3-Step Strategy to Decide Whether to Offer Payroll Services

Over the past several years, the concept of where payroll services fit into a CPA or accounting practice has received a great deal of attention. Yet, there has been very little in terms of direct guidance for our firms. Most guidance has come attached to some form of a sales pitch. I think the reason for this is that there is not a single solution that will work for all of us.

In my case, our firm had never been focused on payroll services. We handled the accounts we had to handle and nothing more – no marketing effort, no cross-selling and no strategy for why we did payroll services at all. We had Intuit’s® Enhanced Payroll for Accountants, but never fully used it due to our lack of focus on payroll services in general.

That all changed about 18 months ago when I started looking a little closer at all the marketing material coming across my desk regarding payroll services and why I wanted to be in that business. The one statistic that stuck with me was that 64% of small businesses (less than 500 employees) were doing payroll in-house. In almost 70% of those companies, the owner/manager, their spouse or other relative was actually preparing the payroll. That struck me as an incredible waste of time that could be redirected to other more profitable parts of their businesses.

When I considered that I had always taken on payroll clients reluctantly, choosing most often to refer clients and potential clients to an outside payroll processor first, I finally realized just how much business was actually coming to me, literally every week, that I was letting slip through without any real benefit to my firm.

My 3-Step Strategy

At that point, I started reviewing my options, developing a strategy for what would work for my company, and deciding how to implement that strategy.

  1. First, I was seeing requests for payroll services or referrals for payroll services every week. My clients and contacts were relying on me, as their trusted advisor, to refer them to the right product, and I was doing just that without taking the business myself.
  2. Next, I noted that clients fell into two primary categories: clients who didn’t want to touch the payroll at all and were willing to pay for that option, and clients who were able to do some or all of it themselves but were unsure that they had the talent or time in-house to do everything.
  3. Finally, I realized that if I picked up the payroll and payroll tax processing, it opened the door to multiple avenues of additional new business. Once a client trusted us with something as sensitive as their payroll, it was easy to extend that trust to other areas of business as well.

Since most of my clients are either QuickBooks® Online or QuickBooks Desktop users, it was pretty easy to conclude that I should be looking at Intuit solutions, if possible. For clients who didn’t want to worry about payroll at all, Intuit Full Service Payroll was a perfect alternative to all of those referrals that were going out the door to ADP or Paychex. It was priced competitively, and has even gotten better over time. It also took away the issues of payroll tax processing, remittances, and penalties and interest for those clients desiring this option. The direct integration with QuickBooks kept me in the loop as clients were syncing payroll directly into QuickBooks. To my clients, it felt like this was just part of the service they were receiving from us, even though it was all being done by Intuit.

As far as the second group of clients – those who wanted varying degrees of involvement – I concluded the reason I had never pushed this business was the inconvenience of needing to have resources ready to process payroll at specific times for clients. We have three employees who all work remotely at different locations; Enhanced Payroll wasn’t working for us. It seems to work fine in a traditional office environment where everyone is in a single location, but it is somewhat restrictive in a multiple location business such as mine. In addition, we have been adding QuickBooks Online clients faster than desktop clients this past year, so we moved to Intuit Online Payroll for Accounting Professionals. This turned out to be the perfect solution.

My staff is able to process payroll from their locations without having to come into the office just for payroll. The cloud-based nature of Online Payroll allows for total flexibility as to how much the client does and how much we do, which makes the collaborative side of payroll processing extremely easy for both my staff and my clients.

In addition, the Online Payroll mobile app is great. Several months ago, I was doing one of the Intuit Freedom in the Cloud-Your Way presentations in Connecticut and I received a call from a client who needed to give us his hours for the pay period. The fact that I got the call meant that my staff was not available to take the client’s time input at that moment, as I am the last of three for calls to be routed to. Just before going onstage, I got his hours and entered them from my iPhone. The client was happy, my staff had the information they needed and it was an instant great story for working in the cloud.

The Payoffs

By focusing on these two payroll alternatives, we have been able to assimilate payroll into our client services without missing a beat. Our business is up and my staff handles payroll along with their regular client responsibilities. Because of the cost structure of both programs, I am able to maintain a profitable payroll business and have the flexibility to use our payroll services as a marketing tool to bring in not only payroll business, but additional work as well. In addition, when a client hands me a payroll tax notice for a penalty, I have the resources to solve the underlying issue, not just deal with the penalty.

Intuit Full Service Payroll and Intuit Online Payroll for Accounting Professionals have truly been a win/win situation for my company, my staff and my clients.