Jack LaRue joined Creative Solutions as a marketing executive in 1993 when the private company employed 89 people and had $10 million in revenue. Today, his organization has grown to one of the largest accounting software vendors in the country, with more than 900 employees and more than $200 million in revenue under the name Thomson Reuters.
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At the start of 2008, LaRue was promoted to senior vice president of myPay Solutions, to serve as the general manager of the company’s relatively new payroll service, which he hopes to grow to $10 million in revenue within three years.
Plans are also in the works for a service bureau for Payroll CS in Q4 of this year and a suite of HR offerings, including pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation, 401(k) offerings and paycards through a third-party partnership.
He spoke about his plans for myPay as well as his other experiences throughout his 15-year stint with the vendor.
Your previous job at a flower company is hardly related to what you do now. How did you get started working for Thomson?
Florists’ Transworld Delivery was losing market share in a declining market, so I was looking to move to a high-growth industry, technology obviously was high growth. They weren’t doing much with marketing. Before I accepted the position, I called a couple of customers, and it was a marketer’s dream. The people raved over the product, they loved the company and they loved the founder.
With all the names you’ve had, are you facing branding issues?
We’re facing huge issues around branding. Great branding strategies are measured in decades. We were acquired by Thomson in 1997. They allowed us to keep operating under the name of Creative Solutions through 2007. We designed a new branding strategy around Thomson Tax and Accounting to leverage and extend customer loyalty in CS, PPC and RIA. Two weeks after launching, it was announced that Thomson was acquiring Reuters. We don’t want to confuse our customers. We designed a spreadsheet to determine all the places the brand touched the customer. Lots are obvious—advertising, the Web site, business cards. But what about the header that appears on your fax, the name that appears on your customers’ credit card? We identified more than 150 different places.
Why are you optimistic about myPay and how will you stand out from well-known payroll providers?
We have a relationship with more than 40,000 accounting firms, 7,000 are using Payroll CS, but a lot of them refer the business to ADP and Paychex. Now we can be a trusted source and we won’t compete with the accounting firm. We provide an integrated data file into their write-up solution and offer 10 percent revenue sharing (even if they’re not our customer).
How are you running it as a separate business?
Before we weren’t united as a single team; now we have a common set of goals. The processing side understands the need to help the sales team and look out for referrals. Sales knows it’s responsible for retention rates and setting expectations. Commission plans are designed so if there’s a problem with the account within the first year, they’ll get harmed.
Can you provide an example?
If you went to a restaurant and had to wait 20 minutes for a table, how does that make you feel? It depends on what the person that greeted you said. If they said there’s a 45-minute wait but they’ll try to get you in earlier, you’d have a different feeling than if they said they’ll have a table for you in a minute. We’re trying not to overpromise. We don’t do 24-hour turnarounds. Ninety percent of our accounts are paperless, they’re using the portal. If they want paper checks, I have to use a courier service and that will take another day for us to deliver. In the past, sales people would just say, ‘No problem.’ Now we strategically priced it so if you go paperless you get the best rates.
What do you consider to be your biggest challenge and biggest accomplishment?
The same thing. The company has grown so large but we actively try to maintain a small-company feel for our customers and our employees. We have zero secretaries. If you want to talk to our president, if he’s in the office, he answers the phone. We have an all-company meeting eight or nine times per year. Sometimes we just put the executive team on chairs and employees can ask them anything they want. We start the meeting at 7:30 a.m., end at 8:30 am. to get to the phones before they start ringing.