Time Traveler

By owning up to failure, Matt Rissell builds a booming tech start-up.

Matt Rissell calls it “the yoke.” It’s the heavy weight of responsibility that quickly settles around the neck of a new CEO or business owner.

“When entrepreneurs first start out, they get that wide-eyed look. They come and ask me, ‘What should I expect?’” says Rissell, the CEO of TSheets, a fast-growing time tracking technology company based in Eagle, Idaho. “It’s difficult to understand until you take that yoke on your shoulders, but it’s the pressure. The pressure to own the failure and the success of the company. Mentally, you need to prepare yourself for this.”

Rissell knows pressure, up-close and personal. He recently detailed his experience facing business failure for the Huffington Post. The rock bottom moment for TSheets took place with the company founders literally on their backs—on the grass outside their borrowed office space—staring up at the sky and wondering whether or not to close up shop.

The last straw? Bad press, or actually slams in the comment feed that came after TSheets finally got one of their first mentions in a local publication. After three years of investing blood, sweat, tears and real money, the company was down to a skeleton staff and on the brink of losing everything. Anonymous digs like, “That company will never be a success,” simply broke the camel’s back.

“But it didn’t break us. We both woke up the next day, and we still believed. We still had purpose and a vision for our future,” notes Rissell.

“So the magic formula for an entrepreneur? It’s exponential passion plus the will to survive over time.”

Rissell knows the yoke well. TSheets is actually his sixth startup venture. In fact, the idea for the time tracking company came from his fifth business, Cartridge World. With 30 employees and several locations spread across the Treasure Valley, he needed something more up to speed than filling out paper time cards.

“When you think about it, handwritten timesheets make no sense for the time we live in now. They’re an afterthought. They’re inaccurate. They get lost. They waste everyone’s time—from the employee filling them out to the bookkeeper entering them into the system,” says Rissell.

Point taken. Essential to payroll, government reporting, invoicing, job costing and more, the information collected on an everyday timesheet is vital to a company’s bottom line.

Rissell looked high and low for a timesheet solution that would work online—in real time—over multiple locations. He wanted it to be mobile, easy, even enjoyable for his employees to use, so that they would ultimately be more accurate when clocking in and out. He wanted to be able to track time to different job codes to gain a better perspective on the way the business runs.

Tsheets Team
The TSheets crew hard at work. In their Eagle office, try finding a wall, water bottle or T-shirt without the famous “T” on it.

His search came up empty. So he decided to commission a brilliant software engineer friend, Brandon Zehm, and build the perfect time tracking solution himself.

In the end, which was really the beginning of something brand new, it came down to the bookkeeper. She gave Rissell the final push to take the big leap to form TSheets. Originally designed just for use at Cartridge World, the company accountant loved the solution to such an enthusiastic extent, she convinced him it would be a hit with people just like her. Everywhere.

She was right. With over 50 employees and a reputation for extraordinary service, TSheets is now the top-rated app in the Intuit ecosystem and in over 50 countries around the globe. This means people who love QuickBooks, really love TSheets. The over 800 five-star reviews and counting for TSheets on apps.intuit.com have long eclipsed those spam comments of the early days.

TSheets Matt playing ping pong
And when he’s not working on TSheets, find him at the company ping pong table.

Rissell now dishes out time-tested advice to people who used to be just like him. After a recent speaking tour, he fielded call after call from business owners from across the United States. “I would get grown men crying into the phone. They would say, ‘Matt! I’m failing! My company, it’s falling. I’m bleeding. I’m losing money. And it’s Blank Blank’s fault.’ And they would immediately start to try to focus the failure or the responsibility on the back of someone else,” he says. “When you step into the leadership role, as the entrepreneur or CEO, you take on that yoke.”

He concludes: “Only when you own that pressure—and own up to that responsibility—can you own the world.”

Note: Test drive a free trial of the time tracking solution at TSheets.com.


Photography by Joe Jaszewski

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