Processing payroll isn't every accountant's dream. Many are forced into it because their clients need it and they don't want to send them elsewhere. That's where CompuPay comes in and takes over through its CPA Select Program.
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CompuPay does not have a traditional channel of resellers. Instead of seeking accountants to help sell its products, it wants to process their clients' payrolls on their behalf and take on all the tax compliance and related responsibilities along with it.
Founded in 1980, the company has 630 employees in 22 offices, including ones that opened in Connecticut and Boston during the past six months.
Because the company is private, executives would not release revenue or even the number of partners, other than to say it has between 250 and 500. (It lists around 120 accounting partners as a sampling on its Web site.) About 70 percent of them are referral partners, 10 percent hosting partners, 5 percent resellers and 5 percent acquisitions. The program originated with PayMaxx, which CompuPay acquired in 2005.
"Accountants processing payroll for QuickBooks clients may want to get out of the payroll processing business completely, and we offer an exit strategy for them," says Kathey Palmer, senior vice president of business development. "If we partner with a client, we make them tell their clients they are partnering with CompuPay and they sign our [forms] and we have power of attorney to work on their behalf. We assume that burden for the accountants, so we assume liability. They're involved, but not responsible."
Others can align with CompuPay without having to enter any information and can still reap benefits.
"If they help us market services and bring in new clients they get [compensated] for assisting with that," Palmer says. "In most cases, we discount our services so they can bill their clients." Partners receive product discounts ranging from 10 to 25 percent based on volume.
"We have 200 sales people across the country trained specifically on working with accountants. We provide them with the capacity to grow their business or take workload away from them to allow them to reallocate their staff and look for ways for greater efficiency," Palmer says. "Our goal is to help them save money and make money by either offering payroll as a new service or because payroll's a great foot in the door for a potential client if they want to work with a firm on accounting services [down the road]."
CompuPay offers a variety of products based on company size and needs. Two Web-based products are available. Businesses with less than five employees can process payroll in seven mouse clicks with XpressPayroll, which also offers tax filing, direct deposit and payroll reports including labor and taxable wages, earnings and a deduction register for a monthly fee ranging from roughly $36 to $88 based on frequency.
PowerPayroll can process payroll in 12 mouse clicks, but is more comprehensive with extra bells and whistles and serves businesses with up to 150 employees, Palmer says. PowerPayroll offers the same services as XpressPayroll plus features such as benefit accruals, time imports, garnishments, advanced reporting, the ability to set up departments and units, additional direct deposit accounts per employee and signed and sealed checks.
Both have General Ledger links, but PowerPayroll can send external files to third parties such as 401(k) vendors. Pricing is based on the number of employees, with an average annual cost of $1,800 for 15 employees.
Payright is a desktop product for companies with up to 300 employees with similar pricing to PowerPayroll. PayLoad can handle work for national midmarket firms with 200 to 10,000 employees and also comes available as a hosted version.
Referral partners have a variety of clients with different needs and CompuPay can tailor something for them, says Palmer, who headed the partner program at PayMaxx for five years before CompuPay acquired it to add the Internet products to its roster.
Jeremy D. Kiecker, CPA, an account manager in charge of marketing at Carver Moquist & O'Connor, started using PowerPayroll in 2002 when the Minnesota firm's outsourcing division was searching for an online application to remotely handle its clients' monthly accounting work instead of having to go to their individual sites. The firm is doing payroll work for about 70 clients and resold CompuPay to about 15 of them.
The one drawback is limited reporting capabilities. He would like to see quarterly tax reports such as 941, 940 and W-3s available online as PDFs. "We currently only receive them in paper form and with business moving toward a paperless society, it only seems like the next step," he says.
Lisa McMahon, CPA, a member of Warren, Averett, Kimbrough & Marino, generally is happy with the product but also would like more reporting options. Palmer says customers will see those in version 6.0 of PowerPayroll (planned for release in November or December), along with expanded accrual and General Ledger capabilities.
PayLoad 5.3, released in September, includes 55 enhancements and the ability to "slice and dice" reports.
McMahon appreciates that the products are easy to use and provide training for. "We have access to all client payroll, so if they're having trouble we can go in and help them," she says.
Employees receive user IDs and a place to look at their W-2s and paystubs so they don't have to ask their employers for them.
"If they get tax notices, CompuPay will get their tax department to help us. We just forward the notice to them and say "What's the deal?' Nine times out of 10, they resolve it for us," McMahon says.
The Birmingham, Ala.-based firm has 42 partners and four offices providing audit, tax, wealth management and a variety of other accounting services to its clients, who also happen to need payroll.
McMahon acknowledges that her firm's hourly rate is way more expensive than an outsourced payroll service would charge, so it connected with CompuPay.
"It's serving a need of our clients without us having to do it. After we sign clients up, we don't have to do anything," she says. "We keep getting paid without very much time investment, and it fulfills a need your clients have and it's very, very reasonably priced."
The firm selected CompuPay because it wanted to align with a provider that it felt would give its clients as good a level of service as it does. "Three to four years ago, we hooked up with them and started promoting their products. We still have some [customers] that use other products, but customer service is far superior with CompuPay," McMahon says.
"They have a dedicated team of people with detailed logs of when and why you called. If you're on hold, it's for two minutes. They're really responsive," she says. "Payroll is just a commodity. Anyone can do your payroll. What's important is when things go wrong. If you don't have a reliable source to help you through these problems, the payroll service isn't worth that much."
CompuPay claims to be the fourth largest payroll provider after ADP, Paychex and Ceridian, processing payroll for more than 600,000 employees. Instead of aiming to be the biggest, it attempts to differentiate itself through service, Palmer says.
Its CEO holds monthly meetings to celebrate what the company is doing well when it comes to client services, and performance reviews are based on how well employees perform against certain "client connection" metrics.
"Every time we get on the phone with clients, we're making a connection. It's immediate and emotional-people rely on us [to get their employees paid]," Palmer says. "We look at every payroll as the only payroll we're doing that day.
"Our vision statement is being the best, one payroll at a time. We believe we can be the best by treating every client like our only client," Palmer says. "We understand they're entrusting their clients to CompuPay. We acknowledge that and we relish that, and when we talk to accountants that makes a big difference."
Alexandra DeFelice is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HQ Miramar, Fla.
Phone (877) 729-6299
Web site www.compupay.com
Products XpressPayroll, PowerPayroll, Payright, PayLoad