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Thornton and Hidden Lakes Ace Hardware reduced their payroll costs compared to sales by 10% with Deputy

United States
retail industryRetail

At a glance

  • Reduced payroll costs compared to sales by 10% YOY with more efficient staffing
  • Able to easily create and update schedules in line with demand, labor costs, employee preferences, or skill sets
  • Fewer timesheet errors

The Story

Lance Stillwaugh has a long 26-year history with Ace Hardware — and he always wanted to open a store of his own.  

It all started back in 1996 when Lance was working for Ace’s Colorado Springs Retail Distribution Center. After meeting with many retailers and visiting stores quarterly, he thought to himself, “I can do that too.” 

In 2015, Lance had a chance to turn his dream into a reality, purchasing Thornton Ace Hardware in Colorado. “It was quite the crazy transition from being a corporate employee to self-employed,” he recalls.

Lance has been growing the business ever since, expanding to a second location in Westminster, Colorado, with the acquisition of Hidden Lakes Ace Hardware.  

Across Lance’s storefronts, there are about 40 employees to schedule. But with his business’ old platforms, managing schedules, forecasting labor demand, and streamlining operations were all challenging.

The Challenge

For Lance, the priority is always making sure they have the right staff in-store, at the right times, to help their customers. But before he found Deputy, the two systems he used for scheduling employees made that incredibly difficult.    

His team tried Kronos, but it took a lot of manual effort. “It was a very cumbersome process. and very difficult to use,” Lance explains.

His stores also used Excel, but it was far too complicated and ate up a lot of time. His managers were spending up to two hours on scheduling – time they could be spending helping customers or mentoring staff. 

With both systems, his team couldn’t efficiently forecast peaks and valleys in demand. That made it hard to schedule enough staff when customers needed them most — and avoid overspending on labor in the quieter hours.

“We weren’t efficient in managing the time that we needed the associates. We tried to balance labor based on the customers per hour. But we didn't do very good forecasting.”

On top of that, his team was still relying on pen and paper to request time off.

“We didn’t have accurate accountability for time off. Many of the staff would write it down on a post-it note and stick it on a desk or write it on a piece of paper and leave it in the break room. It was a lot of paper shuffling – which was extremely inefficient.” 

It was time to make a change. Lance was looking for a solution that was mobile-friendly and simple to use. He was also searching for one to help create cost-efficient schedules, put staff in the right places for their customers, and streamline their payroll operations.

“We didn’t have accurate accountability for time off. Many of the staff would write it down on a post-it note and stick it on a desk or write it on a piece of paper and leave it in the break room. It was a lot of paper shuffling – which was extremely inefficient.”

The Solution

Around four years ago, all of Lance’s Ace Hardware stores began using Deputy. He recalls: “Ace transitioned to Deputy, and I was on the bandwagon for something that was much easier to use, had an app where the associates could see their schedules, and we could monitor the payroll – they were the biggest selling points for me.”

Easy, flexible scheduling

With multiple storefronts and employees to schedule, Deputy’s has made it easy for Lance’s managers to edit employee schedules on the fly – whether it’s to accommodate business demand, employee skill sets, or staff scheduling preferences. 

“I like the fact that we can look at the dashboard and see the stats page and make adjustments in the middle of the week if necessary, move people into different roles, as well as schedule a little heavy on some if we think things are going to be busier.

“The other thing that is so nice is to be able to send out a request to associates to fill a shift that may be empty. The managers are able to see who is supposed to be scheduled, and if they don't show up they address the attendance issues and find a replacement,” says Lance.

Happy customers and lower costs with demand planning 

Lance explains how amazing it’s been to have one platform to help plan his staffing more efficiently, make sure everyone is in the right places to help customers, and keep labor costs under budget. 

It used to be difficult for him and his team to forecast labor demand, but he says that’s changed since they made the transition to Deputy. “Now they can easily go ‘“well, we have this event coming up, let’s schedule higher,” he says.

“Deputy also monitors the payroll percentage, which is extremely important because the two things that eat up cash are payroll and inventory. And we definitely want to make sure that we have the right people on schedule to help the customers. But then we don’t want to spend a lot of money and waste a lot of labor when it’s not necessary.”

He adds: “By monitoring your payroll as a percentage of sales by day, by week, and track it monthly, by the end of the year, you have managed your labor expense and you know where you're going to end up and it's not a surprise.”

With those insights, Lance has been able to reduce payroll costs as a percentage of sales by 10% YOY. 

Managing time off and compliance

Deputy’s reporting feature has also been key for Lance and managers to effectively manage time off. “I like to look at the leave management. That’s an extremely helpful report as well as managing time off for the associates,” he says. 

Lance appreciates that the scheduling app makes it easy for his staff to see their shifts and request time off in an extremely organized way. In fact, he shares that if his staff doesn’t request time off in Deputy, it’s not an official time off request. 

“Now we require everybody to not send a text or write anything down, but to instead put it in Deputy.”

And Deputy’s scheduling app has helped their business easily manage labor laws and stay on top of compliance risks. He shares: “It’s helped prevent errors in our timesheets as well. Everyone logs in, and they can see their time, which is also helpful with conforming with labor laws in Colorado.”

Continue to scale

Lance plans to expand his businesses even further – and he says that he’ll continue to roll out Deputy to new locations without hesitation. 

“We do have plans to add additional stores and will move Deputy into new locations without question, because it is such an easy application to use.”

And he shares this message to retail peers who have not yet used Deputy: “I would recommend that everybody use Deputy, I don't know of a better application that's out there to help manage your payroll and your staff and make sure that you have the right people when your customers are in the store.”

“By monitoring your payroll as a percentage of sales by day, by week, and track it monthly, by the end of the year, you have managed your labor expense and you know where you're going to end up and it's not a surprise.”

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