Offering payroll as part of a firm’s services is often the perfect value-add that small business clients are looking for. A necessary part of running a business, the complexities of paying employees are not what small business owners can or want to spend their time navigating. So, ease of use and good customer support are the pillars that hold up a successful payroll product. Here are three firms’ experiences providing payroll services to their clients, as well as what it’s like using their software of choice internally.

LOOKING GOOD

Product: Gusto

Firm: Ignite Spot Accounting

Staff users: 3 (Firm has 30 employees)

Start date: Referring to clients since 2014, in use internally since 2016.

Cost: Tiers range from $36-$149 per month, plus a fee per person on payroll.

On record: CEO Eddy Hood, and COO Dan Luthi

Selection: Ignite Spot Accounting uses QuickBooks Online (QBO), and when the firm performed a review of app ecosystems, Gusto seemed to be the best option for easy integration into the accounting software, as well with TSheets, the firm’s time tracking software of choice (TSheets is now owned by Intuit, which makes QBO). Ignite both refers Gusto to clients as well as using it for its internal payroll.

“Gusto was easy to recommend because of the seamless nature of integration with TSheets and QBO,” CEO Eddy Hood said. “The biggest thing for us we were looking for was to remove some of the administrative functions we were doing. We used to have a partnership with another firm to do payroll, and it was free so it was nice, but we spent a lot of time integrating data, adding employees by hand, etc.”

Implementation: Implementation of the software was quick and seamless, Ignite’s chief operating officer Dan Luthi said. The firm did the set up at the end of the year so there were no W-2s to deal with. All Ignite has to do was give Gusto the login information to their current payroll provider, and the tech company put all the employees in and transferred all the tax data over.

“Instead of us spending hours tracking documentation and doing reports, they did footwork for us and we just had to review it,” Luthi said.

Highlights: Luthi, being the operations guy at Ignite, feels that Gusto was “built with the end user in mind.”

“It’s built so employees have an easy experience and get what they need without having to ask for support,” Luthi went on to say. “It removes a lot of extra work that small businesses or entrepreneurs are dealing with — they can focus on things that matter most.”

Secondly, Gusto is making improvements to its benefits pieces that Ignite likes. “In this day and age, benefits are huge,” Luthi said. “Being able to integrate both health insurance and supplementary benefits like 401ks, commuters benefits and charitable contributions are a big deal.”

Finally, the customer support at Gusto is “top notch,” according to Hood. “They’re fantastic with getting on the phone, answering questions, and get results as quickly as possible. SMB owners want results quickly.”

Ignite has a dedicated Gusto representative, and she’s remained with them throughout their four year relationship. “It’s fantastic because theres a relationship we’ve created that allows us to be able to support each other very efficiently. With prior vendors it seemed every week or month we’d have to change reps they’d left the company,” Hood said.

Challenges: In order to offer benefits within payroll software, the software company has to be registered in the state in question. This takes time, and one of the challenges Ignite faced was waiting over a year for Gusto to become registered in Utah, where the firm is based, so their benefits could be integrated. But once Gusto is registered, there is no re-registration needed and there won’t be a waiting period for any other client in that state.

Firm growth: As CEO, Hood is involved in all sales the firm performs. As such, he has insight into the details of all the payroll products Igniter sold prior to Gusto. “They were clunky, heavy, not nimble,” he said. “The onboarding process for clients took two to three months to get right. Our relationship with payroll providers was strained. Gusto is quick. Implementation is done quickly and we can keep selling.”

The takeaway? “Sell what makes you look good.”

WE GOT OPTIONS

Product: Intuit Payroll

Firm: Diversified Business Solutions

Staff users: 3

Start date: 2005 for QuickBooks Desktop, 2012 for QuickBooks Online

Cost: $85 per month, varies depending on no. of employees

On record: Beverly Lang, CEO

Selection: Before Beverly Lang started her own practice in Huntsville, Alabama, she had spent years working for a major payroll software provider. This gave her special insight into exactly what she wanted from a payroll software, and after evaluating several, she selected QuickBooks.

“I like that whether clients use QuickBooks Desktop or Online, Intuit offers a plethora of platforms allows them to be efficient,” Lang said. “They have options between either a do-it-yourself operating option, or a full service offering where Intuit steps in and is the “accountant,” handling tax payments, filings, W-2s. They take ownership of payroll from the customer and give them peace of mind that everything’s done correctly and on time. This is ideal for small businesses.”

Lang herself provides that “full service” option to clients for whom she is already providing outsourced bookkeeping services. Lang is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks Expert, an Intuit Premier Reseller, and has been named a top payroll sales representative in the past.

Implementation: Lang said that implementation on either the DIY option or the full service is “pretty smooth and seamless.” Once her firm, Diversified Business Solutions, decides what’s best for the client, Intuit offers the support required. If the client is implementing the DIY option, Lang takes over to make sure all the data is entered, balanced and accurate before payroll begins.

Highlights: For Lang, the benefits of Intuit Payroll break down into four clear areas:

  1. The ability to run payroll inside of QuickBooks is a big plus — the data syncs, it’s always accurate and up to date, and it updates without the need for human interaction. “This is a great feature to offer clients,” Lang said.
  2. Fast and free direct deposit: Intuit offers free 24 hour direct deposit, which eliminates delays in payment. This means companies don’t have to give up funds 48 hours in advance.
  3. For the online version, the ability to process form anywhere on any device means Lang has never missed a deadline.
  4. Intuit’s full service option assures Lang that her clients’ payroll taxes are being done right, even when she doesn’t have her hands in them.

Challenges: As a safeguard, Intuit has certain limits in place. One of the most common roadblocks Lang runs into are when a client needs to increase the the upper limit on the amount of money for payroll, which happens as a company grows. Intuit has a standard limit of $80,000 per payroll, but if a client needs more, that limit can be set higher up front. “But Intuit has such a great support system in place, a simple phone call or email to our dedicated payroll representative resolves the issue.”

Firm growth: “Offering payroll to all my clients has allowed me to grow tremendously,” Lang said. “Over the last three years, my firm has experienced approximately 500 percent growth. My specialty is payroll, and clients are happy to have all accounting and payroll in one, simple to use product.”

POWERFUL, FLEXIBLE

Product: RUN powered by ADP

Firm: Baker Tilly Virchow Krause

Staff users: 6

Start date: 2017

Cost: Contact vendor

On record: Matt Soderman, CPA, tax manager

Selection: As a top 15 firm with more than 2,800 employees, Baker Tilly sees some complex payroll business, said tax manager for the firm Matt Soderman. He wanted to find a payroll software that could easily handle one-off, unique payroll situations, and also one that could scale well across the firm’s various U.S. offices.

Implementation: Soderman and his team spent a couple of months planning and working with their ADP representative to find the right timing for implementation. The rep was on site, and the firm also worked remotely with an implementation team to transfer all their data over from their old payroll software. ADP handled most of it, and the firm staff did the reconciliations and checked the work. Overall, the firm was fully comfortable with the transition after four months.

Highlights: Besides the ability to customize payroll for unique situations, one of the biggest highlights of ADP RUN is the ability to share data with clients in real time, Soderman said. But after the Baker Tilly started using the software, the firm found a lot of value in add-on apps and features such as time management, scheduling and HR modules.

“As we got into it, clients were saying, ‘Hey, this is saving us a lot of time — is there more we can do?’” Soderman said. “We didn’t consider this before, but ADP has a large suite of products we can access.”

Additionally, Baker Tilly was trying to go paperless for a long time, Soderman said. “Paperless processing saved us a lot of money through RUN. It integrates with most of the software we use and saves us time on accounting side as well.”

Challenges: “The biggest challenge was implementation and conversion of all client data,” Soderman said. “We were doing a lot of client transfers at once, and it was very time consuming for our staff as well as the ADP staff. If there was data conversion error, like if someone keyed in the wrong number, it was time consuming to get that corrected.”

But Soderman noted that it was ultimately advantageous to work with such a large payroll software provider, because their support and expertise is so robust.

Firm growth: Employing ADP RUN allowed Baker Tilly to reassign staff and handle more payroll business. This is because the software is able to handle real-time changes and adjustments instead of the staff having to handle “huge influxes of work every three months during quarterly reporting,” Soderman said.

“When clients call with questions, my staff is available to handle that and we don’t lose the ability to continue processing payrolls,” he added. “When we bring on new business it doesn’t require hiring new people to do it.”

Finally, most businesses have heard of ADP before so the software is not unfamiliar to new clients. “When we say this is how we’re going to do it, we don’t have to go through a back story of what it looks like,” Soderman said. “And because it’s cloud based, we can work with clients across the world.”

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