The Dark Side of Your Payroll Company

August 3, 2014


It’s important to note that for those of you who are consumers of payroll services, the side you see of your payroll company can be either very pleasant, or very, very ugly.  This often depends on how you “manage” the relationship with your payroll provider’s service representative.  It also depends on your expectations of the company you’ve hired.

If you have been responsible for your company’s payroll for some time, this may not be a surprise to you.  If you are new to payroll and new to using payroll companies, I bet you’re asking yourself why this is necessary.  The greatest myth about payroll companies (and what they want you to believe) is the following:

If I hire a payroll company, I don’t have to worry about it…they know what they’re doing and take care of it all!

Buying into this nonsense is the difference between a payroll rookie and a payroll veteran. How do we know this?  Because we are in the business, and have been for a long time.  But why are we sharing this?  Does this not seem like something that should be unspoken?

Absolutely not!

In Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni, the book (and it’s somewhat suggestive title) is built upon the premise of being vulnerable, or exposing the weaknesses your company, or industry, has in order to increase the amount of trust that exists between the service provider and the client, and in the process increase the loyalty that exists.  At Commonwealth Payroll & HR, we buy into this wholeheartedly.

In other words, instead of telling you to believe the quote above, wouldn’t you feel better if a service provider, or sales representative of a service provider, were straight with you about what their company was good, or not so good at?

Okay, so back to Payroll.  What happens when payroll goes wrong:  your employees are paid incorrectly (too much, too little or too late), you get notices from the IRS demanding more taxes, or you just can’t get a response from the company to whom you pay for these services.  Either way, there’s lots of room for error, because at every computer that does the work, there is a human operator.  How this is dealt with, from your perspective, is what’s important.

And if you haven’t given it much thought, well just listen….

There are signs to look for in your existing payroll relationship that signal it’s time for a change.  We are going to share them with you, because we are payroll veterans and think its important to create a “more educated” payroll consumer.


You may not believe that change would be necessary if you recognize things on this list, but you also might be super-tolerant of pain! Changing payroll companies can be challenging (unless you work with us!) and many companies will stick with the status quo because either it “isn’t broken”, or they had an ugly experience changing in the past.  As a result, change is often forced way too late, once the damage is done (and your employees are mad at you!).  All will tell you that they wish they had been more proactive, and taken steps to avoid the problems altogether before they bottomed out.

The thing is, you may actually be so used to the inferiority of your payroll relationship, or how you have modified it, that you believe that all payroll companies are the same.  And when you are comparing one of the national companies to another, its easy to draw that comparison.

Few customer facing people you actually deal with at the nationals with are going to be subject matter experts in anything, because most of those positions are entry-level.  That’s why there is an overall perception of mediocrity in the payroll business….which is saying something when you consider how sensitive the subject is.  After all, isn’t how and what you pay your employees really the reason they show up for work each day?  So why would you trust that to an entry level position?

So if getting payroll right is important to you, working with subject matter experts is a must, and making sure you have the tools to handle it efficiently a requirement, then we should be talking.

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