Payroll Firms Ease the Strain on Small Businesses

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Apr. 7, 2014 12:00 am  

When ice storms swept through Arkansas this past winter, Janet Johnson was ready.

Johnson is the Little Rock branch manager of Paychex of Rochester, N.Y., the largest payroll company in Arkansas. The Little Rock office of Paychex handles payroll and tax issues for more than 1,800 small- to medium-sized businesses in the state, including Arkansas Business Publishing Group.

The winter weather shut down roads and schools but also threatened to cause havoc among businesses expected to get paychecks to workers. Fortunately for those companies, Paychex had developed a well-organized backup system.

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Paychex personnel in New Jersey turned on their computers, logged in Arkansas accounts and made sure everything worked as planned.

“We have a support system literally at the flip of a switch,” said Johnson, a 24-year veteran of Paychex. “They can handle the branch for a day.”

Johnson, who has run the Little Rock office for the past six years, said Paychex had plans for the backup system in the works when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005.

“We really perfected it after Katrina,” Johnson said. “If it wasn’t Little Rock getting hit by ice, then it is somebody else.”

Third-party payroll companies such as Paychex help relieve work congestion for their clients, Johnson said. She said major businesses, such as Tyson Foods or Wal-Mart, handle their own payroll for sprawling workforces.

Smaller companies find it more efficient to outsource the nuts and bolts. Paychex also handles payroll taxes to the IRS and the state finance department for clients.

“We have clients send in payroll on an iPhone,” Johnson said. “It is one less thing on their plate. The IRS wants everything sent electronically now. They don’t have to worry about paying taxes on time because we have it all set up.”

Johnson said that of her 26 staff members, half are devoted to operations and half to sales — attracting new clients. Most businesses pay workers twice a month, so around the 15th and the end of each month are busy times at the Paychex office.

Typically, a company’s human resource official will contact his Paychex representative to confirm who worked what hours during the pay period. Then Paychex handles the rest.

“What we really are is an accountant,” Johnson said. “We don’t advise on personal taxes.”

The growing dependence on electronic banking and accounting has streamlined operations but also caused other concerns. Johnson said Paychex has a healthy-sized IT department to help ensure payroll always goes out and that information is protected.

“In the future, it is going to be very interesting,” Johnson said. “Technology is quite a challenge. The future is going to be more technology. It’s all about getting paychecks to clients and making their lives easier.”

In any kind of weather.



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