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Timekeeping Blog

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.

Mobile Site Great 8’s Right on Your Phone

 

The smartphone has solved a lot of problems in the world today. Well, if we don’t want to classify them as problems, we can at least agree that smartphones have simplified life.

Hanging a picture and need to know if it’s straight? Grab your level. Oh, can’t find it? No “problem”. Just download a level app from the App Store.

Need to deposit a check and the bank is closed? No problem. With your bank’s mobile app, you can take a picture of the check and deposit it just before putting on your pajamas to go to bed.

Forget to record the season opener of Justified and you’re 42 miles away from home? Again, not a problem. Your smartphone can handle that issue as well.

Do you have remote employees to manage?  Don’t have the ability to supervise each site?  We have your back with some major enhancements to our mobile site that can be utilized on your smartphone or tablet. This is also a great tool for your supervisors who have limited access to manage the employees and jobs in which they are responsible.

Here’s a quick run-down of the “Great 8″ ways that our mobile site can improve your life.

  1. If you have an employee call in sick one morning while you are at a breakfast meeting, simply pull up the mobile site on your phone and check for other employees not scheduled to serve as a replacement.  See all of your employees’ weekly schedules with a quick view of their total scheduled hours and actual worked hours week to date. Then click on an employee to see his day to day.
  2. A supervisor can use the web clock method to clock in his entire crew at one time. This saves time and ensures that each employee’s time card gets started and is correct.
  3. Easily see no-shows over the last 12 hours. The direct supervisor may already be aware if she received the late alerts, but the owner or higher level supervisor can keep track of the business with this mobile report without dealing with alerts.
  4. At a glance, see which employees are late to scheduled jobs. Detail includes the job, the scheduled time and the actual clock in time along with the differential.
  5. Review who is currently on the clock. Is there any employee still clocked in who should have clocked out 2 hours ago?  A supervisor might need to check it out.  Did she run into a problem or just forget to clock out?
  6. Need to know every employee who clocked in or out over the past 24 hours?  It’s there.
  7. Make sure that employees aren’t clocking in/out from the bar down the street by viewing the location of their punches (if applicable).
  8. Monitor weekly hours to stop overtime before it happens. Mobile Chronotek reports each employee’s hours, accumulated week to date in descending order.

Our goal is to simplify your life so that you can spend time pursuing the things that bring you joy. Maybe that’s hanging pictures or catching up on good TV shows…

 

Small Businesses can Leverage Training like Olympic Athletes

The Olympics have been a thrill to watch, but have you ever considered the magnitude of the events for the athletes? They train for years to compete in one event that may last 40 seconds. All of their hard work comes down to a minutiae of time compared to the years of preparation. One small misstep and it’s over. They don’t have another inning, period or quarter to come back to redeem themselves. There’s not another game next week or even next season. Four years. The athletes must wait another 4 years. Back to training to prove themselves best in the world.

One future Olympic hopeful is Hannah Miller, a 16 year old luger who spends up to 10 months a year living away from home and family at the training center. She practices 6-8 hours a day and misses birthdays, Christmases and other holidays with family. She trains this intensely even though she knows the difference between making the team or not can come down to 3/1,000ths of a second and if she does make the team, her dreams can be dashed just as quick. Yet she still trains.

What can small business owners learn from Olympic athletes? One thing is that their business is in a competition. There are other janitorial, security, construction, greenhouse and pool companies in the marketplace with a limited number of medals (or customers) to go around.

Likewise, a successful small business owner must constantly be learning and training to stay competitive in her industry. She must seek out and find the best practice tools to maintain her edge. Many small business owners with remote employees have found a valuable tool in our telephone timekeeping system. They are saving precious time and money by using technology to capture accurate shift times for their off-site workers.

We would like to offer 5 helpful training tips (one for each Olympic ring) to these small business warriors who are using our system so that they can maximize their management efforts.

Training tip #1

The cornerstone of our business is accurate time that’s captured by 2 simple phone calls in and out. But occasionally employees will forget to clock out resulting in an open, incomplete time card. However, this can be easily monitored daily. Each morning review the edit time card screen or the daily time card report to look for red flags.  Use the integrated voice mail system to let John know he needs to call when he clocks in the next morning to report his departure time from the day before. Or if you choose to give employees access to view their timecards online they can quickly see the forgotten punch and inform their supervisor of the correct out time.

Training tip #2

Enter employee hourly pay rates to utilize our Job Summary report. This is a great job costing report to keep up with labor costs at each site for any time period you want to review. Counting the costs is important to make sure your client monthly contracts are fair, yet profitable.

Training tip #3

Use our powerful Payroll Snapshot report to accurately calculate expanded overtime hours like used in California. It automatically calculates over 40 hours in a week; over 8 in a day; over 12 in a day and 7 days in one work week for any pay period setting. Easily track vendors who are OT exempt. It also seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks to export each time card to QuickBooks timesheets. This one feature alone will free up several hours of time each pay period that can be spent on acquiring new customers and optimally serving the existing ones.

Training tip #4

Link job site phones to ensure that employees are on-site when clocking in. Nothing kills your ability to compete like over-inflated, unearned hours. John may finish up early and decide to finish his shift at the local bar by clocking out on his cell phone. By linking phones, this can be avoided and you have peace of mind. Now that’s worth its weight in a gold medal.

Training tip #5

To gain full command of the management tools available be sure to refer to the on-line System Guide.  This valuable reference can guide you through the system at your own pace.  Be sure to review the table of contents often for features that you might not be utilizing to the fullest.  Refer to it often.

Hannah Miller won’t make the Olympic Games in 2018 by just wanting it. She will have to work very hard every day doing the right things to improve her skills knowing that she has one shot to succeed. Unlike Olympic athletes, a small business owner who fails may not have another shot in 4 years.

As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric said, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”  We are your competitive edge. Maximize us. Go for the gold!

Not Your Vendor

Vendor.  We’ve had them and we bet you have too.  A few of the definitions available for vendor are:

  1. Someone who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money.
  2. One who disposes of a thing in consideration of money.
  3. A person or agency that sells.

We don’t like any one of these definitions.  And we don’t want to be your vendor. It doesn’t convey our heartbeat as a company.  Vendor simply implies an exchange for money.

We have other words that we prefer that really get down between the bone and marrow of why we started this company 20 years ago. 

Teammate…  Partner…  Associate…  Collaborator… Comrade… Helpmate

Now these words imply a symbiotic relationship in which all parties are working toward a common goal and helping each other succeed. That’s our heart – relating to our clients.  So what does this look like in business?  How can you tell if the company you are researching for a needed service will be your vendor or your teammate?

Our experience has uncovered 3 more words to consider when making a decision about partnering for a service.

Identify  -       Listen    -     Responsive 

The right choice should identify with who and what your company is and not attempt to force you into something you are not.  No one understands your business like you do.  You need a service to give you something you don’t know how to do or have time to do yourself.  A great prospect will bring a plethora of fantastic ideas based on a solid understanding who you are and not run you through a cookie cutter process they apply to all of their customers.

A partner will listen intently to learn who you are and to discern your unique needs. Their listening skills should be so in tune to what you are saying that they can hear what you need even though you don’t know you need it. A janitorial customer of ours recently commented that one of her cleaners always forgets to reset the alarm at a job site.  Because we were listening, we discerned that our new Custom Prompts would solve this problem perfectly.  Any extra charge for that, she asked?  Of course not.

A teammate will be responsive to your requests and evolving needs. If they can deliver, they will and keep you updated along the way.

However, a responsibility comes with this responsiveness.  A good teammate will be honest.  If you are asking for something that really isn’t in your best interest, you deserve to be advised, even if it means the loss of a sale.  A good partner wants to build a long term relationship and isn’t short sighted.

As for us, we want to improve your life as a small business owner by offering you a proven way to control labor costs and increase customer satisfaction.  We do want and need to make money, but that’s only a part of the equation. We have a telephone timekeeping system that has been tested, tried and proven for 20 years to help companies in many industries who have remote workers.  Industries such as janitorial, security, construction, painting, landscaping, snowplowing, greenhouses, transportation and many more have simplified their business processes with our system.

Don’t settle for just a vendor.  We don’t.  Strive for a relationship.

Handwritten Timecards Are a Money Trap

It’s easy to fall into a money trap. Maybe you drink a Red Bull once a week for an extra kick start on Monday mornings. Who could blame you? Mondays are Mondays. It’s a great $2.50 a week investment. But then you’re strolling through Costco and you see a case of Red Bulls for $32.50. That’s 24 cans at $1.35 each; about half the cost of your convenience store. “What a deal!” you exclaim and run over a little old lady in your excitement to load the case on your flatbed shopping cart. Now what was just a Monday treat is also your “get me through hump day” Wednesday habit and a TGIF fix. The $2.50 a week pleasure has escalated into an indulgence more than double the cost and blew your budget (we won’t mention the health issues).  Likewise, in running a small business, you have to count every cost and if you don’t, the costs will run away from you and torpedo your budget as well.

A study of small businesses revealed that employees steal an average of 10 minutes a day from their employers. This is more apt to happen when remote workers use the honor system to fill out handwritten timesheets. You may be aware that this practice occurs in your company, but don’t know how to stop it or maybe you haven’t considered it to be a big deal. It is.

Let’s illustrate…and we will assume that your employees are twice as honest and accurate as the average employee, and you only lose 5 minutes a day amongst each of your 15 employees.  At $8 an hour that’s 13.3 cents a minute x 5 minutes a
day =66.5 cents a day per employee.  Doing the math…. all 15 employees are taking 75 minutes a day equating to $10 a day, $50 a week, and $2600 a year in overpaid, unearned, non-productive wages. Ouch!

Realizing all the costs can be even more painful!

  •  A mere 5 minutes a day in timecard inaccuracy results in $2600 a year in overpaid, unearned, non-productive wages.
  • Then you must consider the payroll expenses such as workers compensation and payroll taxes associated with these extra unearned wages.
  • If the average pay rate is more than $8 an hour, your losses are even greater. You are getting nothing in return for these dollars.
  • What’s worse is that you may be cultivating a climate that tolerates dishonesty.

What would you get by utilizing a telephone timekeeping solution that captures accurate time and eliminates the 75 minutes a day waste? Let’s review the savings. In our recent blog article, Control Overtime With Accurate Timekeeping, we calculated that if your 15 employees punch into 2 jobs a day 5 days a week, the monthly cost for accurate timekeeping  would be $175 a month or $2100 a year.  That 75 minute a  day, $2600 a year, payroll loss replaced by the $2100 solution nets at least a $500 savings a year (and possibly upwards of $1000 counting workers compensation and payroll taxes) by capturing accurate time with simple toll-free telephone calls. These savings are probably understated as outlined in a blog article entitled, Would You Trade a Quarter if I Gave You a Dollar?

Then consider other tangibles such as no-show alerts that help to not lose jobs and the seamless QuickBooks Interface that drastically cuts processing payroll time (and makes your bookkeeper happy). Make your life simpler at no net cost to your business. In fact, you make money with an accurate telephone timekeeping service.

Don’t allow inaccurate timekeeping methods to be a money trap for your small business. The costs are real, must be counted and can be avoided. Sidestep into simple with real savings.

Smartphone Web-Enhanced Timekeeping

If you are a small business owner with off-site employees, there’s about a 56% chance that these employees own smartphones. And if you are still using handwritten timesheets to track their time, there’s a 100% chance that your payroll is higher than it should be. Technology can be a powerful force for positive change in your business and it’s readily accessible at your fingertips…or your employees’ fingertips.

We wrote a couple of blog posts last year about a tool that almost everyone over the age of 14 possesses in his or her pocket…the phone. It can be used for more than updating Facebook status, sending tweets and uploading pictures to Instagram. A phone can capture accurate time of your employees, facilitate management efforts and save your business money. When used with the Chronotek Telephone Timekeeping System, it’s the only hardware you need and you don’t need to buy it.

Since we posted these 2 blogs last year, technology has only gotten better and your opportunity to harness it greater. We have introduced a new method to capture remote employees’ time punches…Web Clock Ins via their smartphone browsers. Instead of calling to clock in, employees can have access to our mobile website to punch in. It is quick, easy and provides a very accurate GPS track of their location.

In addition, access can be given on the mobile site for your employees to view their hours worked and any job schedules you have created for them. Doesn’t this sound like less management on your end? No more calls from employees wanting to know when they work next and how many hours they have accumulated. Give them access to our mobile site and put the responsibility on them to keep up with this information.

Sign up for a free trial on our telephone and now smartphone web-enhanced timekeeping system. Use the prevalence of smartphone technology to give your small business some horsepower this year.

Best Business Practices

A sirloin steak may be good, but we all know that a filet mignon is best. Business practices can also be categorized as good and best.

We often hear that small businesses with remote hourly workers pay a set number of hours for a job instead of actual time. If the owner of a janitorial company knows that a building takes 3 hours a night to clean, he’s only paying 3 hours. It’s a strategy to limit payroll expenses. It may not be a bad practice, but is it the best? It may be costing more than it’s saving.

An employee doesn’t have the incentive to stay on the job more than 3 hours even though circumstances may require it. As the 3 hour mark approaches he is motivated to rush and cut corners leaving the quality subpar. Once a week or so the window blinds need to be thoroughly cleaned, but this may not happen if the worker is pushed for time. Will cleaners making minimum wage or just above it spend extra time on a job when they aren’t getting paid for it? This is a threat to the owner. To maintain quality control and keep his customers happy he will need to spend time doing frequent spot inspections on the work.

On the flip side, a job may only take 2 hours 51 minutes to thoroughly do. The owner is paying 9 minutes extra each night. That’s 45 minutes a week on an everyday contract. That’s 45 minutes closer to 40 hours that’s unearned. Or maybe you are feeling the effects of Obamacare and 29 hours is the number you are fighting. Either way, that’s 39 hours a year. A full week or more of unearned pay. And this math is assuming 1 job for each employee. Double it if an employee cleans 2 sites a night.

But what happens to work quality if you utilize telephone timekeeping to capture accurate time and that’s what you pay? The employee isn’t motivated to rush his work. He will spend time making sure that it’s done right. If you find that the job is routinely taking more than 3 hours, but the quality is top notch, then you may need to reassess the contract. Have another one of your best workers clean that site for a week. Evaluate her time on the job relative to performance against the first employee.

If the job is taking less than 3 hours but the workmanship quality is excellent, then you are making more money on the contract and you don’t have to spend as much time doing spot inspections.  Give your employee a bonus.

So, on one hand you keep things simple and try to limit payroll by paying a fixed amount of hours per job, yet you have to strictly monitor those sites for quality control. Your employees aren’t incentivized to do thorough work and this leads to increased management efforts. On the other hand, you pay actual time captured by a technologically advanced timekeeping system and your workers don’t cut corners. The result should be higher quality workmanship and less oversight needed by management. Management time is valued higher than employee time.

One method may be good, but one is definitely best.

Test Drive Different Telephone Timekeeping Systems

It’s the start of a new year and you are reviewing and rethinking some of your small business practices. If you were hoping that 2014 would be easier, you may be disappointed. A couple of the larger concerns are the possibility of an increase in the minimum wage and the impending January 2015 deadline for companies with more than 50 employees to comply with Obamacare.

If your small business has remote workers and you’re still relying on handwritten timesheets to gather their time, 2014 is the year to stop the insanity!  As minimum wage increases so will the losses with timecard theft.   The snowball effect happens when you end up paying additional payroll taxes on hours that are not actually worked.  You are losing money to inaccurate timesheets and wasting time (which is money) on collecting and manually processing them for payroll. Read our post, Minding Your Minutes, to see the numbers. You need a technologically advanced timekeeping system to capture accurate hours for your off-site employees.

It is time to cut the losses before they get even larger in 2014.  Not quite ready to choose an on-line timekeeping system?  We understand that you want to choose the right system.  Search Google and many choices come up. They all say that they are the best, but which one really is? No, you don’t want to waste a lot of time and effort only to realize that the system you tried isn’t good for you. And yes, there is a way to mitigate your fears.

Instead of going all-in by signing up for a free trial on a telephone timekeeping system and putting all of your employees on it for 30 days, why not sign up with 3 companies and test 3-4 different employees on each?   Sign up for a Chronotek account.  Do side by side by side comparisons of all the features, simplicity, pricing and customer support. We can’t overstate the importance of calling and emailing the customer support departments of each company during your trial. You need to know that your timekeeping company has staff that is easy to work with, responsive and helpful.

It may seem odd that one timekeeping company is recommending that you test drive other systems, but we are passionate about small businesses succeeding and we want what’s best for you.   Our 20 year proven track record gives us pronounced confidence that we are the right choice for most small businesses with remote employees, but we want you to be comfortable with your choice. Most of all, we want you to make the switch to a telephone or web-based timekeeping system. It’s the best resolution you can make to help your small business fight off the challenges that the government keeps tossing your way.

Small Business New Year’s Resolutions

Lose 10 pounds. √ Check.
Quit smoking. √ Check.
Spend more quality time with my family. √ Check.

The same resolutions that you made last year. They are all worthy goals, but do you have any for your small business in 2014?
• Do you want to cut payroll without layoffs?
• Provide better service to your customers?
• Reduce the time and hassle for processing payroll?
• Manage remote off-site workers more efficiently?
• Eliminate or control over-time?

The Chronotek Telephone Timekeeping System is your simple solution to helping your small business meet its goals for the New Year. We wrote several blog entries this past year that explain why telephone timekeeping for your remote, hourly employees is a fantastic idea. In this post we will guide you through some of our greatest hits of the past year.

The reasons that telephones should be utilized as a tool to track and manage your remote employees are outlined in two blog articles, The Universal Appliance and What’s In Your Pocket? Such a simple, pervasive and inexpensive device can be a powerful instrument in your small business success.

So, how can you cut payroll without pink slips? No spoiler alerts here, but two words…accurate time. Time really is money. $7.50 an hour is 12.5 cents a minute. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you are losing several minutes a day per employee to inaccurate timekeeping methods such as handwritten timecards, those minutes add up. We illustrate this point in Minding Your Minutes and Would You Trade A Quarter If I Gave You A Dollar?

Providing better service to your customers is always near the top of your list and one way to do it is to insure that their work gets done and on time. When you have remote employees it can be hard to manage this aspect. You don’t have eyes in the field at 2am when your work is being done or at least scheduled to be done. We can help. Our blog post, Risk and Reward…It’s About Time explains why the effort to set up a timekeeping system is worth it.

Technology is a great investment to save time on many mundane business tasks such as processing payroll. In our post, Solid Investment Strategies Necessary for Business, we outline why telephone timekeeping is money in the bank.

It’s hard to manage employees that you don’t see. The best thing you can do to manage your employees more effectively is to hire the right people to start with and have a way to monitor them. Our post, The Right People, explains how our timekeeping system can help you filter out the wrong employees and recognize the good ones.

Finally, overtime is a profit killer. It can bust out the bottom of your bottom line. If you like to see how numbers can paint a picture, see our blog post, Control Overtime With Accurate Timekeeping. Be warned. The numbers may frighten you.

So, there you have it. Simple solutions to help you succeed with your small business’ New Year’s resolutions. And by the way, when our system saves you time and money, you’ll have more of both to spend with your family.

Control Overtime With Accurate Timekeeping

Employee overtime is sometimes unavoidable. Big projects come up and the work has to get done and the overtime must be paid. But it should never become a routine part of a small business plan. A company that pays overtime every week can save 1/3rd by hiring a part-time employee. Another proven method to cutting down or eliminating overtime is utilizing technology for accurate timekeeping.

We would like to toss a few numbers at you to illustrate why overtime is toxic for your small business…and how we can help. Who likes people who only highlight problems without offering solutions anyway?

As an example, let’s say that your small business has 15 full-time hourly employees. On average their hourly pay rate is $9. Your weekly payroll is $5400 or $280,800 annually. But what happens if each employee works just one hour of overtime each week? That’s 15 hours x $13.50 an hour=$202.50 a week and $10,530 a year. That figure comes straight off your bottom line. Factor in payroll taxes and the numbers are even more painful to your profit margins.

You could hire a part-time worker to cover those 15 extra hours a week at $9 an hour for $7020 a year. That’s a $3500 annual savings and sounds like a grand idea, right? We have an even better one.

In our blog article, Minding Your Minutes, we referred to an article that stated companies lose on average 10 minutes a day to employee time theft because they use outdated methods to track time. This article also referred to a study that showed that using technology such as ours can decrease overtime costs by 59% (as a percentage of payroll). Our system captures indisputable accurate time for timecards because it simply captures the punch-ins and punch-outs based on phone calls made by your employees. It’s that easy. Your employees call a toll free number, put in a code and we capture their time.

Back to our example. Let’s assume that our system works effectively and eliminates all of your overtime and saves you the $10,530 a year plus payroll taxes. What will that cost you? If your 15 employees work 2 jobs a day 5 days a week, your monthly cost would be $175 a month or $2097 a year. That represents a savings of overt $8400 versus paying the overtime.

Implement our system instead of hiring a part-timer to eliminate overtime and we will save you over $5000 a year (and we are much easier to manage). And oh yes, those pesky payroll taxes must be factored in, also.

How does that sound for a solution to your overtime problem? It’s more than shallow talk. We’ve seen it work for our customers for almost 20 years.

The Right People

We’ve all seen it…an ongoing parade of restaurants open and fail from the same location. Every time a new one opens we feel sorry for the brave soul who dared to venture yet once again. But occasionally one makes it to thrive. Same spot, same target market, similar prices, quality and menu items. What is the difference?

Ask any patron and the answer is easy. The culture and climate changed because of the people. Either the owner, manager, hostess or cashier, but the right people breathed fresh air into the business. As a small business owner, it’s extremely important that you also have the right people on staff.

How do you go about ensuring that your staff is your strongest asset?

We can help, especially if you have remote employees.  A small business owner must have the highest level of trust in off-site workers.  Managers can easily keep track of office and warehouse employees, but off-site workers have no eyes on them.  Our telephone timekeeping system with its many employee management tools can be your eyes in the field and your filter to sift out the bad employees from the good employees.

  • Discover which of your workers are consistently late to jobs. With handwritten timecards, all of your workers are ‘seemingly’ always on time to all of their jobs.  With accurate time captured by a simple call to clock into our system, you can see live data as to which employees really are on time and the ones who are late. You can also get text or email alerts for the late employees.
  • Know which employees aren’t on the job site when they clock in or out with our GPS location tracking feature.
  • Distinguish between employees who work diligently and those who don’t.  You probably have a good estimation as to how long it should take to complete the scope of work at each location. Use our job schedules to compare actual times versus scheduled times at each job site.
  • Learn the character of your employees. You may notice that 98% of your staff can clock in and out of our system all the time, but the same 2% frequently complain of call-in issues. This is valuable information about the character of the 2%  if they are using the same phones or have the same cell providers as the 98%.       What’s the real reason they didn’t clock in or out?
  • Catch employees clocking in and out for each other with our Random Voice Verification system. The employee repeats their name saved in a voice message for their assigned supervisor.

By using each of these tools a small business can quickly discern the right employees and the wrong ones for their business.  Perhaps you can create a scoring system for your employees. This continuous filtering will insure that you build a solid, honest and reliable workforce, which as you know, is your best chance for success.

Let us breathe some fresh air into your business!

Small Businesses Live Between a Rock and a Hard Place

What do you call that tiny sliver of real estate between a rock and a hard place? Small businesses owners are starting to call it home. Beginning in 2014, the government (rock) will require them to provide affordable health insurance for their employees while pushing for a higher minimum wage. Pushing in on the other side are the worker’s compensation carriers (hard place) who are raising its rates on many small businesses. How can a small business find any breathing room?

One of our long-time customers had an idea. He came to us. Kevin, the owner of a janitorial company in New Hampshire, called and said that his workers comp provider is trying to raise his rates by 25% percent. Kevin performs a litany of services for his clients and he uses our telephone time keeping system to track the time his hourly employees spend on each. One of his services offered is window cleaning. His workers comp provider noticed an increase in this “hazardous” activity over the past year and is trying to reward Kevin’s entrepreneurial zeal with a nice little rate bump.

Kevin wanted to know if he could pull a job report from our system that showed how much time his employees spent on window cleaning all of last year. You bet. Our report indicated that his total window cleaning hours last year accounted for 2% of his total labor hours. 2012 represented a 14.5% increase in window cleaning over 2011. Does either of these stats justify a 25% increase in his rate that means thousands of extra dollars out of his pocket? Armed with empirical data from our system, he is anxious to find out and so are we.

We have mentioned before that telephone timekeeping system can save a small business 2-6% in payroll by capturing accurate time. Now we are seeing that maintaining accurate and thorough records may save a small business thousands of dollars and protect the patch of ground it calls home.

ObamaCare Postponed. Prepare Now.

In a previous post, New Numbers For Small Business, we outlined the implications of the new Obamacare law to small businesses.  This law will require businesses with at least 50 employees to provide healthcare coverage to employees who work on average 30 hours a week. The mandate was to be effective January 2014.  As an update to that post, the Obama administration has postponed the start date of this mandate until January 2015. This one-year delay gives small business owners extra time to prepare. For the same reasons outlined in our earlier post, businesses should take advantage of this reprieve.

An article in USA Today indicates that the economy felt the impact of the anticipated 2014 change. While there was job growth, much of the increase has been with part time jobs. This makes sense as employers want to avoid paying for health insurance.

Since March, 791,000 part-time jobs have been added, while the increase in full-time jobs has been only 187,000.

The majority of the new jobs in July came from 4 low wage industries: retail, restaurants, home healthcare and staffing firms. These sectors accounted for 60% of the growth.

We expect that the trend towards more part-time workers will continue as small businesses adapt to pending changes in the healthcare law. Small businesses will need to be diligent in tracking hours worked by their part-time employees, especially their remote workers in order to keep their hours under 30 a week. Since handwritten time cards can be easily fudged, it’s imperative now more than ever that small businesses transition to technology for their time keeping methods.

Obamacare is coming. The effect on your small business can be mitigated if you make the most of its postponement.

We can help. It’s about time. Let’s get started.

Not Wasting Your Time

You bring home the new windshield wipers that you just purchased; the 19-inch wipers that the salesman insisted were right even though you suspected they were too short.  You install them and… you were right.  Ughhh…

Option 1:  keep them and live with the inconvenience.  Option 2:  return them.  That’s a pain.  Or Option 3:  put the old one’s back on.  But that doesn’t make sense.  They needed to be replaced.  Any way you slice it, the time you really didn’t have to begin with has been wasted…or at the very least, not optimized.

If you own a cleaning company, a security guard company, a construction company or any service-oriented company with remote employees and you sign up for a free 30 day trial on our telephone timekeeping system, we don’t want you to experience this same annoyed feeling.

We realize that a free trial isn’t totally free.  Time is invested inputting the employees and jobs and learning the system.  Then this new time and attendance tracking method must be rolled out to your employees.  Your time is not free.  We know.  Time is our business.

We also know our system will give you peace of mind and a better life.  We believe that so much that we will invest our time in your business.

Let us help you use your time wisely.  Simply sign up for a free trial and give us 15 minutes on the phone.

  1. We will enter your employees (up to 20 for the trial).
  2. We will enter your jobs.
  3. We will set up your alert destinations to receive check in and out alerts.

(Employees can start clocking in right away!)

Try Chronotek Free

 

 

Then we will continue to help you by providing free ongoing customer support over the phone, by email, chat or webinar – as much time as you need.  We will be your partner.

You will also discover that our employee management system gives you back time, which you can waste any way you choose.  With peace of mind, more control, and higher profits you can afford to waste a little time.

Timekeeping 101: Minutes and Decimal Hours

Many people hate math and all of its evil cousins, such as algebra, calculus and decimals.  While one may argue that the real life practical use of the first two is non-existent, it’s hard to be a small business owner and not come across decimals on a frequent basis.  This is especially true for the wise service-oriented small business owners who use a telephone timekeeping system to capture accurate time for their remote hourly employees.  On most timesheet reports, the minutes will be reflected in a decimal form.  But don’t fearour timecard reports give you the decimal format (used in payroll) and the equivalent time in hours and minutes (numbers we are used to seeing).

For example, 4.35 hours in NOT 4 hours and 35 minutes.  Because time is a number system with 60 as its base (not 100 based) the math is not that easy.     In reality 4.35 hours is actually 4 hours and 21 minutes.  The calculation is .35 x 60=21 minutes or 21÷60=.35.

It helps to think of the basic time conversions we know (see the last row in the chart):

• 15 minutes is a quarter of an hour, .25

• 30 minutes is a half of an hour, .50

• 45 minutes is three quarters of an hour, .75

• 60 minutes is one hour, 1.00

But who has time for all of that? We are all for keeping it simple. Below is a handy conversion chart.  Feel free to print it off and refer to it when faced with a challenge in which the conversion wasn’t done for you.

converions hours to minutes

Risk and Reward… It’s about Time.

You’ve done your homework and know that telephone timekeeping for your remote hourly employees is a fantastic idea. You know that it can save you 2-6% on payroll and countless hours of processing it. You know these things to be true, but you still haven’t done it. Why?

Because you also know that implementing any new system can be hard, even harder if you have to train and integrate other people into it. You may be completely sunny about the idea, but some of the old dogs may bite.

Yet, the idea won’t go away. It haunts you as each day passes and you haven’t taken action. You would love to have an extra set of eyes in the field and you know that a good telephone timekeeping system is the answer.  Alerts when your employees are late to scheduled jobs; location tracking when your employees clock in and out; help to prevent buddy punching are a few of the features that you’ve read about and would help alleviate some of the daily stress of running your small business. Life could be so much easier. Still you procrastinate.

Greater than the desire to take this bold and wise step is a fear. Yes, a risk that you can put forth all of the effort and time into learning the system and training your employees only to get to the end of your 30 day trial period and discover that the telephone timekeeping company you tried is a dud. You do not need to waste your time.

A famous man once said (or almost said), “Better to have tested and lost than never to have tested at all.” Well, maybe not. Your time is too valuable to test and fail. You need simple.

That’s why we do everything in our power to guarantee your success and we invest our time to make that happen. We have a plan for you to prosper.

  • Free customer support. All of the time.
  • Free weekly webinar training seminars. Attend as many as you want.
  • Free private tutorials at your convenience.
  • Free assistance inputting your employee and job data when setting up your account.
  • And yes, all of the life enhancing features you’ve read about are all free. It’s quite simple. We charge you 2 fees. One for monthly access and the second is the per call charge for employee clock ins and outs. That’s it.
  • Reach us by phone, email, or chat line. We are accessible.

We understand the risks involved. We’ve been helping companies like yours for 18 years and that’s how we know that the rewards are great. Life simplified.

Choose wisely. Choose once. It’s about time.

What’s In Your Pocket?

Everyone should have a Swiss Army knife is his pocket.  With this one tool a person can tighten a screw, open a soda bottle, trim nose hairs, saw a small branch, cure the common cold, and various other useful functions.  Chances are that most people are packing another powerful multipurpose tool in their pockets as well…the phone.

Phones can save small businesses thousands of dollars each year in their largest   expense…payroll.  Employees who work at remote locations generally don’t have actual time clocks to punch, so their employers must rely on the honor system and handwritten timecards.  Utilizing phones as a method for remote employees to punch in and out of jobs through a telephone timekeeping system captures accurate time that could yield a 2-6% payroll savings.  

What more can a phone do for a small business other than save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in payroll?  With a timekeeping system like Chronotek:

  • Alerts can be sent to a supervisor’s cell phone as a text message or email when employees “no-show” to scheduled jobs. This feature alone can save a company a contract by making sure the job is covered.
  • Supervisors with smartphones can use our web-based mobile site to view schedules, no-shows, late employees, employee’s status, the call log and an over 40 hours report.  This is a great tool for busy supervisors on the go.  Catch overtime before it happens!
  • Our new web clock-ins (an enhancement to the mobile site) allows supervisors to use the web to clock-in groups of employees, which saves time and money.
  • The location of clock-ins/outs by a cell phone or smartphone web browser can be tracked by our GPS location tracking feature.

The greatest reason that any small business should consider using the phone as a strategic application is that almost every building has one; and every person has access to one. The phone replaces the expensive hardware that a business would need to purchase to implement traditional timekeeping methods.  Why carry around a set of Ginsu knives when one sharp pocket knife will do?      

The phone may never be able to peel an apple, but it is one tool that every small business with remote employees should have in their pocket.

Would You Trade a Quarter if I Gave You a Dollar?

If someone offered to trade you a dollar for a quarter, would you accept the trade? You would probably back up a truck to haul away your good fortune. For businesses using hand-written time cards to track their employees’ time, Chronotek has such a deal.  Our industry leading telephone timekeeping system, with over 15 years of proven excellence, can save these businesses between 2-6% on their largest capital outlay, payroll (savings averages according to the American Payroll Association).

Times are tight and you may think that you can’t afford to implement a telephone timekeeping system. Our clients have shifted that thinking – and they are getting ahead of their competition!  Our system is not a cost; it is an investment – with benefits.  We don’t pay you to use Chronotek, but it seems that way.  The return on investment is only part of the savings. When you manage your employees more effectively you give better service to your customer.  Chronotek provides a good return on your investment and a comprehensive employee management tool.

The following chart illustrates how Chronotek saves people money by capturing accurate time…  no padding on Chronotek time cards.   We estimated 20 employees working a 6 hour, 5 day work week, with 2 clock in/outs a day.  Employees would make 870 calls a month costing $129, with a possible savings of $707 a month (4% of payroll less cost of system).

Check out the pricing calculator for your estimated savings.

An investment with benefits…  Save time by not having to collect and process manual time cards…  Run payroll reports with accurate time cards…  Receive alerts when employees do not show for jobs…  Prevent buddy punching with Random Voice Verification…  Send voice messages your employees must listen to.

Put another way, approximately every $1.25 invested in Chronotek could yield a return of $7.  Can you afford to wait any longer?   Save money, work smarter and stay ahead of your competition by implementing proven technology.  Get your truck and we will load up your savings!

Automatic Lunch Deductions Can Be Unhealthy

Charles de Montesquieu, a French social commentator and political thinker during the 1700’s said, “Lunch kills half of Paris, supper the other half.”  If small businesses aren’t careful, lunch can kill them as well.

We have received many calls recently asking if our system allows for an automatic lunch deduction. This topic circles around occasionally.  The answer is still no…and while avoiding expensive litigation is a great reason NOT to begin this practice, another should be considered. It is our raison d’etre…capturing accurate time.

A company may offer an automatic 30-minute lunch deduction; however if it required employees to clock-in/out for lunch, it may discover that employees are taking more than 30 minutes a day.  That would accrue several minutes a day for each employee working 5 days a week, 20 + days a month.  An employee who makes $7.50 an hour and is overpaid 5 minutes a day would receive over $160 annually in unearned income.  Make it $200 after payroll taxes and FICA, and then multiply that figure by the number of employees on payroll.

Another consideration is not just the unearned, undeserved money that is paid to employees who abuse lunch, but it’s the unmerited time that accrues towards their weekly timecard. According to the guidelines under the new healthcare law that goes into effect January 2014, an employee who averages 30 hours a week (or 120 hours a month) is fulltime equivalent (FTE). If a company has 50 employees or more then it must provide affordable health insurance for these FTE employees or pay a fine.

Unlike any other period, small businesses must diligently pursue accurate time keeping. Allowing unearned time to accrue on timecards for part-time employees can be an expensive, yet a very avoidable threat to a business. We understand small businesses’ need to comply with the law’s requirements for lunch time and breaks, but a better way exists than doing an automatic lunch deduction. Two calls a day (a call out for lunch and then back in from lunch) is only 25 cents a day (or less) per employee. A quarter is a great investment to ensure legal compliance while also strictly monitoring time.

Enjoy your lunch. Don’t let it kill your business.

Minding Your Minutes

An old adage says, “mind your pennies and your dollars will watch themselves”.  The same is true when you mind your time, especially when time equals money as it does for small businesses.

We had the opportunity recently to speak with a gentleman interested in our services. He ran a pricing estimate on his 14 employees to clock-in/out each day, 5 days a week.  At almost $92 a month for our telephone timekeeping system, he didn’t think that he lost that much time in dollars each month.  It’s a valid concern.  Small businesses must weigh the cost/benefit of every dollar spent.

We felt called to task and decided to quickly run our own estimates.  The assumption behind capturing accurate time with a telephony system is that companies overpay their employees due to the inefficiencies of handwritten timecards.  If a janitorial company pays $7.50 an hour and on average loses 3 minutes a day to each of its 14 employees, that results in $114 in overpaid wages each month. Factor in higher wages such as the proposed hike in the minimum wage  to $9 an hour and more than 3 lost minutes each day, the wasted dollars gush out like a busted dam.

Another interesting article states that companies lose 10 minutes a day to employee theft.  In our example above, that’s $375 a month in overpaid wages that can be prevented by a $92 a month investment.  Most everyone would invest $92 to receive back 4 times that amount.

It is a shock to the system to learn how quickly lost minutes turn into serious dollars.  Wouldn’t it be great to have those dollars back? It would be a beautiful thing.

Cloud Computing. No Spacesuit Required.

Ten years ago “moving to the cloud” would have meant strapping on Mr. Jetson’s spacesuit and attempting to relocate.  But today that phrase is as relevant as “tweet”, “unfriend” and “wi-fi”.  Most people have an abstract idea of what it means. Don’t worry, this post will not dive very deep into the technical aspects of cloud computing, but let’s begin with a basic definition. Wikipedia defines cloud computing as, “the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet).  Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation.”

With that groundwork laid, what does cloud computing mean to your business?

At a very basic level, the cloud can provide “off-site” file backup and storage. The providers’ off-site servers are backed up, duplicated and replicated for security and redundancy.  With unique log-in credentials, a customer can access his files remotely across the internet by PC or a smartphone app.  The cloud data backup plan is a great idea because PC hard drives fail and external hard drives, flash drives and discs are not 100% reliable.  If your data is important to you, then it is important to use a combination of the above storage methods as a solid, comprehensive plan.

Another advantage that cloud computing can offer businesses relates to software and services or “software as a service”. Traditionally to use a software program such as QuickBooks, a customer would buy the software package on a CD, install it on a PC and only have access to the program at that one computer.  Cloud computing allows a business to use software programs online, without having to install a program on a local computer and access is available from any PC with internet access (or a smartphone app).

Small businesses with remote employees can also take advantage of this “move to the cloud”.  Tracking the employees’ time can be cumbersome, costly, and time consuming, while affecting the biggest line item on a budget…payroll. Small businesses can purchase time tracking software and hardware, but there are many drawbacks to this strategy.  The software is generally expensive, needs regular updates (often at an expense) and is chained to one computer.  The hardware can be cost-prohibitive for smaller companies and will eventually fail or become obsolete.  The process of repairing or replacing the hardware leads to more costs and system downtime, while a reputable cloud, or web-based timekeeping company, maintains full operation 99.99% of the time.

An article in Infoworld.com illustrates why businesses that track employee time with handwritten timecards should consider a cloud or web-based timekeeping system.  The author states, “Cloud computing comes into focus only when you think about what IT (Information Technology) always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software…it means no upfront investment in servers or software licensing. These factors are huge along with the benefits of accurate timekeeping and automatically calculated hours!

Is your company ready to move to the cloud?

New Numbers for Small Businesses

The numbers are not lining up in the favor of small businesses. 9, 30, 50, 120 are all digits that may start putting a stranglehold on small business in 2014. We want to review what these numbers mean to your small business and how their death grip can be relaxed.

Times are already hard for small businesses and 2014 looms ahead as getting even tougher. The new healthcare law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called Obamacare, goes into effect and the Democratic Party is now pushing for a mandated increase of the minimum wage.

PPACA requires a company that employs at least 50 people for 120 days or more a year to provide affordable health insurance for those employees who work on average 30 hours a week (or 120 hours per month). “Affordable” is defined as less than 9.5% of the employee’s family income.  Employers “would determine each employee’s full-time status by looking back at a defined period of not less than three but not more than 12 consecutive calendar months, as chosen by the employer (the measurement period), to determine whether during the measurement period the employee averaged at least 30 hours of service per week.” Read more. If an employee qualifies based on this measurement period, then the employer must provide health insurance for this employee for a minimum of 6 months, but no shorter than the look back period. Failure to provide affordable health insurance under these guidelines will result in a $2000 fine per qualified employee (after the first 30). In other words, the first 30 employees in a 50 employee company would be exempt and the fine assessed against 20 (20 employees x $2000 =$40,000 fine). This fine is prorated on an annual basis by each month that the employee is not covered. A great site with Q & A is located here.

What should a small business do now? Keep in mind that this new law goes into effect on January 1, 2014, so the “look-back” period will begin on October 1, 2013. Some companies near the 50 employee threshold are trimming back on staff (which isn’t good for growth). The difference between 49 and 50 employees is more than one paycheck. It’s the cost of health coverage for 50 employees or a $40,000 fine. Many companies are cutting hours, while others are analyzing the costs of paying the fine instead of providing the insurance.

The other emerging strain on small business is the potential increase of the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour.  This is a 25% increase that some business owners believe will transcend beyond just their minimum wage employees. Their more experienced hourly employees who are currently paid in the $9.00 an hour range will demand a raise.

What options does a small business have other than laying off employees, cutting hours and choosing to pay a fine? An alternative is to invest in a system that can strictly and diligently monitor the time of variable hour remote employees. By tracking accurate time, companies can cut the waste caused by handwritten timecards and keep weekly hours down.

The result could be enough savings to cover what the government is trying to squeeze out of you.

The Universal Appliance

The human population is approaching 7 billion.  Without conducting any scientific research, we can safely assume that nearly 100% of this population has hearts…literally if not metaphorically.  Another global commonality that is ever increasing is the possession of (or access) to a telephone.  A 2010 report cited that over 1 billion people worldwide have a fixed telephone line.  Another study by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) informs that at the end of 2011 there were almost 6 billion cell phone subscriptions.

This vast penetration of phone technology has led some to label telephones the “universal appliance”.  The simplicity in using a phone cuts across cultures, disabilities, race, gender, nationalities, pedigrees and ages.  The human heart doesn’t come with an owner’s manual and most people learned to use a phone without one.  Pick up the phone, dial the number and it just works.

While landline telephone use is expected to remain stable or decrease over the next few years, cell phone subscriptions are expected to reach 8 billion by the end of 2016 according to PortioResearch.  With a technology that is so widely used, why not harness its power for your business?  The rapid emergence of smartphones over the past few years is more great news for any business.  As of the 3rd quarter of 2012, Americans now use smartphones more than basic cell phones.  The percentage of smartphone users rose from 49% to 56% in 2012 per a Nielson’s study.  A key fact relevant to many small businesses is that a big chunk of their workforce owns a smartphone.  A study by Nielson’s revealed that 74% of 25-34 year olds own a smartphone, up from 59% in July 2011.

The question bears repeating…with a technology that is ubiquitous and simple to use in our society, shouldn’t all small businesses find a way to take advantage of it?  For instance, an 11 second call from a landline, basic cell phone or smartphone can save a small business with remote employees 2-6% on payroll. This savings is just the beginning.  Telephones can be a tool within an employee management system that can create the most productive and efficient workforce possible.  In fact, we would argue that no other appliance, especially with the prevalence of smartphones, could rival its uses either.  We will discuss these ideas in an upcoming post.  Stay tuned.

How vital is the phone to people these days?  Chances are if you tried to take someone’s phone away, it would have to be surgically removed.

Solid Investment Strategies Necessary for Business

It’s scientifically proven that if you put $100 in a Mason jar, bury it 2ft deep in your backyard and dig it up a year later, the jar will still have exactly $100.  A bank savings account will yield roughly the same return these days.  The stock market could snatch away the entire Benjamin plus broker fees.  So where does a small business turn to for a solid investment…one that has a proven track record?

Most small business owners are too busy working their business to become experts at different types of investment strategies.  In today’s economy, it’s likely that a small business owner has all her net worth tied to the business operations. If that is the case then it’s critical to know how to minimize costs, maximize savings, and get the most out of every dollar spent.  One way to save is by utilizing all available tax deductions.  This article at MSN.com outlines several often overlooked tax deductions for small businesses.  Another tactic is to strategically invest in marketing, technology, training, quality vendors and other ideas presented in an article by Entrepreneur.com.  These investments can yield higher visibility, more efficient operations, better customer service and increased profits.

For many service-oriented businesses, the single highest capital outlay is spent on payroll, often up to 80% of total operation costs.  Salaries can be negotiated, but they are a constant.  The wages for hourly employees are much harder to predict and control, especially if these are remote employees without direct supervision.  Hours fluctuate and overtime can accrue.  2012 saw a 32% increase over 2008 in employees’ lawsuits alleging that they were owed overtime.  The best way to prevent these claims is to diligently track, manage and control the hours of employees.  The worst way to track employee time is by handwritten timecards (because they are dependent upon the honor system). These handwritten timecards must be collected and manually calculated and processed.

A more efficient method is the use of a system in which remote employees must call to clock in and out of jobs. A telephone timekeeping system captures accurate time and serves as an employee management system.  Timecards are automated and can be exported to payroll services such as QuickBooks, ADP and Paychex. Users will pay a monthly fee for the timekeeping service, but the investment yields a direct return in payroll savings and in time saved processing payroll.  In a study by the American Payroll Association, it was estimated that a telephone timekeeping system can save a small business between 2-6% on payroll expenses. A 4% savings means that for every $1.25 invested in a telephone timekeeping system could yield $7 in return. An illustration of these savings is found here.

Use Mason jars to store canned vegetables, not to bury cash.  Invest in a product in which you are the expert…your own small business and choose your strategy wisely.  For proven results that yield a direct return on your investment, the solution is quite simple; a telephone timekeeping system.

Great Ideas from Our Great Customers

For over 18 years we have listened to our customers and their valuable feedback has led to great innovations in our system. The “out in the field” experience is a prized laboratory for our technical department. Sometimes our customers even tell us of ways they are using our system that causes us to pause and say, “Ahhh, now that is smart!”  We thought we would pass a couple of these ingenious ideas along.

While showing a new customer how to set up job schedules (in order to receive no-show alerts), his interest was triggered with our “Late Check-Out” alerts.

One of his employees was accidentally locked in a bank vault while cleaning one night. The poor guy was MIA until the next morning when the bank manager opened the vault!  If this customer had been using our system, then the late check-out alert would have prompted him to follow up with the employee. He was also excited that this feature could alert him in the event an employee has an accident and can’t clock out. What a great use of the system!

Some companies only want to track employee attendance (and not hours worked).  Chronotek has a feature called “Auto Safeguard for Missed Clock-Outs” whereby a time card is automatically closed after a specific timeframe. This protects (and resets) the employee’s time card in case they forget to clock-out.  This feature can be adapted to meet specific needs, just like the story below.

A customer hosted a special event at a remote location and her primary concern was to know that all her employees showed up. She only needed Chronotek for time and attendance, so she set the Auto Safeguard for Missed Clock-Outs to “0” hours for all of her employees.  When the employees clocked-in, the system automatically closed the time cards (which prevented any time accrual).  She also created job schedules for this event so she would receive an alert if an employee did not arrive.  With these combined features, she was confident that her staff showed up…and received alerts if they didn’t.

There you have it; great ideas straight from the field. If you have any, please let us know. We love to be “wowed”!  Click here if you would like to see how other companies are using our system.

New Web Clock-ins can be used by Hearing Impaired

Chronotek Mobile Clock-inWe now offer web clock-ins via smartphone and computer for your employees! While this feature can be a great asset to any company, it is uniquely beneficial for your hearing impaired employees.

We constantly seek to respond to the feedback and needs of our customers and this is one our most exciting enhancements. Web clock-ins can be done by an employee or by a supervisor who can clock-in a list of employees at one time.  As an added benefit, location tracking is recorded from smart phones and Web browsers with location services.

If your company would like to try this new feature, please let us know.   We will add it to your account and send you information on how to get started. (Chronotek pricing may differ if this method is solely used.)

Would You Trade a Quarter if I Gave You a Dollar?

If someone offered to trade you a dollar for a quarter, would you accept the trade? You would probably back up a truck to haul away your good fortune. For businesses using hand-written time cards to track their employees’ time, Chronotek has such a deal.  Our industry leading telephone timekeeping system, with over 15 years of proven excellence, can save these businesses between 2-6% on their largest capital outlay, payroll (savings averages according to the American Payroll Association).

Times are tight and you may think that you can’t afford to implement a telephone timekeeping system. Our clients have shifted that thinking – and they are getting ahead of their competition!  Our system is not a cost; it is an investment – with benefits.  We don’t pay you to use Chronotek, but it seems that way.  The return on investment is only part of the savings. When you manage your employees more effectively you give better service to your customer.  Chronotek provides a good return on your investment and a comprehensive employee management tool.

The following chart illustrates how Chronotek saves people money by capturing accurate time…  no padding on Chronotek time cards.   We estimated 20 employees working a 6 hour, 5 day work week, with 2 clock in/outs a day.  Employees would make 870 calls a month costing $129, with a possible savings of $707 a month (4% of payroll less cost of system).

Check out the pricing calculator for your estimated savings.

An investment with benefits…  Save time by not having to collect and process manual time cards…  Run payroll reports with accurate time cards…  Receive alerts when employees do not show for jobs…  Prevent buddy punching with Random Voice Verification…  Send voice messages your employees must listen to.

Put another way, approximately every $1.25 invested in Chronotek could yield a return of $7.  Can you afford to wait any longer?   Save money, work smarter and stay ahead of your competition by implementing proven technology.  Get your truck and we will load up your savings!

The Chronoblog On The iPad- Powered By Onswipe!

We are excited to announce a fun new feature for our readers- Chronotek Telephone Timekeeping readers can now visit the blog (chronotek.wordpress.com) from their iPads to get a beautiful, magazine-like experience tailored specifically to the iPad (and other touch enabled devices).

We hope this simple change will make the reading experience that much more enjoyable for those of you following our blog from the iPad.

Have any comments or feedback on the new design? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

What Makes Your Employees Tick? More Lessons From “Scratch Beginnings”

Turnover,  late to the job, no-shows… What drives these people?  As employers, it can be difficult to know how to best relate to and understand employees.  Understanding is especially crucial in service  industries because employees are often your company’s greatest asset- your employees do reflect your company!  Having a responsive and motivated workforce can make the difference between a successful company, and one that struggles with high turnover and low quality output.

So what does “Scratch Beginnings” have to say about these issues? As we continue to get great feedback and discussion on the book, we hear how employers like you are enlightened by the author’s depiction of the workplace – about the motivation of employees, their challenges and struggles – especially those working in difficult jobs or situations.  Here are a few of the valuable lessons we have identified so far:

 

-The Power Of A Fast Payday.  In the book, Adam talked about how he, along with many of his peers, sought out jobs that paid as soon as possible.  In his case, this meant taking some jobs with a temporary employment agency that paid less than was otherwise available, but came with the promise of cash at the end of each day. For many workers struggling to live paycheck to paycheck, a prompt and reliable payday may be the best motivator. Some Chronotek customers choose to pay on a weekly basis, as a gesture of support for their workers and, ultimately, a way to minimize turnover.

-The “Weakest Link” Effect.  Adam experienced firsthand how important it was to maintain a strong team dynamic.  He had a good relationship with strong coworkers like Derrick, who encouraged him to learn and work as fast and effectively as possible.  At the same time, other coworkers had the opposite effect.  Poorly performing team members had a frustrating effect on the rest of the group, and often had a strong negative impact on the company.  As employers, its important to remember that weak employees can actively sabotage your attempts to build a great, efficient team.

-Respect Pays.  The hourly workers depicted in Scratch Beginnings were all struggling to keep their lives on track and move up in society.  These employees were used to being treated badly, and had been burned by employers in the past.  The universal lesson for employers looking to attract and retain good workers: respect your employees.  Its a simple rule that often gets overlooked, but simple gestures like a small bonus for a job well done can go far.

What other lessons did you learn from the story of “Scratch Beginnings”?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.  If you haven’t had the chance to read the story yet, you can request your free copy here.

Tell Us About Your American Dream- Get A Free Copy of “Scratch Beginnings”

One of the best parts of working with business owners and entrepreneurs is hearing their personal story of living the American Dream.  It is always inspiring to hear from Chronotek customers who have built incredible companies from simple beginnings.   In our previous post, we got the chance to interview Adam Shepard, author of the book Scratch Beginnings.  You can check out the whole interview in this Post.  If any of our Chronotek clients would like an opportunity to read Adam’s book, we would like to send you a copy, free of charge. Maybe, in return you could tell us how you think your life is in your own hands. Can attitude and perseverance change any situation? Did you ever get a do-over?  How have you lived the American Dream?

If you would like your free copy please email Chronotek at support@chronotek.net – include your name, your business, and full mailing address.  We’d also love for you to tell us a little about how you have lived the American Dream.  In his book Adam discovered so much about himself- it truly is the journey that makes the masterpiece what it is. What is your story?

Interview With Author Adam Shepard

We recently had the chance to sit down with one of the Chronotek Team’s favorite authors, Adam Shepard.  Adam’s story of his decision to live out the true American Dream is a truly extraordinary journey.  We chatted with him on a few topics ranging from the details of his book, to how he would find “A” players for his own business.

Give us a little background on your project. What made you want to write this book? What exactly were the “rules” and goals of the project?

The summer after my freshman year of college, I read a book called Nickel and Dimed, which is the story of how Barbara Ehrenreich basically went out to show that the American Dream is dead. I resented her attitude (as well-written as her book was) and decided that I wanted to live a social experiment of my own to see if there was any vitality to the American Dream.

I put everything on hold while I finished college and went to play professional basketball overseas. My hoops career in Germany lasted about 30 hours or so—I shot 2-for-29 from the field on the first day of practice—and when they sent me home, I reasoned that the best thing for me to do was live this project I had been delaying. The premise of the project was for me to start in a random city with $25, a sleeping bag, and the clothes on my back (read more in the Introduction), and see if, in one year, I could have $2500, a car, and a furnished apartment. To me, that was the idea of living the American Dream.

What city did you choose?

Charleston, SC

How did you go about selecting Charleston?

I had 12 southeastern cities in a hat (Mobile, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Savannah, Nashville, Columbia, various cities in Virginia, among others), and the idea was that I would pick one out on Monday and hop a train on Tuesday.

What was your initial experience?

I got anxious very quickly. I didn’t have a plan or a route to cover. And I certainly didn’t plan on arriving in the dilapidated neighborhood that I did. It was a very naïve experience, and the first chapter shows how grossly unprepared I was.

What was it like trying to break into the job market from your starting point at the homeless shelter?

Challenging. I had a vision on how I thought this was going to turn out and it didn’t go the way I intended at all.

I’ll tell you what was interesting. After ten days or so, I didn’t have a job, and I was complaining one night about the job market and this and that. There was this one guy at the shelter where I was staying—Phil Coleman—who chimed in and told me what he thought about my little plight.  His pitch to me (and anyone who was listening) was very matter-of-fact: if you want a job, you have to take control and get out there and get after it.  Every time I speak to a high school or college or association or corporation, I always read the excerpt about Phil’s appeal to me.

A lot of people have made a difference in my life. Steve Reibstein, a golfing buddy of a friend of mine, made a connection for me to get published. Phil Coleman, a homeless dude, lit a match under my butt that got me a job. You never know who is going to make a difference in your life.

When you had setbacks, how did you get back on track?

That was the ultimate challenge. I broke my toe. I got sick. I got into a vicious fight, and I don’t think I got in a single blow. But every time I hit a roadblock, I just figured, “Hell, it could be worse,” and that helped me to remember what I was doing in Charleston in the first place, that I had a goal and that nothing was going to get in my way.

What were the most valuable lessons you learned from the other working class individuals around you?

It was fascinating, most of all, for me to see the work ethic represented by my peers at the moving company where I ended up working for the duration of my time in Charleston. Some guys were sluggish and whiny and would come into work a few minutes late with their shirts untucked. Other guys came in with a mission. Derrick, for example, was the hardest working guy I’ve ever met in my life. Think about it: he wasn’t born and held to the moon and determined to one day be a mover in his life, but now, here he is, and he has plotted that he is going to be the best mover on the planet, regardless of his height or strength or athleticism.

Some attitudes differed from others, and that, I discovered, was the dividing factor between someone who was “making it” and someone who wasn’t.

What was your interaction like with the people you worked for? What did you do to find value and fulfillment in such difficult physical work?

The interaction with my coworkers was mixed: some people liked me; some didn’t. Derrick, thankfully, didn’t care that I was goofy with my floppy hair and daisy duke shorts. All he cared about was the fact that I worked hard and kept my mouth shut, and, thankfully, he took me under his wing.

The management of the company was happy to have me on the team because I didn’t create confrontation and I was accountable. They knew that I would be to work on time, that I would work hard, and that I would take responsibility when I rammed a dresser into a wall. Their only concern (sometimes, to their detriment) was the bottom line.

Finding value in physical work has always been easy for me. Growing up, I looked over a freshly-cut lawn, and, regardless of how much I got paid for it, I felt satisfaction in knowing that it looked (and smelled) better as a result of the work I put in. Moving furniture brought the same feeling. Unloading a full truck and placing furniture into an empty house, as grueling as it was, became one of my top three or four most fulfilling, joyous accomplishments. Seriously. When you walk through a freshly furnished house and think, “I did that,” there is a special feeling.

You spent quite a bit of time analyzing how other people around you worked and lived their lives. What did you find to be the most common distinguishing factor between those who succeeded and those who failed?

As I said, attitude was the separation. Good things are going to happen to us; bad things are going to happen to us. The only thing we can control is how we react to both the good and the bad. Are we resilient? Do we capitalize on the good and deal properly with the bad?

Put yourself in the shoes of Curtis at Fast Company, or anyone else making the decision to hire someone like you. What would you do to identify and attract “A” players like you or Derrick (While avoiding potential “problem” hires)?

I just finished reading the book Click. There is a lot to be said about initial, gut feel for a person, whether it is professional, social, romantic, or otherwise. Curtis pulled my application out of 65-80 other applications because he knew that he could count on me just based on what I was telling him. I’m not going to pretend to step into the shoes of an HR manager, but I think it’s not so difficult to acknowledge your visceral feeling, that this person sitting across from you is going to do good things for your company or not.


To learn more about Adam’s story, visit his website.

Changes To The Mobile Site

This first week is a great time to take a fresh look at projects and goals to really get the ball rolling for the New Year. We at Chronotek are no exception as we are excited to announce some valuable changes to the Mobile CHRONOTEK  site accessible on your smart phones.

Administrators can select ‘view options’ for even more precise control over what other users have access to on the mobile site. Users can be allowed to see any combination of: no shows, late employees, employee status, call log, or overtime information. This can ensure that supervisors have access to the specific data they need to do their job from the field.

Mobile CHRONOTEK  is accessed with the same credentials as your ChronotekVersion 2 login. After setting up logins for other users you can simply email the credentials to them from that same setup page.   If you have any questions about how to implement these new options, our support staff is always happy to help!

3 Ways To Save Money Using Chronotek- Enhanced Communication

This is part 3 of our Chronoblog series on saving money with Chronotek.  Part 2 is Saving On Payroll Administration, and Part 1 is saving by Paying Actual Time.

For part 3, we are going to discuss an important, but often overlooked way that companies can save money with Chronotek.  All the different ways that Chronotek enhances company communication can be a “hidden saving” by preventing costly issues before they arise.

Its every business owner’s worst nightmare: an angry customer calls complaining about a job that was done late, or perhaps not at all.  At the very least thats a lost cleaning or job, but often such mistakes lead to the loss of entire accounts.  This is exactly the type of costly mistake that is difficult to fix after the fact, but can be easily prevented by using Chronotek’s no show alert feature.  How does this work?  Supervisors can use Chronotek’s easy setup to create alerts for employees at critical jobsites.  If an employee is running late, the supervisor receives a simple text or email alert informing them that the employee has not shown up to work.  The supervisor is then able to react and respond to the situation before it becomes a problem for the business.

Another similarly valuable feature is the ability to leave voicemails for employees to hear prior to clocking in.  If a customer calls one afternoon with a specific request for that night’s cleaning, a supervisor can leave a concise message for all employees to hear before clocking in.  This enhanced communication allows a higher level of customer service: the key to long term customer retention, and valuable referral business.

You spend enough money, time, and effort winning customers in the first place- improve customer retention and satisfaction with Chronotek’s no-show alerts and voicemail features.  Improved company communication is just one of the ways you can save money using the Chronotek system.

3 Ways To Save Money Using Chronotek- Payroll Administration

This is part two of our Chronoblog series on different ways that Chronotek helps you save money.  Part one of the series, on saving money by paying actual time, can be viewed here.

 

In addition to saving money by paying actual time worked, Chronotek users often experience enormous savings on the other end of payroll processing.  One of the biggest “hidden costs” of using hand written or paper time sheets is in the value of the time it takes to administer them.  Staff can spend hours every week  handing out, collecting, and then painstakingly entering hours into the computer for processing.  If an error is made in entering the data, fixing that can be costly and time consuming, in addition to exposing your company to the threat of costly legal action.

 

Chronotek cures this headache by automating the most difficult parts of these tasks.  Timecard data is automatically collected and can be easily exported with just a couple easy clicks.  Chronotek integrates with ADP, Paychex, and supports standardized FTP exports.  You can rest assured that the data is accurate and verifiable, with no potential for errors from manually entering such critical data.

 

As any business owner knows, time is money.  Saving valuable employee time by automating painstaking payroll processes can be a major step towards running a more efficient business.  Additionally, the headaches and indirect costs can have big effects on company morale- and on the long term bottom line.

3 Ways To Save Money Using Chronotek-Paying Actual Time

We admit it- over at Chronotek we love to save money.  In these tough economic times, who doesn’t?  But most importantly, we love to pass our money saving tips on to our customers.  Now, this doesn’t mean we go around clipping coupons and sending them to all our customers (besides, coupons have expiration dates and Chronotek savings keep on giving.) What it does mean is that we love telling people about how Chronotek can actually save money for your business, every month!  There are many different ways that Chronotek does this, so for part 1 of this series I will focus on just one of them:  Paying “Actual Time” worked.

What many business owners who use hand written timecards or other outdated methods don’t realize is that they are paying much more on their payroll than the actual time their employees are working.  Imagine if every 2 weeks, you paid each employee to sit on the couch and watch an entire football game?  That would be ludicrous (and expensive!) right?

Well that is essentially what happens when employees pad their hand written timecards- just a few minutes tacked onto every shift can add up to big bucks in the long run! Chronotek cures this headache by ensuring that employees can only clock in and out when they are actually on location at the jobsite.

Just how big can the savings be from this simple change?  Our studies indicate that companies can save up to 6% of their total payroll expenses just by using Chronotek.  We even created a handy pricing calculator to help you figure out your savings!  How do we calculate this information?  When you pay an employee just $7.50 an hour it equals 12.5 cents per minute (which is the cost of a clock-in or out using Chronotek).  So when an employee actually clocks in at 8:01 (rather than writing 8:00 on a timecard) you have already paid for Chronotek.  When the big savings come is when they clock in at 8:02, 8:05, or even 8:20!

Paying “Actual Time” is just one of the ways Chronotek is a great money saver for your business.  In that way, I guess we are a little bit like a coupon: A coupon to make your company a lean, mean, payroll saving machine.

KEEP THIS COUPON

Image by striatic via Flickr