The Critical Link Between Time Tracking and Labor Costs

Keeping track of how you and your workers spend time is one of the most important things you can do in your business. Labor costs can be a large portion of expenses, and understanding how time is spent can help you manage your business better in a multitude of ways. We touched on labor costs in our recent article, “Breaking Down Direct and Indirect Costs,” and wanted to share more on the topic. Keep reading to learn more. 

Benefits of Time Tracking

There are plenty of reasons to track time, some of which we’ve listed below:

  • When pricing by the hour, time tracking is mandatory; without it, you won’t be able to invoice your clients accurately.
  • Documenting time spent on specific projects helps managers understand how long a task should take, when employees could benefit from training, and where processes and procedures may need improving.
  • Project management systems allow users to import detailed time reports, which allows businesses to create more accurate fixed-fee pricing estimates on future jobs and customer proposals.
  • For construction companies, time tracking feeds into job costing.
  • For manufacturing businesses, time tracking feeds into labor reports.
  • For hourly workers, time tracking is used in payroll systems so they can be paid accurately.
  • Time tracking can increase accountability among team members as they become more aware of how they spend their working time.
  • When time is budgeted in advance, actual hours worked can be compared to see how the budget is used and whether it was too much or too little.
  • Time tracking allows managers and business owners to determine when they need to hire additional staff because the backlog has become too large.

What Is Time Tracking?

Time tracking is the recording of how you spend your time. You can use paper, a spreadsheet, or time tracking software like QuickBooks Time (formerly TSheets) to log the task you are working on and the length of time you worked on it. For example, here’s a simplistic example of a spreadsheet time log, aka timesheet, for one day:

Employees may be required to complete timesheets on a daily or weekly basis, which are then turned into their managers and payroll administrators.

Managers can take time tracking to the next level by adding hourly payroll costs as well as the employee’s hourly billing rate to gain insight into further time-tracking financial metrics.

Time Tracking Software

There are many different types of time-tracking software:

  • A time clock allows employees to “punch in” when they arrive for work and “punch out” when they leave. This type of machine is mostly used for payroll in a manufacturing setting.
  • Time tracking applications like QuickBooks Time allow workers with computers and smartphones to enter their time via the application. Features like biometric time clocks (i.e., requiring a thumbprint to verify the correct individual is clocking in) and geofencing (allowing employees to only clock in from certain locations) can reduce employee time theft.
  • Some companies will have their time tracking function embedded into their project management, job costing, or billing system. Employees would then enter their time via those applications.

Getting Employees on Board with Time Tracking

Reporting your hours in a time-tracking system is one of the least favorite tasks of employees and requires managers to spend more time shaping their mindsets and attitudes than any software training. It’s important that employees feel that your policies don’t resemble “Big Brother” when using their time data.

For best results, let employees know how the timesheet data will be used. Allay their fears that they will not get fired or in trouble if they feel something “took too long,” which can often translate into an employee “fudging” their hours on a task where they might have made a mistake. Make sure they know they won’t be penalized in any way for what they report. In other words, remove the risk of penalty for recording their time data accurately.

Communication is key in getting employees to report their time accurately so that managers and owners can receive meaningful information. Have managers tie time tracking to an employee’s personal career goals to increase adoption and reduce resistance.

Personal Time Tracking

Time is our most precious commodity, and tracking your personal time can give you insights into how you are investing in yourself. Some really interesting questions can be considered when you have some time data for yourself.

  • How much “downtime” do you need each day in order to live a productive and healthy life?
  • How much time are you spending on your goals?
  • Are you spending time on what you consider to be important?

Getting Started with Time Tracking

If you’re considering time tracking or would like to take your current time-tracking function to the next level, please contact us [here]. We may be able to help with integration, implementation, the accounting aspect of time-tracking, and financial metrics and reports.

 

We’ve heard more than a few horror stories in the past few months of business owners falling for phishing scams that compromise their company, cost them thousands of dollars, and put their customers and contacts at risk. Hackers are getting more sophisticated by the day, and it’s becoming harder to tell a malicious threat from an ordinary email.

We share this insight to empower, not scare. The good news is that most threats are avoidable with a vigilant eye. In 2021, think of a phisher as more of a vampire than a heister: you have to invite them in before they can cause any harm. Below, we’ve pinpointed a few common threats for 2021 and 2022, along with best ways to avoid them. These suggestions should help keep your sensitive data secure from current phishing trends. 

Common Threat 1: QuickBooks Impersonation

One common trend we’re seeing involves solicitations from QuickBooksⓇ impersonators falsely notifying you that your QuickBooksⓇ file is corrupt, your automatic payment is about to expire, or your version of QuickBooksⓇ needs to be updated. These phishers will try to get you to pay for a phony upgrade over the phone or grant them access to your desktop to “fix” your accounting software. Here’s the thing: if you work with an accounting company like New Business Directions, we’ll probably be the first ones to know if something is wrong with your QuickBooksⓇ file. And if you’re a New Business Directions customer, QuickBooksⓇ knows you’re working with a QuickBooksⓇ Solution Provider and will often notify us of any issues your account may be experiencing, too.

How to dodge the threat: If an email appears to come from QuickBooksⓇ, check the email addresses for the correct website. If it doesn’t end in “@Intuit.com” or “@QuickBooks.com” the sender is fraudulent (even if the name before the @ symbol looks convincing). Always contact your accountant before engaging with a solicitation like this and never provide payment information or authorize remote access to your computer or QuickBooksⓇ file to anyone besides your accountant or IT solutions provider.

Common Threat 2: Download this Attachment

Another major threat to watch out for involves an email from an address you recognize (say, a customer, vendor, or team member), but asks you to enter your Microsoft credentials to view the attachment. This scam comes from a person you know, and their email address matches the one you have on file. The MicrosoftⓇ log-in screen looks legit, but the web address is not. Do not enter your Microsoft credentials. As soon as you do, the hackers have access to your email and all sensitive information you have ever sent or received via email. The phishers will then send the exact same email that you fell for to every contact in your address book.

How to dodge the threat: never enter your log-in credentials to view an attachment. If an email includes a hyperlink, hover over the link with your mouse (don’t click) and watch for a link preview to appear in the corner of your screen. In Outlook, this will be the bottom left corner. You’ll be able to see a preview of the web address the hyperlink is trying to send you to, and if it’s different from the one typed out in the email. In this case, if the domain isn’t “office.com” the email is fraudulent. This is a fast and simple step you should always take before clicking a hyperlink in an email. And when it comes to sharing sensitive information like bank statements and government IDs, you should always use a secure, encrypted file sharing application like SmartVault instead of sending the document as an email attachment. 

Common Threat 3: “You Have a Voicemail” emails

Are you surprised to be receiving an email notifying you about a new voicemail? Does it have an attachment? Is the sender posing as RingCentral or another VOIP phone system provider you use? Remember: if it seems suspicious, it probably is.

How to dodge the threat: don’t download the voicemail. If you want to be sure you’re caught up on your voice messages, navigate to your voice mailbox the way you usually do and avoid interacting with the email in question.

Best Practices

There are so many ways to avoid phishing scams, but the most important thing to do is stay observant. If something seems off about an email, it probably is. Below, we’ve outlined a few specific best practices that should help you avoid scams:

  • Set-up two factor authentication. Do this for all websites/applications you have log-in credentials for. It might seem inconvenient to go through one more step to access your online accounts, but this practice is still more convenient than dealing with a successful cyber security attack. Apps like LastPass Authenticator or Google Authenticator are an option. These apps provide a six-digit code for you to enter once you’ve logged in to your desired online account. Many other web-based companies offer the option to have an authentication code sent to your personal cell phone or the email associated with the account. How does two factor authentication help? Even if a phisher gets your credentials, they still need access to your email, text messages, or authenticator app to get the authentication code and hack your account, making it significantly less likely they’ll be successful in their attempted breach.
  • Keep up with phishing scam trends. Check for updates from Forbes.com, PCMag.com, or your favorite trusted business news source for updates on phishing trends and recent cyber security threats.
    1. Don’t open the door for strangers. Never grant access to your computer to someone you don’t personally know, even if they look like a QuickBooksⓇ rep. Your accountant and your IT Support vendor/employee are the only people you should ever allow access to.
  • Watch for inconsistencies and typos. Are there misspellings in a marketing email? Does the subject line have five exclamation points? Is your name or the name of your company spelled wrong? When it comes to emails, if it smells like a phish and looks like a phish…well, you know the rest.
  •  Double-check the sender. Always check the sender’s email address. If the name associated with the email address says “Rhonda Rosand” but the email address differs from the one you have on file for Rhonda Rosand, the sender is a fraud. In cases like this, you should check with the individual through another previously established method of communication, be it a phone call to a number or email you already have on file to confirm your contact actually sent the email you’re looking at. Don’t reply to the questionable email with, “Rhonda, is this really you?” If you were a hacker, how would you respond to that email? Red flags include a professional email that includes an @gmail.com (or similar) domain, a slightly misspelled name, or a domain that differs from that of their company’s website.
  • Train your Team. If you received a sketchy email, chances are your team received it, too. Send out an all-company message about the threat and tell employees to notify you or your IT professional immediately if they interacted with the threat. Share trends in cyber security threats, and host frequent training on cyber security best practices.
  • Trust your gut. Even if the sender looks familiar, if they’re asking for weird information or are trying to send you an attachment in an unusual way and it seems suspicious, trust your gut. Look for other clues that they might be an imposter: is a hyperlinked web address different from what it should be? Is their email address different from the one they typically use? Is their tone or communication style different than usual? 
  • Keep your passwords strong and secure. LastPass is a great solution for dual factor authentication, generating complex passwords, and storing sensitive information securely. You can read more about this helpful cyber security solution in a recent blog post of ours here.
  • Don’t send sensitive information via email. Avoid sending credit card information, banking information, W-2s and 1099s, pictures of vital documents like drivers licenses, social security cards, etc. via email altogether. Instead, use a secure document management system both parties are already aware of.

When in doubt, don’t click that sh!t

When it comes to Cyber Security, It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Be suspicious of communication that seems a little off. Avoid unusual emails and contact your IT security provider (or accountant, if it’s related to accounting) to ask for their insight right away, especially if you’ve already accidentally interacted with the phishing attempt. New Business Directions is well versed in phishing scams, and we have a keen eye for malicious emails. If you’re a current customer and feel unsure about an email or solicitation you recently received involving your accounting software, reach out to us.

What Does 2022 Have in Store for You?

The last two years have been unlike any other in our lifetimes. As we close out 2021 and enter 2022, it’s an excellent opportunity to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned, how life looks today, and what we want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Here are some things to consider.

Celebrate Your Successes

Give yourself time and permission to review what you have completed in 2021. When you zoom out to your 30,000-foot view, you’ve likely learned and accomplished more than you think. Compare your status on January 1, 2021 with today, and celebrate the changes you’ve made and projects you’ve finished.

Monetize These Trends

Several trends will continue from 2021 into 2022 and beyond. How can you monetize them in your business?

  • The move to remote work is likely to continue in many industries, including financial services and technology, where the work is delivered digitally. Hiring virtual workers also benefits employers by giving them access to a larger talent pool and the ability to reduce overhead costs associated with a physical office.
  • Expanding your online presence, including ecommerce if it’s relevant, is paramount. Most businesses allocated resources to improve the online interface between company and customers, as the shift toward online spending increased due to the pandemic. Some brick-and-mortar businesses adapted their business model to develop new digital services, enhancing their current product line.
  • Climate changes affected many businesses this year in at least two different ways. Some were victims of extreme weather disasters. Some became more visibly supportive of climate initiatives, working them into their mission and offerings.
  • Accelerated automation using artificial intelligence will continue to move through the technology adoption curve. If you haven’t considered adopting the technology yet, now is a good time to ask yourself: can your business benefit from AI-driven tech solutions?
  • Diversity and Inclusion initiatives will continue to be a central focus in 2022 and beyond.
  • Workforce demographics are finally changing. More young people are working in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic numbers, while workers over 50 are retiring at a faster-than-normal rate. Millennials are starting businesses in large numbers, and one statistic shows that 80 percent of those businesses are profitable.
  • Staffing struggles are real in many industries. Many business owners who can no longer find employees have had to resort to outsourcing, contract, part-time, virtual, and many other capacity options to keep their businesses afloat.
  • Social responsibility has been prioritized by the Millennial and Z generations, leading business owners to ask how they can do their part in their businesses.
  • Life-goal realignment is something that has swept the world as people experience a collective wake-up call as a result of the pandemic. The search for purpose and meaning is one of many side effects of this trend. Be sure to consider how this shift in mindset is affecting your customers and employees.

Set 2022 Intentions

If a resolution feels like an empty promise to yourself, consider reframing your goals as intentions that you can always realign yourself to. The New Year is often one of the best times to reflect on how you can incorporate the trends above with the personal and business successes you’d like to complete by the end of 2022.

Make your list, then schedule milestones on your calendar so you can track your progress.

Above all, we want you to have a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year in 2022.

Holiday Shopping: 2021 Trends and Opportunities

With 2020 came a significant migration from exclusively brick-and-mortar retail to a hybrid model with inventory available for purchase online. The 2021 holiday sales season will require businesses to continue their online migration from 2020 trends, with opportunities for more refinement and improvements. The key to a successful holiday sales season? Bring as much inventory as possible online and integrate all of your customer touch points into an omnichannel of positive experiences.

Let’s take a look at some trends in retail that can strengthen your business and position you well for the new year.

Strong E-Commerce Presence

As shoppers increased online purchasing and delivery last year, the trend is expected to continue beyond the pandemic. For this reason, all businesses should strengthen their online presence, especially their e-commerce presence.

Many retail establishments benefit from a complete ecommerce solution, including a storefront, shopping cart, online payment process, and automated fulfillment. They can expand their online effectiveness with these features:

  • Enable chat features between customers and store clerks to simulate the conversations customers would experience by shopping in the physical store.
  • For clothing, post detailed sizing charts, imitate the dressing room mirror with try-on automation, and use size-inclusive photography featuring models of different body types.
  • Create how-to videos that show customers ways to effectively use the product.
  • Expand photography so customers can see all angles of the product as well as how it can be used.
  • Display and sort user reviews to help customers make the best purchase decision for them.
  • Implement clear navigation and search options so customers can find what they want.
  • Consider a ‘buy online, pick up in store’ policy. Today, many customers research online, then visit the physical location to finalize their transaction.

Expanding your business’s e-commerce presence doesn’t just apply to retail. For example, businesses in the services space have implemented appointment-setting and payment processing. Real estate agents have enhanced virtual home tours. Many businesses with physical goods and documents have beefed up delivery options and implemented curbside pickup.

Each business has a unique sales cycle that a customer goes through when purchasing goods and services. The question for business owners to ask is how they can bring most of that experience online.

Mobile

The vast majority of transactions are now occurring on mobile devices. If your business’s mobile presence is not optimal, then you’ll want to make that a priority this year to catch up with your competitors.

Social

More and more consumers are using social media channels – Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Clubhouse, and Facebook — to discover and purchase items that delight them. Wise business owners will invest more budget into attracting customers from this channel.

Holiday Seasons

With the move to online shopping, the holiday season has been extended from just one day or one weekend to entire months. Consumers are shopping earlier and all year long. Retailers and other businesses can benefit by always having some kind of sale or attraction going on. 

How does your business fare when it comes to a fully online experience? Use these trends to boost sales growth in 2021 and beyond.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, now is the perfect time to begin considering how you and your business can express gratitude to your customer base, colleagues, and more during the season of gratitude and beyond. 

When to Say Thank You

There are many opportunities in business to say thank you:

  • When a customer or associate sends you a referral that results in business
  • When an employee goes out of their way to fix a problem or make a customer happy
  • When a customer makes a large purchase, large from their point of view, as well as yours.
  • When a vendor over-delivers
  • When someone sends a gift
  • After a speaking engagement or an event when someone has hosted you
  • When someone provides advice that has been helpful, whether face to face or in a book or article
  • When someone does a favor or something nice that you’d like to reward

Keeping thank-you notes top of mind will help you think of more opportunities to use them.

What to Say in Your Thank-You Note

You don’t have to be an excellent writer to pen a heartfelt thank you note. Be concise about what you’re thanking them for and share a meaningful detail about the item or activity involved. And then thank them again.

If you are unsure about what to say, type up a draft first that you can edit. Then rewrite your final draft on your stationery. It’s far more personal to hand-write your thank-you note than to use a computer-generated one.

Thoughtful Details

Personalized stationery for thank-you notes is a thoughtful detail. It adds a formal and professional touch to your thank-you note, enriching the experience for the recipient. If penmanship is a concern, or the sheer volume of thank-you notes you’d like to send has your hand cramping at the thought, Handywritten offers a a fast and affordable option to outsource the effort while still retaining your sentiment and the impact of a handwritten note.

Be mindful, however, to avoid turning your thank-you note into an advertising event for your company. If you want to send promotional items such as t-shirts, mugs, or other items, do NOT include them with your thank-you card, as it shifts the focus from the individual(s) you’re thanking back to yourself. A separate follow-up package with swag is a nice way to compound the impact of your note. 

Helping others feel gratitude is the fastest way to experience happiness. Sending thank-you notes is not only good business, it’s good for our health and wellness, too.