- Business: Hale Appliance Services.
- Location: Grass Valley, CA.
- Interesting Fact about Hale Appliance Services: Both Kara and her husband Aaron were among the top Sears appliance techs in the country before starting their business.
- Interesting Fact about Kara Hale: Her first car was a fixer-upper that she brought to life all by herself when she was just 16.
When Kara Hale set out to open her own appliance service business, she assumed she’d encounter all sorts of new and puzzling repair situations. For someone who’d been taking things apart and putting them back together again since she was a little girl, this prospect didn’t faze her one bit. What Kara didn’t expect were the challenges that came with hiring and managing staff once her business took off. Through trial and error, Kara eventually found the tool she needed to make Hale Appliance Services run like clockwork.
For 10 years, Kara honed her skills at Sears, where she and her husband Aaron were among the company’s “top 100 technicians,” out of 30,000 techs nationwide.
The Lady Repairman Takes Off
Kara Hale loves fixing things. And she’s good at it, too. From cars to washers and dryers to lawn mowers, Kara can fix pretty much anything she gets her hands on. For 10 years, she honed her skills at Sears, where she and her husband Aaron were among the company’s “top 100 technicians,” out of 30,000 techs nationwide.
Kara was so confident in her skills that, after taking a year-long sabbatical to care for an elderly friend, she decided to work for herself rather than return to Sears. “I said to my husband, ‘Let me give it a shot on my own.’” He stayed on at Sears, and Kara launched Hale Appliance Services. At first, it was just Kara by herself, refurbishing appliances out of their garage. A fangirl of Rosie the Riveter, she adopted the fierce female icon as her company mascot.
It wasn’t long before word of Kara’s new business got out and people recognized her as “that lady repairman from Sears.” The orders piled in, and within 10 months Kara had more business than she alone could handle. She told Aaron to give his notice at Sears. It was time to take Hale Appliance Services to the next level.
The eye-catching van, punctuated by their slogan, “Hale yeah we can fix it!”, sparked instant mobile advertising. “Folks were like, ‘Who are those people?’” recalls Kara.
On the Go and on the Phone
The first step was to bring Hale Appliance Services out of the garage and on the road, so Kara and Aaron bought their first service van. In keeping on-brand, they had it wrapped in an image of Rosie, reminiscent of the nose art seen on B25 bombers from the 1950s. The eye-catching van, punctuated by their slogan, “Hale yeah we can fix it!”, sparked instant mobile advertising. “Folks were like, ‘Who are those people?’” recalls Kara.
Soon, they were driving to service appointments all over Nevada County while fielding 40 or 50 calls a day from their van. It wasn’t easy. Whenever the phone rang, Kara would pull over to the side of the road in order to give the customer her full attention. “I’m a tech, so I can triage and diagnose issues over the phone,” she says. “You don’t book an appointment when you could just say, ‘Did you try taking that little top thing off your sink?’”
That personal touch is a hallmark of Hale Appliance Services, and Kara’s proud of it. “People aren’t our customers; they’re our neighbors,” says Kara. “And we help our neighbors.”
Still, being on the road while handling calls was a lot to juggle. So Kara and Aaron decided to hire a technician who could take Kara’s place, and free her up to work the phones.
Kara did not have time to focus on payroll during the week — which meant it was often left to the weekend.
No Time to Track Time
As a first-time business owner, hiring and managing staff was not something Kara had experience with. Hale Appliance Services’ first hired tech was put on salary — until Kara realized that the company didn’t meet the criteria for salaried staff. So Kara moved to a system of time-keeping and hourly wages.
This presented some challenges. The company’s technicians (there are now 4 of them) are dispatched from their homes. They aren’t paid for the commute if an appointment is less than a 30-minute drive from their house, and the last 30 minutes of any appointment is considered off the clock. It’s a system that makes for tricky time-keeping, especially if technicians neglect to correctly record their hours.
Tasked with processing timesheets, Kara struggled to keep up with the paperwork. “I can fix the hell out of your appliance, but I am not good at numbers,” she admits. And anyway, she didn’t have time to tackle payroll. “My day is busy,” she explains. “I’m managing phone calls, purchases and schedules, while troubleshooting over the phone with the techs and customers.”
On top of that are the constant distractions, which Kara calls “squirrels”. Someone walks through the door — squirrel! Three voicemails left while she’s on the phone–squirrel! Someone calls to say, “This part’s defective.”– squirrel!
Between her daily tasks and the abundance of squirrels, Kara did not have time to focus on payroll during the week — which meant it was often left to the weekend. Desperate for a solution and eager to get her weekends back, she started looking into apps that could help her manage payroll and save time.
Everything changed when Kara found ezClocker. Not only could her staff clock in and out with ease, but she could see where and when they were doing it.
One App Solves it All
Kara soon discovered that the world of time-keeping apps is a crowded space. By her count, she tried a dozen different apps. Some didn’t even make it to a trial run with her employees. “It was a disaster,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe no one makes what I need — just something to punch in, and punch out!’”
That changed when she found ezClocker. Not only could her staff clock in and out with ease, but Kara could see where and when they were doing it: ezClocker’s GPS function complemented the trackers Kara had installed in company vehicles. She was dismayed to discover time theft. “People are going to try and get more time, which is really disappointing,” Kara says. She has since built a trustworthy crew, all of whom find ezClocker a breeze to use. “There’s zero griping about it,” she says, “and even if people forget to punch in or out, I can fix it easily for them.”
These days, running payroll reports between “squirrels” is a breeze: it takes Kara all of 15 minutes. “The simplicity is beautiful,” she says. “You just pull up the report for that pay period, and it gives you the hours and the decimal, which my bookkeeper loves. I put the reports into a spreadsheet and forward it to her, and that’s it.”
Having ezClocker handle timesheets Kara can finally enjoy her weekends.
Off The Clock, Thanks to ezClocker
With ezClocker in hand, Kara no longer spends her weekends wrangling timesheets. Now, she has time to garden and work on projects around the house. And when the chores are done, she and Aaron escape to the Nevada desert in their side by side. “Getting lost in the dessert is so much fun,” she says. Finally, there’s time to do it all.
Kara’s Remedy for Funky Washing Machines
Does your washer have the “funk”? In this age of High Efficiency (HE) washers, the #1 complain is “mold and smell.” This is not a normal state for a washer. It is caused by a build-up of detergents in the washer. HE washers are not variable water level machines; therefore, the amount of detergent should not vary for “load size.” The key to happiness with your front-loading washer? One tablespoon of detergent per load. I find that powdered detergents wash and rinse better than most liquid detergents on the market today. Give it a shot! Say goodbye to the “funk.”