics that cause Good companies to be Great.  Don’t let your mind drift with the thought that you don’t plan to build a publicly traded company.  The ideas presented in the book are fantastic for companies of all sizes.

We believe in these books and want you to read them. In honor of Labor Day 2015, if you like our Facebook page between now and Monday, September 14, 2015, we will enter you into a drawing to win both of them.  We will even let you choose between the paper version or CD (if available).   We hope to help make you wiser in your labor pursuits.

 

Managing Remote Employees: Preparing For Payroll

Getting payroll done does not make for a fun day, or two, for many small business owners. This is especially true if the company is still using handwritten time cards with its remote workforce. Does this look familiar?PayrollDay_PullingHairOut

In this last installment of our Managing Remote Employees series, we are going to cover how to prepare for payroll.  The first and best way to prepare for payroll is to begin using a timekeeping solution that automates the time card collection process.  With accurate time cards automatically stored in one place (instead of driving all over town to collect them), life gets a lot simpler.

Now, assuming that you’ve made the wise leap into technology (to spare your hair), or you are an existing customer, preparation steps for payroll can begin before the day checks are printed.  It’s easier to keep up, than catch up.  Automated time cards make this possible.   Each morning look for red flags on the Edit Time Card screen.  The red flags indicate missed clock outs.  You may have ditched the handwritten time cards for an automated clock-in  system, but you still have human employees, who will forget to punch out every now and then.  It is easier to monitor and fix these daily, than to wait until the end of the pay period when you may have several employees to contact.  Besides, 5 days later the employee may not remember what time he left the worksite.  We had one customer with an employee who routinely ‘failed’ to clock out; and she got tired of chasing him down, so she ‘failed’ to direct deposit his paycheck.  His wife called that morning and that problem was solved.

Along this same line, if you use our actual or Google map estimated travel time feature, we recommend to approve the travel records every couple of days.  The approved travel time is automatically factored in the  employee’s total accumulated time so you can keep tabs on overtime, and prevent the overage before it happens.

Now, when you get to your desk on payroll processing day, most of the work is done.  Simply double check for errors and run the time card report. Payroll hours are automatically calculated and can be easily viewed as a .PDF or a .CSV, or exported in our timesaving Payroll Snapshot tool.

If your company routinely has overtime issues, and particularly if you have a semi-monthly payroll, and/or are in California with expanded overtime settings, the Payroll Snapshot reports can accurately calculate payroll hours for regular, overtime, and other set pay types.  The automated overtime calculation is a true a life-saver for those with semi-monthly overtime calculations.  We have been told the Payroll Snapshot feature alone is worth the price of admission.

The Payroll Snapshot also integrates with QuickBooks seamlessly. By using the Payroll Snapshot, Chronotek directly exports your time cards into the Weekly Timesheets section of QuickBooks.  With the click of a button, send the calculated shift hours (including overtime and other pay types) to QuickBooks with absolutely no file handling.  The Payroll Snapshot can also be used to create exports for payroll companies, such as ADP, Paychex and Paycom.

One of our goals as an app-based and phone timekeeping solution is to simplify the lives of small business owners.  With our suggestions for preparing payroll, we hope to give you back time you can use to really grow your business, or spend time with family, or get your hair done.

 

Managing Remote Employees: Automated Job Budgets

Spreadsheets are powerful, but lifeless. A spreadsheet can have fabulous pivot tables, line charts and colored graphs to provide vital information as long as human hands are entering the data…and keep entering the data.  The information spreadsheets provide to assist with business decisions is only good if the data is current.  For a small business owner with hourly employees who use handwritten timesheets, maintaining job budgets on a spreadsheet is nearly impossible.  Yet it’s worse for a company whose only mode for tracking success or failure is whether or not he has any money left in the bank at the end of the month.   There’s a better way to monitor hours worked at jobs than tedious drudgery or sheer luck.

In this third installment of our Managing Remote Employees series we would like to suggest the best business practice on tracking job budgets.  It begins with using a phone and app-based timekeeping solution that automates the employee time collection process.  Employees need a simple way to clock in and out whether it is with a phone call or by using the app.  With either method, automated time cards are created by the system to bring life to the data evaluation process.

With our timekeeping solution, the best method to track actual job site hours worked is with our Budget Manager.  It provides a small business owner with vital up-to-date information on worked hours compared to the budget numbers.  Of course, too many employee hours could indicate several things: the job was underestimated, employees are padding their time cards, or they are working too slow.  But too few hours might mean that employees aren’t spending enough time on the job and the quality is poor.  Either way, a small business owner needs help.  She needs current information to make important management decisions.

For each job, create a budget for the contracted hours.  Then without any more effort, our timekeeping solution will crunch the numbers and quickly report actual hours versus budgeted hours for each job.  Create  job budgets for the entire year and then monitor the hours by week or month.  Know in dynamic, digital color-coded clarity via the Budget Dashboard if your budgets are on track, where they are headed, and if necessary make on-the-spot future scheduling changes to bring the budget back in line.  No need to wait to enter the daily timecard data into a spreadsheet to know how your jobs are doing.  The Budget Manager information is automated, live and predictive.

Breathe life into your management processes. Each morning instead of stretching your hands to do a morning full of data entry, simply log into your dynamic Budget Dashboard and welcome the new day with the current information you need to make the decisions when they need to be made. That is the power of using budgets in an automated phone and app-based timekeeping system.

Please check back with us for our next installment of Managing Remote Employees when we give smart tips on how to prepare for payroll.  Or make it easy on yourself to stay updated by subscribing to this blog and following us on Twitter.

 

Managing Remote Employees: Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location resounds in our second installment on Managing Remote Employees.   Yes, you can have confidence that your employees are really on the job site when they say they are.   Location tracking is one of the many benefits that a telephone and app-based timekeeping solution like ours can give you that handwritten time sheets cannot.  Johnny may write on his time sheet that he cleaned the building from 5-9pm, but he may have been in Bob’s Bar and Burgers an hour away by 6:30.

We work hard to provide the best tech-management tools to assist businesses with remote employees.  So how can you use technology to create automated time cards and be sure that employees are really on the job site?  We offer 6 smart tips:

  1.  Require employees to use job site landline phones to clock in and out if possible. The caller IDs of the phones used to clock in and out are noted on each automated timecard.   Question the employee about any phone number reported that’s not a job site phone.  You can also prevent the use of any phone number that appears on your account that you don’t want employees to use.
  2. Link job site phones to the jobs to ensure timecards are created from calls on site.   This essentially ties a phone number to a job preventing employees from clocking in with another phone.
  3. Use our smartphone app if landline phones are not available. The app is a great way for employees to clock in and out and it provides a very accurate GPS location track at the time of the punch in and out.
  4. Employees who don’t have smartphones can opt-in to GPS tracking that we get from their cell carriers.  We can currently get location tracks from the following carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, US Cellular, Boost, (Canada) TELUS.
  5. Some customers want to retain the ability to use our voice features, such as Random Voice Verification and our Integrated Voice Messaging system which are not available on the mobile app, but they want the benefit of the accurate GPS tracks provided by our app.   So we have recently released our Dialer App.  For a description of the Dialer App, click here for the Google Play Store and here for iTunes. The Dialer App is essentially a speed dial into the normal toll free that your employees already use.  Once dialed in, your employee will still enter his employee code and job code, but the location track comes from the smartphone itself, and not the cell carrier.  The result is a very accurate location track. (Normal call charges apply).
  6. Enter addresses for all of your job sites and our Clock Locations screen reports if your employee was ‘on the job’ or ‘not on the job’. This information is based on the landline phone used, or the cell phone GPS track we received from the cell carrier, or the track we received from the device itself if the Mobile App or Dialer App is used.  For a great visual the map link shows the location of the track compared to the job site location.

Managing remote employees is always a challenge and while you can’t put it on autopilot, current technology does offer ways to simplify the task.  Steve Jobs said, “It’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people.”  We agree that technology is ever-changing.  From our perspective the accountability that technology provides gives you faith in people as the honest employees stand out.

Stay tuned for our next installment in the ‘Managing Remote Employees’ series in which we offer advice on how to make sure employees aren’t spending too much or too little time on your jobs.

 

Wet Paint….New Look!

We are pleased to announce that on Monday night (June 1st) we will unveil our new login screen and begiChronotekLoginScreennning changes to our user interface.

Customers will notice updated colors in the user interface and incremental enhancements as time goes on.   A new green ‘action’ color is used to better define the navigation buttons (such as the Save, Delete, and Cancel buttons).  These changes are designed to streamline the experience for our customers and enable us to easily incorporate future upgrades.

There are a few areas where the ‘wet paint’ signs are still hanging, so please bear with us as we refresh Chronotek.

Managing Remote Employees: Prevent Buddy Punching

One of the biggest issues that a small business owner with remote employees faces is not knowing what’s going on out in the field.   Is your employee really on the job when he says he is?   What if his co-worker buddy backs him up?  If he’s not on the job, but says he is, you are paying for unworked, unearned time that can undermine your bottom line.

You hope to hire hardworking and honest employees, but as we have quoted before, “You can expect what you inspect.”   And when your off-site employees are working together, there can be a cause for concern.  If your company is still using handwritten timesheets to keep up with employee hours, it’s as simple as an employee putting down hours for a shift that he really didn’t work and his buddy covering for him.  Or if using an automated system an employee can give his access code to his buddy and ask him to clock in for him at the job site.

Either way, it’s time theft.  It’s costly.   It’s unnecessary.

Our telephone timekeeping system offers some smart solutions to prevent buddy punching and helps to ensure that all hours reported are earned.

A popular management tool is our Random Voice Verification (RVV).  When calling to clock in and out, our system can randomly prompt your employee to state his name, and we record it for you to play back.  You can compare the random voice check against a voice file we made the first time your employee clocked in.  This layer of accountability when punching in/out lets your employee know that you are inspecting.

Another solution when you suspect that a particular team or crew may be buddy punching for each other is to use our alert system.   Set up the system to send a text or email alert to a supervisor when employees check in and out.  When the supervisor gets an alert, he can call the employees on their cell phones.  When one answers, he can ask the employee to hand the phone to the other employee.  One of our customers actually got a check-in alert and then drove to the job site to find that an employee was not there although she was clocked in.

A third idea is to use the Mobile App while physically monitoring the job site one night. Watch who arrives at the job site and then use the app to view which employees get clocked in.  See if an employee clocks in who wasn’t on site.

Finally, use our integrated voice message system.  Plan for a night when you will leave a voice message to a suspected employee that he will hear when he clocks into a job.  The message might say, “John, this is your supervisor, Jill.  As soon as you clock in and get this message, please call me from the job site phone.”   Or for an ultimate test, be on site and tell John in the message to meet you at the back door immediately.

By implementing these strategies systematically and routinely you should be able to flush out problem employees quickly and let the remaining know that time theft is not tolerated.   Check back soon for the next installment in our Managing Remote Employees series in which we will discuss more ways on how to ensure your employees are on the job site when clocking in and out.

 

New Blog Series Coming: Managing Remote Employees

In the United States small business owners employ roughly 11 million workers in just 4 industries: janitorial, security guard, home health and construction.  Most of these employees work off-site.    Still other businesses that employ remote workers include landscaping, painting, swimming pool, greenhouse, staffing, transportation/delivery and many more.  While we love and appreciate the workers who make up the backbone of our economy, we empathize greatly with the struggles that small business owners face who must supervise a remote workforce.

Relying on handwritten time cards for employee hours; paying employees when they aren’t on the jobsite; controlling overtime; staying on budget with monthly job contracts and preventing no-shows so that all jobs are covered are just a few of the issues and concerns that small business owners must overcome to remain viable in a tough economy. We care about small business owners and want to offer practical and strategic ways that our telephone and app-based timekeeping system can help contribute to their long-term success.

To this end, we will begin a new blog series entitled “Managing Remote Employees” that will offer smart solutions to many of these small business struggles.  Please check back with us soon, or even better, become an email subscriber to this blog or follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date.

 

A Timekeeping Solution for Your Business?

We offer a telephone and app-based timekeeping solution that works great for most small businesses with remote employees.  For 20 years we have helped small businesses in many ways, and we can determine if our timekeeping system is right for you.   The best way to approach this is to explain the ways our customers have told us we have changed their lives over the years.

If these things could benefit your company then our timekeeping service might be a smart choice for you as well:

  1. Save companies money by controlling labor hours as we capture accurate time with a simple phone call or using the mobile app.
  2. Enhance employee management abilities with inventive tools to prevent time theft with GPS location reporting on clock in/out and a tool to deter buddy-punching.
  3. Help clients deliver terrific service to their customers by alerting them of no-shows to scheduled shifts they need to fill.
  4. Assure owners that budgets are met when they see labor hours dynamically plotted against the job budget.
  5. Give owners the time to work ON their business by reducing the time they work IN their business (i.e. timecards are automatically calculated to reduce pay period processing time – and diminish the stress level!)

We get very excited when we hear how we have helped their small business.  Feel free to read a few customer testimonials from those who have written us.

Our knowledgeable support team listens to potential customers to analyze and determine their specific needs.  We answer your questions and are able to give expert timekeeping advice.   It does not happen often, but the other day we talked to someone where we concluded that their current timekeeping solution, a competitor, is the better fit.  We don’t enjoy turning away new business, but we are all about long-term, mutually beneficial, trusting relationships.  And we want what is best for the small business owner.

If you own a small business with remote employees and need a reputable timekeeping solution that is easy and cost-effective to set up and start using, we are confident that in most cases we can make your life better.   But please know that we will be honest with you.  Either way, you are welcome to try the system to help with your decision.

Click here for a free 30-day trial.

 

 

Effective Alerts for Remote Employees

The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is a medical term that is becoming used in non-medical environments.  It means applying the smallest dose possible to achieve the desired result; and anything beyond that is wasteful.  If a cup of water will extinguish a tiny fire it’s overkill, and a waste of resources, to dump a five gallon bucket of water on the flame.  MED is relevant in the remote employee telephone timekeeping world as well.

One of the most valuable tools to help manage remote employees is email or text alerts sent to supervisors.  Companies can set up two types of alerts:

  1. All check-in and check-out alerts. These alerts are sent every time an employee clocks in or out.
  2. Late or no-show alerts.   These alerts are based on schedules and are ONLY sent when an employee is a no-show.

There is an effective way to handle alerts.  It’s the MED of alert management. 

All check-in/out alerts are beneficial when monitoring new or “problem” employees.  A supervisor receives the alert and then calls the employee on his cell phone, “I see that you just checked in.  Is everything going ok?”  The employee now knows that eyes are on him.    But if these alerts are applied to all employees they can become overwhelming, even a nuisance.  A company with 20 employees that work 2 jobs every night would trigger 80 alerts each night.  Make it 40 alerts if you don’t set the check-out alerts.  That many alerts will eventually become ineffective, not to mention unnecessarily disruptive.  The last thing you want is a supervisor turning off all alerts.    And why do you need these alerts for Susie?  She’s been a solid, faithful employee for 6 years.

On the other hand, create job schedules with late alerts to receive alerts only when employees are a no-show.  These are the alerts that really mean something.  They indicate that action must be taken to get the job covered. These alerts are the Minimum Effective Dose and their effectiveness must be preserved by limiting unnecessary alerts. If all check-in/out alerts are used for every employee, then these very important late alerts will get lost in a sea of texts or emails.

Any alert received should be actionable.  A strategically used check-in/out alert means that the supervisor will randomly follow up with the new or problem employee until the issue is resolved; after which the alert should be stopped.  A no-show alert gets a supervisor’s attention so he can get the job covered.  And yes, set late alerts for Susie’s schedule too.

Don’t pour a bucket of water on the problem when a wisely employed cup will do.  Go for the Minimum Effective Dose.  Using alerts effectively will help cure the headaches of managing remote workers.

 

Advice from a Janitorial Business Owner

We recently had a chance to ask one of our long term customers about his success and his business philosophy, specifically as it pertains to profitability.  We try to use this space to offer helpful information to small business owners as it is our corporate purpose to change lives by offering a proven way to manage employees and save money on payroll. Sometimes, however, the best advice comes from a comrade who understands the day to day struggles of small business ownership, but yet has found a way to be successful.

David owns a janitorial business in East Texas employing over 100 hourly remote workers and manages well over 100 job sites. We believe that David is more than qualified to share his thoughts and that his insights are valuable to all small business owners. It has been said that many receive advice, but few profit by it. We hope to reverse that trend in this case.

Chronotek: David, we’ve heard that profit margins in the janitorial industry range from 10-28%. Does this sound right?

David: Profit margins do vary quite a bit depending on the size of the organization. Early on, it’s easier to have a higher profit margin as there is much less infrastructure to support. It’s also typical at a company’s start that larger accounts are out of reach so the focus goes to small and medium sized accounts, which generally will produce a higher profit margin, however, that part is mostly due to labor than infrastructure. We all want the highest margins possible while still remaining competitive. I’ve heard of organizations with a smaller profit margin than the 10% you mentioned but that can’t sustain a business for long.

 

Chronotek: Don’t people vary on how they calculate profit margins?

David: It’s measured differently by organizations. Some will give a number based on how much money the owner has available after paying labor/payroll, bills, taxes and expenses. A truer measure is how much is left after the owner has paid himself/herself. 10% after everything is usually a good target in this industry.

 

Chronotek: How do you maintain your profit margins year in and year out?

David: The profitability battle is won or lost (in my opinion) in three areas. First, labor is the biggest contributor of all, and also is measured differently depending on who you speak with. I like to fully burden my labor to include taxes (Soc. Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, Worker’s Comp Insurance). Since those numbers are percentage of labor based, it’s not complicated to know what your overall labor burden should be. Total labor cost for a healthy organization should not exceed 50% of revenue. You’ll have some above, some below but on average should be at that number. Proper proposal generation/pricing, having a cleaning strategy in each account, monitoring the time and efficiency and a proper time management system are essential to making that happen.

Second, keeping infrastructure realistic can make or break success. It’s easy to get caught in a growth spurt and suddenly add too many people to manage the business at different levels. Too much too quickly and the profits are gone. I’ve also tried to keep myself involved in areas I do best. The things I did to manage the business were necessary but once I could afford to hire staff, it made sense to hire people who were very competent in the areas I was weaker in.

Third, are expenses. Again, this can come with a little success. Once things reach a point where everything is paying for itself (and the business owner), you start thinking that it’s time for a new office, new company vehicle, increased advertising etc. Slow and steady works much better here. The old adage “don’t spend money you don’t have” is appropriate. While debt is necessary at times, the more you can do without it the better. If it is necessary, managed debt must be the way to go as unmanaged debt will sink a business.

 

Chronotek: David, thank you for time and your candid, insightful responses. There are plenty of great take-aways for small business owners across all industries.

David: Might be a little longer of an answer than what you were looking for but thought to share.

 

It’s not often that a successful business owner will share his secrets and strategies with others, so we were blessed that David was so forthcoming. We are still early into 2015 and there’s plenty of time to implement sound business practices that will pay long-term dividends. One great idea is a remote employee timekeeping system. At least David thinks so.

 

Location, Location, Location Confidence

We have mentioned many times that companies lose about 10 minutes a day per hourly employee to time theft. This is most common when employees use handwritten timesheets and exaggerate the numbers.  With automated timekeeping systems employees can call or use the app for precise timekeeping.   No more handwritten timesheets, no more exaggerating, right? Almost. There’s another factor to consider.  Where was the employee when he punched in or out?

We call this location confidence.   If he was at home or in the drive-thru at McDonald’s, then that’s time theft, too.  It’s unearned time that you are paying for (including payroll taxes) that could also be contributing to overtime (or the 30 hour a week average according to the Affordable Care Act).

For small businesses to survive these changes it is vital to protect the bottom line with the use of a remote employee timekeeping system that uses the available GPS technology to give the best estimate of an employee’s location when clocking in and out.

Chronotek timekeeping offers 5 tools to help discern employee location:

  1. Cell phone GPS location tracks. If employees call on cell phones to punch in and out, their cell carrier can provide Chronotek with the GPS tracks of their clock in and out locations (on opted-in phones). Simply compare the clock location to the job address on our Google Map.
  2. App-based GPS location tracks. When employees use our app to clock in and out we stamp their location using the device’s GPS. We have seen this show amazing accuracy. The clock in/out events can be easily reviewed on a map.
  3. Caller ID is captured on all calls. If the employee uses the job site phone to clock in and out, then you know he is on site. View the call log and/or time cards to see what phone numbers employees are using when clocking in and out. The other day we helped a customer confirm that his employee clocked in with the job site phone, but the customer noticed that the employee clocked out with a different phone. It turned out to be the employee’s home phone!
  4. Restrict clock ins/outs from the jobsite landline phones. Using site phones ensures that employees are on site when punching in and out.  Link the jobsite phone to the job, and timecards are automatically associated the correct job.   Also, unauthorize any phone numbers that are not allowed (such as home phone numbers).
  5. Set the acceptable Tracking Accuracy/Verification Threshold on a job site address and if a GPS track is detected outside of this parameter, the Clock Location screen will flag that punch as not at the job. This is just another tool to help alleviate some of the daily stresses of managing remote employees.

Location confidence takes timekeeping to another level. As the saying goes, what matters is location, location, location. It’s a vital piece of the remote employee management puzzle that must be solved to protect your company profits. Our timekeeping solution gives you the accountability tools for confidence in the integrity of the time cards. If your employee is picking up a double cheeseburger and a Dr. Pepper, you’ll know that it’s on his time and not yours.

How To Start off the Year with The Best Timekeeping Solution

As the year closes, be honest, you’re considering a gym membership.  It’s an annual tradition, right?   Let’s pretend that in your community there are 2 fitness franchises, Gym A and Gym Y, and they are across the road from one another.  Both are similar in price, size and quality and variety of equipment. The one difference is hours of operation available to its members.  Gym Y has 5am to 9pm hours while Gym A across the street is open 24/7/365 to its members via an electric key fob.  With everything else being equal, why wouldn’t you drive across the road and choose Gym A?  Sure, you may never go between 9pm and 5am at night, but you CAN.  What should you look at when making choices?

When small business owners with remote, hourly workers search for an online telephone timekeeping system they can find a plethora of options. Many have the same features at similar prices: telephone and app-based clock-in methods, GPS location reporting, scheduling, etc., so it’s important to dig to find the discriminating differences.

Let’s look deeper at 3 key factors to consider when choosing the right timekeeping system.

  1. How long has the company been in business?   Choose a company with a long, proven track record.  These companies have  figured out how to be successful in a competitive market, which is indicative of the quality of the product and service.  It’s also a sign  that the company will be around to serve you as long as you need them.   Chronotek started 20 years ago with a mission to change the lives of small  business owners by offering a proven way to control labor costs and  increase customer satisfaction.  That is still our goal today and will be  for years to come.
  2. How do you like the customer support?  Most timekeeping companies will offer a free trial.   Use this time to not only learn the system, but to also test the responsiveness and  helpfulness of the support team.  Keep in mind that you are forming a  long-term relationship with a service provider that can be integral in      saving your company thousands of dollars in payroll.  Be certain that you have the ability to access the pleasant expertise you need from a team that is genuinely pulling for your success.  We outline our customer support philosophy in our blog post, Not Your Vendor.  You can also check out what a few of our customers have said about us.
  3. What does the company website look like?   Does it appear that the company invests in keeping the site up to date and fresh?  Or is it analogous to a 1980′s big hairdo and hasn’t seen an upgrade since the mullet?   This could indicate that the company is struggling and can’t afford to make capital improvements to its online storefront, the face of the company to all prospective customers.  Chances are that a company that can’t keep its front-end relevant may falter maintaining its backend, the part that is most important to customers who rely on the service and protection of its data. It’s not perfect, but we are proud of our site. It has changed a few times in 20 years.

We do hope that you join the gym as it’s a great idea, but to preserve the good health of your small business, we really encourage you to start off the year with a proven timekeeping solution. We would love to be that choice.

 

Friendly People Make for a User-Friendly System

Every software designer strives to make his user interface user-friendly. It’s doubtful that anyone starts out with the goal in mind, “Let’s make this as hard as possible!” But as we know, the world is full of systems that fall short of friendly.

To facilitate the learning process, there may be guides or help menus available to explain the product and its features.  And these guides can also be easy or difficult to understand. The testing with a new service may be time consuming and end in frustration, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  What makes the difference?

A good company will have one more resource that the consumer can tap into: real people.  Real people who want to help via phone, email, webinars or live chat.  When we have an opportunity to interact and train with a new customer, she often remarks how easy the system is.  The difference is considerate human interaction.

We work very hard to make our system very easy.  We constantly scrutinize our interface and listen to customer feedback on how it can be simplified. We also have instruction guides; we email out helpful hints and we offer free training webinars.  The difference is our stateside, knowledgeable, friendly support team is passionate about changing the lives of small business owners by solving their timekeeping problems.  This interactive personal care is the secret to shortening the learning curve and it’s why we give you 30 days free to learn it on our dime.  We believe so much that our remote employee telephone timekeeping system will change your life that we are willing to provide you free customer support and helpful materials while absorbing the expense of the trial period.

User-friendly is quite simple with the help of a friendly support team.  Don’t give up before giving us a call.  Allow us to help you get set up on a cost-saving service that will actually change your life!

 

Happy Thanksgiving

We want to wish our Chronotek customers a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving season. We know that you work hard every day to keep your small business dreams alive and we hope that you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor for a day or two.

To help with that, we have a holiday tip for you. If your staff is off for Thanksgiving Day, turn off late alerts companywide with one click of the mouse. Go to your company setup screen and uncheck the “Enable Alerts” box.  Just don’t forget to turn them back on again after the holidays.

For 20 years it has been our mission to change the lives of small business owners with a simple, yet effective timekeeping solution and it’s our privilege that you trust us with this assignment.  As we move forward, we will continue to work hard to maintain your trust and to provide you with the easiest and most comprehensive accountability system available.

Thank you for allowing us on this journey towards your dream.  We are grateful to be a part of it. Enjoy your day!

The Chronotek Mobile App Is Here!

If you haven’t tried Mobile Chronotek, it’s time to put your best employee management device in your pocket.  Step away from your office, take a walk, but stay connected to your small business.  Supervisors use Chronotek Mobile to see who’s clocked in, who’s late, who’s a no-show in the past 12 hours, who’s approaching 40 hours for the week and more.   And now the free Mobile app is available.  Search for Chronotek Mobile.   Our Mobile website users now have options!

The app is also a dynamic tool for your employees. They can use it to easily clock in, check their live schedules and view their time cards.    Read more  about the freedom that the app (or mobile site) can provide.  Mobile Chronotek has something for everyone; and it will just get better!

Enhance your remote employee management experience with our web and telephone timekeeping solution.  Go to your App Store and download Mobile Chronotek today. Then enjoy a walk. You deserve it!

 

Fall Into Better Business Practices

Fall is here and with it comes a refreshing sense of relief and revival. The summer heat has passed, the busyness of vacations is over, and the kids are back in school. It is a time when many business owners consider better business practices to carry into the new year.

A new approach to tracking remote workers with a web-based and telephone timekeeping system can save companies both time and money.  Here are  “Fall Four-Ward Strategies” for companies with remote employees.

  1. Chronotek Mobile – now an App.  Our app has been released on the Google Play Store and the App Store. It’s a great tool for your employees to use to check their schedules and view their time cards. No more printing and emailing schedules or requests by employees for their hours. Give them the power to access this secure information and recapture your valuable time needed to prospect for new business. Chronotek Mobile is also a great management tool for supervisors.
  2.  QuickBooks Integration.   Are you still manually entering time into QuickBooks for payroll?  Save time and use our QuickBooks Interface (API) to seamlessly export time card data from our system to the employee timesheet section of QuickBooks. Implement this one change in your business practices and you’ll have more time to enjoy the seasons change.
  3.  Budget Planning Tool.  Get started on the right foot with new projects and clients by using our dynamic new Budget Planning Tool. Create a budget of hours for the season or term and see employee hours calculated against the budget with live, color-coded charts that display the status. Know easily and quickly when budgets go off course and make quick scheduling corrections with the fully integrated Schedule Manager. This tool can keep your budgets on track to preserve your profitability and also help you discern overtime. Chances are budgets gone awry indicate employee overtime.
  4.  Over 40 Check Report.  With the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  looming in 2015, businesses with fifty full-time equivalent employees will have to provide health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. It is imperative to closely monitoring employee hours to keep them under 30 hours per week. Check employee weekly hours (ranging from the most to the least) with the Over 40 Check Report. It is impossible to monitor this with handwritten timesheets.  According to a national study, employers lose 10 minutes a day due to employee theft.  That’s almost an hour a week, which could be the difference between 29 and the statutory 30-hour full-time status.

Walt Disney said, ”We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”    The man knew a thing or two about building a business (wink).   Start on a fresh new path this fall by trying these 4 great business practices and see how they can transform your business.

Timekeeping Technology’s “High 5″ Ways

Google’s automated car has been receiving a lot of attention in the news lately. It’s a car that can drive itself and could be a major breakthrough for certain segments of our population, such as the disabled and the elderly. However, the automated car may be a setback for some professions like taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Mercedes and other car makers also plan to roll out automated big rig trucks by 2025.  The introduction of new technology is a constant, driving force in our world and small business owners need to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.  This means that they have to learn how to change their business practices to integrate technology into their corporate strategy.

Many small business owners with off-site employees, in industries such as janitorial, building maintenance, security guard, construction, greenhouse, pool maintenance and lifeguards, painting and landscaping, have discovered that using telephone and online timekeeping technology to replace handwritten timecards is a necessity to business survival. Chronotek’s timekeeping system provides a proven and efficient method to save money on payroll by capturing accurate punch times.  In addition, the innovative management tools set small business owners in the direction they need to go to make the best business decisions.

Here are the super “High 5″ ways that timekeeping technology helps small businesses with remote employees maintain their competitive edge going forward.

  1. Automated timecards are stamped and created  by a phone when the employee calls or logs in. Since the employee initiates the action, he can’t debate his time or “fudge” it.  This simple 11 second act alone can save small business owners 2-6% on payroll.
  2. Job schedules with no-show alerts protect the customer base. A supervisor can act on an alert she receives by text or email when a job isn’t covered, instead of a call from an angry customer.
  3. Linked job site phones and unauthorized cell phones ensure that remote workers are on the jobsite when clocking in. Stop paying for unworked, unearned time. This is vital to cutting back on overtime and keeping employees under 29 hours.
  4. Job budgets keep your monthly and annual contracts on track and highlight the jobs that are going over or under budget and need attention. Budgets are the best way to monitor and protect the bottom line.
  5. GPS tracking for employees who must use cell phones gives the small business owner confidence that the punches are from the jobsite. And because the employees know that they are tracked, it’s a great accountability tool.

Until technology eliminates the need for off-site workers, small business owners should educate themselves on the innovative timekeeping technology tools that will take them into the future. The management of labor hours and job site administration are too important to trust to handwritten timecards and the honor system. This is especially true in today’s tough economic climate; although we have seen our customers grow and prosper using these advances in telephone timekeeping.

Businesses that fail to transition to technology will find themselves broken down on the side of the road, while wiser business owners who grip technology will continue to pick up speed, driving straight down the highway into a bright future.

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Chronotek Timekeeping Midyear Review

It has been a busy year for us in the world of telephone timekeeping. As Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

We want to pause for a moment at the midyear point and look back at what we have been doing at Chronotek this year. This is more for the benefit of our customers who are so busy that they may have missed a few things.

  1. Budget Planning. We unveiled a new budget planning tool to help keep your job contracts on track. It is powerful. It is simple. It’s unbreakable, so give it a shot. We wrote several blog articles about it. Take a look at our Budget Series.
  2. Calendar based Job Scheduler. We released a new calendar based job scheduling module. With Schedule Manager, you can create schedules with many recurrence options and receive late/no-show alerts.  It also shows you an employee’s weekly hours across all jobs so that you don’t schedule her for overtime. You can view and schedule by employee or job. Read about Smart Scheduling.
  3. Prohibit Unauthorized Phones. We made it possible for you to mark phones as unauthorized which will prohibit your remote employees from using them to clock in or out. The call attempt is logged for you to see. Unauthorized News.
  4. Employee Notes. We added an employee Notes tab. Make customized labels and track notes on employee call-outs, raises, bonuses, termination reasons, etc.
  5. Job Notes. We added a Job Notes tab. Supervisors can log notes about work performed, facility size and details, issues incurred, alarm codes, etc. Managers can leave notes for supervisors to review.
  6. Enhanced location features. We are licensed with Google Maps to offer enhanced location features. When adding job sites enter the address and see the location populate on the map. We are in the early stages of these exciting new capabilities, particularly with a new travel/mileage feature that will be released soon, so stay tuned.
  7. Smartphone App. We are in the final stages of developing our smartphone app for iPhone and Android and registering with the app stores. The App version will be very similar to our existing mobile site which we hope that you are utilizing. Read 8 reasons why you should be using it to monitor your off-site workers.

It has been said that 7 is the number of completion, but we promise you that we are not finished. Simplifying the lives of our customers is our highest priority and as long as we continue to discover ways to make this happen, our hands and minds will be busy.

Don’t miss anything. Be sure to stop and look around once in a while.

An Inspection System For Remote Employees

To remain profitable, small business owners must be able to trust their off-site, remote workers. This trust begins by hiring the highest quality people and training them to do the highest quality work. The emphasis on quality, and not costs, will create a solid workforce and result in building long-term customer relationships.

William Edwards Deming was an American business consultant and statistician who was awarded National Medal of Technology in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. One of his proven theories is illustrated below.

Quality =Results over Costs

(a) When people and organizations focus primarily on quality, quality tends to increase and costs fall over time.

(b) However, when people and organizations focus primarily on costs, costs tend to rise and quality declines over time.

See more on Deming

If you agree with Deming’s theory then your focus should turn to quality. You can interview and hire the best candidates, but as Deming said, “You can expect what you inspect.” This means that you need a system in place that helps you monitor and manage your remote, mobile workforce; a system that will aid in sifting the high quality employees from the ones that will dilute your staffing pool. An “inspection” system if you will. This constant sifting will ultimately build the finest workforce.

Here are 3 ways our innovative phone and web timekeeping system can help your small business build the highest quality labor force.

  1. Location, location, location. We give you 2 methods to oversee the location of your employees’ punches.  The first is our GPS tracking feature on cell call clockins. This is a great accountability tool as your employees know they are being monitored. We track the  location at clock in and out. If your employees complain about being tracked…well, to paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘he who protests too much…’ Secondly, our Linked Phone feature will highlight those employees using unauthorized phones to clock in/out. You want your employees to use your customer site phones if possible. This ensures that they are on-site.  Go one step further and mark the phone as Unauthorized.  When an employee tries to clock into a job with an unauthorized phone, the call log will show the unsuccessful attempt and the phone number used.
  2. Keep tabs on employees who are consistently late. The Late Report will list employees who are late to scheduled jobs and the number of minutes late. Also review our Daily Schedule screen for no-shows to scheduled jobs.
  3. Catch employees who buddy punch for each other with our Random Voice Verification. Use this feature in conjunction with check-in alerts to enhance your employee inspection processes. If you have suspicions about a couple of employees who work together off-site, use check-in alerts to monitor them. When you are alerted that they have both checked into a job, call one on his cell and ask him to put the other on the line. You may not catch them this time, but they will know that you have eyes on them.

These are just a few of the ways that we can help you create an employee inspection system to build the best workforce possible. As Deming noted, higher quality leads to lower costs and we think fewer headaches as well.

Prevent Use of Unauthorized Phones

We have been listening to our clients.   There is concern when employees call to clock in using a phone they were not authorized to use.  Maybe it was their even their home phone!   No more.   We have just the tool for your managerial toolbox.  A big concern for companies with remote workers is trusting that their workers are on the job site when punching in.   If your workers are required  to use the job site phone you can now tag other phones as “unauthorized” which will prevent it from being used to clock in/out.

If your worker attempts to clock in/out from an Unauthorized phone, a message plays stating that the phone is unauthorized and the clock in/out is prevented. This message is a signal to your employee of higher accountability measures. We capture the call attempt and it appears on the Chronotek Dashboard and the Call Log – fully noted as unauthorized.  Use this valuable information for performance reviews.

The setup is easy.   Chronotek gathers not only the Caller ID (phone number) but also contracts with a company for the name of the person/company registered to that phone.  Filter on Residential lines to search for home phones, or filter on Mobile phones.  Simply check the Unauthorized CID box to tag the phone as Unauthorized for clocking in and out. It really is that simple.

Use the Unauthorized Phone feature in conjunction with Linked Phones (refer to our online System Guide) to tighten up your management efforts and enjoy greater control of your workforce.

More tools. Less effort. Timekeeping really can be simple.

Budgets 103: Control with Integrated Scheduling

We believe that budgets are the target and that schedules are the plan to hit the target.

An airplane has a landing destination, but there is a control in place, called the pilot, that brings the plane in.  She will make adjustments along the way in speed and altitude to keep the aircraft on course.

Schedules are your control to ensure that your budgets land on target.

In this budget session we want to offer 3 reasons why integrated scheduling  gives you the edge in budget planning.

  1. Life happens. You started with a budget plan, but then employees started working the plan. Things got a little off course.  Chronotek plots each budget progress on the Budget Dashboard. The cautionary yellow and red colors on our charts advise you when actual hours are coming in too low or high suggesting scheduling changes.   Control the destiny by changing the schedule.  Use the integrated Scheduler button on the budget screen to access Schedule Manager and quickly make these changes. This will protect your budgets throughout the intervals.
  2. 1000 foot view.  Chronotek gives you the airplane window shot of each job incorporating the actuals, and schedules with the budget.  As employee actual hours compile against the budget, and the future schedules get calculated in, Chronotek predicts where the budget will land at each interval along the way through to the end of the term.  See where adjustments need to be made and quickly make them with the Integrated Schedule option.
  3. Empower your supervisors. They may not have access to the budget screens but they can see the budget numbers and interval variances for each job on the Schedule Manager screen. This equips them to make necessary scheduling changes along the way.

Your profitability on each job is too important to leave to chance. Seize the power of predictive technology by creating a budget plan with integrated schedules and control every budget.

Pilot your budget to a smooth landing.

Budgets 102: Budget Term vs. Budget Interval

Now that you have decided to “Just Do It” and use our Budget Planning tool, let’s get started on the right foot.  It begins with the basics of setting up a budget and understanding the concepts Budget Term and Budget Interval.

Budget Term is the full length of the contract, the start and end date. It may be seasonal, annual, or even shorter if it’s a one-time project. Let’s say you have an annual budget. For the start and end dates, enter January 1 to December 31. Then enter the total budgeted hours for the year. For example, if your budget is to clean a building 10 hours a month, budgeted hours for the year are 120. If you are jumping in midseason, but have timecards in our system since the first of the year, go ahead and still create the annual budget with the total hours for the year. We will apply all of the actual hours year-to-date against the live budget. New customers can define the Budget Term for the balance of the year and enter the budgeted hours remaining.  As a general rule, use the contract end date so the system can predict where the budget is headed.

Budget Interval, on the other hand, equates to how you choose to monitor the budget. This can be a weekly, monthly, quarterly  or custom interval. The main idea of Budget Planning is to help you make better decisions. How often do you need to break out status updates on the health of a budget in order to make the best decisions?  The system automatically flags each interval in red, yellow or green based on the variances between the interval budget and the actuals. In the example of a yearly budget with 120 hours, you may choose a monthly interval. Set up the Budget Intervals for a monthly distribution.   Our system can evenly distribute the 120 hours across 12 months. Or you can choose to have the system weight the distribution by days in the interval (February only has 28 days, and would be allocated less hours). Tighter budgets may require more diligent screening with a weekly interval. We also give you the option to customize the intervals by manually entering the numbers. For example, you may create a budget with weekly intervals that are evenly disbursed, but then you can customize the weeks if holiday weekends need more or less hours.

It is easy to get started. Create your budget and input the total number of hours for the budget term and then track by your chosen interval, weekly, monthly, quarterly or custom. Once you have created the budget Chronotek does the hard part.

Enjoy the power of predictive technology and future vision.

Budgets 101: Just Do It!

You’ve been reading our blog entries about our new Budget Planner tool and you are excited. It’s the live, real-time and interactive budget data that you know is needed to effectively track labor hours and stay on target with your contracts. Predictive technology to systematically suggest schedule changes has been beyond your wildest dreams.

But you have not started to use it - yet.

Although you admit that your spreadsheets are highly inefficient and time-consuming, it’s what you know.  You might think you do not have time to try something new.  Can we simply shout from the mountaintops, “Just do it!” ?

The beauty of our Budget Planning tool is that it is very simple to use.  Once set up the system calculates every variance number for you in real-time.    Even better news… you can’t break it, and you can’t mess up anything.  The budget tool does not affect the operation of timekeeping, so you can try this new feature with confidence.  Made a budget and need to change it? No problem. Need to delete it and start over? Again, no problem.

Even if you are midseason in a budget year, it’s not too late. Create a budget for the hours and interval you have remaining. Or create a budget from the beginning of the season with the total budgeted hours and see how the actual hours to date compare against the budget hours. If you choose one way and change your mind, no problem. Just delete and start over. Our Budget Planner tool is as indestructible as a Stretch Armstrong action figure.  And  even more powerful for your business!

Read more about how to get started in the Budget Planner guide under the References menu item on your web-based account. It won’t be long before you are ready to destroy your spreadsheets and harness the power of real-time budget planning.

Just do it.

Automated Budgets Ensure Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans of mice and men…

The budgets you made looked great on paper. All of your remote, hourly workers were under 40 hours and your jobs were scheduled according to the budget. Then something happened.   Your paper plans were put into practice and you are stunned as you look back over the handwritten timesheets a week later.   How many times have best laid plans gone astray?

Budgets are off, schedules were not followed. Some employees exaggerated the hours they worked, and a couple of jobs took longer than expected.   The life of a small business is too fluid and unpredictable to rely on the static nature of paper budgets, schedules, and hand-written time sheets.  And your time as a small business owner is too precious to waste on a method that’s highly imperfect and a source of constant frustration.  But the automation of Chronotek can simplify your life and keep your best laid plans on track.

Now Chronotek Budget Manager allows you to create and monitor budget information on your web-based timekeeping account.   Everything is real-time so you know exactly when a budget is not being met.  The Budget Dashboard is a console with easy-to-view graphs, charts, and grids that show which jobs are on the path of going over or under budget.  The real power is released when Chronotek’s new calendar-based Schedule Manager uses Budgets to assist with keeping up necessary schedule changes.

Preserve your plan!  For the first time, supervisors have ready access to live budgets in order to plan the schedules.

Protect your profits!  Budgets become alive when we join actual hours and future schedules at every interval, ensuring control of the end result.

Predict your future! Predictive Technology takes this one step further by automatically and systematically suggesting schedule changes, empowering supervisors to make the right decisions.

Don’t leave your business plans to chance by struggling to manage remote employees using static spreadsheets for budgets.  Seize the power of predictive technology and the value that real-time budgets have when they are integrated with live timecards and schedules.

Give your best laid plans the advantage of budget automation.

NEW** Stay on Budget Using Predictive Technology

We have all come to the end of the month with a sick realization that there’s more month left than money.

If you bid on jobs based on annual or seasonal labor hours, your small business might have a similar situation.  If each month there is more calendar left than budget hours, you can find yourself over budget, compounding your losses each month.  If too many of the hours on the job were overtime, the issue is exacerbated as your labor dollars explode by 50%.  Or for businesses that get paid based on weekly  budgeted hours, and employees work less than the budget, not only are you  leaving money on the table, the quality of the work could be subpar.   Either situation could leave your business struggling to survive.

Some well-intentioned business owners may use elaborate spreadsheets to track labor hours, but that is a tedious, time consuming and highly imperfect method.  Spreadsheet data is not real-time, interactive nor predictive.  Have you been looking for help?

This is where a telephone timekeeping system does more than capture accurate time for payroll. Our new Budget Planning tool and Schedule Manager analyze actual hours along with future schedules to help monitor your budgets in real-time.  Through interactive charts and easy-to-follow color-coded graphs, you will know each day if your budget is on track or not.

Make better decisions when the Predictive Budget tool systematically and automatically suggests schedule changes to correct your course.  The scheduling data becomes even more dynamic.  As you schedule employees, their actual and scheduled hours for the week are in plain view so that you don’t schedule them for overtime.

Budget monitoring.  Suggestive scheduling.  Overtime management.

It is Predictive Technology that gives you the power to control your own future, not be stunned by it.

This is truly life changing.  It’s dream saving.  And it’s simple.

Budget Planning coming May 1.

*Coming Soon* Chronotek Gives You Power to Predict the Future

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

― Søren Kierkegaard

The survival of your small business depends upon you understanding and using the past to help predict and control the future. It’s the power of predictive technology and it’s now at your fingertips.

Our telephone timekeeping system for your remote employees has been enhanced with two integrated innovative tools, Schedule Manager and Budget Planning.  Easily create a job budget for any interval of time based on last year’s actual hours or the contracted hours, and then simply schedule out the hours. As your employees punch in and out of these jobs, we crunch the numbers to advise you if the budget is on target or systematically suggest scheduling changes to correct your course. This automatic calculation of actual hours and future schedules against the budget gives you “future vision” to see where actual hours could trend if not managed.

It’s the power to protect your profits.

The Budget Planning tool can also be utilized without making schedules. Create a budget for any interval of time and the system will mark actual hours in real time against the budget to track any variance. Manage with confidence.

It’s the power of simple.

The future is here…coming May 1st.

Take the Time to Do It Right

paperboxThis picture says more than a 1000 words about small business practices. Don’t worry. We will keep it shorter than that in this post.

But notice where the newspaper is…2 and 1/2 feet below the paper box. On the ground. In fact, every house in this neighborhood has a paper box, yet every newspaper was delivered to the ground. The paperboy was more concerned with being expedient rather than excellent.

Expediency in business is not always a good thing. In the matter of the newspaper, several problems could have resulted. A dog could take off with the papers chewing a mess in his wake. Or rain could ruin the paper. Would advertisers in the paper be happy to know that their ads are in danger of never being seen? Or minimally, an entire neighborhood street littered with papers is not attractive and not necessary.

Take the time to do it right. That’s what the poor example of the paperboy teaches us.

We appreciate feedback from our customers about our telephone timekeeping system. We know that as users they have insight that we may not have, especially industry specific needs. Many of the ideas get passed along to our brilliant software development team to ponder the possibilities. We often move forward, but we take our time.

Then before we release a feature or enhancement across the board, we will beta test with a small sample size to tweak and work out the bugs. We can’t get in a hurry. Integrity of our system is of the highest importance because our customers depend on us. The last thing our customers need is a new shiny feature that’s riddled with bugs and complicates, not simplifies their lives.

In the past few years we have released major new enhancements or features, but only after much work and testing. Our QuickBooks Interface is a remarkably powerful tool that saves valuable time processing payroll. Our improved mobile site now allows employees to view their schedules and time cards as well as clock in and out via the web. GPS technology can track the location of employee’s punches. The roll out of these features was slow and methodical. We worked very hard to break them ourselves before releasing them to our customers.

We are about to roll out an improved version of our scheduling tool.  It will replace the current Shift Schedule ‘Beta feature’ that just a few clients have been testing for us.  We have heard from the users of our new Job Scheduling tool that it is just what they wanted.  We know the multi-job schedule view is also very valuable and it can still be seen as such from the Daily Schedule screen; and of course Schedule Viewer is for that 1000 foot view.  We are always working to get it right!

We want to improve the lives of small business owners by offering them a proven way to control labor costs and increase customer satisfaction. Every new feature is produced with that one goal in mind. We will never race to release something new just to keep up with the competition if in the end it may cause more problems than it solves. We choose excellence over expediency.

Now, this is a much better example to follow.

Smart Scheduling Working For You ** New

If you are a current Chronotek user, you’re going to greatly appreciate our new calendar-based Smart Scheduling by the job. It’s the coolest thing since, you know, “sliced bread.”  If you’re still on the fence and haven’t made the wise decision to use technology to capture accurate time for payroll then this might be just the right time.  This new Smart Scheduling tool is one more way we can save you money and simplify your life.

 We provide the advantage with real-time integration.  With calendar-based Job Scheduling, you can view job schedules by day, week, bi-weekly, and monthly.  The powerful advantage is that we house the employee’s LIVE time cards.  As you add an employee to a schedule, you can see that employee’s scheduled and accrued hours in real time so that you don’t inadvertently schedule her for overtime.

We do the math.  At the top of each view (daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) you can see how many total hours have been scheduled and actual hours accrued for your job, across all employees.  One quick look lets you know if the scheduled vs. actual is off-kilter. Time is money!  Your profits can be wasted if your employees are spending too much time at each site.  And on the flip side, too little time spent at each site can lead to poor quality, resulting in unhappy customers- a deadly poison to your profits.

 We broadcast the changes LIVE.  All new schedules or revisions are LIVE and are pushed out to our mobile site for supervisors and employees to view.  Read more about the power of our newly enhanced mobile site in our Great 8 blog post.

We provide flexibility.  As before, you can create late alerts to notify you by email or text of no-shows.  Various recurrent patterns (i.e. every other week) can be scheduled for jobs that repeat intermittently.

Why is it smart?  This first iteration of ‘smart’ takes scheduling to a new level when the integrated powerful Budget Planning tool (coming soon)  is also used.  This dynamic tool allows you to create budgets with calendar-based intervals.  The three elements of time (actual, scheduled, and budgeted) exponentiates the management information available, putting power in the hands of many management levels.  Budget Planning will let you know if you are on or off target for your seasonal, monthly, annual or “you decide the term” budget.

But more on that later.  First enjoy Smart Scheduling and see how it will change your life. We know it will.

 

The 7 Secrets of How Simple Happens

Telephone timekeeping. Simplified.

That’s our slogan; however, being simple is anything but simple.

Yet it’s not something our customers would ever know. They want accurate time cards for their remote, hourly employees and they count on us to provide them – we provide timecards, but with ‘ease’ in mind.  Their employees use a landline or cell phone to dial our toll free number and 11 seconds later they are punched into our timekeeping system. And it happens that easily almost 100% of the time.

But so much goes on behind the scenes to produce simple. Here’s a list of 7 things we do to deliver a timekeeping system that is simple to use.

  1. Simple happens because we stay ahead of the need- always maintaining more phone lines than we require. If an employee gets a busy signal, it’s not on our end.
  2. Simple happens because we utilize fail-over technology meaning that if one set of phone lines goes down, all calls transfer to another network.
  3. Simple happens because our servers are retired with plenty of capacity for existing company growth.  Scalability is key for any business with their eye on the future.
  4. Simple happens because of server redundancy and scheduled backups, which means no customer data has ever been lost.
  5. Simple happens because we partner with the best teammates (not vendors) to      provide the best network infrastructure of technology available.
  6. Simple happens because we have a fully staffed IT development team that always has their pulse on our system’s health and are ever moving forward to maintain our innovative industry leadership.
  7.  Simple happens because we have an exceptional customer support team focused on training/assisting our customers.  Our personal touch goes into creating helpful documents such as the online System Guide and instructional videos.

Simple happens, but it doesn’t just happen. Poet Dejan Stojanović said, “The most complicated skill is to be simple.”

 It is not easy being simple.

Price Your Services to Stay in Business

Did you fall in love with the new corner coffee shop because it was so cozy and the prices were half of Starbucks?  Weren’t you equally or more disappointed when it went out of business 9 months later?  Starbucks hasn’t weathered the economic storms by selling cheap coffee.

A small business that sells goods or services must make wise decisions in regards to pricing to have staying power in the business world.  We are passionate about helping small businesses succeed and we know that the odds are against them.  90% of new startup businesses will fail, and between 70-80% of all small businesses will fail within 10 years.  We may not understand the intricate details of your small business or the coffee business, but we have survived a very competitive marketplace in the telephone time-keeping industry for almost 20 years, so we have learned a few things that may benefit you.

We want to help you beat the odds by providing a few pointers on pricing.

Pricing Pointer #1

Don’t try to be the cheapest game in town.  You might actually win.   Your customers want high value at a fair price. Give them high value in the quality of service or products that you provide. If you can provide better quality than your competition, don’t offer bargain basement prices. A business can’t deliver steady, long term high quality at cheap prices. (Heard of ‘bottom out’?)  Long term customers don’t make decisions on cheap. They decide based on value and value comes from the effort you exhort after pricing is determined.

Pricing Pointer #2

Think long term. This means that you will need to reinvest in your business to hire the best employees; be in the most strategic location; marketing smart; use the finest materials and most durable equipment. Then maintain a capital reserve for unforeseen circumstances. Again, all of this is required to consistently deliver high quality. A business can’t do these things without PROFIT. How can a coffee shop stay in business very long selling great tasting cups of coffee served by friendly, competent staff if they are half the price of the competition?  Quality must suffer when the lowest  price is the primary driving force. Do a huge favor for the customers who love you. Position your prices to make a profit that allows you to stay around to serve them. They will be happy to pay to keep you.

Pricing Pointer #3

Keep it simple. Doesn’t it get on your nerves to get suckered in on a low price and then realize you didn’t read the fine print? Yes, the cup of coffee is 25 cents, but add a $1 for sugar + $1 for cream + $1 for a stirring straw and $3 to have it hot. A long lasting relationship is built on openness and trust. Instead put a sign in the window that says, “Only $6.25 for the most delicious, aromatic cup of coffee made from the highest quality beans and served by the brightest and friendliest baristas in town.” In other words, consider everything that goes into calculating a fair price and put it out there. Then be the best coffee shop in town.

Pricing Pointer #4

Be prepared to defend your pricing. Occasionally someone will inquire why your coffee costs more than what they can buy in the drive-thru at the local fast food chain. You’re thinking, “If they have to ask, why would I want them as a customer?”  But clearly understanding your position in the market and being able to confidently communicate it when necessary demonstrates that your decision was carefully considered and calculated for the all of the reasons above. To stumble with your response is a vote of no-confidence and isn’t reassuring to potential customers.

We want you to beat the odds and build a great business that stands the test of time. This requires a big picture, long range perspective and a calculated understanding the importance of pricing.   We also agree with Henry Ford  who said that a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. Your business will have to make money so that you can survive to make something much more important…a positive difference in the lives of the people you serve…

For those of you whose morning comes too quickly - it is that great cup of coffee before reviewing the Chronotek Dashboard to see who is clocked in.

Small Business Owners Must Act Differently To Get Different Results

A local restaurant owner recently invested a substantial sum of money in remodeling and renovating.  The key part of the project was the installation of a massive bar.  He also slightly altered the name of his establishment.  It appears to be an attempt at rebranding.

The attempt may not be working.  On two recent Friday night visits no one was at the bar.  There wasn’t even a bartender.  But a glance across the room revealed that the owner is still getting what he’s gotten for 20 years…an elderly crowd that orders the daily special, but no drinks.

Why haven’t the upgrades been successful?  An educated guess would be that nothing else has changed.  The hours are still 7am to 9pm.  The bar crowd is just getting started when the restaurant is closing.  A hard decision has to be made.  Change to lunch and dinner hours.  This decision may alienate the current elderly patrons who love the tasty, inexpensive breakfast, but vodka and tonics are more profitable than eggs and bacon.  A business can’t be all things to all people.

We have many small business owners who sign up for a free trial on our telephone timekeeping system with great hopes in mind.  They are finally going to put in place better practices that will save them payroll dollars, protect their jobs and help manage their employees.  We work with them to set up the account and are excited to see them start using it.

Chronotek’s management tools offer so much help that it completely changes business owners’ lives – and they continue with the service, not knowing how they got along without it.  But there are those few – the lost sheep.  The few that can’t seem to get the change to take.   A week or two down the road the employee stop calling and we stop hearing from the business owner.   We just can’t let these go….  A follow up call by our support team unearths a common finding.  The small business owner gave up because he couldn’t get his remote workers to clock in and out of our system.  The employees will give a variety of excuses, “I forgot” or “the system was down”(it wasn’t), etc and the owner will give up in exasperation.

Again, a hard decision must be made and successful small businesses will make it.  The employees must follow protocol or be terminated. They won’t be happy, but the very reasons they don’t want to comply is the reason that the business owner needs our system.  The employees have developed their own systems grounded in a poor work ethic and quite possibly, time theft.  Our system clashes with theirs.

Honest employees should have no problem with their clock in and out times being captured accurately with technology or their location tracked by GPS or late alerts sent to their supervisor.  In fact, they welcome the ease over tracking it themselves.

Making the decision to enhance your management strategies with telephone timekeeping should be a very easy one when you understand that it will help you distinguish good employees from bad ones.  You don’t want the bad employees.  They poison the well.  But making the move does necessitate a change. You are different now.

You must act differently to get different results.