How Miter rescued A-1 Modular from union payroll chaos

Tobin Paxton
Monday, April 15, 2024

If you need trusted specialists for office furniture installation, turn to the team at A-1 Modular. Their crew of over 50 installers and foremen have provided top-notch commercial furniture installation and related services to clients across the Bay Area since 2016. 

We met with Co-Owner and CFO Alexandra Valencia, who handles all bookkeeping, accounting, and payroll compliance for the A-1 Modular team, to learn how Miter’s software reduced her time spent managing payroll and compliance in half. 

The Challenge

As a co-owner, Alexandra is responsible for: 

  • Handling all of the paperwork that comes with employee onboarding and payroll
  • Reviewing projects daily to capture every expense, bill, and invoice for Accounts Payable
  • Managing the workers’ compensation claims that came in during COVID, which means audits, requests from insurance companies, and even more paperwork

That is a ton of work for any small business to handle — much less a small team. Before Miter, Alexandra’s team was swamped by paperwork. To make things easier, the co-owners decided to try out two types of HR & payroll software. 

The first one was ADP, which presented two big issues from the start: 

  1. No Certified Payroll reports — This was especially painful since A-1 Modular is often involved with California DIR or Davis-Bacon public works jobs. 
  2. Can’t handle union rate groups — A-1 Modular is a union contractor, which makes things even more complicated. They are signatory to three unions, and juggle multiple union rate tables. ADP’s program couldn’t handle those nuances and required a lot of manual work to pay their team properly.

Next, they tried Foundation Software, which had one huge problem: It was even more labor-intensive for the finance team, who had to code time sheets by hand. 

“Before Miter, I would spend my entire Wednesday working on payroll. I wouldn’t be able to touch anything else — not even look at emails — because it’d take me so long to do that manual work.” 

Doing everything manually also meant there was a high chance of human error, which would require even more time to fix. 

On top of that, Foundation needs to be installed directly on the office computers. If Alexandra needed to work on her laptop, she just couldn’t get access. Plus, their employees like bookkeepers or people helping run payroll were also locked out. 

Their pre-Miter software wasn’t just frustrating, it actually complicated employee onboarding and slowed their business growth

The Solution

When their old software disappointed, the co-owners of A-1 Modular decided to look at new options — and one of them eventually discovered Miter. They checked out our website, loved our features (like easy prevailing wage management), and tried it for themselves. From there, it was a simple onboarding process and integration between Miter’s software and A-1 Modular’s business systems. A1 Modular was struggling with fractured software tools: Procore for field management, Divvy for spend management, Zenefits for benefits and HR. They now have a seamless workflow across Procore to Miter to Quickbooks.

Before Miter, Alexandra’s team had to manually export timesheets to Excel and go through hundreds of lines to code trade classifications to make sure workers were paid the correct rates. Splitting timesheets by hand in Procore led to occasional mistakes — both underpaying and overpaying. 

Today, Miter seamlessly connects their Procore field data with their payroll and accounting. Alexandra admits that, at first, she didn’t believe the Miter team when we said she wouldn’t have to do any Excel coding by hand. But she quickly realized we were telling the truth. 

Since Procore is integrated with Miter, all the office manager has to do is approve the timesheets in Procore, and Alexandra will have all of the details in Miter — “just like magic,” she says. Plus, since Miter codes and calculates employee payments and manages overtime rules automatically, there’s no room for human error — even with something as nuanced as union overtime rates

“Our office manager approves the timesheets in Procore — and boom. I have it in Miter. I don’t have to do anything. With Miter connected to Procore, the timesheets basically flow in like magic.” 

The Results: 250+ hours saved

Alexandra is happy to report three major benefits of Miter for the A-1 Modular team. 

Key outcome #1: Automated payroll in a fraction of the time. 

Thanks to Miter’s automation features that factor in union compliance, Alexandra’s team saves about 5.5 hours per week on payroll. What used to take 4–6 hours (on a good day) now takes an hour and a half. It’s “much easier to handle” and far less stressful, she tells us. 

Key outcome #2: More time for growing the company. 

Alexandra uses all of those saved hours to double down on business development: from securing more projects to funding those projects. Instead of wasting hours on combing through codes on Excel, her team has time to apply for SBA loans and additional cash funding

Key outcome #3: Less admin work & more worker autonomy. 

When A-1 Modular eventually ramps up hiring again, Alexandra is excited to use Miter’s 100% self-serve employee portal. Rather than tracking down every worker’s forms, she just sends them a text message, and they click on a link to submit everything themselves. 

In their Miter employee portal, team members can take control over aspects like updating their W-4s and withholding status, instead of having to ask Alexandra to switch it for them. 

Key outcome #4: System consolidation and streamlined workflows.

Miter consolidated Zenefits (Employee Onboarding) and Divvy (spend management) to give the A-1 team an all-in-one, centralized platform for all people and spend concerns. In simpler terms, Alexandra’s team uses a lot less software by consolidating multiple systems.

“Before Miter, I’d have to allocate hours to work on payroll. If there were issues or missing documents, it’d eat up even more of my time. Now, everything is done in 90 minutes. I don’t stress as much because I know I have enough time.” 


Alexandra emphasizes that your software should make payroll faster and more streamlined.
It shouldn’t be a source of stress, frustration, or even more manual work. 

Thankfully, Miter can both automate the busywork of payroll and record and centralize everything you need in one intuitive program. At the end of the day, it frees up the A-1 Modular team to spend less time on the back-office tasks and more time growing the company. 

Even more, the team was so thrilled with their savings from Miter that they also onboarded their sister company soon after joining. 

“​​I have a lot more time to put into our business development: figuring out what else we can bid, what projects we can take over, and so on. Miter gives me back those hours to find more work and to fund the work.” 

Miter makes complex union rates feel effortless

“It can be hard for people to comprehend just how complex union compliance is,” Alexandra explains to us. The rate groups alone are highly nuanced. 

For instance, the trade of modular installers can be broken up into trench installers, lead installers, master installers, etc. It’s all one trade, but each has a unique rate, which is difficult for most payroll programs to factor in. Union overtime rules complicate this even further. 

Alexandra says she had never seen software that can automatically calculate union overtime — until she used Miter. With Miter, union compliance is no longer a headache. 

How exactly does Miter save so much time? 

Looking forward, Alexandra is excited to see Miter develop even more features and tools that will make life easier for union companies

One of her favorites so far is easily creating DAS forms — specialized union forms that alert apprenticeship committees about A-1 Modular’s public works projects. 

This is how the complex process would work before Miter: 

  1. When Alexandra knows they’ll be on a certain job, she goes online to figure out which apprenticeship committee(s) she has to notify for this trade. 
  2. She fills out the relevant forms (with A-1 Modular’s info, project details, etc.) and indicates intended hours of work and how many apprentices will be there. 
  3. If she has to notify three committees, she emails each one separately with that form. 

Now, Miter can once again automate those tasks away and save time. 

  1. Alexandra simply selects the trade. Miter identifies the apprenticeship committees. 
  2. Our software basically pre-fills the form. She just enters the hours and adds a signature. 
  3. She can email the form directly from Miter. We even provide proof of delivery and automatically store the job record
“Union overtime is very complex and causes a lot of headaches. We had never seen a company be able to automatically calculate it — that is, until Miter. The fact that Miter is able to automate this is amazing.” 

The Miter team provides “amazing” client support

With their previous payroll software, A-1 Modular would often reach out for client support and not receive a call back for 5–6 hours. Alexandra remembers it as “a constant frustration” that would delay their ability to work all together. 

At one point, she wanted to onboard a bookkeeper to Foundation, so she tried to connect them to Foundation tech support — and simply never received the assistance they needed. She calls that a tipping point that eventually led them to try out Miter. 

Today, in comparison, A-1 Modular receives “amazing” support from and gets direct access to the Miter team

If Alexandra messages the support team about a potential issue, she’s bound to get a quick response saying that they’re on it and troubleshooting ASAP. Or, if she tells them she’d like to be able to use Miter to calculate certain values, our team will get back to her with a tailored solution for generating those reports

“The Miter team is amazing. You receive direct access to their support, and they answer right away. Whatever our needs are, they’re all taken care of.” 

Tobin Paxton

Tobin is a sixth generation Texan currently living in Northern California. He loves working with customers and leading the team of Mitosaurs who onboard, train, and support Miter users. Our mission at Miter is to help contractors build great teams. Our workforce management, HR, and payroll tools help contractors of all sizes hire faster, make smarter decisions, and invest in their most important asset: their people.

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