As a corporate accountant, Kathleen Fox enjoyed doing payroll but didn’t like the reports she had to run.
“If you had a two-person payroll, you would probably get 10 pages of paper.” Fox said. “The place I was working for, we had different locations, and every location had about 50 employees. I got a stack of papers. I would have to flip through all of these pages to find what I wanted. As I saw it, I thought I could do so much better.”
Fox asked her employer if she could customize the payroll software to get a comprehensive overview of the company.
“The answer was no,” she said.
So Fox, who had been thinking about establishing her own company for 10 years, decided it was time to start Payroll City.
“I realized that if I really wanted to make a mark in payroll, that one of the things that could set me apart would be the reports that come over,” she said.
Her son, Adam, built the company’s proprietary software, which gives Fox and her clients the reports they want to see.
Adam Fox was working for U.S. Filter and had done some programming, including integrations with accounting.
“He has a really good mind and he understands things,” Fox said. “So we embarked on a plan. I knew where I wanted to go. In 2007, he quit his job and came on board to work full time.”
Over the past 12 years, Adam Fox has developed two more iterations of the software. Last year, the company launched an update onto a new, web-based platform.
“It’s enabling us to be fast on our reports,” Kathleen Fox said. “We are able to create so many more things. … We can run payroll reports for a company that has 1,000 employees. Our goal is to run all of their payroll and getting out the data in under 2 minutes by the end of March.”
Payroll City performs all of the services associated with payroll: processing employee data including withholding; 401K, health insurance and other benefits; and union dues if the company is a union shop. Her husband, Jeff, helps deal with the IRS.
“We create the checks or direct deposits, and employees have the ability to log in to our website and get past pay stubs,” Fox said.
Payroll City also collects and reports federal and state withholding, as well as levies by other taxing districts such as Denver’s occupational privilege tax; and files associated reports, W2s and 1099s.
The company also offers consulting services such as helping to set up payroll so it coincides with cash flow.
“We get a lot of people who have a tough time making payroll,” Fox said. “We try to give them suggestions. We can’t give legal advice about HR situations, but to provide a well-rounded service, we have partners. We have an HR product that we can provide to clients at a very reasonable rate, and we have timekeeping that’s available for people.”
Having witnessed less-than-satisfactory customer service in her former jobs, Fox makes sure clients’ phone calls get answered and that employees have good customer service skills as well as accounting qualifications.
“Employees are key to making and creating a business,” Fox said. “You have to get the right employees, and once you find the key ones, to keep them. You have to be willing to invest in your employees to make your business grow.”
Fox, who studied music and has taught piano, came to accounting naturally. Her mother was an accountant for a school district and showed her a few basics.
“Accounting was extremely easy for me,” she said. “It was one of those things that made sense. I’m pretty much self-taught.”
Payroll City, which started with just two clients, grew slowly at first. Fox gained new customers primarily through word of mouth and referrals.
“The biggest thing is we work with accountants,” Fox said. “When accountants know about us, they’ll oftentimes refer us.”
The company now is using social media, networking and radio advertising to spread the word about Payroll City.
“Prospectors, a networking group, has been a tremendous source for us,” Fox said.
The company is processing payroll for just under 500 clients in 30 states, and is registered in 40 states. The majority of clients average 100 employees, although some have 600-700 employees. With the new cloud-based software, the company will be able to serve larger clients, Fox said.
“I think we will expand into a larger market,” Fox said. “I would love to be a major player in Colorado Springs.”