Automated time tracking & Invoicing

Automated Time Tracking & Invoicing

Over the last year or so I’ve been on a mission to automate as much as possible in my business. Technology gives us so many options for automation, it’s truly fascinating. Last week I talked to you about how I streamlined payroll, and this week I want to talk to you about the time tracking side of it.

If you think about it, paper time cards are really not ideal. It’s very easy for employees to be dishonest, even if they don’t mean to. An employee shows up at 8:05 AM but then writes down 8:00 on his/her time card. I agree that it’s hardly worth worrying about but it can make a substantial difference to your bottom line at the end of the year depending on how many employees you have. Wouldn’t it be great to have an employee tracking system that can track to the minute? It would keep everyone honest and ensure that everyone is getting paid the exact amount that they worked for and are entitled to. 

I used to fill out paper time cards when I worked in the construction field, and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted for my business. Since I’m a bit of a technology nerd I immediately began searching for a better alternative. I found numerous options but the one that stuck out to me was an app called TSheets. This is a great option for construction crews and for employees who work off site. TSheets is a neat little app that your employees will install on their cell phones and allows them to clock in and out for time tracking. It syncs with Quickbooks and several other accounting platforms and will import your customers so your employees can clock into specific jobs for billing purposes. 

When you go to run your payroll (oh yeah, TSheets syncs with Gusto too!) you will export the approved time to Quickbooks and automatically create invoices for time tracked against each customer (or job). Of course you’ll have to establish the cost for billable hours inside of Quickbooks, but that’s a one time step. TSheets even allows you to clock into specific risk classifications for workers comp. This is great for employees that might be doing roofing one day and painting the next. This can save your company a ton of money! For example, in the State of Washington, if your workers have multiple risk classifications, you have to have excellent reports showing how many hours were worked for each risk code and if you can’t, you have to pay the highest rate. Considering the difference between painting and roofing is about $2/hr - I’d say it’s worth tracking. With TSheets, it’s simple and looks like this when clocking in: 


-First, employees select the customer they want to clock into, which for us is usually the property address.

-Next they will select whether or not they want it to be billable (we have this required to be set to yes).

-The “class" section just imports your classes from Quickbooks, which is where you will want to add your risk classification codes from workers comp. When you import your class list from quickbooks it will add ALL classes but you can hide or delete the ones that are not relevant.

-The service item is what you’re going to be billing for. For us, every employee has their own service item that they clock into. This allows us to bill customers (jobs) at the hourly rate we specified in quickbooks for that employee. Now, when we go to create a new invoice for a customer we just type in the customers name and then select “import all billable time”. This imports all hours worked for the customer and any sub-customers and automatically inputs the hourly rate so all you have to do is click import and then send to customer.

If you don’t have a ton of experience working in Quickbooks I can understand how this could be confusing, but seriously, once you get this all setup, running payroll and managing time cards is so simple and quick. Not to mention, your reporting will be far better than most small businesses today. Speaking of reporting, tomorrow I have an audit with the Department of Labor and Industries (2nd time in the last year - Yay) but I’m not even the slightest bit worried about it because my recored keeping is “on-point” thanks to the tools I use like TSheets. 

So to wrap it up, TSheets keeps both employees and employers honest. All time is GPS tracked so you can ensure employees are where they are supposed to be even when you’re not there. This is a paid service but the time you save from manually inputting time cards will more than pay for the cost. The cost is based on how many employees you have so it’s easy to use in scale.

Feel free to give it a try, you’ll be glad you did.

How I streamlined payroll for my business

Payroll simplified

If you have employees then you know that running payroll can be a major headache. As usual, the government is elbow deep in your pockets so you have to determine the taxes owed for federal, state and local and you also have workers comp that needs to be paid. To add to the chaos you also typically will have quarterly or monthly filings for workers comp and then you have to issue 1099’s and W-2’s at year end.

But that’s not all… you also have to file new hire reports with the state and collect W-4’s from all employees and make sure your deducting their pay correctly.

What a mess. I can understand why some people would never want to hire any employees. It’s just too much work with miles of red tape - but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Today I want to share with you how I streamlined payroll and saved myself about a half a days work every two weeks. I used to use Quickbooks online payroll but it’s still difficult to do some tasks. For starters your still required to file all your own reports and pay your own taxes and workers comp. Keep in mind that if you don’t pay these on time, you can get stuck with hefty fines. To me, this was less than ideal and sent me on a search for a better solution.

I’m a business owner, I don’t want to be spending my time paying taxes and filing reports. I want to be building my business and making more money. This is where Gusto comes in.

I found Gusto in my search for a better way to run payroll and it’s been a dream ever since. When I run payroll Gusto automatically takes out all the taxes and workers comp out and pays it for me while filing all the necessary paperwork. They also file 1099’s and W-2’s for me at year end but my favorite part is the employee self on-boarding. All I need is an email address from a new employee and they will get an email asking them to enter in all of their information for W-4’s, I-9’s, and direct deposit info. Hiring new employees used to be a pain in butt but now it’s a breeze with new hire self on-boarding.

Gusto integrates perfectly with Quickbooks so I don’t have to worry about doing any manual entry. Interested in giving Gusto a try? You’re in luck because they have a 2 month free trial. Check it out here!

Next week I’ll show you how I automated and streamlined employee time cards and invoicing. This is exciting stuff, technology is changing the way we do business. 

Groutable Vinyl Tile Followup

Last week I posted about a new flooring product that I was experimenting with in a house that I’m flipping. It’s a groutable peel and stick tile that really turned out nice. You can watch my original introduction video here:

So far I really like this product because it’s easy to use and is much more affordable over real tile. In fact, the price is very comparable to doing a standard sheet vinyl and may even be cheaper in some cases.

 There were some mistakes that I made and some things that I learned that will make the process go easier the second time around. Watch the followup video here:

Carpet Tiles For Rental Properties

Being a landlord can be a really tough business sometimes, especially if you're targeting lower income apartment renters. You've likely heard me talk before about how I love using vinyl tiles and planks over using standard sheet vinyl. Well, the same goes for carpet!

I am continually amazed with all the products that we can get from hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot. there is a variety of carpet tiles that are available from the home stores that work great for rental properties like these. I've always liked to use commercial grade carpet in my rentals because of it's durability but when I discovered commercial carpet tiles, I new that it would be a nice cost saver.

What's nice about these tiles is that none of them match! you would think that it would be a bad thing but the pattern actually looks really cool. The biggest cost savings you'll have with these is when it comes time to do repairs. At less than $1 a piece, it's no big deal to replace damaged or stained tiles - Oh, and don't worry if the new tile doesn't match because you designed it to specifically not match. These 2x2 tiles come in boxes of 20 and are super easy for even a DIY'er to install. No carpet pad, no tack strips, no glue. There is self adhesive tape on every corner of each tile to hold it in place.

Landlord Disaster!

I'll be honest, it's been a rough couple of months for me. It all started in January of this year, I bought a decent little house from the bank as I often do -

...but this one didn't go so well.

Here's a picture of the house the day I bought it.

On the corner of Nelson and South Crescent, It's actually a cute little house on a rather large lot. The vinyl siding was in near perfect condition, the roof was in great shape and the interior needed only minor cosmetic repairs. I got a fairly decent deal on this house too so it was set to be a winner.

The problem with buying houses from banks like this is that they are often occupied and it's up to me to make arrangements to get them out.

I'm no stranger when it comes to evictions so this didn't worry me in the slightest.

They day I bought the house I knocked on the front door and asked the occupant if he was aware that the house sold - He was. He said that he was renting the home from a friend but she couldn't keep up with the payments.

I did my best to sympathize but now it was time to get down to business...

"Okay sir, I understand these are difficult times and I definitely don't want to make things any worse for you but my partners and I need possession of this house as soon as possible. When can I expect you to be out?"

Tenant: "Well, I'm not sure. Maybe a month or two?"

Me: "Unfortunately the absolute most that I can give you is 20 days but I'll make you a deal - If you leave the home nice and clean within our 20 days, I will write you a check for $500 the day you hand me the keys."

I usually offer some incentive to get the occupant out as quick as possible but it doesn't usually matter. I almost always end up evicting, but we didn't get that far with this property

Over the next 2 weeks I stopped by the property several times to just check in. I wanted to make sure the tenants knew that this was serious and they needed to leave. Always being polite and courteous, I'd knock on the door and ask them how the moving plans were going and if they ever needed anything, to just call. As I expected, it didn't appear that they had any intentions of leaving anytime soon. I'd smile, wave goodbye and let them know that I'd check in with them after a few days.

...Until one afternoon, I get a call from Kyle (my business partner) and he says:

"...sooo, how good is our insurance on Nelson?"

Me: "I don't know? We've never had to file a claim before. Why?"

Kyle: "Well, I just got a call from the fire department and they said it burned down today."

My heart sank, I didn't know what to think. How does a house just burn down all of the sudden? I've never experienced anything like this before in my life.

Here's some pictures of the fire:

landlord disaster
tenant fire

The home is a total loss

At this point, nothing can be salvaged from the structure, she's a goner.

Over the next couple weeks I am bombarded with phone calls and questioning from fire officials and insurance adjusters. According to investigators, the fire appears to be arson and to my surprise, I'm actually a suspect!

Fortunately those allegations blew over quickly but the nightmare isn't over. After speaking with the insurance adjuster, my policy specifically excludes arson.

When I hear this I gulp as if I was inadvertently trying to swallow my own tongue. I start to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that I may have to pay my lender back out of my own pocket.

After the fire, I waited a couple days to calm my nerves and then I called my lender to give him the bad news. I assured him that no matter what the insurance company does, Kyle and I would take full responsibility and get the loan repaid as originally agreed, with interest.

Now let me be clear, this lender I speak of treats us like family but he's known to be a hot head at times and I was fully prepared for a good verbal ass-kicking. To my surprise however, he laughed and mentioned he wasn't worried at all.

Finally, a sigh of relief.

Now it's time to go to battle with the insurance company again. If the fire investigators can prove arson, my wallet takes a huge financial blow. After a few nail biting weeks the arson case is laid to rest and the insurance company pays out our claim. I immediately write a check to my lender (with interest) and now I'm left with a burnt out structure that needs to be demolished.

The insurance company will pay out an extra $10,000 for site cleanup and we got a quote to demo the building for $5,600. I felt good with that and was happy - At first.

...But I quickly realized that I was under insured.

The $5,600 quote we got to demo the building didn't include the removal of any asbestos so we would need to order an asbestos survey to determine if any existed. Without the survey, we would need to treat the whole building as asbestos and as you can imagine, the price to demo would skyrocket.

We ordered the asbestos survey (for $1,800) but it didn't do us any good. They took one look at the building and said "you have to treat it all as asbestos".

Great! I love flushing money down the toilet! (just a hint of sarcasm).

We get a revised quote to demo the building taking into account the asbestos. It comes back at a whopping $25,000!!

I have to be 100% honest, I very seriously considered walking away from the property and letting the city deal with it. I start rolling scenarios through my head and after some deep thought, Kyle and I decided it would be best to follow through with the demo. At this point the property is a hazard to the community and needs to come down. It was the right thing to do.

After all the permits came through the demo crew arrived and cleaned up the structure with amazing efficiency. In a single day, the house, foundation, debris, everything - Gone!

Here's a few photos:

house demo
asbestos removal

 Overall there was a lot of lessons learned here. There was some challenges and frustrations but I'll still be able to make a little money off of this.

Getting paid to get an education is definitely better than the alternative and if nothing else, it's a good story.



Rehab Tip: Groutable Vinyl Tile

I am starting a light cleanup/remodel on a property and I wanted to tell you about this new flooring option that I’m trying out.

As you may already know, I love to experiment and test out new products on my rentals and flips. It’s amazing what you can get at Home Depot and Lowe’s these days. Some of the products that are being offered are very affordable and easy to work with.

Today I will be trying out a groutable peel and stick tile.

I’ve used peel and sticks as well as glue down vinyl tiles and planks and I’ve always been a huge fan of these products. They are easy to install, easy to repair (for rentals), and are very affordable. However, the groutable tile is totally new to me and I’m very excited to see the end result because I don’t think there will be a noticeable difference between this and real tile.

I know a lot of people like to just use sheet vinyl in kitchens and bathrooms but I’ve always been against this for the following reasons:

- Difficult to work with
- Lots of wasted product
- Difficult to repair when damaged
- Generally doesn’t look that great

In my opinion, sheet vinyl is an outdated product that has no place in the modern home or rental. Vinyl tiles are cheaper and often are better quality.

This project is just getting started so I will do a followup video next week when it’s all done.


How The Economic Machine Works

A basic understanding of economics is crucial for any business owner and especially real estate investors. The real estate market runs in cycles and it's important to know where we are at in that cycle. It's also important to know why asset prices rise or fall.

Nobody explains this better than billionaire Ray Dalio.

Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the worlds largest hedge fund with over $169 Billion under management. He created the company in his small apartment back in the '70's and now he's one of the wealthiest people in the world. The returns that Ray earns for his investors which includes mostly institutional clients and pensions, are nothing short of spectacular. He is probably one of the most qualified people to speak on the macro economy and how markets work.

Because of his concern for the economy Ray put together a video to educate both the public and policymakers on "How The Economic Machine Works". I encourage you to watch the video at least once. I personally have watched it at least 50 times ...It's that good!!

If you study Ray's lesson and heed his advice, you may be able to not only sidestep the next financial crisis, but profit from it as well.