Late in March, balloons and confetti filled the air at the TSheets headquarters at 923 S. Bridgeway Place in Eagle. The eight-year-old company had just passed the 1,000-customer- review mark on the Intuit app center – where TSheets’ time-card software has maintained a five-of-five-star review average – and CEO Matt Rissell cut his team loose early to celebrate.
With TSheets, workers clock in and out from field or remote locations using their phones, rather than filling out timecards in the office. TSheets’ fortunes have swung dramatically. After nearly failing in its early years, Rissell says, the company broke even for several years and finally moved into the black last year. He declines to disclose revenues.
Today, Rissell struggles to bring in new employees fast enough to keep up with company growth.
Rissell lives in Eagle with his wife of 13 years, Robin, and three children, ages 5, 7 and 9. He is a member of Business Insider’s Quarterly Survey panel. He told BI about the genesis of his company, the bad years and how the TSheets ship was righted.
Q: Before TSheets, you owned four Cartridge World stores in the Treasure Valley. What led to TSheets?
A: One of the nicest, kindest, most honest employees was closing up shop and left for the day. I’d never checked a time card. I looked at her time card, and I looked at my watch. She’d given herself like 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes isn’t a big deal, right? But I’m a small business. I’ve got 35 employees. It adds up. So I started a stakeout. I started checking time cards, and I realized I had a pretty big issue on my hands.
Q: What then?
A: I went to Office Depot. I checked on Google. It was 2005, and what I was looking for didn’t exist. I called up my buddy Brandon (Zehm, co-founder). He built a basic version for 2,000 bucks. My bookkeeper ran first payroll and said we saved two grand and asked, “Can you sell this?” That’s how TSheets started.
Q: When did the company become profitable?
A: We had three absolutely horrible go-to-market failures. In 2010, we had to break even. From there, we reinvested everything back into the company without losing money. Last year was where we started to earn profits.
Q: What was the darkest moment?
A: It was in 2009 or 2010. We got a little publicity on the Internet. We just got hammered in the comments. People said mobile time tracking would never work. They made fun of everything we did. We even received criticism locally. One local guy said, “Time tracking? Couldn’t you come up with anything better, Rissell?” It came at us from all angles. I saw the end of the runway. We were out of money.
Q: What was the turning point?
A: One of our board members recommended the book “The Lean Startup.” Instead of making decisions based on our gut and what we thought was going to work, we started using analytics. We had a hunch that QuickBooks customers would be good customers for us. Instead of going big with it right away, we tested it. We did a basic file integration. It worked. We did another integration. It worked. Then we built against their web connector. It worked, and our customers loved it.
Q: How much has the company grown?
A: Sales grew 146 percent in 2014 from 2013. We’re on track for more than 140 percent growth this year as well. We’ll end March with about 60 employees. Our plan is to hire five to 10 more by the end of June. We’re in 63 countries. We’re going to track time for about $6 billion in payroll in the next 12 months.
Q: Do you have talent pipelines to California or other tech communities?
A: We don’t really recruit from outside of the area. We just hired our first out-of-state employee, from Utah. Basically, we’ve stolen all of our employees, or we hire them straight out of college.
Q: Do you have a hard time finding employees?
A: We don’t post on any paid places. We basically announce it internally, and (employees) post it on social media. They get excited because they want their friends to work here. We posted a new position yesterday for director of marketing. I think we have 75 applications already.
Q: What’s this I hear about plans in Australia?
A: We already have a few hundred customers in Australia. They have much higher regulations for their labor workforce, so tracking time is a nightmare. They also have a mobile workforce, so TSheets is a natural fit. It didn’t hurt that Intuit has expanded there and invited us to work in their offices. We decided to move one of our employees down there in April, and we’re hiring two employees there as well.
Q: Do you have any more expansion plans you can tell me about?
A: We plan to hire five more employees there in the next year. A natural progression would be Canada. We’re looking at a few other countries as well.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: We’re active. That’s why we love Idaho. We spend a lot of time in the mountains skiing, hiking, camping, shrooming – the good kind of shrooming, for morels. We do most of that around McCall.
Q: How much do you work?
A: I try to keep a healthy balance. Usually, I spend nine to 10 hours a day here, but I end up working a whole lot from home as well. It’s long days.