All posts by Terra Joy

What the small business owner needs to know about Rest Breaks and Meal Periods

Owning a small business with employees is exciting, but also overwhelming. Having employees means keeping track of, and following, specific state regulations. As a small business owner, it’s likely that you don’t have dedicated HR staff; that means being aware of a lot of aspects of employment law that you aren’t an expert in.

One part of these regulations is related to providing employees rest breaks and meal periods during their shifts. It’s important to be sure you are in compliance with these requirements for several reasons, as follows:

  • To avoid possible investigations, fines, or worse
  • To allow employees time to take care of their needs during the scheduled rest/meal periods
  • To foster an environment where employees feel valued, which boosts moral

In Washington state, the Department of Labor & Industries regulates these requirements. Here are the key points of the requirements:

Rest Breaks:

  • Employees must be allowed a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked
  • The rest break must be allowed no later than the end of the third hour of the shift

Meal Periods:

  • If more than 5 hours are worked in a shift, employees must be allowed a 30-minute meal period between the 2nd-5th hours of the shift
  • Employees may give up their meal period, if the employer agrees. L&I encourages business owners get a written statement from employees who want to give up their meal periods.

In addition to meeting the requirements of the law, you want to provide your employees with a great place to work, as this leads to more productivity and general camaraderie on your team. Meeting (and sometimes exceeding) requirements shows your employees that you are invested in them, and you are not trying to ‘nickel-and-dime’ them to get the highest possible daily work yield. You care about your team – and a big part of that is being up-to-speed on regulations such as these.

If you have any questions about this or other L&I regulations, please contact our team at terra@joyaccounting.com.

For more information on rest & meal requirements in Washington state, go to: https://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/Wages/HoursBreaks/Breaks/default.asp

The Importance of Nailing Your Processes

In all businesses, repeatable processes are invaluable in bringing efficiency and accuracy that allows for quality even when scaled on a much larger volume. In construction, processes are crucial to ensuring that no key steps are missed during the various aspects of business, all the way from working with a prospective client, to scheduling and doing the work, to accurately invoicing and collecting payment, to paying the various local agency taxes, and so on.  Each aspect of business should be examined to see how to bring standardization, especially as the business grows.

Why is it important to have repeatable processes? 

In order to bring efficiency and profitability to your business, it is imperative to have repeatable, documented processes.  Having standard processes in place allows you to:

  • Ensure no steps are missed that could be costly mistakes later
  • Bring efficiency to your day to day routine
  • Scale your business and keep the quality intact
  • Clearly define what is being done by each party involved

If everyone inside of the business is not on the same page, there is a lot of room for scheduling problems, missed deadlines, and role confusion regarding responsibilities and duties.  In addition to that, there is the aspect of how to go about doing the work in a way that meets the standards of the business: the secret sauce.  If the work team doesn’t know what the end result is supposed to be, the quality can suffer not because of poor workmanship by your employees but because of the lack of clarity of what is expected.

Every business must clearly define what its secret sauce is in order to be successful.  Clearly defining each piece of the puzzle and training your team on those pieces is how a business develops its secret sauce of success.

Think of Starbucks.  You can go to any store anywhere in the world and expect to be able to order the same drink and it will taste exactly the same in each place despite the cultural or language differences.  This continuity is not due to the expert knowledge of individual baristas but the overall standardized process and quality that is taught and carried out in each store.

How do you build efficient and effective processes?

  1. Begin by examining an aspect of your business that you feel like is what makes you stand out compared to your competitors (SECRET SAUCE). Do you have excellent customer service?  Is your quality unmatched?  Are your projects on time and on budget?
  2. The next step is to have a brainstorming session with your team to clearly define what goes into that secret sauce. If it is excellent customer service, what does that mean? It could be something as simple as calling each caller back within 24 hours or scheduling an estimating meeting within a week of contact.
  3. Once you have the elements of what makes that step important, list out all of the tasks involved and the various players in that step. The customer, the customer service agent, the website notification tool, and the estimator are all examples of the various players involved.
  4. Once you have all of the various tasks identified in a specific process, begin organizing them by using the critical path method. That is, start deciding the order in which to complete them to understand what takes the longest and holds up the process the most.  Can tasks be done at the same time (concurrently) or are some steps reliant on completing the step before it (linear)?
  5. After you have a solid process documented, test it out. Does it actually work as well when you complete the process compared to what you thought was the best way to do it? If not, tweak it until you come up with the most efficient and effective approach to solving the problem as possible.

From there, pick the next most crucial step in your business that is continually either causing problems OR solving them.  The more you work on refining these processes, the smoother your business will run and ultimately, the more profit you are able to generate.  By eliminating errors along they way, you not only save yourself costly errors but you have happy customers to boot!