Case studies: Payroll in 2019

As far as payroll software goes, ADP and Paychex are two of the largest competitors in the market. Both companies have also been around for a long time, founded in 1949 and 1971 respectively. This means both have adapted to software advancements over the years, managing to hold on to their respective market share and remain relevant. But there are certainly newer companies out there providing payroll services that may fit certain firm cultures in the way a puzzle piece fits right where it need to be. OnPay, founded in 2011, is one of those providers.


Run and done

Firm: Keen & Co. CPAs

Product: ADP Run

Commencement date: October 2018

On record: Accounting and payroll manager Terri Askegaard

Selection: Before last year, family-owned firm Keen & Co. CPAs was not happy with the payroll system it was using. Accounting and payroll manager Terri Askegaard said it was “complex and difficult.”

Keen & Co. is a member of Rootworks, a membership-only organization founded by accountant and author Darren Root. It was at a Rootworks conference that the firm learned of ADP Run, ADP’s product for small-business payroll.

“Rootworks recommended ADP Run as a good platform to use, so we looked into it and we really like the ease of use,” Askegaard recalled. “The major factor was [ADP does] all payroll reporting and handles tax payments for all jurisdictions. ADP files it all electronically for us, and we really liked the thought of that as we were starting to cross some state lines.” (Keen is based in Arkansas, but serves clients in several different states.)

Implementation: “Implementation went very smoothly,” said Askegaard. “We selected some of our smaller, easier payroll clients to start with. So in our mind, we started slow.”

Keen elected to pay ADP the small fee to have them handle the onboarding. ADP sent the firm a list of the data they would need to onboard a client. The firm sent the details back, and ADP input the data. Once it’s ready for review, the firm can check and confirm that the details are correct.

“On the recommendation of Rootworks, we reviewed every bit of information, because if you’re keying that much data you’re going to make mistakes,” Askegaard said. “If we found mistakes, we weren’t shocked or mad — if we could, we fixed it; if not, we sent it back to ADP and they made the correction immediately. They were a delight to work with.”

As far as support goes, ADP provides it regionally. Keen has a team of support staff assigned to the firm, and can go to them for any questions. Askegaard said it’s almost like having a dedicated representative because they often get the same person.

“If we call them, it’s typically resolved before we get off the phone,” she added.

Highlights: First, Askegaard likes that ADP handles quarterly payroll reports. “We no longer have to incur overtime to get those reports done,” she said.

Second, ADP’s handling of varying jurisdictional requirements is helpful.

Third, the “run and done” feature allows the firm to run payroll for clients that have the same number of staff and hours every single pay period. “We can set them to run automatically until we tell the system to stop,” Askegaard explained. “We don’t have to touch them again unless something changes.”

Finally, ADP Run syncs with QuickBooks Online and automatically puts the payroll journal entry into the accounting platform.

Challenges: Keen & Co. has only been using ADP Run for about 10 months, but it hasn’t encountered any snags yet. There were some setup errors during implementation, but these were as much a facet of the firm’s learning curve as anything else, Askegaard said.

“The only thing we have wished was [to have] easy access to the quarterly payroll reports after ADP submits them,” Askegaard said. “We can see the numbers they used to generate it, but the actual report has to be requested. I do think they would listen to requests and demands and add features. They are open to such things.”

Goals: “Our firm’s goal right now is growth,” Askegaard added. “We are looking to grow quite a bit over the next few years. ADP has allowed us to have the capacity to add more payrolls without adding staff.”

AT-112918-Payroll plans in 2019

In it for the long haul

Firm: Zgoda & Associates

Product: Paychex

Commencement date: 1994

On record: Manager Todd Zgoda

Selection: Zgoda & Associates was founded in 1977 by Bruce Zgoda and his wife Cathy Zgoda. Twenty-eight years later their son Todd joined the firm, and he remembers Paychex being a part of the family business since well before he came along.

Zgoda & Associates started using Paychex in the mid-1990s, when there were few payroll software options on the market. At the time, of course, Paychex was an on-premise system, but a decade ago the firm switched to the cloud-based version of the software.

But even in 1994, Paychex was not the only payroll software provider on the market. The firm chose Paychex mainly because of its customer service. “They have the best representatives out there,” Todd Zgoda said. “I don’t know if they were the first to have reps solely dedicated to accountants, but it’s a great feature. If a client came to us with an issue, we could go to one individual person with our problem. If they couldn’t take care of it they would escalate it through the proper chain of command.”

Implementation: While Zgoda was not present during the initial implementation of Paychex, over time the software company has gone through several product rollouts with the firm.

“Over the years they’ve made it easy for us,” he said.

Highlights: One of Zgoda’s favorite features in Paychex is the layout of the payroll reports. “All the data I need is in one report,” he said. “With other payroll providers, you might have to search through various pages to make that same payroll entry, which is a little more time-consuming.”

While newer competitors to big payroll players like Paychex have emerged, Zgoda said they were slower to get into the cloud, especially for accessing reports, and that’s a feature he depends on from Paychex.

And of course, the original reason the firm chose Paychex remains true today. According to Zgoda, Paychex provides exceptionally good customer support in Western New York, where Zgoda & Associates is located. That goes a long way, he said — especially when that relationship leads to client referrals. When Paychex gets a new business client in the region and they need an accountant, Zgoda & Associates gets the referral.

Challenges: The only challenge Zgoda has experienced has been gaining access to certain client payroll records, but there’s no way to know whether that’s the client dragging their feet, or something on Paychex’s side. However, when he or a client gets in touch with a rep, it gets resolved quickly.

Goals: “Paychex is just a good partner. They’ve provided superior customer service and they’ve been able to maintain most clients we’ve referred to them without any issues,” Zgoda said.

A brand partner

Firm: Fusion CPA

Product: OnPay

Commencement date: January 2019

On record: Trevor Mcandless, president

Selection: “When we’re selecting any partner or vendor, we treat it as if we’re about to hire an employee, because that partner is going to become an extension of the Fusion CPA brand, which I hold very close,” explained Trevor McCandless, founder and president of Fusion CPA, based in the Atlanta area. The selection process for the firm’s payroll software of choice was no different, and OnPay fit the bill for what McCandless felt would represent the Fusion brand best.

The firm interviewed people at OnPay that their clients would be dealing with, and found that the relationship clicked. But the icing on the cake, McCandless said, was OnPay’s endorsement from the American Dental Association this year. Fusion CPA has a strong focus in the dental industry as a vertical, so this was valuable.

Implementation: McCandless called front-end implementation “seamless.” He explained that he has a main point of contact at OnPay, and then does a three-way email to introduce a firm client to the payroll provider. OnPay also handles any data migration, which can be daunting for a client.

Highlights: “We do a lot of vetting with all of our partners,” McCandless reiterated. “They have to have seamless QuickBooks Online integration, because we have a strong focus in QBO.”

Other highlights of OnPay for Fusion CPA are its HR functionality, and McCandless particularly loves that it offers health insurance for startups, as the firm serves several technology startups.

“Customer service is huge, and they have a hands-on approach to supplementing the tech,” McCandless added. “I can hop on the phone with them any time. Different clients learn differently — they do a good job figuring out how clients operate and learn.”

Challenges: “Honestly, we’re a solid eight months in and there have been no challenges,” McCandless said. “Fortunately as part of our vetting process we try to make sure challenges don’t occur on the front end, because it makes us all look bad if we don’t do the proper work up front.”

Goals: “Our clients rely on us to be best in class in everything we do all the time,” McCandless said. “We take that very seriously from day to day bookkeeping, growth advisory work, and so on.”

McCandless feels that OnPay has been a successful “extension of brand” for Fusion CPA, which is the firm’s goal for every partner they work with.

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