As an independent payroll provider, securing and keeping your clients is your biggest challenge when your competition is the likes of Paychex and ADP. "Why would small business owners work with an independent payroll provider or accountant like me?" Those were the exact thoughts running through my mind when I started my payroll practice nearly six years ago. Today, my small team and I service nearly 200 clients, and Cirrus Payroll is growing faster than ever.
If you want to grow your existing practice, or start one from scratch, I think you need to consider these key strategies:
Define your company work style
You have to decide up front what kind of company you are going to be. Here are the priorities that we started out with:
● Operate as an online company, where employees can work remote, rather than congregating every day at an office.
● Our software needs to be cloud-based, and allow both us and our clients, as well as our accountant referral partners, to access the system 24/7.
● Be completely paperless. That means clients need to be able to print checks in-house.
Define your processes
I read the book
right around the time my business
started. It drilled into my head the importance of creating the right
processes, and writing them down. This means that onboarding, payroll
processing, quarterly filing, year-end tasks, and even client terminations
are documented step-by-step, so there’s never a question of how to get the
Your employees will clearly understand their job responsibilities and be
able to work efficiency and effectively. There’s nothing quite like a
company where employees are passionate about what they do, and everyone
knows their role and exactly how to get it done.
One of our keys to payroll success has been clear definition of our
Snapshot, my staff can log in every day,
see exactly the payrolls that need to be processed and any other upcoming
tasks. So in one screen, I can get peace of mind that we’re on top of
The level of automation your payroll solution provides greatly impacts your
bottom line. Payroll Relief has taken care of almost all compliance work,
including direct deposit, payment of garnishments and child support, tax
payments, and e-filing of tax forms. Knowing that my business is running as
intended day-to-day, based on structured processes, gives me peace of mind
to focus on my business every day: strategy, sales, marketing, and
supporting my team.
(By the way, not only do processes help with internal alignment, but our
clients also know exactly what to expect from us. Consistency is key, and
our clients quickly learn to trust us, and trust the process.)
Find the right software for your needs
Payroll service bureaus boost their efficiency through batch processing.
Payroll Relief delivers the same batch processing capabilities for printing
of paychecks, and printing and e-filing of W-2’s, W-3’s, 1099’s and more.
That saves a tremendous amount of time.
With the pricing structure of Payroll Relief, I could see that I could scale
up and become more profitable over time. There was really
no end to the
number of clients
that I could profitably bring on to the system.
"Payroll is great because it's recurring
revenue - we get paid every month or
every time we run a payroll. To me,
that was a little more intriguing than
some of the other work I was doing."
That’s why choosing the right software is so crucial. There are payroll
platforms that have two competing sides – a solution for accountants, and a
version they sell directly to my small business clients. But there is no way
those companies would sell me a solution that gives me a competitive
advantage over them. Payroll Relief is different – it’s only sold to
accountants. I know this solution isn’t going to compete with me, and that’s
a huge difference. I’ve been using Payroll Relief for about 5 years and I
can tell you AccountantsWorld has lived up to its promise.
Define your ideal clients
Once you have clear processes in place, it’s important that you don’t let
clients dictate your workflow. Of course, every client is different so
slight variations are acceptable. But if you stray too far from your
standard procedures, you will only create chaos and confusion for everyone
involved. It’s better to grow healthy, with the right clients, and not give
in to every client whim.
I have turned down good-paying clients, because I knew they weren’t the
right fit for us. Stop trying to be all things to all people. The market for
payroll services is huge. If a client doesn’t work out, move on to the next
Market like it’s your full-time job
As an independent payroll provider, attracting and keeping clients is your
biggest challenge when your competition is the likes of Paychex and ADP, and
you need an answer for the question: Why would small business owners work
with you instead of those large bureaus? For my firm, part of the
answer is highly personalized service. But there’s a lot more, and it starts
before a client joins us.
Most accountants and payroll companies are terrible at marketing. Bad
websites, no social media presence, and zero differentiation from
competitors. There are a few key areas you should be focusing on:
● Fix your website. If it looks like every other website
in your industry, something is wrong. You need to showcase how you are
different, and how you come alongside your clients and help them succeed. No
one is reading that long company history page, your resume or list of
qualifications, or the paragraphs detailing every service you provide.
Narrow down your website, and keep it relevant to what a prospective client
● Get good reviews. Start by asking your best clients to
write a review for you on Google and Facebook. Once you get some good
reviews, request reviews as part of your new client onboarding process. And
don’t be afraid to ask repeatedly for reviews. People are busy and need
● Stop being boring. Stop sending mundane newsletters and
posting technical updates on your social media. Let me be very clear: No one
is reading it. Instead, post content that is engaging and adds value to the