Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strategies for Managing Client Relations in the Aftermath of a Payroll Data Breach

By Logan Cashwell

Preface: Having managed my piece of a small payroll breach in the past, at a former employer, I am sharing much of what we learned by experience, and some things I would – in retrospect – have done differently. Privacy laws vary from state to state, so initially I would recommend consulting with your legal counsel, and with your insurance carrier. Legal advice will be useful, and your insurer may just have some tips for you to assist in limiting your potential liability.

What if. What if one of your client’s year-end package were to be inadvertently delivered the wrong address and were opened by another of your clients due to a mislabeled envelope?

What if. What if your laptop were stolen with a backup copy of your payroll data or software system loaded on it?

What if. What if a disgruntled employee were to re-direct tax or direct deposit payments into their own accounts and disappear before the details came to light?

There are any number of nightmare scenarios we could dream up that could (and should) cause your guts to twist into a knot when it comes to client data and the potential fallout that would result from a breach. Currently in our industry, a scenario is being played out where the worst possible situation in customer relations has landed in a large number of bureaus’ laps. This scenario is the breach or perceived breach of their online payroll software system, and possibly client data.

Now, know this – this article is not intended to indict those recently caught holding the bag on this. This is about how you, if you are affected by this scenario or a future scenario like it, can be prepared to respond. You MUST be prepared to respond to your clients, because regardless of the precautions taken by all software and hardware vendors, ‘black hat’ hackers work night and day to find (or drill) holes into the security layers of online systems. The attitude that must be taken is, when – not if.

Where to begin?

#1 Unplug your phone, internet connection, and close your door. Now, run around screaming madly with your arms flailing in the air and, if you’d like, froth at the mouth a bit.

#2 Calm down. You’ve had your 5 minutes of private time to execute your personal panic attack. Now it is time figure this thing out and keep your business from derailing.

#3 ACT NOW! Because no one likes this kind of surprise. YOU must be the one to break the bad news to your clients. If not, you have lost control of the information flow, and possibly the client.

We are in a high-touch business. This is how the small to mid-sized payroll service bureau butters its bread. This being said, you cannot allow a breach in your security to drive you into ‘ostrich’ mode. If you bury your head in the sand, that is admitting defeat to your clients. What is required of you is complete transparency.

Now, as we look deeper into this, keep in mind that I’m aiming at the worst-case-scenario: Bureau, Client, and Employee level data being exposed:

  • Bureau trust account balances
  • Account & Routing numbers
  • EIN/FEIN
  • Who has a garnishment and the agency being paid
  • …all things payroll

Transparency

Respect

Recovery

Transparency.

I am not talking about broadcasting your woes in the local paper. I am talking about transparency with the affected clients. Why do we need to get personal on this? Why not just send out a form letter? So the client, who may or may not have found out about this from a third party, or the Internet, will respect you – rather than broadcast your silence as failure to prospective future clients.

The last thing that someone who, let’s face it, is responsible for this mess needs is to seem devious or opaque. Yes, the buck stops with you in the client’s mind – regardless of who might be fundamentally responsible for the core of the problem. You can educate the client regarding the source of your pain, but you cannot be seen as trying to pass off the blame.

Respect.

What can you do to maintain your integrity with your clients? Respect them. If you hide, you will lose their respect. Be proud of your business, but not so proud that you cave into the natural urge to sweep the problem under the rug. Bottom line, respect them – and you will have a better chance at retaining their respect, and their business.

In this business, a phenomenal amount of trust is placed in your ability to manage a complex process for your clients. You are moving money, paying employees, handling massive liabilities owed to various state and federal agencies. Don’t let the normality of this process in your day to day operations let you grow calloused to the impact of this duty (if failed) can have on your individual clients. Reflect upon this, put yourself in their shoes, and let the feelings that wash over you guide your actions.

Recovery.

Plan for recovery and the continued growth of your business and client base. This too shall pass.

If you execute a perfect plan (FYI – there are no perfect plans) you should expect a handful of clients to leave you without even talking to you. What you need prepare and execute in real-time is an immediate communication plan with all of your clients to engage with them in an open conversation regarding the situation you’ve found yourself in with them. Yes, you get to call all of your affected clients, and hopefully visit a number of them in person. Build the relationship THROUGH the troubled waters of this crises. If there were ever a time to ramp up the ‘high touch’ side of your client relations plan, it is now.

When all is said and done, you will hopefully have a story to share about how you took care of your clients, took care of their employees, and learned from the experience.

Summary

With any luck, you’ve read this far for future reference, not immediate execution. I hope that what I have written here is a helpful starting point for recovering from a serious data breach. Bottom line, take care of your clients first – and with a little luck, they will continue taking care of you.

Beyond the management of the client relationship, here are the three areas that I would initially be focused upon if I found myself in this type of a situation:

  • Figure out what you know – get your facts down (and then call your lawyer, once you know the details). Do not get caught unable to answer your clients’ questions regarding their data.
    • Depending upon the type of data that has been compromised, you may need to prepare yourself for an expense related to purchasing ‘insurance’ for each of the employer’s employees protecting them against identity theft.
  • With your information gathered, begin by writing down and practicing a 5-minute ‘elevator’ speech on the subject.
    • Do this, so that your story remains consistent, real, and you sound confident. This is important, because if your information flow is disjointed, you will begin to sound like you have lost control of the situation which is unacceptable as seen from the client’s point of view. Perception is everything, and you need to be perceived as someone who is on top of the situation from the beginning to the end.
  • Determine what measures you can take to ensure that this is never repeated.
    • If the cause was a process based mistake within your operation such as mislabeled packages, it is time to tighten up the process.
    • If the cause was lost data due to the physical loss of the media upon which it was stored, be it laptop, flash drive, server, etc. It may be time to consult with your IT and security folks about hardware level encryption and operational changes that ensure the safety of your data within your organization.
    • If your software/hardware vendor was the root of the problem, ensure that corrective measures have been put in place, and that you have written acknowledgement of such measures. If the vendor is non-responsive, perhaps it is time to look for a new vendor.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On the road... Nostalgia...

Southern California is much as I remember it. Hot, with lots of traffic. That isn't saying that I didn't love living down here. My wife and I spent much of our adult post-college life in what they call the Inland Empire after finding the job market in Central Oregon to be a bit lacking as we entered it for the first time back in '97.

I'm gonna get a little nostalgic here, so prepare yourself. Ooo... this is turning into a little auto-biography.

I always like to ask folks how they got into the payroll business. No one ever told their school councilor that they wanted to do payroll when they grew up. There is always a good story, especially behind those who didn't come from a core accounting background.

So, how did Logan get into the payroll business? By accident. Twice.

Once upon a time, Logan was an IT guy with an 80 mile commute in traffic - both ways on Interstate 10 here in So. Cali.... and had an epiphany one day after being in the break room with a bunch of co-workers as someone lit themselves on fire on an overpass near Santa Monica... When the first question in your head about such a horrific situation is, 'I wonder if that's on my route home? I'm hosed!'... you know you need a different job.

So later that week I walked into an interview at CBS Payroll out in San Bernardino near where my wife was teaching and became the guy who shipped out software packages and scanned laser signatures. 10 minute commute... nuf said.

Yes, Logan was the dude who scanned signatures. You might say that I started at the bottom. After doing this for awhile, I did some customer service and sales work before I realized that I wanted to get my edumacation.

So I got educated... did my BS and MS in Organizational Development at the University of La Verne and moved back home to Oregon. This move to Oregon thing is a recurring theme in my adult life. Back and forth... long story.

Part Deux....

...so I drove back down to San Bernardino area alone in my truck and stayed with family while I looked for a j.o.b. in the area. I gave my buddy Mike a call who was a friend at the payroll company I was scanning signatures at. He says, "Hey, we were looking for a business development manager..."

I got hired. Two days later Intuit acquired CBS Payroll for $78 million bucks and I got my stock options.

An interesting chain of events then took place... over the next few years, sparing you the details, I moved up the food chain and after my manager moved on, ended up running the Payroll Service Bureau software business... just as Intuit decided to dismantle it. I got the job of informing my service bureau clients that they needed new software, and helped them find it and transition as smoothly as possible.

The most amusing calls I've ever made in my payroll career went like this, "Hey there! This is Logan Cashwell from CBS Payroll Software... your now former competitor. I want to partner with you to help my clients find out if your software package is a good fit for them."

After two years of this, and being laid off twice (don't ask...) I transitioned into the Intuit Complete Payroll Services ops group managing a team that handled, 'Payroll Technical Support' for around 15,000 clients. We made some great changes that enhanced the customer experience with our web and PC products... and then a few months later... Intuit sells out to ADP. The end. Third time laid off... at the same company! It was pretty amusing to me to watch the process. Sad, but amusing to view it through the lens of my fancy edumacation that Intuit mostly paid for (the MS). Watching the corporate giant attempt to successfully handle this massive organizational change, while keeping the clients happy as they are sold off, in many cases to the service provider they had recently left.

As I was the last manger in the door, I transitioned myself out early. Frankly, after being in limbo for two years previously, it didn't strike me as a lot of fun to do it for another year.

Part Tre? Three?

...so I called Tim Troxel at AdaptaSoft, Inc., interviewed with him, and got back into business development and consulting. Why did I call them? No this isn't a veiled sales pitch inside of a long memoir... They took care of MY people when they were most vulnerable and needed help. They did it like no other.

So, here I am today, blogging about payroll and helping payroll service bureaus to find the best fit in a new software package - much like what I did during the end-game for CBS Payroll Software.

From the bottom up, here I am. Another amusing tale of how a guy got into payroll.

Want to share your story? Comment here and I'll post it right up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What makes your Payroll Service different?

I just returned this week from a sales trip to the Bay Area. As I traveled from stop to stop, it struck me that there are some very core areas that are common amongst Payroll Service Bureaus that differentiate them from their largest competitors.
  • Service
  • Pricing Strategy
  • Local Touch
These three common areas are MUST-have cores for your business.

Your service level MUST knock the socks off of the large national bureaus.
Your pricing strategy MUST differentiate you from the large national bureaus.
Your local strategy - local name/face MUST be a visible part of your marketing.

Now, if you embrace these three areas of 'MUST HAVES', you still need to flavor your service to suite your own personality and style. Don't try to be someone you are not... you won't be happy.

If you are environmentally aware and active in this area, go for the green angle. If you are not... and your client catches you in your GMC Yukon XL with the 8.1L V8 towing a gas guzzling powerboat, cranking up the hills at 3mpg... you lose.

If you like to eat, I mean, really like to eat... dig into the restaurant niche. Learn all there is to learn about their core pain points and solve for them.

This goes for any other niche you might try... auto shops, dry cleaners, medical clinics, dentists, etc. If you want to take a niche away from the nationals - make sure you do your research and OWN it. Don't go half-way. Once the niche is yours, people talk - and you win.

Regardless of how you flavor your business with your own flair and style, what matters most is that if it isn't working, don't be afraid to mix it up and try something new. Just like any business or job, if you aren't having fun, you won't be successful. Find a way to make every day the best day of your career.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

All Work & No Blog Makes Logan a Dull Boy...

What can I say, I've been swamped lately. Heading out on the road for the next month or so to:
  • San Francisco
  • Southern California
  • Washington DC Region
As summer closes, and the kiddos get back to school - the posts should begin to flow once again! :-)

-Logan

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On the road!

I'm heading out this morning to IPPA.net's annual conference. This year we're in Cambridge, MA. I'm looking forward to learning a bunch, and sharing the juicy parts here when I return. If you're interested in knowing more about IPPA, check out their web site, and take a look at my previous post.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

IPPA Annual Conference - Cambridge, MA

I'm getting ready to fly out to Boston in a week or so for the IPPA Annual Conference. If you are running a payroll service and are not yet a member of an organization of your peers, I'd highly recommend that you join IPPA. Check out their web site: http://www.ippa.net for the details on what they provide for their members.

I can tell you this - their annual conference (I've attended the last three) is always full of valuable information and networking opportunities. Although I am admittedly a vendor, the quantity of folks such as myself who attend this event is the best opportunity in the industry for you to find new partnerships to supplement what you already have in the bag. Even if you are unable to join or attend, check out their web site where the sponsors and 'vendor members' are listed.

Gold nuggets for your payroll offering in the form of great ancillary services that keep you head2head with ADP & Paychex.

If you use Twitter, follow my tweets at the event by following me: http://twitter.com/ThePayrollGuy or searching for #IPPA at search.twitter.com to see all of the buzz that we produce.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Payroll Scammers Are 'Rare Gems'


Link to the article that inspired this post: "Payroll Company President Charged with Grand Larceny" By: Seth Voorhees of rnews.com

So... here we have another case where through the power of 'Instant Media' every search string on the web that includes the word 'Payroll' will point toward this jerk running off with his clients' tax money.
Now, there are gems like this guy in every industry. We have all seen one bad apple trashing various industries' reputations over the years from Enron and WorldCom to the banks that sold us on the value of 'Interest Only, Variable Rate, No-Docs' loans over the past few years (that one worked real good!).

All we need to do is visit the Feds' Financial Crimes web site to get a full taste of what kind of recent finance related scams are out there.

The real question is: Should you worry about your clients' perception of you and your payroll business?

The answer is dubious... it's a YES/NO scenario. Whenever one of these incidents occurs it opens up the opportunity for a slick sales rep from one of the big payroll providers to sweet talk your client. They might say things like, "Can you really trust a small business with your tax money?", "We have a Kabillion dollars backing our tax accounts... do they?"...

I would venture to say that you are only at risk for these kinds of attacks if you have failed to inoculate your clients. Here are a few things that, if you haven't done, you should:
  • Be in regular communication with your clients. If you ignore those, 'good' clients who don't call - you won't know if they are at risk
  • Even though you'd like all of your clients to utilize your tax service - don't push them into a corner
  • If you start getting questions when something like this happens, be prepared. Write up and practice a 5 minute talk on the subject that you can use on those calls. Put some bullets down. The last thing you want is to sound nervous and confused when hit with a question like this.
  • Finally... Be transparent - you have nothing to hide
So, above are some strategies to try if you are worried - or happen to be located in or around Rochester, NY (which would make this extraordinarily relevant to your business' future.

Regardless of the new focus on this fraudulent fellow, now is the time to pump up your relationship with your clients!

If you don't feel like you've touched base with your clients enough, and built that solid relationship - now is a great opportunity to do so. This isn't just in case they google payroll and find that fink's mug shot. This is about making your business stronger. Think about the
following:
  • Are ALL of your clients aware of your current offerings? Have you added ancillary services and forgot to tell them?
  • Have you reached out to your clients who may be in financial trouble? Now is the time to keep them from going in-house.
Right now the economy is pushing the already fickle consumer into a bargain hunting frenzy. Payroll Service Bureaus lose clients when the client does not know that their current provider has that one service they were lacking. Don't be that bureau.

Bottom Line? You run a good, honest business. Make sure your clients know it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Green Is Going vs. Going Green?


I was just skimming through the latest copy of the Harvard Business Review in between phone calls and got stuck on an article entitled, "Understanding the Post Recession Consumer." http://www.hbr.org

One of the eight trends that they indentified regarding consumer behavior in the current mudpuddle we are swimming in is this:

Green was cool, but I ain't paying a premium for it anymore.

Ok, so I paraphrased a bit, but that is the gist of it. Now, when we take this concept and apply it to selling your payroll services...

Oh My Gosh!!! I Spent All This Money On An Online Solution To Push As Green!!!

Stop tearing your hair out and gnashing your teeth... it'll be ok! I swear! So, you've got an online paperless solution in place. Now the consumer doesn't care as much. What do I do?

The concept that I work on with my clients to sell the online payroll tool to their clients centers more around the value you can provide to the client rather than the green-ness of the option. I suggest the following:
  • Push savings, not Green
  • Green becomes the feel-good after-effect of choosing an economical solution for payroll
Set up a pricing model that puts your online product at the low end of the $pectrum. You will have an easier time getting buy-in from your existing and new clients by saving them money. This in turn reduces the hours you and your staff spend on payroll, and allows growth without increased headcount.

Right now, everyone wants a deal. Sure they'd like to do something environmentally friendly - but, keep in mind that the green those clients are worrying about the most about right now is the kind that comes with dead presidents on it.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

So, you've got payroll experience...

You have some payroll experience? How much? Lots? EXCELLENT!

You got laid off? An all too familiar story... can't find work? Even more familiar. Just last night I was watching our local news as they interviewed High School kids looking for summer work.

There isn't any.

Why aren't there any summer jobs to speak of? Because grown-ups are filling the slots, and if there are enough desperate a-dults out there who need work, who in there right mind wants to hire a pimply kid who's working for gas money?

So, the question is... what are you going to do with that payroll experience? If you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body, I would strongly suggest starting your own payroll business. Why not? It couldn't hurt to try.

I'm not talking about buying a big software package and opening a store front. I'm talking about your classic Mom/Pop shop. A kitchen table operation, no more, no less.

There are a number of options out there that will allow you to private label your services via the web, and this is the perfect method to use to see if you have what it takes to build up a client base.

Here is how you might get rolling:

  • Find a payroll solution - PayCycle.com / QuickBooks / Accountant's World / Etc.
  • Buy a copy of The Payroll Source
  • Find a friend or family member to Guinna pig the business on (do a side-by-side payroll first to make sure you've nailed it)
  • ...and you're in business - go get that 2nd client!

Seriously, in our current economic slump the payroll business is prospering. People are leaving the large bureaus such as ADP and Paychex looking for a better deal, and to support local services. My clients are in the black - up 5 - 15% over last year which is fabulous in today's marketplace.

I say, dig in and get your piece of the action while the getting is good.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Intuit, Inc. Acquires PayCycle.com

Well... this is an interesting development.

I have to admit, that as one of the folks who was laid off when Intuit closed up Complete Payroll Services awhile back - that I felt a bit irked at first. Selling off all of those ~30k hard earned clients to ADP might have made a small black mark on my heart that is still healing... then they step up and buy yet another payroll company?

BUT!

Upon further reflection, I think they might just pull it off this time - and good for them.

Both CRI and CBS Payroll, as acquisitions, brought in outsourced payroll clients and back-end systems to support them. This class of client was a fair mix of call/fax along with online clients. As they later unloaded the clients to ADP, Intuit appears to have re-focused on the smaller web based clients which are still being offered service up there on Payroll.com. This acquisition is adding to that online payroll model 60k+ clients. Not bad, not bad at all.

Perhaps the mold that PayCycle has built for online payroll clients will mesh nicely with where Intuit has taken their outsourced payroll offering since '07 - to the web.

I wish the PayCycle folks all the best. Acquisition is a wild ride!



by: Logan Cashwell

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Co-Op Payroll? Huh?

Recently I was playing around on Twitter and posed the following question: "Why don't Accounting firms in regions with a population around 50,000 people who aren't really into payroll as a profit center get together and make something happen?"

Well it was shorter than that on Twitter (140 character limit and all that), but you get the idea. Even if you have no interest in working Payroll into your practice as a profit center, what is there stopping you from getting together with your peers in the neighborhood and doing battle together with ADP & Paychex?

Hey, if the farmers can do it, why can't an Accounting Professional?

It seems foreign, but most CPA firms who get serious about payroll form a separate company to manage it, and do very well. And this is going solo. A typical client's payroll and the ancillary services that surround it can generate between $1000 and $3000/year. Nothing to shake a stick at.

I would find it very interesting to see a group of smaller firms band together, brothers and sisters in arms - form a partnership, find a high-end payroll manager and take their revenue back from ADP, Paychex, and their cronies.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Strategies: Make customer retention priority

A great article in USA Today on customer retention during turbulant economic times.  I discussed this a bit at our user group earlier this month.  It is so important to ensure that your client base is in a happy place with you right now.  

The cost of adding new clients increases when there are less of them to find.


Strategies: Make customer retention priority
By Rhonda Abrams, USA TODAY

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Affluence Gap

Our economy is about to deliver a bountiful gift to small businesses around the country. However, this gift must be unwrapped like that poisonous fish I saw on the Discovery channel the other day... cut it wrong and you die eating it - cut it right, and it is a delicacy.

The gift that I'm going on about is the gift of talent. There is a glut of talent out there looking for work right now, and willing to step down the pay grade ladder for a stable check and half decent benefits. Gone are the days of the fat expense account and company car... these folks just need to eat and keep a roof over their family's heads.

So, what happens when you interview and hire a new employee who might have both more years, and more experience in the business then you do? Oh yeah, and they are/were making way better money then you are/will.

Pleasure or Pain? ...the choice will be yours

In order to make a hiring decision that includes a potentially valuable asset such as the person I described above, you need to put some serious thought into the hiring process. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

·         Can you handle a strong asset like this as a part of your team?

·         How can you help them to fit into their new (lesser) role?

·         Are they really committed for the long term, or ready to jump ship if someone drops that ladder back down to them?

·         Beyond the usual complexity surrounding age and gender, etc. -  what aspects of the employee/employer relationship will be affected by this, 'affluence gap’ as it enters your HR process?

There are certainly other aspects that need to be considered in any hiring process, regardless of the scenario I've presented to you here, but I want to concentrate on my last bullet point: The Affluence Gap.

If anyone has already coined this phrase, I apologize - I seriously just made it up.  It seems a fitting name for this aspect of the discussion.

The first thing I would like you to consider are your feelings. Yes, this decision has much more to do with you then it does with the prospective employee.  How will you 'feel' having someone working for you who might be considered more capable and experienced than yourself in your own business, in your own industry?

The second thing I would like you to think over is how you plan to work with this potential employee to ensure that you retain control over yourself, your operation and your employees attitudes, the new one included.

So, it's interview time...

As you sit down to the interview with your overqualified applicant, you begin to sense an impending inferiority complex coming on. At the same time, you start thinking about how great it could be for your business to bring on someone with the kind of talent that is sitting across the table from you. What you don't know is - can you handle it?

One of the great things about running your own business is that you have control over your work life (since you have no personal life if you're busy running the business). Now is no time to give up that control. Talk openly and honestly with the applicant, perhaps conduct the interview informally over coffee to keep it from taking on the boss/employee feeling that might overcome you at the office.  If they have the experience that I'm talking about, they have hired and fired before... they have made decisions with authority before... and they may even have been in your shoes before.

Lay out your interest in them transparently.  Let them know about your fears and hopes related to the possibility of bringing someone of their stature and reputation on.  Be blatantly honest about how long they will last as an, ‘usurper’ (i.e., employment at will – your will)

This scenario boils down to your ability to move forward as the leader of your team into some uncharted waters.  The concept is foreign to most, uncomfortable to all, and potentially extremely rewarding.  Thinking about this from the point of view of the newest guy on the unemployment list… if someone like you steps up to help out someone like them – the potential for loyalty to your team is astounding.

If you do choose to add such an individual to the team, remember the following:

·         You chose them

·         Don’t discount their ideas in order to try and seem smarter than them (you hired ‘em because they were smarter-er than you, silly rabbit!)

·         Expect some bumps in the road, and behind doors conversations about how things are going

·         Don’t ever forget that they are like foster children and have likely come from a rough past.  Be sure to praise their efforts and keep that transparency going from the interview forward.

In summary – your personality and maturity in your life and your business will determine your level of success in this kind of endeavor.  Do not try to fool yourself into thinking you are ready if you aren’t.  It is time for a healthy dose of ‘introspective reality check’.  If you don’t feel confident in your self evaluation, seek the advice of a mentor or friends who have had a solid amount of experience in the hiring side of HR and who you trust to give it to you straight.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Social Media & Payroll Sales Leads

Just a quick note here from TPG, but I'm excited so I had to take a minute to share.  My adventures with Twitter just produced a payroll lead for one of the service bureaus attending here.  
Using http://search.twitter.com in a major metro area (advanced search) - pop in your zip code, and put a 20 mile radius around the search... I found a person on twitter who said:
ADP is the worst payroll service.  They have screwed up every payroll since I hired them.  What a mess!
It's time to be their superhero....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Payroll Group - Denver


11:00am 5/7/09
Denver is beautiful, and it is great to see a big turnout for the conference this year, especially in light of the state of the economy.

Each payroll service provider who I've spoken with thus far (many) has the same essential story: Business is flat or slightly up.  People are excited about their businesses, and are looking forward to a strong 2009.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Payroll Group

I am getting ready to head out to The Payroll Group's 2009 Annual Conference.  Looking forward to learning a bunch, and sharing it with you here.

Keep your eyes open for posts from Denver, CO!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Google Talk

Well, it has come to my attention - by receiving my first call via Google Talk (or more... not being able to pick it up as 2 cell phones and my desk phone rang at the same time! LOL!), that it is kind of painful to use... or I need to figure out what went wrong and why.

If you tried to give me a call, please try me back at 877-423-2782 ext #245

Technology.... sheesh! 

Thursday, April 30, 2009

How To Make An Accountant Happy

This one is for those Payroll Service Bureaus who are still scratching their heads about how to network with a CPA firm to generate payroll leads.

This one is also for CPA firms who haven't thought about reverse engineering this idea ;-)


STEP 1.
When you talk to your client, ask them who their Accountant is and let them know you'd like to call them to ensure that they are getting the right payroll related reporting that they desire.

STEP 2.
Do what you said you were gonna do in STEP 1.

Result? Who knows... everyone is different, but who wouldn't want to be hand-fed exactly the data on your client that you desire? You serve their needs - maybe they will serve you up some payroll leads?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not So Obvious Channels for Payroll Sales

These aren't folks to hit up for payroll, but to deliver business to. Give before you receive my friends... their little black book of clients is probably much bigger than yours...
  • Who does Fire Extinguisher Maintenance in your town? (HINT: Their number is on the tag that keeps kids from setting off the fire extinguisher by, 'accident' - look around!)
  • Who does Commercial Carpet Cleaning?
  • Who is big in Commercial Real Estate?
  • Who maintains restroom Paper Towel Dispensers? (HINT: Their number is on the wall - and I'm not talking about the name and number in Sharpie)
  • How many janitorial services are there running around in the evenings cleaning businesses?
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Print Shops
  • Commercial Laundry Services
  • ...whip open the yellow pages and keep growing this list. If you put a nice list together and want to share - add a comment to this post for others to read.

Find a client of yours in need - set them up with one of these folks (reputable ones, of course) and start the leads flowing back and forth between your businesses. Everyone wins, and you will probably end up doing their payroll as well.

Good luck!

Friday, April 10, 2009

What's His Face?

Lynn Wenger is my guest author today, sharing a little bit about business and social networking on Facebook.com lynn@webprodigy.com




That question might cross your mind as your trying to remember a recent interview, an old classmate, or your neighbor from 5 years ago. Facebook is the popular social network for 30 something’s to socialize and advertise. There is a secret to advertising on Facebook though. People are fickle and if they aren’t expecting you to knock on their proverbial door, your efforts may quickly damage your reputation rather than help it. Read on to learn a few trick to promote your business on Facebook.

Your first and foremost effort is to set up a Profile and start making Friends. Make good use of your personal page “what on your mind” updates. Promote a video, request user reviews on a book, or ask an intriguing question. Your friends will see you each time you’re active and they can easily make comments.

Set up an interactive and intriguing Page for your business, which can be used to engage fans and capture a new audience base. The more active your page becomes, the more visible it becomes to the friends of your fans and so forth.

Set up an Ad that will display on your target market's group, application event, or personal pages. The ad visibility depends on how well you can target your market and how much you can afford. Combine your Ad with an active Page to engage your Fans.

A few other useful forums are in the Marketplace, which is the Craigslist of Facebook.

The biggest secret of all though is Update Regularly. Updating your Profile and Page regularly with fresh photos, upcoming events, and the latest promotions means that you will stay in front of your Friends and Fans.

Start your social networking today. Click here and become my friend.





Webprodigy.com provides custom website design, website development, website maintenance, website hosting, and online marketing.

Note from Logan: Webprodigy.com has very cost effective solutions for small businesses, and no, they didn't pay me to say that LOL!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You Are Unique - Just Like Everyone Else

Written by our guest author - Sean Buck

Now, I refer to stories of my kids a lot, because well, I have a lot of them. Like any parent, there are times that I feel that my kids have taught me more than I have taught them. Here is one of those instances. I was on the phone with a service bureau the other day and something that had just happened with one of my younger kids came to mind.

Ok, if you faint at the sight of blood you may want to turn away…..but, it’s really not that bad

So, one of my kids comes running in the house yelling that another is “bleeding like crazy”. I run out and sure enough my 5 year old son has blood all over his face and hands. He is crying and getting a little freaked out at the sight of his own blood. So I did what any dad would do, I freaked out too. No just kidding, I quickly got him in the bathroom and started to wipe away the blood and we found a tiny little cut above his eye. I started to chuckle a little and he looked at it and started to laugh too. Soon the other kids were in the bathroom laughing as well at how small the cut was. In about 2 minutes he was back out climbing trees and playing lava monster with the other kids. It is easy to lose sight sometimes (not all the time) of how small an issue may turn out to be if you wipe away the blood and tears. Who knows you may even end up laughing about it in the end!

If you turned away, now it’s time to look back


Back to the service bureau that called….

Jim (not his real name, but really close to it) calls me and says, “We are losing clients all over the place, this is killing us”. He vents about a call he had just taken a few minutes earlier about a client of his that called to cancel payroll services since they have been “hit hard by this economy”. I then explained to Jim exactly what he needed to do next. Call his client back and offer support. Sometimes we all just need to be reminded of what got us to where we are now. You see, you may offer good payroll processing; you may be your client’s favorite vendor. BRACE YOURSELF. There are lots of really good payroll processors out there!

OK...TELL ME…..WHAT HAPPENED TO JIM?

Jim called the customer back, and sat on the phone for about 45 minutes with him. During the call Jim listened to the problems they were having and shared his own “real life” situations with him. Jim shared his heart with the owner on the other end of the phone who was really struggling with what was happening. Now something happened on that call, the client realized that he could afford to keep using Jim for his payroll. But he also realized with the help of Jim that there were other ways to cut costs and keep things moving in a positive direction. You know Jim didn’t know anything about manufacturing but he did know a thing or two about running a business. Now Jim keeping the payroll business isn’t the moral of the story here. What is the moral? Thanks for asking!
Your clients are trusting in you to provide a fair professional service in exchange for their money. You may even be considered by them to be “damn good” at what you do. Well guess what?!? like I said earlier, there are a lot of really good payroll processors out there. You need to separate yourself from the other really good processors. Really it’s the small things that make the difference; here is a list of 3 simple things for you to try with your clients:


1.
Spend at least 60 minutes out of every week, calling your clients. I know you’re the owner and don’t usually call. Well get over it and call them, they will love to hear from you. You may even have something to offer their business. By the way, don’t call the same ones over and over just because you like them.

2.
Twice a month take a client out to lunch. Come on, you’re going to be eating anyways and you can expense it.

3.
If you have a sales team and are not working on new clients yourself, call and introduce yourself to the new client and let them know you’re available and interested. Spend at least 15 minutes on the phone with them, remember step 1, you may have something to offer.

These may seem simple and obvious, but get real with yourself, when is the last time you did something like that? You know, Jim may very well have lost the client. That is a reality in our current economy, but doesn’t have to cripple your business. When you start showing a proactive interest in your clients business you will become more than just a good payroll service. You will become the guy that they discuss when they are out to lunch with other business owners that you’re not doing payroll for.


If you would like to contact Sean Buck directly, he can be reached directly at (219) 567-0244, or via e-mail at: sbuck@adaptasoft.com

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How to grow the business while your write-up clients go "Past-90"

As the miracle of April 15th draws near, and many of my friends who are working on personal income taxes take a deep breath and collapse under their desks in a fetal position... The W2 revenue is in... the Income Tax revenue is in... now what? The time has arrived (after a long weekend?) to think about expanding (or creating) your payroll business.

It's a long time until January 2010.

Why now? Why expand?!? Umm, Logan - did you notice that the economy is now one of the pillars of chaos theory, that our elected officials keep smiling and writing checks - hoping it was all just a bad dream, that our customers can't seem to keep up on their bills - ours included!

Well, there is nothing worse than a bloated Accounts Receivable with no hope of collecting. That is why now is the perfect time to expand your payroll operation.

You see, here is the secret:
In payroll, you take your payment when you process the client's ACH transactions.

Paid with the employees = No AR = Money In The Bank

Remember, when a client lays off part of their staff, your invoice for their payroll is barely reduced. Just a little bit off the top for that handful of checks, not the base fee.

One of my clients in particular who I may have written about in the past brought up the fact that his growing Accounting practice was not making money while meeting all of its goals.

This stinks!

There is nothing like drowning in success (and I don't mean in a swimming pool full of champagne and hundred dollar bills). His words to me went something like this,

"Logan, after tax season I am jumping into payroll full time and letting go of this practice as soon as possible. I just can't deal with the fact that a successful practice, meeting all of its growth goals can to not make anywhere near the projected income in the plan. My client list is growing, but so is the list of clients who are behind on, or just aren't paying their bills."

Moral of the story:

  • If you aren't taking your payment with the payroll, start.
  • If you are starting a new payroll operation, make sure that this is your standard practice and is contained within your Payroll Service Agreement.
  • If you don't have a Payroll Service Agreement with your clients - write one. If you don't know what to put in it, give me a call.
Bottom line - Payroll is a great way to off-set the losses you may be incurring as clients find it harder to pay you. Do it right, and it may become your primary profit center.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Its A Small World After All.... (repeat)

Here is Logan, live from Disneyland in Anaheim, CA! Yes, the family vacation is on track - the kids are wiped out.

They sleep, I type.

The best part of a theme park for me is the people watching. You will never find a better melting pot of families to stare at while they are staring back at you. Yesterday, the best part of my day was helping someone out who I saw filling a baby bottle from the tap in the men's room.

Not cool... disgusting even.

What I haven't said, is that I lived down in this area for 7 years or so, and formerly had season plasses to the, "happiest place on earth." This makes me an expert. When you are an expert, it is your duty to share what you know to help the world in some way (at least that is how I feel). So, I've been around the block here in the Magic Kingdom, and this guy clearly hadn't. From what I gather, the little secret I shared with him isn't even clearly marked on the map...

What was the little secret? The ultimate customer service experience. Yes, I've never had better. Down on Main St. is a little door in between the Corn Dog Cart (best in the world) and the restrooms. Inside are people dressed like nanny's from the 1800's who assist you with all things baby. There are little toilets, changing tables, ice cold water on tap... it is a stress free zone for stressed out mothers and fathers.

They even - without a legal waiver - will wash and heat your baby's bottle for you.

Anyways, I told this guy to get out of the john, and get down the street to a little piece of daddy heaven. I'm sure the silent oasis in the midst of chaos had to have helped sooth the evening for them.

Moral of the story - share what you know, because nice people are the kind of people your customers tell their friends about.

Now, time to roll the kids out of bed for another day in sunny Southern California, expensive food, and, "Dad, can I have a 15" $10 lollypop?"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Who's Who? You're kidding right?

Hasn't the time come that those infamous, "Who's Who?" books went the way of the dinosaurs?

I received a letter yesterday from some company asking for my money in order to be in their guide. Now, if I were technologically illiterate, I might wonder if that could help me network outside of my network... however, I'm a big geek at heart.

So here I sit typing on Blogger, monitoring Twitter, updating Facebook, and trolling through LinkedIn's Answers section trying to help folks out with their questions... and these people think they can help me network?

I say - it's over people. Go quietly and no one will snicker.

All that someone has to do to monitor their exposure to the world today is to type their name into Google and see what floats to the surface. There are of course, two sides to every coin... if you made some nasty comment on a ListServe back in college - guess what!?! It lives on! Of course, we all know this, and much can be forgiven in this day and age.

The tricky part is if your personal brand isn't showing up at all. My name is a beautiful thing. Yup, I'm gloating. Not because it is such a cool name and that I make my Momma proud (which she claims I do), but because I'm pretty much the only one on the Internet using it.

Goody for me! I'm so unique that all the 'Logan Cashwell' hits are mine, and mine alone! (mostly)

Now.. what about the Jim Smiths (no offense Jim), or heaven forbid, the folks with a last name that is also other people's first name? Welcome to the puddle of quicksand called the Internet.

All hope is not lost though. Anyone can work on bringing their name to the surface. The important thing is not to worry about more than the sphere of influence you are looking to hang out with.

This means that when, 'Bob John' in Tampa gets Googled with a keyword relevant to his business - That is where the money is at. Getting your name associated with your industry and the Google searches that your kind of customer are making is the trick.

So, when some puts in a search, " Payroll Service" into the moneybox on Google - what shows up?

You? Great!!!

ADP/Paychex/Intuit? Not so great...

If you really want to use this channel, now is the time to take a few steps.  Here are the first few steps I would take if I was starting off raw in this effort:

  • LinkedIn.com Profile (make sure the public profile is turned on)
  • Facebook.com Profile (even if you never use it - Google seriously searches this)
  • Twitter.com Profile (even if you never use it - free pointer back to your home page)
  • An, "About" section on your company web site with your name and some history in the first paragraph that identifies you with your business.  This is so the little preview in Google shows the searcher that you are indeed the one they are looking for.
  • If your email address isn't recognizable (Bob1967@whatever.com) get rid of it.  Buy your own domain name if you don't have one and make it Bob.John@BobJohnsPayroll.com. Apps.Google.Com can set you up for a whopping $10.00/year with your own domain and email addresses.  Who can't afford that?  I bought thecashwells.com for my personal stuff, but use Logan.Cashwell@gmail.com for LinkedIn, etc.  It is about recognition.
Feel free to Google me as a test run.  Enjoy the video of my kid's gymnastics meet, right along with a link to this Blog... but it is all about me - and that's what Networking online is all about (and no, my ego isn't really the size of a hot air baloon - I swear!).  

Once the, 'all about you' part is out of the way (because its really all about the customer), you can begin to give back to the network.  No one likes a begger out there - but everyone likes to read what someone is saying when they are helping someone else out.  So get out there and lend a hand.

When it comes down to it, it is just about being there when people are looking for you.  If you can be present when the prospective customer is looking for help, you are much more likely to get the chance to make your pitch, and build that new relationship.





Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Embrace The Horror!

If the economy is going to give us lemons, let us make lemon drops (take that any way you’d like). The way that I choose to look at the world around me, there is a sugary sweet lining to every challenge that is presented to us. The current situation is no different than any other. Read on! I am going to hand you the key to a little payroll treasure box I found.


On a day when I've seen my little brother’s gift card from the holidays became invalid due the bankruptcy of the issuer... on a day that those who cashed out their retirement and put it under the mattress are the only serious investors left (slight exaggeration, but it sounded nice and alarmist?)...


...I see opportunity!


I see the opportunity for existing and new small and mid-sized payroll service bureaus to take on serious additions to their book of business. We have the opportunity to serve the client in ways that the Big Bureaus cannot. The reality of it is that their forecasted annual attrition of clients is equal to your wildest dreams for your business, and finding a way to channel just a small piece of that action through your door is what we need to concentrate on.


Attrition? To them - meaningless. To you? You could feasibly double your book of business. The question is – are you willing to reach out and make a grab for it?


The Promised Key (Simple, but true)


Small businesses are just dying for someone to come in and help them save money. Aren’t we all?


Helping a small business who is currently using a national bureau save money doesn't require you to change your pricing structure. The market has shifted, and your standard price sheet is looking better every day.


Just yesterday I was talking to a new friend of mine who I met at IPPA’s Sales & Marketing Workshop in Vegas earlier this month and he had a story to share with me about a recently added client. I’ll give you the short and sweet version… As I recall, he sat down with the client to discuss how they could better serve their needs, and found that the national bureau’s pricing was in excess of 40% higher than their retail rates.


Now, even if your sales team is doing a sloppy job of selling your services – how can a client say no to saving that kind of money in today’s economy? Have them put away the sniper rifle, and bring out the double-barreled shotgun!


Put on your hunting vest, payroll season is open!


You have the payroll experience to get the job done, now it is time to market your payroll service to the companies who need your help the most. Right now, everyone needs to save money. Even a conversation with the prospective client about what other areas they might find some savings can ingratiate you to them.


Call your clients! Find out how they are saving money - take notes.


HINT: this is your new marketing plan


If you jump on this bandwagon full of new clients, you are now (if you weren't before) working in a consultative role, helping people to save their businesses, and that... is something you can feel great about!


Your current client base is the foundation of this year’s growth. Their cost saving moves and strategies, shared across your client base will help you keep those clients, and with your prospective clients – this will be corner stone of your new relationship. The question is, once that corner stone is set – how high are you going to build?


If you would like to talk more about how to get this rolling (without a sales pitch from me – unless you beg for one) give me a call, I'm here to help - 219-567-0245

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recharging The Batteries!

I am winding up my day, getting together what I will be taking with me to the IPPA Sales & Marketing Workshop in Las Vegas tomorrow.

I am really looking forward to this event! Last year's was quite valuable, and I was able to bring back a truckload of information to share with my clients, and prospective clients.

Of course, all of the good tidbits will land here as well.

If you are currently running a payroll service bureau of any size, the IPPA has a lot to offer to you. We are in a niche business, so the opportunity to hang out with your peers is a rare occasion in and of itself. The other aspects of what comes together at an IPPA event surround operations, tax, sales & marketing, and other topics of interest to any bureau, regardless of size. If you are new to payroll, this could be a great opportunity to find a mentor or two to work with you on strategies for building your book of business.

I would strongly recommend taking a look at what they have to offer: www.ippa.net

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Taking the Fight TO Them! - A strategy for taking an offensive approach to an attack on your Payroll Service

What does a small to mid-sized Payroll Service Bureau do when a, ‘National’ bureau plays rotten, lowdown, dirty tricks? What kind of tricks, you ask? The lowest, dirtiest, rottenest of them all…

Perhaps something along the lines of this:
“Oh, you don’t want to use them… we are in the process of buying their company.”

Recently I took a call from a client of mine who was at her wits end. We worked out a few strategies for her to try, as she begins to mount the counter-attack.

The scenario was a familiar one to me. I’ve had at least three of my clients relate this story, or one very similar to it to me over the past few years. What is striking to me, is the fact that the basics of the story seem to stick over the years, which unfortunately indicates a culture of bad and deceitful tactics being passed from sales rep to sales rep around the country.

Here are the basics: A national service bureau’s outside sales representative enters the client’s office to do a presentation, and of course, asks them who is currently doing their payroll. The client answers, ‘My Local Payroll Service just up the road.’ The sales rep then cleverly says, ‘Oh, we are in negotiations to buy their business right now. I can get you in early on the conversion process – ahead of the rest of their clients, reducing the risk of errors on their part as your data is passed to us.”

What does it feel like to have a company with billions of dollars in assets attacking your small business and your livelihood via one of their many minions stalking the business districts of America?


Not very good.

After the naughty sales rep finishes messing with the client’s head, one of two things are likely to happen: the client calls and demands to know why the bureau didn’t let them know that they were about to have a garage sale in front of the office, or the client knows better, tells the foolish sales rep to get out of their office and calls to let them know about the situation.

Next step, either way… the bureau owner flips their lid. Wouldn’t you?

What can you do to take on the Elephant stomping on your birthday cake? How about bringing a mouse to the party?

Contact your client. After strongly denying that you are going out of business, or thanking the client for watching your back, ask your client to put in writing, preferably on their letterhead, the story surrounding the incident

This will give you solid evidence of the offensive sales rep’s vile act and give you grounds upon which to found your complaint

Determine which national bureau is the offender, and start sniffing up the chain of command – Determine the following:
  • The offender’s name and contact information
  • The offender’s manager’s name and contact information
  • The offender’s manager’s supervisor’s name and contact information (likely a district manager)

Once you have the information in front of you, begin by calling The Offender’s boss. Now, I wouldn’t get your hopes up as you take this first step into defeating your new enemy – the boss might have taught the naughty rep this tactic.

If the manager gives you the song and dance (Oh golly! Gee wiz! That is just terrible… I’ll have a word with him when he gets back to the office), ask them for a written apology on letterhead that you can take to your client to prove that you are in good shape. If they don’t bite on this… it is time for the next phase of battle.

Assuming the worst… the boss calls your bluff (little does he know, that you aren’t bluffing), and dusts you off. Politely let them know that your client has put in writing the details of the incident and that you are certain that the district manager would like to know how unscrupulously this local office is behaving. If they back-peddle and offer up the apology letter, take it! But, it is too late for them… you still take it to the next level.

A rat is a rat is a rat is a rat.

Rats spread disease, and multiply at a rapid pace. We aren’t talking about humane trap and release here. It is time to carpet-bomb.

Wait for the apology letter to be faxed or mailed to you (if it is coming), then include a copy of it, along with a copy of your client’s statement of the incident with a polite letter to the District Manager, cc’d to whoever else might be upset by this. Your letter should be courteous, informative, and outline how you conduct business in a respectful and honorable way… sure you trade clients back and forth occasionally, but you felt obligated to ensure that the right people knew of this, surely isolated incident, of defamation.

…or, you could explore a different, but equally satisfying solution with your legal counsel.

Just to be clear… Logan is not a lawyer, nor does he want to be. The only shingle I have hanging out is the one the wind blew loose on my roof this morning. This is just the way I would play this game out. That being said, I think it is pretty safe for me to advise you to always consult legal counsel, before starting a spitting match with a multi-billion dollar company.

That’s my two-cents. Go get ‘em tiger!