Dick Seibert turned to a time clock system to track employee hours for two reasons. First, many members of his crew had worked independently and were used to making their own hours. "I didn't feel I had control of the work force," he says. Second, workers' compensation insurance rates vary according to the type of work the employee is doing and their skill level. The better Seibert documented his crew's work, the more accurate his rates would be.

The president of SuperWindows in Martinez, Calif., purchased three battery-operated job clocks from Exaktime ( www.exaktime.com) and attached them to storage containers on his jobsites. Seibert provided each of the crew with a ring of four color-coded buttons. Waving a green button in front of the lock allows them to log in; a red button logs them out. He assigned a yellow button for overtime and purple for window-only jobs.

He's used the system for a few months. At first, his crew didn't log in properly, logged in too many times, or forgot to log in at all. Seibert says he stressed the importance of correct procedures for an accurate paycheck, which made the crew more attentive.

Owners and managers can use a Palm Pilot loaded with the Exaktime's software to download information from the clocks and transfer it to Exaktime's Jobclock Manager software on their office computer. Seibert uses his cell phone to read the clocks. He says it was easy to set up, but it took a while to figure out how to transfer data to payroll.

Tim Hunsaker has run Goose Pond Mill from its early days as a wood shop to its current incarnation as a building maintenance company. He tried several times to set up time clocks in his tool trailers but gave up because employees were not clocking in, were having a coworker clock in for them when they were running late, or claimed the clock was broken. "Until employees respect their job and employer, it's not going to work," Hunsaker says.