How Kemo Sabe Triumphed Over Turnover with Zenefits

February 9, 2016

Kemo Sabe

Kemo Sabe sells cowboy boots, belt buckles, and hats, but they’re not just another western wear retailer—they’re a matchmaker. When someone needs a Stetson, the Kemo Sabe staff ensures it’s the very best fit. If a cowboy’s got loose pants, dedicated personal shoppers will select an accessory to restore his swagger. Kemo Sabe’s three stores serve up bar drinks and outstanding customer service—a combination that makes its discerning clientele feel at home. But with all its resources allocated to front-of-house, Kemo Sabe found it needed some help behind the scenes. That’s when co-CFOs Bobby Kunkle and Eric Johnson chose Zenefits to become Kemo Sabe’s HR pardner.

Focusing on Customers, not Compliance Concerns

In retail, there’s a lot of turnover—as high as 66% nationally—among part-time employees. All these comings and goings create an unmanageable whirlwind of paperwork. Kemo Sabe’s personnel file cabinets were in Aspen, with employees in Vail and Vegas. “We had 500 files in file cabinets—some for people who are active employees, some for people who had left, some without anything in the folders, and we needed to follow all the regulatory requirements,” said Bobby. Although he was only four months into the job, as soon as he saw those files, he knew right away: this wasn’t going to work.

Bobby found Zenefits at just the right time. Kemo Sabe had started new manufacturing initiatives, and they had opened a new store. “You go from a small company to a medium sized company, and it starts to get harder. We were throwing everything into our customers and not the back office operations. We knew we had to change—we needed better options for healthcare and paperwork.”

Zenefits saddled up to the task by streamlining health insurance and eliminating paperwork. Onboarding and compliance were also top concerns for Kemo Sabe. With Zenefits, both are automated—allowing staff to maintain their focus on sales and service.

“Making a hat is very time consuming,” explains Bobby. “With Zenefits, we were able to offboard an employee who quit and onboard a new employee in one week. We were able to keep producing hats with little interruption. In the past we wouldn’t have been able to make hats for weeks and would’ve lost a lot of money because it’s our busy season. Priceless!”

Greater Visibility and Efficiency

These days, Bobby and Eric get more visibility through the Zenefits dashboard. They can see headcount, turnover and time off quickly and easily. There’s no more legwork of chasing down employees in three locations or fruitlessly rooting through those file cabinets in Aspen. “The dashboard is a lot easier than a file cabinet,” says Bobby. “You need a big picture of what’s going on, or you start losing track.”

Hiring out-of-town employees used to mean delays due to fax machines and the mail. Now, Kemo Sabe just used Zenefits to seamlessly hire an employee from San Francisco for their Vegas store. Bobby estimates that Zenefits onboarding and offboarding saves Kemo Sabe 3 hours per employee: “In the past when someone left, we had to call our rep and send him a letter. Then, we had to deal with the COBRA benefits. Now we push one button and Zenefits does everything for us.”

“Zenefits is a time savings,” he points out. “But it’s a lot more to us in terms of organization and simplification. A lot of what we did was piecemeal, and now we can keep it all in one place, get peace of mind, and not worry about being audited. Being part of an organization that’s growing like crazy, we can’t have stuff slipping through the cracks.”

The time savings is, however, significant. In a company like Kemo Sabe where everyone wears multiple hats, efficiency is essential. “Before Zenefits, all 35 employees were asking the same question. Eric was taking calls every day from multiple employees, when he’s fixing computers, too.” Now, all those repetitive employee questions—from benefits to PTO—go straight to Zenefits. His people can search for answers, and Bobby notices that the platform actually inspires employees to get more invested.

Realizing Big Dreams

Kemo Sabe has big dreams for its western outpost, like adding more stores and more original manufacturing. They’ve been making their own hats, and they’re in the beginning of their best year ever. “It’s really cool to be a part of a company that’s growing and building new things. It’s a fun time,” says Bobby. “Zenefits is giving us the ability to grow.”



Jeremy "Sprout" Brautman is a writer, problem solver, and big fan of growth. When he's not trying to solve problems to help small businesses grow, he can be found developing amenities to increase occupancy at his urban Ladybug Hotel.

Category: Small Business Success Stories

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