Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Timesheets - mark 2

My last-but-one post attracted several great comments - thanks folks.

Two commenters were in favour of "trashing the timesheet" pace Ron Baker, the other was not. Ali said, in answer to my point that there would always be "fudging" with a timesheet and that they take time to fill in:
I wouldn't think the fudging would have a significant impact on results. Getting minute-by-minute detail would be counter-productive if you're trying to foster efficient working habits.
To answer that, I'd like to quote again from Hugh Williams, this time from his book "Life Without Timesheets; The Freedom to Charge what you are Worth".
Let's face facts; we make up a very great deal of what we put on our timesheets.

If you don't accept this accusation, then let me put something to you. For the last hour you have been working on client A's affairs but, during that time, not only did Client B telephone you to ask if he has to pay his latest tax demand straight away, but your fellow partner also called in to ask you if you saw that great programme last night on TV - and you went to the loo.

Now you may have a policy of not charging less than 1/4 hour for any work you do for a client, and if you follow this policy you will end up charging 1 1/4 hours for just one hour's work - 1 hour to client A and 1/4 hour to client B. But in fact you worked for less than an hour, if you take account of the loo break; yet you charged your clients 1 1/4 hours. This is wrong. The clients know we do this and they hate us for it.
Some practices get round this by charging time in 5 minute blocks. But to that I say - OW. As far as billing goes, that's so petty it's untrue. I hate it when I know a solicitor is doing that to me.

And as for the effect on your staff, having to account for every 5 minutes of your day is what you do to primary school children.

I simply can't see a fair way to record time (fair to the clients, that is). If anyone else can, please comment.

1 comment:

  1. I fall somewhere in the middle on this arguement. Whilst I normally quote up front (either an exact quote or a rough approximation depending on the client, and how good I think the books might be!) I also keep a time record.

    This is not in any stretch of the imagination a formal timesheet, rather a list on a sheet of paper of the time spent. If the phone rings I mark the time to that point and restart when the call ends. At the end of the job I add up the time and make sure it roughly ties into my quote. As I often quote for the next year when finishing this year (subject to major changes!) I can tweak the quote accordingly.

    Ultimately the "timesheet" is not a bill document but a tool to make sure I'm quoting correctly.

    In addition I have never worked at a firm where the timesheet is transferred directly onto a bill. There is always a level of judgement when billing the time across. I'm not convinced that the argument that a 2 minute trip to the loo will always be billed to a client as there is no timesheet code for it! The quarter of an hour phone call goes into the "general assistence from time to time" line which is unlikely to be every second billed.

    I think it is too easy to see billing as a robotic process, when in fact it can (and indeed should) be a concious process to not over charge for work done.

    I have yet to meet an accountant who claims a 100% recovery rate, which suggests that there is always an element of value charging in even the most timesheet obsessed firms!


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