Chronoblog
Category: Small Business
Speed Up Payday with Hassle-free, Automated Travel Time and Mileage

Chronotek -Speed Up Payday Automated Travel Time and MileageYou look at the scattered piles of employee handwritten timesheets on your desk and panic begins to set in.  You have to get payroll turned in tomorrow.  The law requires that these employees be paid for their travel time, but tracking it all is a logistical nightmare.  It might surprise you to know, our research shows that you may be paying up to 17 minutes too much on every travel trip, for every employee.  For a small company with just 10 employees making 1 travel trip 5 days a week, that’s over 61 hours a month in inflated travel time.    It’s all driving you crazy and draining your profits!

At Chronotek, we get it.  We hear stories all of the time from small business owners who have hourly, off-site employees.

Maybe your story is you pay your employees from the time they start working until they finish. Of course, you have no way of knowing what they do in between jobs. Pick up their laundry? Attend their kids soccer games?  Take a nap?  All on your dime. It’s a bad idea because you don’t know how much time is spent at each job or if every job gets covered. But who needs accurate job reporting?

Or you work yourself into a frenzy trying to get the right information and end up with incomplete, illegible and unreliable handwritten time cards.  Then you have to manually add up all of the work hours, and your task still isn’t complete.  Do you rely on the handwritten odometer readings and drive times between jobs, or do you look up every trip with a map program?  Stop!

What if we told you there is one solution that automates your employee travel time and mileage while also eliminating the hassle of handwritten time sheets?

Yes, we hear the shout of hallelujahs!

Use Chronotek’s timekeeping system to automatically create travel records when your
employees clock in and out with simple phone calls or via our mobile app. Our Travel Manager tool empowers you with Google MapsTM technology that estimates the travel time and mileage between job sites. Pay by these estimates and it doesn’t matter if your employees get sidetracked with personal errands between jobs.  It’s an easy way for employees to take unpaid lunch breaks, too.  If Google MapsTM estimates a job is 12 minutes from the next job, but your employee takes 60 minutes, the travel time card will automatically show 12 minutes.  The travel time can also be automatically applied to your customer’s jobs to insure that you are capturing all of the costs associated with your contracts. It’s quite easy to see that Chronotek is the smart way to handle employee travel time and mileage!

Put your travel time and mileage on cruise control.  Sign up today for a free 30 day trial to simplify, save, and start enjoying your business again.

Stay tuned and stay in touch by following us on Facebook.

Free Timekeeping Management App for Supervisors

Have you ever bought furniture that comes in a cardboard box and “some assembly” is required?  The manufacturer will send a tiny hex wrench that can get the job done, but it’s painful and time-consuming.  Your local hardware store sells a furniture assembly kit that is a much better and more efficient tool for the task.  It’s all about using the right tool.

free-chronotek-timekeeping-management-app-for-supervisorsIf you have a service-oriented small business, you may depend upon supervisors to help manage your remote, hourly workers.  Would you like to equip your supervisors with the right tool that leads to a better bottom line for your company?  Supervisors need to know many things all at once in real time:

  • Who is clocked in
  • Who is scheduled to clock in
  • Who hasn’t clocked in
  • Who clocked in, but somewhere other than the job site
  • How many hours their employees have worked for the week

 

We posted back in July 2016 that our app is making SUPERvisors.  The app truly is a great tool to help your supervisors manage their remote, hourly employees.  Your supervisor can also clock in or out his crew and send text messages to his employees.

If your company uses our telephone and app-based timekeeping system to track time for hourly, remote employees, the supervisor app is free to use for your salaried supervisors, administrators and managers.  Unlike some other timekeeping companies, we ONLY charge for active employees clocking in and out.

It’s the right information, right now, and at the right price. Stay tuned and stay in touch by following us on Facebook

The 5 Second Rule and Other Small Business Fallacies

the-5-second-rule-and-other-small-business-fallaciesSometimes we hear things stated often and loud enough that we assume they’re true without verifying the authenticity. The “5 second rule” is one of these statements. Drop food on the floor and someone will say, “5 second rule”.  And many people have believed and followed this statement as fact.  A new study indicates that this rule is a fallacy (1).   Small business owners can’t afford to make the mistake of putting faith in ideas that are really fallacies.  We would like to cover a few of these common misunderstood concepts.

  1. The customer is always right.  This is possibly the most often quoted business principle.  The customers’ opinions and feedback are valuable, and as business owners we need to listen.  Sometimes it is just the information we need to make a better decision.  But sometimes customers’ ideas are formed on a misunderstanding of your product or service.  Other times it might be an opportunity to help a client to look at internal business processes.  And still other times the customer needs might not fit the business’ direction.   In any situation the business can learn from the customer interaction.  It is a vital piece to keep the business on track.
  2. Buy low, sell high.  This is a solid investment concept, but often misused by service oriented businesses.  Vendors are needed for supplies or services, and business owners will often seek out the least expensive ones to keep expenses low and profits high.  Your reputation is built on all of its components and parts.  Any weakness is a potential threat to its foundation., But highest price doesn’t mean highest quality either.  Seek vendors that provide high quality at a great value.  We elaborate in more detail on this topic in our blog post entitled, Building a Business: Choosing Vendor Partners.
  3. Nice guys finish last.  We know firsthand that this statement is a fallacy.  The owner of Chronotek is the nicest man you will ever meet, but “nice” doesn’t equal “pushover”.  It’s possible to be nice, yet fair and demand high standards.  A great leader will clearly communicate his high expectations and then fairly hold everyone accountable. Employees who refuse to meet these expectations are solely responsible for the consequences.  The result is that everyone who works hard will enjoy the success and fruits of their labors – because the small business owner is nice. Our remote employee management and timekeeping solution is a great business practice to implement for accountability.  Beyond capturing accurate time, the system has tools that will help business owners distinguish the great employees from the bad ones.  To read more about our thoughts on this topic, please see our blog post, Building a Business: The Golden Rule.

We hope this article helps you to challenge conventional business wisdom.  Building a successful, sustainable business is definitely not conventional in today’s world. Stay tuned and stay in touch by following us on Facebook.

(1) “The ‘five-second rule’ for eating food? Scientists just demonstrated how gross it is.” Ben Guarino, The Washington Post, September 13, 2016.

 

5 Ideas To Help Manage Your Remote, Hourly Employees

5-ideas-to-help-manage-your-remote-hourly-employeesThe buzz of the New Year has come and gone and the melody of Auld Lang Syne is a faint whisper in our memories.  Before we get too far into the year, and maybe while you still have your resolutions posted on the mirror, we wanted to recommend 5 ChronoTips to make your life simpler.  These are ideas that will give your business a head start and a dynamic edge going into the New Year.

  1. Time cards always have the right job, and you know employees are on site when they clock-in from a Linked phone from the jobsite.  It’s quick and easy to associate the site phone to the job.  This is an absolute must-do if your employees are using site landline phones.
  2. Make employees think twice about buddy punching and enable Random Voice Verification.
  3. Use our new mobile app to clock in and out.  If employees use cell phones to clock-in and they have smartphones, our mobile app is a better solution. GPS tracks, messaging, time cards and schedules give you and your employees increased communication abilities and access to personal schedules and worked hours.
  4. Empower your supervisors with the new mobile app. Smartphones are really smart. Our app can show your supervisor who is clocked in, where, what time, if employees clocked in/out at the job or not, no-shows and late employees.  Supervisors can also message employees and add employees and jobs from the field.
  5. Stop no-shows, keep your customers happy, and get a good night’s sleep by using our scheduling and late alert tools. Get notified by text or email when you’re employees don’t clock into scheduled jobs.

Our telephony and app-based timekeeping system is a comprehensive employee management tool that can do more than just capture accurate time of your employees. Be sure to fully maximize its functionality to minimize the struggles that come with managing remote, hourly employees.  Please let us know if we can help you implement these suggestions.

Stay tuned and stay in touch by subscribing to this blog or follow us on Facebook.

What Picture Do Your Labor Numbers Paint?

blog-what-picture-do-your-labor-numbers-paintThe paint by numbers sets were so much fun as a kid. Just follow the pattern established by the numbers and you could paint a beautiful picture. Numbers are funny that way. They can paint pictures that are worth more than a 1000 words. If you are a small business owner with off-site hourly employees and you’re not minding your labor cost dollar numbers closely, the picture they paint may not be very pretty.

Let’s look at some numbers.

You started out with a target labor cost of 50% for the job.  You spend an entire day gathering payroll data and putting numbers in a spreadsheet. Not only is this number gathering wasting your precious time, but because you don’t utilize an automated time tracking system your labor costs are 70% of revenues and you eke out a 10% profit. The struggle is real.  But why are labor costs at 70%?

In studies done by the American Payroll Association and the Robert Half Agency, it’s shown that employees steal 10 minutes a day.  (It’s extremely easy to take an extra 10 minutes a day when using handwritten time cards.)  Employees can write down whatever clock in, clock out times they want.  You’re lucky if it’s only 10 minutes a day. But we’ll say 10 minutes a day using an example of 15 employees – that comes to 150 minutes a day or 3262.50 minutes a month (54.375 hours) based on 5 day work weeks.  Chronotek’s new Weekly Labor Cost Report can calculate your actual Labor Cost for you automatically.  The report also takes into consideration the fully loaded pay rate.  So if the employees’ pay rate is $8/hr, it might be that you are actually paying close to $9/hour considering taxes and workman’s comp.   So you’re throwing $489 out the window every month on these handwritten time cards (that hurts a little bit).

Instead, embrace the wonder of technological accountability with an automated timekeeping system and take back your money.  An investment in our system of $89 a month for 15 employees yields a return of $400 back in your pocket.  That’s 4.5 times your investment and raises your net profit by 25%.  If you pay your employees more than $8 an hour, then you’re making more money faster.

It’s time to get your money back.  No more unearned pay and no more laborious spreadsheets.  This is why we created the new Weekly Labor Cost Report that enables you to track true labor costs (pay rate + payroll taxes) against your labor budgets.  A picture is painted using the exact numbers.

Stay tuned and stay in touch by following us on Facebook.

Grow My Cleaning Company Podcast – Get Your Dream Back

We recently had the privilege to meet a company that shares our heartbeat to help small businesses grow.  In particular, Grow My Cleaning Company consults and coaches janitorial owners to help them grow their businesses.  Through their Facebook group, Mike Campion, owner of Grow My Cleaning Company, heard how our online timekeeping system has helped many of his customers solve the number one problem for companies with remote employees: capturing accurate labor time.

Mike invited our own Cheryl Nedrow to be a guest on his podcast.  Their insightful conversation is broadcasted in 2 episodes. We invite you to listen to part 1 entitled, Janitorial Business Timekeeping, GPS Tracking and Making More Money : Episode 158 Chronotek – and begin discovering how you can get your dream back.  Also check out the other great content at www.Growmycleaningcompany.com.

Stay tuned and stay in touch by following us on Facebook.

Surprise Announcement About New FLSA Rule

Surprise-Announcement-FLSA-Overtime-Ruling-DelayedJune of this year we posted about the new overtime rule in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that was scheduled to take effect on December 1. The new rule would have impacted more than 4.2 million Americans by raising the exempt salary threshold to $47,476.  In a surprise announcement last Tuesday, November 22, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Amos L. Mazzant granted an order temporarily barring the rule from going into effect on December 1.  He found that the 21 plaintiff States (and an additional 50 small business groups ) established standing to have their case heard.

The crux of the rule doubles the salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 to determine which salaried workers are eligible for overtime. Employees with salaries less than the new rate of $47,476 (or $913 a week) must be paid time-and-a-half overtime for every hour over 40.

The plaintiffs stated that the new OT rule would cause monetary damage by forcing them to substantially increase labor costs.  This could affect state services due to budget cuts and layoffs.  The States also argued that a plain reading of the FLSA shows that Congress intended the new rule for white collar workers such as, professionals, administrators, outside salespeople and executives.   And they claim the Department of Labor exceeded its authority by applying the rule to all classifications of workers based on salary alone.

The judge also struck down the provision that would automatically raise the exemption level every 3 years.

The Department of Labor can appeal the injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals, or can litigate the issue on its merits. The incoming new administration can also make changes. For now, small businesses and state governments can hold tight, and insure that they are in compliance with the existing FLSA requirements. It may also be a good time to evaluate current pay standards in an effort to keep your best employees.

Stay tuned and stay in touch by following us on Facebook. We will provide updates as they come.

Problem Solving: Accurate Time Tracking

blog-accurate-timekeepingWhat time today did your remote, off-site hourly employees arrive at work?  If you use handwritten timesheets, that question uncovers a problem, because you don’t truly know the answer.  We strive to be a small business resource to help solve employee management problems. In this new series, Problem Solving, we will address common issues that companies face when managing remote, hourly workers.

Our first post today will deal with the most basic, fundamental problem that small businesses encounter when they hire hourly, remote employees – and that’s accurate time tracking. Workers out in the field, with little or no supervision can be problematic. What time did they arrive to the job site? What time did they leave? How long did it take them to get to the next location? If using handwritten timesheets, you are putting 100% trust in your employees to accurately record their time and we’ve written before that you could be 30% off in your judgment. This is a potentially huge payroll problem.

An easy and efficient way to solve this problem is with an automated timekeeping system.  Employees simply use a smartphone app, or make a quick toll-free call to clock in and out, and our system records the times…accurately!  Time cards are created on-line and are accessible with a click.  No more driving around to collect handwritten timesheets or waiting on employees to fax or email them in.  Process the hours for an accurate payroll in minutes.

With this one essential problem solved, you will have more time and more money to leverage into greater opportunities for your business. Or take a vacation.

Stay tuned in to our Problem Solving series by following us on Facebook or Twitter.

Giving You Just a Little More Time

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Time is something we think about a lot, like ALL of the time. At Chronotek we can get pretty geeky about it, too. Our timekeeping solution for small businesses with remote workers tracks 100% accurate time worked.  We’ve posted how to convert time in hours/minutes format to a decimal hour, it’s 60-based evil cousin.  We’ve also written that if you don’t mind your minutes, you can lose a startling 10 minutes a day per employee to time theft.  But one of the most important things we should do with time is to enjoy it.

The idea of enjoying time gets lost in our fast-paced, performance-based, hyper-connected world in which we live.  Too often this machine sucks us into the grind and under its wheels and we forget as we grow older how to enjoy time.  Or maybe we just forget to take time for ourselves.  We want you, the small business owner, to rediscover time.  Experience new ways to spend time – do whatever brings joy and more peace to your life.   That’s why we’ve been here for 20 years building and re-building our timekeeping solution for your small business. We want to simplify your business so you have more time to experience life.

With summer drawing to a close, we’d love to hear your stories on how you enjoyed some much needed down time.  If you’re one of our customers, it would give us great joy to know that we contributed to your ability to get away.  If you have time, and hopefully you do since you’re using our system, let us know on Facebook or Twitter. Use hashtag #umbrelladrinks.

 

NEW Chronotek Mobile App – Hired Hand for Small Business Owner

Suzie was relaxing with her family one evening when her cell phone rang. Once upon a time, before Chronotek, that evening call would have instantly pushed her into panic mode.   Her job as a supervisor used to ruin her evenings with late night emergency calls because jobs were not being covered.  But not any longer. This was a welcomed call from her brother, Jim.

Suzie: Hey Jim, how’s it going?

Jim: Everything is great. Do you remember telling me about the new Chronotek app last week?

Suzie: Yes, of course.  Why?

Jim: Well, your miracle story inspired me to do something about my timekeeping mess for my construction company.

Suzie: Are you still using paper time sheets, little brother?

Jim: Yes, but you got me thinking.  My business is growing and with 16 employees it’s getting very tough to manage, but I can’t afford a Super Suzie yet.  I’m the Suzie, and the marketing and sales guy, the bookkeeper, the secretary, the HR guy, and I’m sometimes the guy swinging the hammer at the job site and sweeping the floors in the office.

Suzie: You definitely have your hands full, not to mention your new baby.

Jim: I have a new baby? (chuckles)  Oh, yeah, I do!  Well, I think Chronotek’s employee time tracking system and the new app will finally give me time to spend time with her.

New App 7 TCSSuzie: Absolutely!  Chronotek and the new app can be your Suzie, and more.

Jim: I know, the entire system is amazing. My employees actually like the ease of clocking-in from the app.  And I no longer have to track down their time cards. Timesheets get created automatically and I can review them from the app or the website whenever I’m ready.  If my guys are late, I get alerted right to my phone.  I don’t have to worry; did they show or didn’t they show?  I can see from the app when they clocked-in, and it shows a GPS map that geo-locates where they clocked-in.  It is like I hired a supervisor at a fraction of the cost.

Suzie: You sound like a new man, Jim.

ChronotekUserWithMoreTimeForHisFamilyJim: I feel like one, too. And speaking of my baby, in the evenings I’m not stuck in my office doing work at the desk.   Just last night I was rocking Sophie to sleep while reviewing and editing time cards on the new app.  I even added a new employee on the app while singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.

 

Suzie: You’re too funny, Jim.  It sounds like Chronotek is giving you your life back.

Jim: Chronotek is my new hired hand,  and this new app is especially helpful.  Chronotek is taking some of this load off of me for sure.

Suzie: You’re learning, bro. Chronotek is helping us both!

Chronotek’s remote employee management system and our new mobile app have transformed the lives of Suzie the SUPERvisor and her business owner brother, Jim. Our mission for 20 years has been to provide a proven way to track labor hours of remote employees that yields greater profits and improved personal lives of small business owners.

If you would like to try it free for 30 days and experience the life-change that Suzie and Jim have, click here.

We would be honored if you stayed in touch with us. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

NEW Chronotek Mobile App – Making SUPERvisors!

Supervisors all over the country have joined the party as we’re still celebrating the release of our new mobile app.  In our last post, we outlined why and how your remote employees love it as they use it to create time cards in our automated timekeeping system. Today we report on Suzie, a supervisor in a small janitorial company who manages 25 workers that clean multiple buildings throughout the city. She’s learning the new app and has discovered that she has the freedom of functionality to do things in the field that once tied her to a desk.

The new app is an assistant of sorts, even working through the night.  Suzie can already sleep easy knowing that our system will alert her by text if an employee is late to a scheduled job. Now she can wake, open the app to quickly review the live dashboard of Workforce Stats to see all the details she needs to start her day. It’s the power of information at her fingertips.

The Workforce Stats dashboard gives Suzie live, vital information for 12 hours back and 12 hours ahead.  Notice the Alert tabs that float-to-the-top the crucial information in living color :

New App 7 WFS

Not at job- Who wasn’t GPS located at the job when he clocked in/out (5).
Late Arrival- Who was late to scheduled jobs (3) and shows the scheduled time and the actual times (Samuel Price was scheduled 6:30am-7:30am but clocked in late at 12:20pm).
No Show- Who didn’t show to a scheduled job (91)
Denied- Who denied request for GPS tracking when he clocked in or out (this means they have their smartphone location services disabled).
Who’s clocked in now (the green dots).
Who’s scheduled for the next 12 hours.

And all of this information can be zone filtered so that if Suzie is one of multiple supervisors, she only sees employees and jobs in her supervisory zone.

It’s a loaded first look. This one screen alone, the Workforce Stats page, is changing Suzie’s life.  But it’s only the very tip of the iceberg.  In our next post, we’ll explain more on how the new mobile app is making Suzie a true SUPERvisor.

Stay tuned and stay in touch by subscribing to this blog or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

New Overtime Rules – Don’t Panic

The Department of Labor is affecting business owners in a big way.  We are privileged to have this detailed explanation from Matt Lapointe, a business lawyer with Wetherington Hamilton, P.A. in downtown Tampa, www.whhlaw.com.  Matt advises business owners on regulatory compliance, financing, contracts and many other areas.   

 

NEW OVERTIME RULES

DON’T PANIC –

Employers Have Until December 1, 2016 to Figure This Out

On May 18, 2016, the Obama administration announced the publication of the Department of Labor’s final rules updating the federal overtime regulations.  We knew these rules were coming.  In 2014, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the DOL to update these regulations and on July 6, 2015 the DOL published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  These final rules differ a bit from what the DOL proposed in 2015.  This article will bring you up to date and will suggest some strategies to comply with the new rules.

Mandatory overtime for certain classes of employees is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”).  The FLSA regulations establish two categories of employees:  exempt and non-exempt.  Exempt employees are exempt from the overtime requirements; non-exempt employees must be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours in any given week.

Many employers erroneously believe that if they pay an employee a salary, the employee is not eligible for overtime pay.  This is and always has been WRONG.  To be exempt from the overtime requirements, three tests must be met:  (1) the employee must be paid a fixed salary, (2) the amount of the salary must exceed a certain amount, and (3) the employee’s actual job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, professional, computer, or outside sales duties.  All three tests must be met for the employee to be exempt.  Even if an employee is paid a salary that exceeds the minimum amount (tests 1 and 2), if that employee’s actual job responsibilities do not fit within one of the job duties exemptions (test 3), then that employee is entitled to overtime for hours worked over forty hours in a work week.

The new rules have changed test 2.  The current rules set the minimum salary amount at $455 per week, or $23,660 per year.  The new rules, which go into effect December 1, 2016, raise the minimum salary to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year.

The new rules did not change the so-called “duties tests.”  The DOL has published a number of “Fact Sheets” providing helpful information on the various duties tests.  See https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fact_sheets.htm  For example, to qualify for the administrative exemption, the employee must meet a 3-part test:  (1) the employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis at the new rate (effective 12/1/2016) of not less than $913 per week or $47,476 per year, (2) the employee’s primary duty must be the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operation of the employer or the employer’s customers; and (3) the employee’s primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.  It is this last one that trips up a lot of employers.  DOL Fact Sheet #17C states:  “The term ‘matters of significance’ refers to the level of importance or consequence of the work performed.  An employee does not exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance merely because the employer will experience financial losses if the employee fails to perform the job properly.’

We recommend that employers take another look at all employees who are currently classified as exempt and review the duties tests for each exemption. If an employee does not meet the applicable duties test, then he or she is currently misclassified and should be re-classified as non-exempt. Assuming all of the currently exempt employees meet the applicable duties tests, the next step is to determine whether any of them do not receive a salary of at least $913 per week or $47,476 per year.  Beginning as soon as possible, these employees falling under the minimum salary threshold should begin tracking their time, to determine whether or how often they exceed forty hours per week.  Once the time data has been collected, the employer will need to decide whether it makes sense to raise the salaries of certain of those employees so that they will remain exempt starting December 1, 2016 or whether such employees will be re-classified as non-exempt as of December 1, 2016.  If the employer decides to re-classify currently exempt employees as non-exempt beginning December 1, 2016, the employer needs to have a reliable method of tracking those employees’ hours to determine overtime compensation or to ensure that such employees do not work more than forty hours per week.

These new regulations are expected to impact approximately 4 million workers.  Fortunately, there is adequate time for employers to plan for the impact of the new regulations.  Employers should discuss their options with their legal counsel.  The lawyers at Wetherington Hamilton stand ready to assist.  Feel free to contact Matt Lapointe at 813-676-9075 with any questions.

No Need to Blame Someone Else

National Blame Someon Else DayToday is the day that you can do no wrong. It’s National Blame Someone Else Day!  This day comes on the first Friday the 13th of every year. If bad things are going to happen, you may as well blame someone else, right?

According to National Day Calendar , this day was created in 1982 by Anne Moeller whose alarm clock failed to go off on Friday, May 13.  She was late to work which prompted a series of unfortunate events.

It could happen to any off-site employee. Wake up late, miss a scheduled cleaning at a job site, your customer gets angry and you lose an account. That makes for a bad day.

But that doesn’t have to happen to you.  With our telephone and online timekeeping system, you can create job schedules for your employees and receive text or email notifications if they are a no-show. Then you have time to get the job covered and keep your customer happy.

Sign up for a free 30 day trial. It’s definitely one thing in which you won’t go wrong with today. If you don’t, there’s no one to blame but yourself.

#BlameSomeoneElseDay

 

Tax Expense or Tax Deduction

You might remember from a previous blog post we analyzed the financial ramifications of a daily Red Bull habit, and the even more monetarily crippling practice of using handwritten time cards to track the time of remote employees.  In that post we made an assumption that your 15 employees are twice as honest as the national average and you lose only $2600 a year in inaccurate time card reporting.  With tax season still lingering on our minds let’s evaluate the potential tax ramifications with that situation.

Today we want to use the previous post as a basis to explore the difference in a tax expense and a tax deduction.  In that example, the $2600 that you spent in unearned wages also comes with payroll tax expenses.  According to this MIT article, you must add to the $2600 payroll expenses for Social Security/FICA (currently 6.2% on the first $90,000 of salary), Unemployment/FUTA (6.2% on $7,000 of salary) and Medicare (1.45% with no salary cap).  Workers compensation for the service industry could be an extra 5-8%.  So, the real total number is more like $3000.  These are unearned, undeserved, wasted dollars.  There’s a plethora of other consequences of time theft: poor work quality, a culture of dishonesty, low company moral, etc.  But we are just focusing on the dollars today.  Wouldn’t it be more fun to pop the top off a convertible, hit a long country road, load up Dire Straits “Money for Nothing”, and toss $100 bills into the wind?  At least you’re choosing to blow the money.

But in a sense you are inadvertently choosing to blow money too if you’re still using handwritten time cards.

Now let’s look at the tax deduction side of this.  Invest in our telephone and app-based timekeeping solution to get accurate, automated time cards that will eliminate the $3000 waste.  In our previous post we estimated the cost for your 15 employees on our system to be $2100 annually.  That’s $900 back in your pocket.  But it’s really more, because of the business tax deduction you are allowed for the expense.  This puts another $500 back on your side of the ledger which brings the real cost of our system to approximately $1600 annually.

Invest $1600, save $3000.

It is like you just got paid to use our system!  You’re up $1400 in tax-free money. That’s an 87.5% return on your investment.  Much better than your CD.

Now you can reinvest this $1400 in another tax deduction, maybe Red Bulls for your employees in the break room.  Using an automated timekeeping system makes great business sense, and investing in your employees is always a fantastic idea too.  Tax season can be better for everyone!

 

#4 Enjoy Your Spring – No More Handwritten Timesheets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Save money. Save time. Win/win.

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

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

 

#2 Spring Cleaning for Small Businesses: Locating Your Employees

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

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

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

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

 

#1 Spring Cleaning for Small Businesses

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

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

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

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

 

Change Your Future – No More Time Card Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Building a Business: Change Happens

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

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

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

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

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

 

Building a Business: The Golden Rule

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

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

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

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

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

How does this look from an employer’s perspective?

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

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

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

 

Building a Business: Choosing Vendor Partners

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

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

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

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

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

And you both win together.

 

Building a Business: Focus on Service Done Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can be the All-Star.

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

 

Building a Business: Great Companies Help People

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

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

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

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

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

 

Obamacare Q & A: Does Your Company Qualify – ALE

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

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

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

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

12 month total = 651

Monthly Avg   651/12 = 54.25 = 54

Because 54 >50, the Employer is an ALE.

 

 

ChronotekACA-ALEReport

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

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

 

 

 

 

ObamaCare Q & A: 50 Employee Rule Defined

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

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

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

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

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

ObamaCare Q & A Series

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

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

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

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

Landmark Books Outline Success for Business Owners

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Blog Series Coming: Managing Remote Employees

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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 130 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.

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