Six stages of preparation for starting a payroll bureau

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1 Six stages of preparation for starting a payroll bureau Stuart Hall, Employer Services Ltd 27 September 2012 Webinar in association with Payroll World Live Contents Planning... 1 Operational... 3 Legal Matters... 4 Sales and Marketing... 5 Payroll Software... 6 Final Preparations... 8 Planning The first stage is planning, and right at the beginning I would empathise that you cannot plan too much. You may know how to run a payroll, but deciding to go into business or run a payroll bureau takes more than operational knowledge of processing a payroll. You need to consider a broad level of skills like selling, implementation, processing and finance. But don t worry if you don t have skills in all of these areas, if setting up a payroll bureau is your dream and you are passionate about it, you can make it work. The first step I would suggest in planning is to spend some time in thinking mode. To sit back and assess your skills, if for example you are weak in finance, then look out for books like Accounts made easy or Accounting for dummies. They may not make sense at first but keep them at hand and work at it and never be afraid to ask for explanations from others. Now you may be asking why I have written What service or services are you going to provide, it may seem strange at first, but you will need to clear what levels of service you can and or plan to deliver. For example: A Traditional Bureau Service where the client sends in data via , letter or maybe and excel spreadsheet. You key in the data then return the completed payroll. Page 1

2 Or a Managed Service where effectively you become the payroll office for the client, not only processing the payroll but taking care of liaison with HMRC and other third parties such as the pension fund. Or maybe a Hosting Service where the client simply asks you to host the payroll software on your servers, the client enters the data and runs the payroll, you are mainly responsible for just keeping the software updated with new releases and statutory changes. Of course it may be a mixture or all three or indeed there may be other services you wish to offer as part of your company, for example EOY, P11d processing, Expenses, HR or maybe payroll consultancy. In summary - I have always found thinking time to be useful. And here s a little tip, I always carry a small note book around with me, it s like a doodle pad, but for me it helps to write down ideas or a problem and then try to work out a solution, thinking it through (often with some stimulus from a coffee by the way) but normally I manage to get to a satisfactory solution at some stage. Talking about writing, I would recommend you prepare a business plan. Business plans do not have to be complicated and the good news is that you don t need any money to write a business plan. But you will need to know what it will cost to start your own payroll bureau. There are plenty of websites giving helpful knowledge on how to write a business plan. So my advice would be to keep it simple, and work on the theory of money in, money out. It is no different to working out a budget plan for your home finances. Just work out, what you will need to spend each month on say computers, office space, wages etc. and then work out how many clients you will need based on what you are going to charge. You will then be able to see how long it will take to break even, and to start making profits. Its at this point where you may decide to seek some financial investment. Seeking and or applying for financial investment is as personal as you are. Just remember though, that an investor will ask questions like when will I get my money back and what will be my return they don t just give money away! At the same time as preparing a business plan you will need to do research. And don t skimp on research. Comprehensive, in-depth research is the key to developing an effective business plan. And without adequate research, your plan will come across as vague or shallow and anyone reviewing your plan will wonder if you really know what you are talking about. As part of your research you might like to look at who else is providing a payroll service in your area or town? How do they do it? What do they offer? How much do they charge? Think about what will make you different, how will you make a difference. And then you need to prepare yourself. Get alongside other successful business people and listen to what they have to say. Watch business programmes on TV like undercover boss. Read business books. Autobiographies of successful Page 2

3 businesses such as Richard Branson, Duncan Bannatyne, Alan Sugar, Deborah Meaden, they ll give you plenty of ideas. And you will soon realise that they all have one thing in common, a passion for their business. Remember to Prepare, research and be passionate about your business. Alongside your research and business plan you will also need to think about preparing a network of Partner companies. These will be companies that you may need to work with. For example, if you need to offer net payments via Bacs, but cannot get Bacs accreditation from day one. Or you need someone to deliver those all-important payslips, you may need to seek out a partner company that can help you. Ask your friends for their views. They can be an excellent source of support or as I have found they too can be excellent at being that listening ear over a cup of coffee when things are not quite working to plan. Ask business associates what they think about your business idea and plans. But a word of warning, don t listen to the mum factor. Most mums will always say positive things about their offspring. So be careful and start building a network of partners. Even if you re a one-man band with no employees, you can build a team of people who are important to your business. Operational Gaining the experience of running payrolls over a period of time does not guarantee success. Running a bureau means processing all types of payrolls at all different times, as well as treating each client like they are the only client you have. And that s just for starters! So, who is going to be processing the payrolls? If you are on your own then of course I m sure you will roll up your sleeves and getting on with all the tasks in hand. But you don t need me to tell you that processing payrolls can take time, and as you take on more and more clients you will need to make sure you allow enough time to process payrolls within the timings you have agreed with your clients. The more payrolls you have the more demanding this can be and believe me, the printer breaking down, the paper running out, the electricity power cut or worse, running out of coffee, will always happen at the wrong time! You will need to schedule work. Making sure you deliver to the client what they expect when they expect it. Whilst processing a payroll with little or no errors is important, there are in my book two things that are vital in the workflow of the bureau one, making sure the Bacs files is submitted on time and second, making sure you invoice for the work and get paid! Page 3

4 In summary Running a payroll bureau is not just about processing the payrolls. Time management plays a big part in the day to day activities. In terms of time management, let s look at the simple case of scheduling payrolls into daily, weekly or monthly tasks. You could start with a Spreadsheet. That s exactly what we did at Employer Services when we first started and worked really well when we only have a handful of clients. As we started to take on more and more payrolls we needed a system that could provide a daily schedule of tasks, for example, which clients are due to send in their payroll data today, or which payrolls need to signed off today because we need to send a Bacs transmission? Scheduling your work around the processing of payrolls is very important, it s no fun ringing a client to apologise for the late payment of the salaries for this month! In summary the scheduling of work is one of the most important aspects in running multiple payrolls. However for employer services running hundreds of payrolls we needed more than this. We needed to have a bureau management system that would increase the engagement with our clients by communicating with them regularly. We needed something that would show clients we are a forward-thinking, proactive company as well as increasing client satisfaction. We also needed to support clients through the process at the End of the Tax Year, and have a secure depository where we could upload files of PDF reports as well as having everything in one place. Basically - we no longer print payroll reports for any of our clients and we needed a facility to upload reports to a secure folder, the client to then receive an that the reports are ready and that they can view and or download their suite of reports. So, we built our own Bureau management solution. Legal matters You will need a client contract or terms and conditions as well as a service level agreement. I cannot give advice on what needs to be included or not in a contract what I do know is that contracts can delay a company going ahead with your services is a) there is no contract or b) the contract does not make sense or c) there is multiple clauses that confuse the client. At the end of this presentation there will be available some example documents for you to download. I have included a sample terms and conditions that I used many years ago when In plain English I prepared a simple list of what I agreed to provide in my payroll service. Later I used the same document for our solicitors to draft a more suitable contract for the larger clients we now deal with. There are legal obligations for limited companies and you will need to take advice on the various tax laws, preferably from an accountant or someone qualified to help you. Page 4

5 Of course you will need a bank account. And be aware that if you likely to need to handle money on behalf of a client you will need to have a client account, and you will need to careful about money laundering. At all times, take advice from the professionals. In summary You cannot overlook the legal side of running a company and when you start to take on employees, don t forget to have an employment contract. So many small employers ignore employment contracts; don t fall into that trap Now before we look at the sales stage let s have a poll question based on a sales situation. Your contract should reflect the services you plan to offer Sales and marketing Sales and Marketing is the one area that concerns so many people when they have spoken to me about setting up or starting their own payroll bureau. Most have the idea of starting out on their own because they have a sound grounding in payroll, or they have a couple of clients that can get them started, but getting new clients and growing the business causes a worry. I am not going into a discussion about Are salesman born or made but what I am going to do is give you some ideas on how to sell. You can sell anywhere and everywhere. There are plenty of business breakfast meetings that you could attend, where you can get the opportunity to meet other business owners and remember they will all know someone else and that someone else may need your services. But be careful, as I have found to may cost, a full English everyday can seriously damage your weight control. You can also look up your local community business clubs like, the Rotary or the Lions. Attend conferences and seminars. There are even events where you take part in a type of speed dating where everyone around the table gets the chance to talk about their company for 2 minutes, so start practising what you would say. Whatever you do, make sure you tell everyone you meet about your business. Even if it s just passing out business cards that tell people who you are and what you do. And when you do get a new client, if they are for example in unit 28 on an industrial park, brilliant, because that means there is another potential 27 clients on that one estate alone. Of course ask clients for referrals or testimonials they will help boost your confidence. Telemarketing and marketing are a little more specialised, but can be just as important as well as the new fads like internet social media. It s a good idea to have a variety of methods to get your sales message across Remember, YOU are the salesperson and your service is your business. Your clients are potential investors and if you want clients to believe in you, you must be able to convince them that you know what you are talking about when it comes to your business. Page 5

6 Just remember - anyone can do it - As long as you re determined to work hard and take responsibility for your company. Selling a service can be complex and very different to selling a product. With a product the buyer can see it, touch it and feel it, with a service the buyer the dominant element. The buyer puts a lot of trust in you; they have to believe in what you are saying. What you are selling cannot be bought and stored for future use; it s all about the now. You want your clients to come back time and time again and they will when they know that the after service they receive is right. Another point to remember is that you need to treat you companies as clients and not customers. A customer is someone who walks into a shop and makes a one off purchase; a client is someone who regularly buys from the same source month in month out. We could spend lots of time on this specialist subject, and I am only too aware that one of the biggest obstacles to success in sales is fear of rejection or failure. And of course the obvious way to avoid failure is to do nothing! In other words, don t pick up the phone, don t call on people, don t make presentations, and don t attempt to close the deal. As a previous sales director of mine used to say, it s a numbers game. In other words the more people you call the more presentations you do the more quotes you give out the more business you will get. But before we move on let me conclude the sales section by saying, rejection comes with the job, there is nothing personal about it. Life is like that. You cannot be successful all of the time. But what you must try and do is be confident, positive and brave. Whether you are in sales or running a business, having a positive attitude is a key. A positive attitude is something you may need to work on, practice, sharpen and tune. Attitude breeds attitude, and if you are negative, the other person will be negative. Positive thoughts lead to positive language, and this is the language that sells. I am sure you have all heard the phrase Glass half full or glass half empty. It is the difference between being an optimist and a pessimist. Here is an example, two salesmen from two separate shoe manufactures are sent to Africa. The pessimist reported back to his head office no market here, they don t wear shoes and with that he took the next flight home. The optimist on the other hand reported back to his head office that they had better start making more shoes for delivery as thousands in Africa didn t wear any! Now before we go to the last stage, final preparations we have one more stage to look at Payroll Software Payroll software Of course, you ll need to decide which payroll software you want to use. It is the most single important bit of software you will use as it can have an enormous effect on how you delivery your service. Page 6

7 Earlier we discussed creating your business plan and of course to be able to complete the plan you will need to know the cost of the software. You will need to know if you will be buying or leasing. What will be the support costs? And adding everything together, what will be the cost per payslip. Why do you need to know this? Well, if the cost of producing a payslip is say then you need to be selling your service no less than 2.00 a payslip to make any profit. You need software that is easy to use, reliable, economical and with support from payroll professionals. At Employer Services we have developed PaySuite, a total cloud solution, Software as a Service, completely online. The product was launched two years ago and is now in use by accountants up and down the country. We have helped professional service firms, establish managed payroll within their practice without the need to invest in technology. How does it work? The product is multi-tenanted software that works in the cloud which offers a number of advantages There is no investment cost and you re not tied into a contract. The fees are taken on a monthly basis and you can stop at any time. The software is completely online. Which means we take care of the software, so there is no hosting costs for you, no need to backup, and no worry about firewalls, upgrades and all the IT stuff? That is taken care of by us. All you need is an internet connection and an address. And of course we provide regular upgrades. Unlike traditional payroll software where you receive an upgrade once a year and most of the time there are no new features added to the product other than legislation changes. Our cloud solution has a built in development path whereby upgrades and new releases are published every 6 to 8 weeks. And finally, cloud computing can not only offer a more environmentally friendly way of fulfilling your IT requirements, by helping reduce your energy consumption we become the greener option. For today I have prepared a few slides of our product in order to give you a quick look and feel. If at the end of this presentation you would like to know more or have a full demonstration then my contact details will be provided. The online solution is simple to use as well as time saving. With the facility to brand the product, it s a good as yours. You have the opportunity for clients to sign up and use the software from your own web site. They can run the payroll themselves with you offering additional services such as Bacs payments or holiday/sickness cover. Alternatively you could run the payroll for your clients with options to charge more for managed payrolls With so many options available it is no wonder that more and more payroll companies are signing up to use PaySuite. What s more they are getting the benefit and advice from a successful bureau. Page 7

8 Now before I get too carried away, let s look at wrapping up this presentation with the final stage. But before then it would be good to know, what sizes payrolls you are either processing or hope to process in your payroll bureau. Final preparations One important event will be your first day in your new company. Once it s in your diary you will then have a focus and a target to get everything set up by that date. In the beginning you need to be prepared to do everything, to roll up your sleeves and get on with the job when those payslips haven t printed because of a printer malfunction or the deadline for the courier has passed and it now means burning the midnight oil. Whatever happens, you cannot afford to be sick You have to take responsibility for the business. You cannot blame the weather for the turndown in business. Don t look for someone else to blame. Always turn problems into opportunities. Oh and make a checklist of what you need to do in order to have everything completed by the time you arrive at day one. Don t do what we did. After months of planning, Employer Services started on 1 st October Along with my business partner we made a total of four employees. All of the IT equipment had arrived and boxes etc. printers, mobile phones ready and sales brochures printed. An office location had been agreed on, walls decorated and new carpet laid. All four of us turned up for our first day, we each brought a coffee mug and the excitement of a new beginning was evident. We then walked into our office. We could still smell the new paint and new carpet, even the desks were new, but no.. We had forgotten something. We had forgotten to order some chairs. So for our first meeting of the day we sat on the floor, enjoyed a cup of coffee and agreed that whatever happened going forward we must always make business fun. Page 8

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