If a firm can master payroll services, it can add a robust revenue stream with relatively little labor cost. Software automation makes this possible — and with the right solution, the service can be a no-brainer for small firms with the right clientele.

Here are four firms’ experiences with their payroll software of choice.


THE SECRET INGREDIENT

Product: ADP Run Payroll for Partners

Firm: Vineyard Tax Matters Inc.

On record: Founding partner Donna Cummens

Start date: 2008

Users: 7

Price: Contact vendor

Objective: Vineyard Tax Matters was using a different payroll solution that necessitated a lot of manual processing. “Printing checks wasn’t the issue,” Cummens said. “It was the quarterlies that had to get done for 40-plus payroll clients. Twice a year those quarterly deadlines fell in January and April, which is the crazy tax season.”

Cummens, along with co-founder and business partner Kimberly Angell, wanted to “level out that workflow,” which is when ADP approached them with Run Payroll for Partners. (Cummens also mentioned Run’s direct deposit feature, which ADP offers at no extra charge.)

Implementation: When the firm settled on ADP, the payroll provider sent training staff to Vineyard Tax Matters to support staff as they learned the program.

The firm set up the software in stages, moving about 15 clients at a time into Run, and ADP helped with the process until Vineyard Tax Matters staff felt comfortable doing it themselves. While ADP does offer ongoing training, the firm hasn’t felt the need for it since initial setup. According to Cummens, the software is “very user-friendly.”

Advantages: As Cummens describes it, Run Payroll for Partners “has a workflow aspect to it,” which her previous solution didn’t have. The workflow management aspect has freed up a lot of time for her to spend on other, value-added tasks. “It’s been fabulous for us not to have to deal with that quarterly reporting issue,” she said. “That’s been huge.”

She also mentioned that ADP takes on all liability, which is a relief for her and her firm. For instance, if there is confusion regarding Massachusetts payroll law (Vineyard Tax Matters is based in Martha’s Vineyard), ADP deals with that.

ADP is also very responsive to any questions or struggles. Cummens is very pleased with her regional representative, who she says has been “wonderful.”

Challenges: Hand in hand with the impressive support comes a certain distance from problem solving, Cummens said. “If there’s a problem, we can’t go right in and fix it,” she said, noting that accountants are “control freaks” and so this can be frustrating. However, she said that there has never been an issue that has not been solved satisfactorily.

Suggestions: “We have a regional support group that we go to for implementation and issues and so on,” Cummens said. “It would be nice if we had a name instead of a group, but I don’t know if that’s practical for an organization of their size. I’m grateful there’s somewhere I can go at all. That’s the only thing I would mention for anyone else going onto this platform.”

Practice growth: The workflow management that Run offers has been the most important factor in helping Cummens and Angell grow their firm. It opened the door for them to take on additional clients. “We don’t advertise and haven’t in years, but we’re talking about advertising the payroll product to get more clients,” Cummens said. “And we can. It doesn’t put an additional burden on my employees.”


HANDS-OFF CONVENIENCE

Product: SurePayroll

Firm: Jones CPA PLLC

On record: Founder Brad Jones

Start date: 2014

Users: 4

Price: $39 per client per month at 70 clients

Objective: Brad Jones started using SurePayroll shortly after he founded his firm, Jones CPA, in 2014. “As a new startup CPA firm, I didn’t want to spend most of my time running payroll reports,” Jones said. “This software was a huge help, and I knew my clients would get 24/7 support, which they do with SurePayroll — they can call anytime.”

Implementation: Implementation was “pretty simple,” Jones said. “[SurePayroll built] a firm dashboard. [The company] gave us all the forms needed for clients to sign up. All the forms link up to the payroll system. Very little training was needed for my staff to do that.”

Advantages: The main advantage Jones noted was having all of his clients on one dashboard. His firm also performs monthly bookkeeping services for clients that use SurePayroll, and because SurePayroll integrates with his bookkeeping software, he can view all of the activity from one dashboard. “It makes it easy,” he said. “You just log in once, and do it all.”

Clients also love the time clock integration within SurePayroll, because they don’t have to key in hours, Jones said.

“SurePayroll offers online access at all times to clients so they can run payroll themselves and allow me and my staff to work on tax returns, bookkeeping and financial projections,” Jones added.

Challenges: One specific challenge Jones came across in the past is that users could set up 1099 contractors, but could only enter federal ID numbers in the format of Social Security numbers. That issue has since been addressed.

Practice growth: “SurePayroll has really just freed up time to work on higher-end tickets,” Jones said. “Everyone needs to pay their employees and that’s part of business, but it shouldn’t be a time suck.”


SMALL CAN BE COMPETITIVE

Product: AccountantsWorld Payroll Relief

Firm: Income Tax Plus Inc.

On record: Founder and owner Fernando Castro

Start date: 2015

Users: 3

Price: Contact vendor

Objective: Castro was using a different payroll software that cost a yearly licensing fee that was lower than the approximately $20,000 per year he pays for AccountantsWorld Payroll Relief. However, he found he was spending a lot more money than he wanted to on labor, as the software didn’t automate enough processes. He searched online for another option, found Payroll Relief, and liked the presentation they made for him.

Implementation: “The person who presented the software to me was an accountant himself, not a salesman,” Castro recalled, “So he was able to really explain it to us and answer all our questions, such as questions about IRS rules. That made us very comfortable.”

Castro said that he was prepared for a more difficult transition, but it was easy. AccountantsWorld gave a one-hour training session to his staff, which at the time was only one person. Within a week she was doing payroll with no problems.

Importing data from the firm’s previous software was “not complicated.” Castro stressed that no one should avoid switching to Payroll Relief because of data import.

Advantages: The main advantage Castro noted was the labor savings. While Payroll Relief costs about $20,000 per year, he is saving at least $50,000 on a salary he might otherwise have had to pay an additional staff member.

He also likes that Payroll Relief is cloud-based and accessible anywhere. It has enabled him to keep his payroll manager on the clock, working from home even while she was on maternity leave.

“They really developed the software with the end user in mind,” Castro added. “I can hire someone who has never done payroll before, and within a week, they’re doing payroll.”

Challenges/suggestions: Since Castro runs a tax accounting firm, not a CPA firm, his staff tend to need education on payroll rules and regulations. He would love to see AccountantsWorld offer more webinars and specific training on those subjects. “I think they would sell more software if they [provided educational training],” he said. He added that he would gladly pay for such an offering.

Practice growth: Originally from Brazil, Castro serves many Portuguese-speaking clients. Income Tax Plus has three offices in Massachusetts, and is planning to expand to other Lusophone neighborhoods in the Northeast region. “Every day, we get more and more calls from clients who want us to do payroll,” Castro said.

“The flow of our service and the way we present ourselves is not very different from the ADPs or larger companies out there,” he concluded. “Payroll Relief has made us comparable to any other big firm, and that helps a lot because we have an instrument that allows us to look very good, and when clients see that, they feel comfortable coming with us. [The software] has helped me compete in a very competitive environment.”


TIME IS MONEY

Product: CenterPoint Payroll (Red Wing Software)

Firm: J & J Business Services

On record: Frances Pasbach

Start date: 2016

Users: 1

Price: Contact vendor

Objective: The owner of J & J Business services, Melissa Hernandez, EA, selected CenterPoint Payroll mainly for its direct deposit feature. The software also offers tax reporting at quarter and year end, which the firm liked.

Implementation: Pasbach was not at the firm when the software was implemented, but she notes that the software offers a feature called the “Create new client wizard,” which she finds very helpful. “And if you are stumped, all you have to do is call the 1-800 number,” she added. “It’s some of the best customer support I have used. You can speak with a person. Then they can remote in to show you how to fix the problem.”

Advantages: The main highlight, for Pasbach, is “definitely the tax reporting software. It is so easy.” She also noted that users can easily run reports for annual workers’ compensation audits, even when employers ask for unusual date ranges.

Challenges: One challenge that Pasbach pointed out was that CenterPoint Payroll doesn’t allow users to print two checks for one person in a single pay run — for instance, if an employee is due a regular paycheck plus a bonus check. A user has to perform two pay runs in order to print two checks.

Suggestions: Pasbach also said that she would like the client set-up process to be streamlined a little more.

Practice growth: “The direct deposit feature has brought us new clients,” Pasbach said. “And the biggest factor is time. We save so much time on processing quarter- and year-end reports … the fact we save so much time can only help us grow as a company.”

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