It’s an all too familiar story: It’s Friday afternoon, and you need to finish your accounts and get those invoices out so you can stay in control of your cash flow. You look over your staff timesheets and see that, as you predicted, many of your staff haven’t submitted them yet. You chase them up, only to find out that one of your staff is at a meeting at a client site and cannot be contacted, and a couple more have already left for the weekend. Then there are those that have to be told three times to do their timesheets. How are you supposed to cope with this and still have time to run your business?
There are a number of methods to deal with this type of situation when it occurs. There is always the possibility that you will find yourself in this situation even with the very best of planning, so you need to have some kind of coping strategy. Here are a few coping mechanisms that you can use:
1 – Wait until next week to do your invoicing. This method is probably the easiest solution to handle from an accounting point of view, and it means you can go home early too! However, if you are currently struggling with cash flow this may not be an option.
2 – Send out your invoices today and add the missing timesheets to future invoices. There are many reasons not to do this, as it can create difficulty with administration, and it can also confuse your clients. However, if you are strapped for cash, it may be the best option.
That being said, the best way to handle these situations is to plan ahead so that they never occur. Here are a number of proven methods that you can use to get those timesheets in more painlessly:
1 – Make timesheets due days (or weeks) before the it’s time to send out the invoices, and check to make sure you have received them well in advance of needing them to do the billing. While this may sound obvious, you’d be surprised at how many businesses have difficulty achieving this.
2 – Delegate the task of collecting timesheets to a staff member you trust. This will allow you to spend more time on what you are good at; running your business.
3 – Provide an incentive for staff to submit their timesheets by a certain time. By far the most effective method of doing this is to “link” the collection of timesheets with the payroll. Not the nicest way to go about it, but you’ll probably never see another late timesheet!
4 – Automate the process as much as possible. If you have a lot of traveling staff, make it possible for them to submit their timesheets via email. You can also put systems in place to automatically email staff to request missing timesheets.
If you require a reasonable level of detail in your timesheets, you will generally benefit from implementing a time tracking software solution. Staff can have a program that is installed on their computers and is easy to use, allowing them to enter timesheet information easily while they work. Some time tracking packages will also automate the process of timesheet submission and will link directly to your accounting software, making life easier for everyone.
The key to the success of any time tracking system is for it to be an integrated part of the corporate culture. Hence, staff should be informed that part of their job description includes the submission of timesheets by the deadlines. If you can get staff to create their timesheets while they work and submit the daily, it will be easier for both staff and manager.
Timesheets are an important but much overlooked aspect of running a successful business. With the right planning and systems in place, timesheet creation and collection can be painlessly integrated into the day-to-day operation of your organization.