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QuickBooks-friendly time tracking solution, a game-changer for construction

Ottawa-based contractors talk time saved with paperless time tracking, the need for digitization in construction and what it means to do what you love

If someone had told 18-year-old Jen Skanes how she would one day own her own business, let alone in construction, she would’ve laughed and not believed a single word of it. Today, she and her husband André are the proud owners of Ottawa-based Skanes General Contracting, specializing in bathrooms, kitchens, basements and decks, from flooring to interior trim wood.

TSheets spoke to Jen to learn how technology has helped their business and the construction industry, why the power of business solutions like TSheets and QuickBooks improves operations and why giving back where they work and live matters.

The construction workforce: Skill-savvy but tech-detached

TSheets: What issue were you hoping to solve when your business came across TSheets?

Jen Skanes: We were looking to replace the paper timesheets we were using. It was awkward and time-consuming, and it didn’t help that our employees would track time differently. Some start from the time they leave for the job, some only once they arrive on-site, others only when they start the actual work.

Then there are those who’d forget to fill in their timesheets. So by Friday, they’re sitting in their cars trying to remember what they did on Monday. It’s not intentional by any means. They’re just used to working a certain way. I love my employees! We just had to find a better way to help them be more efficient and accurate. That’s when André looked into digital, mobile time tracking.

What was the deal-maker with TSheets?

We started using QuickBooks Online in April 2017. We love how fast and user-friendly it is. The online support and forums are fantastic. When looking for our time tracking solution, we definitely narrowed down our choices by eliminating those not integrated with QuickBooks Online. So yes, the fact that TSheets is directly inside of QuickBooks Online helped.

How did your employees react to using TSheets?

Our crew has to manage many things simultaneously when they’re working, so whenever possible, they prefer their tools to be easy to use and straightforward. With TSheets, they love how they can just open the mobile app, pick a job and clock in, then clock out at the end of the shift. No need to fill in timesheets manually or try to get a hold of me physically to hand in time cards. Forgot to punch out? No problem. The GPS timestamps can help to verify that.

How has TSheets helped you to save time?

I used to spend about half an hour per paper timesheet, just entering the information into QuickBooks. Depending on the season, I may have three to five full-time employees. So that’s one and a half to two and a half hours per week. That may not sound like much, but the benefits my eyes and sanity have reaped from not having to play investigator and sift through manual timesheets are priceless! Add in the powerful reporting options and I would say TSheets saves me up to five hours per week in time and work.

Looking for a QuickBooks-friendly time tracking solution? TSheets is it.

What was life like before TSheets and QuickBooks Online?

Life before TSheets and QuickBooks Online was long, tedious and complicated. Just a few shorts years ago, we did everything manually. All of it. I’d get the paper timesheets and enter the hours into a spreadsheet to track everything from annual amounts for earnings, EI, CPP and WSIB. I then use the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website to calculate payroll and source deductions. Employees were paid via physical cheques, and I’d have to track them along with other remittances manually.

New construction technology seems to be released daily. Do you find the same push for digitization in your renovations company?

The construction industry is notoriously conservative when it comes to change in operations. Sure, most companies would be happy to install the latest tech gadgets as part of a renovation, but the running of companies is still old school: handwritten estimates, can’t pay with a credit card and time tracked on paper.

It’s the younger companies that are hungry for the digital, online and cloud options that QuickBooks Online and TSheets offer. And now, even seasoned companies are starting to take note. It’s about complementing the processes from the work sites to managing the crew for an ecosystem that everyone can benefit from.

“TSheets saves me up to five hours per week in time and work. Life before TSheets and QuickBooks Online was long, tedious and complicated.”

— Jen Skanes, Vice President, Skanes General Contracting

Like peanut butter and jelly, they’re better together

Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us how the business got started.

Business ownership was not something André gave much thought to at first. To him, he was just pursuing his passion, which is woodworking and fine carpentry. In the early years, he started taking on projects because he enjoyed the flexibility and being able to do what he loved. The business part of things came later, but it also felt like the natural next move.

For me, I went from just helping out with the books between jobs to now being intimately involved with almost every aspect of the business. Can I say I never knew accounting could be this much fun? Because it’s true.

The saying goes you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, but you and André are making it work. How would you describe your professional and personal relationships?

André is such a people-person. He can communicate his vision, allowing customers to see through his lens what the final product will look like. It’s really quite fascinating to watch. He gets along with everybody: clients, subcontractors, our crew. But if there’s one thing he’s terrible at, it’s paperwork. He always jokes about how if he had known the amount of paperwork that was involved in running a business, he might never have done it!

This is where I come in. I enjoy order and organization. Nothing makes me happier than a colour-coded calendar. I may also have a minor addiction when it comes to office supplies, which certainly helps things. So I am in charge of the books, scheduling, workforce management and logistics.

Our business was our “child” for a while, where everything we did was to ensure its growth and well-being. This common goal helped to align our communication, dedication and goals, even when we look at them from different places.

Hometown pride: More time for what matters most

Tell us about curling and sponsoring local tournaments and teams.

André and I joined the local curling community a few years ago. Our first lessons were taught by several curling league members who generously donated their time for the love of the game. We were hooked from day one.

Then Erica Hopson, one of our instructors, formed a competitive team and they were working toward a provincial title. When she asked if we’d be interested in sponsoring her team, it was never a yes-or-no question. Rather, it was a question of how much we could afford to give. This is our fourth season sponsoring Erica’s team and our fifth season sponsoring a local curling tournament. Oh, and we added the U18 Bantam team, Proulx-Fisher, to our sponsorships this year as well.

Talk about hometown pride! Why is it important for you and André to do all this?

We grew up in the same neighbourhood. It’s home to us, our families and our business. We know local suppliers on a first-name basis. It’s a close-knit network where word of mouth is a powerful currency, and everyone’s success affects one another. We consider it our privilege to be sponsors. It’s our way to say thank you and give back to our community.

Want to win back hours in your day to do what you enjoy most? TSheets can help.